Staring at the Madness: UGA’s all but in, Hewitt’s almost gone

Don't say it couldn't happen. It happened on Tech's court. (AJC file photo)

Don't say it couldn't happen. For Dennis Felton and UGA, it happened on Georgia Tech's court. (AJC file photo)

We’re 20 days from Selection Sunday, 22 days from the beginning of an NCAA tournament. By the Ides of March, we’ll know where Georgia’s going to play in the Big Dance, and we’ll know if Georgia Tech is in the hunt for a new coach. And if you read on, you might even have some inkling as to who’s going to win it all in Houston.

Best team at full strength: Duke, with a caveat. The Devils haven’t been at full strength for 2 1/2 months and mightn’t be again. They lost point guard Kyrie Irving to a toe injury, and coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t expect the freshman to return this season. (And if Irving doesn’t return to Duke this season, he won’t. Toe or no, he’ll be among the first five players drafted in June.)  Duke can get to the Final Four without Irving, but winning an NCAA title without his biggest talent might be beyond even the great Krzyzewski.

Best team if Irving doesn’t return: Ohio State, even though the Buckeyes have lost two of their past three games. Ohio State entered the 2010 NCAA as the best No. 2 seed but flopped in the Sweet Sixteen because it had scads of guard but no inside presence. In freshman Jared Sullinger, it now has the best inside presence in the land. The Buckeyes lost Evan Turner, the guard who was the 2010 college player of the year, to the NBA a year early and have actually gotten better.

Teams that are tempting me: Kansas and Pittsburgh. I have picked these two to reach the Final Four and been wrong so many times I have sworn never to pick them again. And I won’t. (This time I will not succumb to the siren song of the Jayhawk!) But they’re both really good. Which is the point. KU and Pitt always look good right up until the time they get beat.

The most admirable team that won’t win the NCAA title: Purdue was positioned to be a No. 1 seed last season but lost leading scorer Robbie Hummel to a knee injury. He tore the same ligament again on the second day of practice, and still the Boilermakers are 22-5 and  jockeying for a No. 2 seed.  Matt Painter is your coach of the year.

The Jimmer Factor: He’ll surely be the college player of the year, and he’s projected as a top 10 pick by nbadraft.net. He’s Jimmer Fredette, and he’s best BYU guard (or player) since Danny Ainge. And we Atlantans have cause to recall Ainge leaving a major imprint on an NCAA tournament — against Notre Dame in 1981 at the old Omni. Ask Digger Phelps about it.

A pleased-as-punch Coach K against Tech. (AP photo)

A pleased-as-punch Coach K against Tech. (AP photo)

This year’s Butler: It’s George Mason, which was the original Butler. Mason has won 13 in a row and handled Northern Iowa, which felled Kansas in Round 2 last March, on the road on BracketBuster weekend. And if you’re interested in scouting the Patriots, they play at Georgia State on Feb. 26.

A scary low seed, provided it gets in: Morehead State has a good young coach in Donnie Tyndall and a good big man in Kenneth Faried and has won nine in a row. At issue: The Eagles will have to win the Ohio Valley Conference to merit an invitation. If they do, they’ll be one tough 15th seed.

This year’s Big Hype: I bought into the Big East blather the last couple of seasons. I don’t this time. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has 11 Big East teams making the NCAA, but I’m not sure any will make the Final Four. I’m not sure Florida isn’t as good as the best team in the Big East. That said …

Georgia could have big fun before the Big Dance: Last week we wondered if the Bulldogs might miss the NCAA tournament, but winning at Tennessee all but puts them in. And once in, Georgia figures to be a tough out. But the regular season isn’t done: Florida leads the East by two games over Vanderbilt and by three over UGA and Kentucky, but the Gators must play the Bulldogs, then at Kentucky, then Alabama, then at Vandy. And forward Chandler Parsons has a bruised thigh and might miss the Georgia game Thursday. A race that doesn’t appear tight could get that way.

Tech’s day of decision: The ACC championship game will be played March 13. The Institute is obliged to notify Paul Hewitt 30 days before April 15 — by my count, March 16 is the cutoff — if it doesn’t plan to roll over his contract. The belief here is that the only way he returns next season is by reaching the NCAA tournament, which means Tech must win the ACC. And before you say, “Fat chance,” note that Georgia similarly saved Dennis Felton by winning the SEC over four tornado-tossed days in 2008.

