Athens — Not to put too fine a point on it, but Georgia needs to beat Kentucky. Yes, it’s early — actually, it’s the SEC opener for both — but the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule did them no favors.
Georgia enters today’s game with an RPI of 59 (ESPN.com link requires registration), which is low for a team with legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations. It’s not that the Bulldogs lost a slew of non-league games — they were beaten only by Notre Dame and Temple — but that they didn’t beat anybody any good. (It didn’t help that Georgia Tech, which UGA shaded in Atlanta, has an RPI of 180, which is wretched.)
On the famous Joe Lunardi’s latest installment of ESPN.com Bracketology, he doesn’t have the Bulldogs in his field of 68. (Remember, the Big Dance gets bigger by three.) Nor does he list Georgia among his first four out, or his next four out. Lunardi has four SEC teams gaining entrance, all of them from the Eastern Division.
Neither does Andy Glockner of SI.com have the Bulldogs in his latest projected field. (He does, however, include them among his last four out.) Even as we stipulate that it’s a long way to Selection Sunday, we must also note that a home loss against Kentucky wouldn’t exactly set Georgia off and winging.
But now the good news: I don’t think Georgia will lose to Kentucky, and I think beating the Wildcats, No. 8 in the RPI, should have a galvanizing effect on both this program and its numbers. I don’t think Kentucky is quite as good as its reputation, and I think Georgia’s reputation is about to get a new coat of glitter. But I have been known to be wrong. (Though not often in calendar 2011, now in its eighth day!)
With that, the hardwood floor is open for questions, comments and snide notations that I am, in fact, a UK grad. And I should note that a host of great basketball minds (myself not included) have gathered for this, including three men who have been the Hawks’ general manager at some point — Pete Babcock, Billy Knight and Rick Sund. So here’s where you get to show off your basketball IQ: Join me and make salient points!
By Mark Bradley