A Big Dance play-in: UGA vs. Bama in the SEC quarterfinals

Can Georgia win four games in four days? This guy managed. (AJC file photo)

Can Georgia win four games in four days? Three years ago, this guy managed. (AJC file photo)

Twenty victories. A winning conference record. An RPI under 40. A strength of schedule that ranks in the nation’s upper 35. Only one loss to a team outside the RPI top 50.

That should be enough to gain entry to the NCAA tournament. And if the field were to be set today, Georgia — the owner of the above worksheet — would probably make it. But the field won’t be set until Sunday, and there’s the tangle.

The one thing Georgia needed to avoid in the SEC tournament, which begins Thursday at the Georgia Dome, was a de facto NCAA play-in game against Alabama, to whom the Bulldogs lost over the weekend. Assuming Georgia beats Auburn on Thursday, guess who awaits at 1 p.m. Friday?

The Tide is one of the strangest cases in bracket-seeding history: Its RPI is 81, and a team from a major conference can have an RPI 30 places higher and still be excluded from the only tournament that matters. (That one Georgia loss to a team outside the RPI top 50? Against Bama.) But this RPI laggard won the SEC West with a record of 12-4 and came within a game of tying Florida for the overall regular-season title.

Bracketologists have gone forth and back on the Tide for a month: Can the NCAA committee take a team that played only one team of consequence (Purdue, to which Alabama lost by 19 points) in non-conference and holds a strength-of-schedule rating of 147? That said, shouldn’t the conference season in a major league count for something? That said, doesn’t the committee always look first to RPI? If so, could it possibly justify taking the Tide over, say, Georgia?

Extremely definitive answer: Maybe, assuming the team with the RPI of 81 beats the team with the RPI of 37 twice in seven days at the shank of the regular season.

The Bulldogs haven’t helped themselves much. They’ve had an uneventful 20-win season. Only three of those 20 victories came against teams in the RPI top 50. (UAB on Dec. 3, Kentucky on Jan. 8, at Tennessee on Feb. 19.) Georgia lost four games at home in January and February, all against teams with a stronger RPI. Had the Bulldogs gone 2-2 in those games, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but they didn’t and we are.

When Georgia won at Tennessee last month, the belief here was that, barring a loss to a lesser light, the Bulldogs were all but in. Sure enough, Georgia disposed of South Carolina and LSU. And yet: As of Monday morning, the famous Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Georgia as his second team out, Alabama being the first, while Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com has Georgia in as a No. 9 seed but Alabama as his first team out.  And now the committee stands to be handed a side-by-side comparison: Georgia’s body of work versus Alabama’s.

It’s possible both Georgia and Alabama could make the field no matter what happens this week. Possible, but not probable. The SEC’s RPI is only sixth-highest, behind even the Mountain West’s. It would be difficult to invite half the membership of such a conference. It’s also conceivable Tennessee, which has lost six of its past nine games, could be the team omitted — except that the Vols have seven wins against the RPI top 50, plus an RPI of 33 and the nation’s No. 2 strength of schedule. (On the other hand, is the committee apt to give Bruce Pearl the benefit of any doubt?)

The SEC bracket does Georgia no favors. To reach the final, it would have to beat Auburn on Thursday, Alabama on Friday and surely Kentucky — which closed the regular season by beating Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee — on Saturday. There’s no denying the Bulldogs’ talent, but there’s question about their depth. It’s hard to imagine this team winning four games in four days, but not as hard as it was to imagine the 2008 team winning four in four days, the final three in the space of 28 hours, to save Dennis Felton’s job.

Then again, that team had to win four times to reach the NCAA. This team doesn’t. If these Bulldogs get past Alabama, they’ll be in the Big Dance. If not, they’ll sweat out Selection Sunday.

SEC tournament prediction: Florida over Kentucky in the final.

SEC tournament spoiler: Mississippi State.

SEC tournament flop: Vanderbilt.

Georgia-Alabama winner: Bulldogs in overtime.

ALSO: CAN GEORGIA TECH WIN A GAME IN THE ACC TOURNAMENT? WHY, SURE

By Mark Bradley

128 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

March 7th, 2011
11:20 am

First on Monday!!

Buck Commander

March 7th, 2011
11:21 am

I have thick skin so let the bad-mouthing begin.

5150 UOAD

March 7th, 2011
11:22 am

Working hard Buck? lol

Rickster

March 7th, 2011
11:23 am

Close… so close…

Oh well. At least I have to that show for it.

Rickster

March 7th, 2011
11:25 am

In the words of Carl the Greenskeeper… “How about a little sumthin’, you know.. for the effort?”

5150 UOAD

March 7th, 2011
11:25 am

Buck I bet you are first at work on Mondays and last out on Fridays right? HAHHA Wait that is 1st in on Monday and 1st out on Friday. That how you roll.
I am not so sure UGA is going to beat AUBURN just yet. I do think if the Dawgs do lose to Auburn they will Bubble Bust. They really need 2 wins in the SEC Turney to make sure they are dancing.