Promotional note: Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco will, you’ll be sorry to learn, return this March, and the 24th edition will be bigger than the 23rd, which was the biggest ever. You again will be entered to win cash money through our Upickem affiliation, and the Fiasco champion will receive, in addition to the low-tech Final Four Sweatshirt, a 32GB iPad with Wifi and 3G capability, plus a case for said iPad. The second- and third-place winners will receive a 32GB iPod Touch.

And, just for entering, you’ll receive my heartfelt gratitude, which I’d like to think has a value beyond compare.

By Mark Bradley

174 comments Add your comment

UGASlobberknocker

February 21st, 2011
2:51 pm

Do you project Tenn or Bama in the dance?

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
2:52 pm

Lunardi has both in, Slobberknocker. But each has work to do.

DawginLex

February 21st, 2011
2:54 pm

UT is most likely in although I would love to see a LONG losing streak and Pearl get run out of town.

Bama has work to do.

UGA needs to get to 9 wins in the league and they should be in.

Hewitt is all but gone.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
2:56 pm

Tennessee has the better RPI, but Alabama has the better record and the better team.

B

February 21st, 2011
2:58 pm

Winning at Tenn puts them in? What happens if they lose 3 of the next 4?

DawginLex

February 21st, 2011
2:58 pm

Lots of unrest in Knoxville. I sat behind the UT bench at UK/UT game and watched Jones shake his head many times at what Pearl was doing.

Cheating to win can be overlooked. If you cheat and lose, you are done.

Hamilton has an interesting decision coming especially if the NCAA suspends Pearl for a year.

JM

February 21st, 2011
3:00 pm

sad state of affairs in Atlanta.

Benjamin

February 21st, 2011
3:01 pm

The real question for me, re: Georgia, is whether or not Trey returns for another year.

If he comes in next season, Georgia figures to be a top 25 team, imo.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:01 pm

You really think they’re going to lose to LSU and South Carolina at home, B?

EW

February 21st, 2011
3:02 pm

Enjoyed the read MB, but surprised there was no mention of Texas.

ormewood

February 21st, 2011
3:05 pm

Pearl has proven to be a liar. It’s amazing he even has a job. Coaches have been fired for much, much less.

EW

February 21st, 2011
3:05 pm

I would also be interested in your opinion of SDSU’s chances in the tourney? Do you see them as an early exit or a legit team ready to make a run?

mn possum

February 21st, 2011
3:05 pm

Which team do you have capturing the Patriot League title?

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:05 pm

I’m not big on Texas, EW. Haven’t been for a while.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:06 pm

Got to go with Bucknell in the Patriot.

EW

February 21st, 2011
3:06 pm

Benjamin, I believe Trey is going to leave. UGA has a good class coming in and I think it took some swaying for him to stay for this season.

Paul in RDU

February 21st, 2011
3:07 pm

Mark – I agree with you about Kyrie Irving – he’ll never play another game for Duke. It’s a pity because he was absolutely spectacular when he was healthy. There was a reason Krzyzewski picked him as the starting point guard before the season had started – over Nolan Smith.
Hopefully the people claiming that Coach K doesn’t recruit players who want to go to the NBA as soon as possible will learn that he goes after the same top guys that other people do (you have to have them to win).

mn possum

February 21st, 2011
3:07 pm

Thanks. Go Bison!

A review of our goals for 2010-11

February 21st, 2011
3:07 pm

UGA alums desired a respectable season with around 21 regular season wins and for UGA to go one win into the SEC Tourney, or maybe two wins. If we achieved that, then we wanted to go to the BIg Dance. We appear to be on course.

For the most part, UGA is on target. UGA lost to ND and to Temple early on ( both very decent teams) and that ugly loss to UT and the ugly thing with Florida. Had UGA won one or two of these, then UGA would be really having a very good year.

Next year will be tough if Tomkins and Leslie leave. We will have to take possibly one step back in 2011-12. If we do not, then we are on course to build UGA into a respectable basketball program.

For UGA to win 21,22,23 per year and go to the Dance, that is nirvana for UGA fans and alumni.

Go Dogs.

GO Dogs.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:08 pm

I’m told by a man who coaches against San Diego State that the Aztecs are legit. But I note that New Mexico was a No. 3 seed from the Mountain West last season and was upset in Round 2.

reality

February 21st, 2011
3:08 pm

Mark if you say Kansas and Pittsburgh are not going to perform that’s good enough for me. I’ll be sure to pick them to go far in my pool.

You are always wrong. Thanks for the advice buddy.

