Suddenly UGA has a real NCAA chance – if it beats Kentucky

Georgia head coach Mark Fox reacts after his player was fouled in the closing seconds during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, March 11, 2016. Georgia won 65-64. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“Yeah, baby!” (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

If the NCAA pairings were set at noon today, meaning Saturday, Georgia wouldn’t make the field of 68. (Eamonn Brennan’s ESPN Bubble Watch still doesn’t include the Bulldogs, though he says he’s “keeping an eye” on them.) But if the Bulldogs beat Kentucky this afternoon, they’d have a fighting chance to make the NCAA tournament even if they lose to Texas A&M or LSU in Sunday’s SEC final.

(Department of Duh: If they win the SEC, they’re in.)

Department of What Will Sound Like Doubletalk: The best thing Georgia has going for it is three victories over South Carolina; that’s also the worst thing Georgia has going for it. The Bulldogs might well have knocked the Gamecocks from the Big Dance. Georgia now ranks above South Carolina — 60 to 62 — in RPI, which is good. Less good is that Georgia can no longer count a single victory over a team in the RPI’s top 50, and that’s no small thing to the committee.

This all changes if Georgia wins today, and it might. The Bulldogs are playing better than they have all season, and they have more reason to win than Kentucky, which is playing mostly for seeding. (To the Big Blue, there’s only one tournament that registers, and it ain’t the SEC.) Yes, the Wildcats beat Georgia by 34 points in Rupp Arena last month and have — Department of Duh, Take 2 — the better players, but weird things happen in league tournaments.

Example: South Carolina’s best player had the ball in a tie game Friday and was positioning himself to take the final shot. The worst thing the Gamecocks could reasonably have expected was to go to overtime. But Sindarius Thornwell was divested of possession by J.J. Frazier and then, thinking South Carolina was behind, fouled him. (Call that a cardinal Sindarius.) Frazier’s free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining won the game.

And look where South Carolina, 24-8, is now: Still in Joe Lunardi’s ESPN bracket, but only as one of the “last four in”; dropped from Jerry Palm’s CBS Sports bracket and not even listed among the “first four out.” If you go by Palm’s projection, the SEC would send only two teams to the NCAA tournament, which is another hurdle for Georgia.

South Carolina might have played its way out of the Dance. Vanderbilt might have, too. Florida and Alabama are almost certainly out. LSU has no shot unless it wins its next two games. Even with its three wins over the Gamecocks, Georgia was only 4-4 against those five teams. Generally speaking, the committee doesn’t worry about allocating a certain number of spots to a given conference: It does what it says is its mission — to find the 36 best at-large teams.

Meaning: There won’t be a surge of emotion to elevate Georgia just because the rest of the league — Kentucky and A&M to the contrary — has jumped the rails, and just reaching the semis won’t avail the Bulldogs much if at all. But beating Kentucky would give them a healthy RPI bounce, and that could be the difference between NCAA and NIT.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I cannot recall a not-even-on-the-bubble team playing its way into the NCAA by surging in a conference tournament without winning the thing. If it beats Kentucky, Georgia might become that team.

Reader Comments 0

7 comments
dawg fan
dawg fan

Until we start taking basketball more seriously I don't know what people expect.  It's like the football team under former leadership expecting all these magical things to happen.  It's embarrassing.  There is no magic to sports people.  It's just like life.  You get out of it what you put in to it.  I don't understand how so many other schools can put together a decent basketball program but we can't.  I guess it's like how Auburn, Florida, Alabama, FSU, Clemson and LSU can play for national titles in football while we were supposed to be happy with Taxslayer and Belk bowls.  At least we're doing something about football now.  Time to do something about basketball too. 

Misogynist
Misogynist

Great job AJC.  Why is this article still up on Sunday when Georgia got beat on Saturday.

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Dawgs should be proud as they only lost to the Cats

by 13 points. An improvement on the 34 point thrashing earlier

this season.. NIT..here come the dogs...

DawgNole
DawgNole

@LOGS1973 

If you're "proud" to lose by 13 points, it says a lot about your standards and expectations.