We’re six days from Selection Sunday and the onset of the 28th edition of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco, and questions abound. To wit:
1. Should Georgia play Kentucky for the SEC title Sunday in Nashville, will the result be different? You’ve heard the saying that it’s hard to beat a good team three times. Georgia is a good team that has lost to Kentucky twice, the first time by 11 points on the road without Marcus Thornton, the second by eight after leading by nine inside the final 10 minutes. And there’s precedent here: The 2012 Wildcats rolled through the SEC regular season unbeaten but were upset in the tournament final by Vanderbilt, which Kentucky had already beaten twice.
The Bulldogs might have been better served by facing Kentucky in the semis Saturday because depth tends to show in a third game in three days, which is what the finals would be for both, and the Wildcats are deeper than Georgia. (The Wildcats are deeper than everybody.) Still, strange things happen in conference tournaments, and the guess here is that unbeaten Kentucky is more apt to lose in the SEC tournament, which doesn’t matter, than in the Big Dance, which does.
2. Is Georgia Tech about to change coaches? In this space three weeks ago, I guessed that Brian Gregory wouldn’t get fired after this season. I’ve since changed my guess. I think the events of those three weeks — Tech has lost four in a row to finish next-to-last in the ACC, falling to Louisville after leading by 13, to Clemson in overtime and to North Carolina twice by an aggregate 61 points — will have convinced athletic director Mike Bobinski that a change is warranted. A coach cannot go 3-15 in league play in his fourth season and have any reasonable expectation of keeping his job.
3. Will Georgia State win the Sun Belt? As nice as it was for the Panthers to win the conference title outright, they know better than anyone that the regular season isn’t what counts to a mid-major. (Ask Murray State, which was ranked No. 25 but lost the Ohio Valley final to Belmont by one point and will likely miss the NCAA tournament.) Georgia State could face UL Lafayette, which beat the Panthers in the championship game last season, in the semis, and then it could turn around and face Georgia Southern or UL Monroe, both of which State beat last week, in the final. And it never helps when one of your two best players — Ryan Harrow, in this case — tweaks his hamstring in the regular-season final.
4. And what of Mercer? The Bears, who famously ousted Duke from the Big Dance last season, won’t be back in the NCAA tournament. Playing their first season in the Southern Conference, they were upset by Furman, which is 11-21 and had finished last in the league, in the tournament semifinals last night in Asheville, N.C. Mercer had beaten the Paladins twice in the regular season. That’s why they call it madness, folks.