ATLANTA — In one respect, Georgia Tech’s Saturday loss to Boston College had absolutely no bearing on its path to an improbable ACC tournament championship.
Regardless of the weekend result, the Yellow Jackets and Eagles would still be playing one another in the tourney opener (preliminary round) — as the interchangeable No. 8 or 9 seeds — and the winner of Thursday’s clash in Greensboro (12 p.m. EST) will be a big-time underdog against top-seeded Miami on Friday.
But ay, here’s the rub: By dropping its regular-season finale, Georgia Tech essentially has no choice but to knock off BC and Miami this week, if it harbors any realistic dreams of garnering an NIT invitation. Anything short of two wins (or some kind of memorable overtime defeat to the ‘Canes) would likely mean a ticket to the College Basketball Invitational.
(Point of order: Georgia Tech hasn’t claimed back-to-back victories since Fordham and Chattanooga on Dec. 29 and Jan. 2.)
What’s the CBI, you ask?
Created by The Gazelle Group in 2007, the CBI presumably features the 16 best clubs to not make the NCAA or NIT fields. It’s a single-elimination tournament with one caveat: The championship round includes a best-of-three series between the finalists.
Last year’s CBI champ, Pittsburgh, is a mortal lock to make the upcoming NCAAs. Oregon, the 2011 CBI king, reached the quarterfinals of last season’s NIT. And VCU launched its amazing run to the 2011 Final Four . . . by stealthily taking home the CBI trophy three years ago.
In other words, there’s no shame associated with making a CBI, especially for up-and-coming programs, like Georgia Tech, which essentially started from scratch after Brian Gregory took over before the 2011-12 campaign.
But who are we kidding here? In the realm of quasi-prestigious hoops events, Georgia Tech stands to gain more from reaching the NIT. That’s what makes Saturday’s 74-72 defeat in Chestnut Hill, Mass. — just three days after stunning Miami — so vexing.
If the Yellow Jackets hadn’t fallen flat to BC in the second half, they’d be sitting pretty at 17-13 overall, basically one Thursday victory away from clinching an NIT berth. But now, they’ve left their fate in the hands of a selection committee that must assess the pros and cons of Tech’s season while getting input from a major network (ESPN) about the TV-friendliness of certain “bubble” teams.
Of the 2012 NIT field, only one school with a won-loss differential of +3 or less (Iowa) collected a tourney invite. That’s not a good sign for a Georgia Tech program that will likely stand at 17-15 this time next week.
For the Yellow Jackets’ sake, here’s hoping they didn’t lose that recipe for victory against Miami.