Roman

February 21st, 2011
3:09 pm

Regardless of a miracle in ACC tourney, GT HAS to get rid of Hewitt. The program is in shambles. Look what good the extra year did for UGA by bringing Felton back. Anytime GT shows up as a “bad loss” for potential March Madness teams, it is an omen the coach must go.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:10 pm

Duke has had some one-and-dones, as you know, Paul: Corey Maggette and Luol Deng both were. And Shaun Livingston, who had the game of his NBA career against the Hawks 10 days ago, signed with Duke and never enrolled.

cattledawg

February 21st, 2011
3:10 pm

What seed do you think the dawgs would get ?

B

February 21st, 2011
3:10 pm

Well considering they’ve lost 3 of 4 at home and the lone win was against the worst team in the sec and that went to OT, I’d say it’s possible, if not likely.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:11 pm

Joe Lunardi has UGA as a No. 10. That’s about right — for now. Win at Florida and it changes.

EW

February 21st, 2011
3:11 pm

Thanks for the quick reply.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:11 pm

Georgia hasn’t lost to anybody bad all season. Don’t see it happening now.

JH

February 21st, 2011
3:11 pm

Anyone know what happened to Murray?

Dennis Felton

February 21st, 2011
3:11 pm

I want my mustache back!!!

EW

February 21st, 2011
3:12 pm

Let the Madness begin.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:12 pm

Some sort of leg injury, so far undetermined. That’s the latest, JH. Stay tuned.

BYRDDAWG

February 21st, 2011
3:13 pm

Ormewood are you kidding me?? Lame Kiffin is the BIGGEST liar this side of obama and they loved him @ UT!!!!!

Rick

February 21st, 2011
3:13 pm

The problem mark is they haven’t beaten anyone that is good today. LOL

cattledawg

February 21st, 2011
3:13 pm

Isnt George Mason the original Gonzaga?

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:13 pm

I’ll say it again: I’m shocked Bruce Pearl is still coaching at Tennessee.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:14 pm

Other way around: Gonzaga was the original Mason.

EW

February 21st, 2011
3:15 pm

As long as Murray didn’t go Matthew Stafford on us and injure himself doing leg extensions with a keg or something I think he will be fine.

Buckeye

February 21st, 2011
3:16 pm

Good to see Howard ( before I was Trey) and Co. tough it out in Knoxville. They withstood the run.
Still concerned with his overall play.

Unless he a) has the ball b) looking for the ball in the post c) is playing defense againt the ball or d) reboudning the ball, he is standing around. I see little movement or effort without the ball on both ends of the floor. The art of following one’s shot appears an unknown concept. Come on, Howard, you are better than that!

Ohio State ( 25-2, # 2 in today’s AP, leading the Big 10) ran into a career performance and a raucus revenge-minded home crown. Early foul trouble, cold shooting and Purdue’s defense taking away Diebler’s three definatley hurt.

Still hoping to see OSU/uga match up in the Tourney.

Harris

February 21st, 2011
3:16 pm

Just like in football this past season, teams from other conferences are getting into the post season because the pac 10 isn’t getting anyone in.

UGASlobberknocker

February 21st, 2011
3:16 pm

I was surprised that as successful as the SC press was against the Dawgs .that Tenn didnt do more of it..we didnt handle it very well in Columbia and havent really handled it well all season.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:19 pm

Georgia basically plays three guards: It should be able to handle the press.

Biff Pocoroba Fan Club

February 21st, 2011
3:19 pm

I see the Richmond Spiders as the surprise team in the NCAA’s this year. They pulled some magic back in 1985 and should do it again.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:19 pm

And the Pac-10 will only get three: Arizona, Washington and UCLA. And the ACC could only manage four if Boston College slips.

JB

February 21st, 2011
3:22 pm

I think the AD at Tennessee ( Hamilton I think) is scared to fire Pearl because it puts him in the spot light again to hire a coach. Those folks aren’t over Kiffen yet. He really messed that place up. That AD up there lay’s low.

Mark Bradley

February 21st, 2011
3:22 pm

Richmond is good. Old Dominion is really good. VCU is good, too.

AGTFan

February 21st, 2011
3:23 pm

For the first time ever, I will pull against my team for the sake of my team.

cattledawg

February 21st, 2011
3:23 pm

Good point Mark. I think this the year of the dark horse to win it all.

Buckeye

February 21st, 2011
3:24 pm

Credit to Price. The 2nd half effort and drive made the difference.

JB

February 21st, 2011
3:25 pm

Hewitt is gone for sure. Walk up tickets and empty seats for Tech Basketball= firing. ACC+Atlanta+ only 8000 seats ought to = standing room only.