State of '08: Georgia
Duke or Carolina? BC or UMASS? Gonzaga or Washington.. or Washington State? What is the best program in each state? While there's not much competition in Hawaii.. there are great debates to be had in loaded regions like California, North Carolina, and Texas. The State of '08 is a ranking of every program in every state.. based mostly on recent success (the last five years) mixed in with subjective factors such as conference prestige, historical success, and overall program direction.
Up today: Georgia. For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
GEORGIA TECH - After making the National title game in 2004, and being good again in 2005, Paul Hewitt was on the verge of entering the coaching stratosphere. But the past few seasons have been disappointing, and Tech should once again finish in the bottom half of the ACC. In Hewitt's eight seasons, the Jackets have never finished below 7-9 in ACC play.. and going 7-9 in the ACC is more impressive than winning most conference titles.
GEORGIA - The Bulldogs are coming off one of the more shocking seasons in NCAA history. After a completely sub-par season, which included a 4-12 SEC record, the team somehow managed to run through the SEC Tournament, knocking off 4 other postseason teams along the way. But don't be fooled by that March magic, Georgia still hasn't really recovered from the mess that Jim Harrick created, and 2008-09 should be similar to last year (at least in terms of the 4-12 SEC record..)
GEORGIA SOUTHERN - Although Georgia Southern hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1992, the program has been consistently solid in Jeff Price's 9-year tenure. In 2006, he guided the Eagles to the NIT, where they lost to Charlotte in the opening round. Last year was another solid campaign, which included 13 wins in the Southern Conference, and upset victories over highly touted UAB and Cleveland State.
GEORGIA STATE - The Panthers haven't had much success since making the move from the Atlantic Sun to the CAA. In three years in the more competitive league, GSU has hovered around the bottom of the standings and rarely been competitive against the better teams. But there was serious improvement last year, a win over George Mason, and a ton of close losses (including a one-point loss in the CAA tourney). 2008-09 could be Georgia State's best season since Lefty Driesell's imprint was still on the program.
MERCER - After an impressive 2003 campaign in which the Bears went 14-2 in the A-Sun, the program's fortunes have steadily gone down hill. Since that time, Mercer hasn't even won a game in the A-Sun tournament. Even worse, Mercer has finished behind D1 newcomer Kennesaw State each year since the Owls joined the A-Sun in 2006.
6. KENNESAW STATE - Considering the Owls are only entering their 4th full season of D1 basketball, the results haven't been half bad. They've finished 7-9 in the Atlantic Sun the past two seasons, and knocked off conference leader Belmont (a Top 100 team) in January. The next step for the program is to find a way to win some games away from home.
7. SAVANNAH STATE - From 2003 to 2006, this was simply the worst program in the country. I'm sure many fans remember the embarrassing 0-28 season of 2005. But there's been major improvement in the last two years including 10 D1 wins in 2008. Last year's RPI of 254 trumped in-state rivals Georgia State, Kennesaw State, and Mercer. I give Kennesaw the nod though due to their conference alignment, and because the Savannah State's horrible run isn't far enough in the past.
Last: Florida - Next: Illinois