For at least one weekend Panthers are tops

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2001

Sports Columnist

How about them Panthers! I didn’t think it would ever come to this, me rooting for "Lefty" Dreisell and the Georgia State Panthers. Yesterday, the Panthers beat Wisconsin of the Big Ten 50-49 in the first round of the NCAA West Regional held in Boise, Idaho.

"Mr. Friendly" as Lefty has become known around the Trans America Athletic Conference, proved once again he’s one of the top coaches to ever coach the game. In fact, Dreisell, with over 750 wins to his credit, is the winningest active coach in college basketball and third behind only Dean Smith and John Wooden in total wins ever.

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Yes, it’s hard to root for Georgia State, but when it means at least $156,000 over five years, I’ve got to do it.

What this means is that because GSU has advanced to the second round, each TAAC team’s cut will be $156,000 over the next five seasons. If the Panthers win in the second round, TSU’s cut of the profits will be even more. There’s plenty of money to go around. CBS paid one billion dollars for the TV contract.

They call it "March Madness" for a good reason. Georgia State the 11 seed beat the fifth-seeded Wisconsin and Utah State (East, 12th) beat Ohio State ( East, 5th).

Basketball is a very unpredictable game and many more favorites will fall before it’s all over.

You ask the question, why Georgia made it in to the tournament with a 16-14 record over an Alabama team that finished 21-10, here’s the answer.

Georgia was ranked 27th in the RPI ratings and had the toughest schedule in the nation out of 319 teams. Alabama ranked 51st in strength of schedule and 94th overall in the nation. Troy State’s schedule was ranked 156th in the country. Samford of Birmingham was rated 181 with a 15-14 record and 185th in strength of schedule. The only team in the TAAC to place higher then TSU was conference regular season and tournament champs, Georgia State, who ranked 32nd in the RPI.

There was a contract on TSU Athletic Director Johnny William’s desk last Friday from the National Invitational Tournament. If Alabama had been selected to the NCAA tournament, believe it or not, Troy State would have received a bid to the NIT. With Alabama barred from entrance into the field-of-64, the Crimson Tide accepted the NIT bid on Sunday night. Alabama defeated Seton Hall, 75-69 on Tuesday night in the first round.

Troy State was that close to being in the NIT.

And why not? Troy State was the TAAC’s second-best team in the regular season and finished second in the tournament.

My hat’s off to TSU coach Don Maestri and his staff for the great coaching job this year.

Congratulations to Troy State softball coach Melanie Davis and her team for a big 3-1 victory over the Auburn Lady Tigers on Wednesday afternoon.

Kim Unkenholz runs her record to 10-1 on the year. The Lady Trojans softball team is now a cool 22-6.

Saturday’s a big day on the campus of Troy State University. It all starts with a St. Patrick’s Day parade up University Avenue at 11 a.m. Bring your kids and grand kids for a great morning of fun and excitement.

A lot of activities are planned after the parade in the "Tailgate Terrace." There will be a

Moon Walk, Punt, Pass and Kick contest, face painting and much more for the kids. Food will be served before the annual T-Day game, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Admission is free.

I know our colors are cardinal, black and silver, but Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s all wear green!

Go Trojans!