ATHENS — First off let’s be clear: If Georgia’s name is somehow called when the NCAA brackets are announced Sunday night, it will be one of the surprises of the night, if not the biggest surprise. Most every respected national bracket projection has Georgia out, with a few not having the Bulldogs even very heavily in consideration.
But there are reasons for Georgia to watch, on the off chance it has more believers in the committee room then outside of it.
For one thing, Georgia has a better chance than it did last year, when it ended up being a No. 2 seed in the NIT (and thus, theoretically, one of the first eight out of the NCAAs.). And it has a better chance than three years ago, when it ended up being a No. 1 seed in the NIT.
For another, Georgia’s resume is actually very similar to two years ago, when it made the NCAA tournament, with the exception of one thing: RPI rank. Two years ago Georgia was in the upper 30s. As of Saturday night, it was in the low 50s.
What about the main knock against Georgia: The lack of top 50 or signature wins? Well, two years ago Georgia didn’t have any RPI top 50 wins by the end of the season. This year it does have one, Vanderbilt.
Georgia’s schedule strength is similar to 2015. The amount of road wins is similar. The lack of bad losses is similar. (Actually there were more two years ago.)
But the other thing Georgia probably has working against it is the eye test. Two years ago Georgia didn’t have that signature win, but in the last week of the regular season it played then undefeated and No. 1-ranked Kentucky in a close, nationally-watched game. Everyone in the country saw that, especially on the selection committee.
This year, while Georgia finished winning six of its last nine and five of its last seven, it still kind of wheezed to the finish. The last impression the Bulldogs left was the SEC quarterfinal loss to Kentucky, a game that was never really in doubt.
Georgia has to hope is that the committee knows that Georgia was still dealing with Yante Maten’s injury, especially when it barely beat Auburn and LSU at home, and then Tennessee in the SEC tournament.
Mark Fox is evidently also banking on the Texas A&M game almost being counted as a win, or gaining sympathy points. That result may indeed have had a bad domino effect on Georgia’s season – it carried over into the subsequent loss to Alabama, and if you flip the Texas A&M game then Georgia doesn’t have to play Kentucky in the SEC quarterfinals. But by itself, merely flipping a win over the Aggies, barely in the top 100, doesn’t do much for Georgia’s resume’.
So what about all those close losses to Kentucky (twice), Florida and South Carolina (also twice)? Maybe they’re taken into consideration by the committee. Then again, Georgia’s not the only team in the country to lose a bunch of close games.
It’s all hoping against hope, really. The most likely scenario is a home NIT game for Georgia on Tuesday or Wednesday.
But you never know.