NASHVILLE — Georgia now ranks ahead of South Carolina in the RPI, and has defeated the Gamecocks three times this year. And yet, is South Carolina still set to make the NCAA tournament while Georgia is left out?
Yes, that will likely be the case, unless Georgia upsets Kentucky, or the selection committee throws a major curveball.
After Friday night’s action, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has moved Georgia (19-12 overall, 60th in the RPI) to his “next four out,” or essentially one of the top eight teams not in the field. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com doesn’t have Georgia among his first four out and doesn’t list a next four.
South Carolina (23-8, ranked 62nd in the RPI) is still in Lunardi’s field as a No. 10 seed. But Palm has booted the Gamecocks from his projected bracket, not even putting them in his last four out.
Georgia’s best hope (beyond beating Kentucky) is that the selection committee rewards its non-conference schedule, which ranks fourth in the nation. It played only one team that’s now ranked below 200, and the overall schedule, including SEC games, ranks 26th nationally.
Mark Fox stated his case after Friday night’s win, saying he thought his team deserved “very, very serious consideration” for a bid.
“There’s a lot of teams across the country who have played one-third of their schedule versus teams outside of the top 200. We could have easily said, ‘OK, we want to go rack up some wins and play a bunch of cupcakes,’ but we didn’t do that,” Fox said. “We’ve won now, what, 12 SEC games, I think. Ten in the regular season and a couple here in the tournament. And I’ve got dear friends at some of those other places, but if this win doesn’t put us squarely in the conversation or in the tournament with 19 wins and the schedule we played, what would do it?”
The problem for the Bulldogs is they didn’t do anything particularly eye-opening against that schedule, or in SEC play, other than the three wins over South Carolina. The next-best wins are over Georgia Tech (66), Alabama (74) and Ole Miss (95).
Georgia’s record against the RPI top 100 is 6-12.
What is at least true is that the Bulldogs have helped themselves a lot with the five-game winning streak, after the loss at Auburn (the lone loss to a non-top 100 team) seemed to end any bubble aspirations. And even if the experts are right and Georgia isn’t a realistic at-large candidate yet, Fox’s team does have one big thing going in its favor.
It’s still playing.