ATHENS – It was ugly. It was embarrassing. And in the long run, it might not matter that much.
When it comes to Georgia’s NCAA tournament fate, it could have been a 34-point loss at Kentucky on Tuesday, or it could have been a one point. All that matters is it was a defeat.
“At a certain point a loss is a loss,” said Greg Shaheen, who served as the facilitator for the NCAA selection committee for years, and is now a consultant. “The margin of victory has intentionally not been part of the consideration for the selection committee.”
That would be good news for Georgia, which actually has not one, but two 34-point losses this season. The other was last month at home to Texas A&M.
Shaheen’s point, from the perspective of someone who’s been in the room as at-large teams are being debated: Georgia didn’t disqualify itself on Tuesday night, or with either debacle.
“The scores are there. The information is there. But for the committee, it (margin of victory) specifically is not a criteria for them to determine the best 34 teams for at-large berths,” Shaheen said. “It’s probably what no one desires as a Bulldog fan. But with that said, the reality is they have a number of victories in the top 100 that are meaningful, and many of the games that they’ve had are very close. Those realities exist as well. You have to contemplate the one-pointer with Ole Miss, the two-pointer with Kansas State, the four-pointer with LSU.”
That’s not to say that Georgia’s situation is good. There clearly remains a lot of work to do.
Georgia (13-9 overall) ranked 70th in the RPI entering Thursday’s games. That’s 32 points away from where the Bulldogs were when they made the tournament last year. They are also 3-9 against the RPI top 100, after being 8-4 last year. And they only have one road victory.
Jerry Palm, who projects the field for CBSSports.com, has Georgia out of the field in his most recent bracket, but under consideration.
“It’s hard to say how much it’ll ultimately matter, but a couple of blowouts is far from Georgia’s biggest problem,” Palm said on Thursday. “They’re 3-9 against the top 100 and their only win away from home is at Mizzou. Those are much bigger issues.”
Right now Georgia has three things in its favor:
- Its strength of schedule, currently ranked No. 22 in the nation
- A lack of losses to teams outside the top 100: Seven of the losses are to top 60 teams, and other two are at LSU (76) and Ole Miss (86).
- The home win over South Carolina, which is No. 25 in the RPI.
But more quality wins are needed, and Saturday brings the danger of that first sub-100 loss. The rest of the schedule offers the chance for quality wins. Georgia’s remaining schedule:
- At Mississippi State (171 in the RPI)
- Florida (22)
- At Vanderbilt (63)
- At Auburn (132)
- Ole Miss (86)
- At South Carolina (25)
- Alabama (50)
Essentially, if Georgia wins at least four of those games it should enter the SEC tournament with a chance at an at-large bid. And if it wins five of them, it would be in very good shape.
That, of course, would require playing so much better than it did on Tuesday.
“What you want to do when you’re a team in this circumstance is you want to have part of the destiny in your hands,” Shaheen said. “They have the opportunity to take on all parts of the conference before they get to Nashville and make their case. They’re in the position now where they have work in front of them.”