Originally created 03/10/99

Oregon enthused about NIT game; Jackets hoping to build for next season



EUGENE, Ore. -- Word has it that Oregon wound up No. 65 when the selection committee rounded out the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament.

But the Ducks (16-11) are just happy to be playing, and to be hosting Georgia Tech in Wednesday's opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.

"We have to be excited about getting a home game and playing a program the caliber of Georgia Tech on national television," Ducks coach Ernie Kent said of the ESPN-televised game that will tip off at midnight EST. "I can't think of a better way to showcase our program across the country."

"I hope the fans rest up, paint their faces and let it all hang out," Kent added. "It's going to be a big-time atmosphere."

Oregon finished 40th in the Ratings Percentage Index, a formula that takes into account a team's winning percentage, strength of schedule and the opponents' schedule. The Ducks were the highest-rated team not to make the NCAA tournament. Seventeen tournament teams, most of them earning automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments, had lower RPI rankings than Oregon.

Georgia Tech (15-15), one of four Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the NIT, didn't distinguish itself in its last game, a 78-49 loss to North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. It was the Yellow Jackets' eighth loss in 10 games.

Coach Bobby Cremins, the national coach of the year in 1990 when Georgia Tech went to the Final Four, has been frustrated with his team's poor season, which began with the Jackets' star player, Deion Glover, injured his knee in the first practice of the year.

But he made it clear he was happy to get a bid to the NIT, even if it meant being shipped across the country on short notice.

"We're a very inexperienced team, so what I'm hoping for is, the more we play, it will man something next year for us," Cremins said. "The opportunity just to play is good for us. In the long run, I hope it means something to these guys, because we've got everybody back (next season)."

Georgia Tech made the Sweet Sixteen in 1993, only to have Stephon Marbury leave early for the NBA. But the Yellow Jackets could be on their way back. Next season, Glover will lead a team that doesn't have a senior in its seven-player rotation this season.

The Jackets are led by Jason Collier, a transfer from Indiana who's averaging 17.5 points. Alvin Jones, Tech's lone returning starter from last season, is averaging 12.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.

The Ducks have been led by Alex Scales at 14.5 points per game, A.D. Smith (12.5 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Darius Wright (8.4 points, 5.0 assists).

Oregon and Tech have played just once, on Dec. 16, 1977, when the Jackets won 64-57 in the Dayton Classic.