#778 Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jacketsvs.#777 California State University, Bakersfield Roadrunners
Tuesday, March 3 2017, at 7:00pm EDT
Written by Chuck D
California State Bakersfield Roadrunners 25-9 (5-4 ATS) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 20-15 (19-11 ATS)
When and Where: Monday, March 28, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y. 7:00pm EDT (ESPN)
Spread: Georgia Tech -2; Total: 123
If the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners were an NCAA Tournament team they would probably be featured on ESPN every single day. As it is, the eighth-seeded Roadrunners will just have to ride their momentum into Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night when they do battle with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who supposedly come from the best conference in America (although the NCAA tourney would say otherwise). The Final Four of the National Invitational Tournament is really not a bad gig here for either team. Not surprisingly, these schools have not ever met on the hardwood, but a victory here would certainly go a long way for each program.
California State Bakersfield entered Division I in 2010 and not was expected of them. The Anteaters went on to join the Western Athletic Conference in 2013, but again . . . not much expected from their school, nor their conference. After winning Division II national titles in 1993, 1994, and 1997, the program made the transition to D-I seven years ago before eventually joining the new version of the WAC. The Roadrunners won the regular season title this year, finishing a full game up on New Mexico State, but fell to the Aggies in the league title game, 70-60.
By winning the regular season conference title but not the conference tourney, they earned an automatic bid to the NIT, albeit as a lowly-eight seed. All they have done since then was defeat California on their home court by seven points, Colorado State on their home floor by 18, and then upstart UT Burlington by four, also on the road. Now they travel to the Big Apple to take on a true heavyweight in a Georgia Tech team that comes in from the Power Five, but you should not expect CSUB to be intimidated.
Georgia Tech finished their season at 17-15, which is not horrible considering they played in a conference that got nine teams into the NCAA tournament. While the overall results of those nine teams in the big dance can be disputed, the performance from the Rambling Wreck cannot be. After finishing just 8-10 in league play and getting bounced by Pittsburgh in the ACC tourney, they have reeled off three straight victories in the NIT. They began the run with a 12-point win over Indiana and followed it up with a 14-point victory over Belmont. Most recently they took to the road to take down the Ole Miss Rebels, 74-66.
This is the first time Tech has headed to the Garden for an NIT semifinal in 46 years. Defense has got the team to where it is at. They are giving up 90.5 points per 100 possessions, which according to KenPom.com, is the sixth most efficient defense in the nation. For what it is worth, there are opponents on Tuesday night are ranked 16th in the same category.
Georgia Tech is:
Let’s be clear here. What Cal Sate Bakerfield hsa done here is nothing short of remarkable and the program should be receiving a lot more national attention for their achievements. That being said, however, they are not going up squads just perceived to be better than them at this point, they are going up against a squad that is actually better than them in every facet of the game. The only way the Roadrunners could cover here is if Georgia Tech just doesn’t want to be there . . . but let’s face it, once you get to MSG, everybody wants to be there.
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Chuck Dowling is a 30-something University of Florida J-School alum that lives in his mother’s basement. Just kidding... there are no basements in Florida (the ground is too moist). He has been in the “biz” for his entire adult life and specializes in NCAA football and basketball, as well as soccer, boxing, and MMA. When not writing, Chuck moonlights as a high school athletics radio and internet-television broadcaster.