Fish Bisch

March 7th, 2011
11:27 am

Please unban me mr. ledbetter, you need an editor and I’m happy to fill in. I hear Roddy is talking the news very hard about Finneran’s departure.

Buck Commander

March 7th, 2011
11:28 am

Congrats on being second Rickster. Thats the best I can give you.

5150 UOAD

March 7th, 2011
11:28 am

Rickster no not even. I am on Mark Bradley HOLD so he checks my post first before posting. I think I will be 3rd and 4th when MB get back to me.

McDawg

March 7th, 2011
11:32 am

agreed but lets worry about Auburn first

McDawg

March 7th, 2011
11:33 am

if this team had a Sundiata Gaines they could be dancing the 2 step in Texas

Mtn Dawg

March 7th, 2011
11:34 am

I am amazed that UT is still IN for an at-large bid!! They’re not a good team, and they have a sleeze-bag for a coach.

YardDawg

March 7th, 2011
11:36 am

If Trey could make a free throw in crunch time, we’d have about 24 wins right now.

UGASlobberknocker

March 7th, 2011
11:38 am

i agree that we have to beat Bama to get in..but I think we will, they are a different team away from home.

But the only way the Dawgs go any further in the SEC tourney or in the NCAA tourney is if Tompkins will snap out of his season long funk. I know Tompkins has been hurt, and maybe that’s why he isn’t getting any offensive rebounds, but that doesn’t excuse the lazy passes or his inconsistent defensive play. He isn’t crashing the boards. Also to win, Ware has to stay hot.

J Clay

March 7th, 2011
11:39 am

MB – disagree on the bracket not giving them favors. Who would you rather play in round 2 – Bama or Florida? That was best Dawgs could hope for. If they make it to Round 3 – who would you rather play – UK or Vandy? Dawgs match up better with UK than Vandy….Also, if they make it to round 3 will be a moot point, they will be in already…

McDawg

March 7th, 2011
11:40 am

lazy passes— exactly!!!!!

Ware has to be the on court leader

Mtn Dawg

March 7th, 2011
11:44 am

And Gerald Robinson needs to play in control. He’s a turnover machine.

Buckeye

March 7th, 2011
11:47 am

Perhaps the exra rest will help Howard’s ( before I was Trey) toe. They also need work on execution under 2-3 minutes to go. They were all over the place on Saturday. Wishing you the best, Howard ( before I was Trey) and Co. Want to see you in the Dance.

ncaa bracket 2011 | TrendyTwits

March 7th, 2011
11:49 am

[...] bracket 2011 Author: admin March 7, 2011 Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)SEC Tournament 2011 Bracket: Georgia Vs. AlabamaSB Nation AtlantaGeorgia finds itself sitting firmly [...]

Buckeye

March 7th, 2011
11:49 am

Disagree on the Vanderbilt flop. They got screwed drawing the late game.

Mark Bradley

March 7th, 2011
11:49 am

Kudos, Buck Commander. No belittling from this precinct.

Connie Lingous

March 7th, 2011
11:50 am

Hey Bradley – your colleague Jeff Schultz called you unprofessional in his blog post this morning. Give it a look, I sincerely hope you’ll fire back.

By the way, I liked your hair better when you wore it poofy, like weird Al Yankovic.

brian

March 7th, 2011
12:01 pm

after all this preseason hype 4 UGA basketball we are still mediocre at best. i just do not see how fox can completely turn UGA basketball around if he cant do it with 2 first round picks and a former mr basketball in thornton. PLEASE FOX MAKE ME A BELIEVER IN YOU THIS WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BobDawg

March 7th, 2011
12:01 pm

… glad to see the comments on the Dawgs as BBall is relevant again in The Classic City. Bama plays about the ugliest ball I’ve ever seen and I agree with above comments that away from their Cow Palace they will not be the same team. I like the fact that we get them back again… It’s for all the NCAA marbles now… Let’s see who is the better team…

B C

March 7th, 2011
12:02 pm

If the ref hadn’t swallowed his whistle at the end of the tennessee game in athens, Uga would have 21 wins as we speak and there would be no discussion as to whether or not they are in the dance. Top 40 sos and rpi, winning record in conference and on the road…Georgia’s in!!!

BobDawg

March 7th, 2011
12:03 pm

Brian, general concensus is Leslie and Thompkins are not first rounders now… They need to stay in school another year. Thompkins has been hurt most of the year and Leslie needs more seasoning. Thorton will be a beast next year along with Caldwell…

Buckeye

March 7th, 2011
12:04 pm

Connie,

Nice name.

Mark, appropriate? Think not.

Beast from the East

March 7th, 2011
12:09 pm

The Dawgs should be in with a first round win. Do not underestimate Bama. They play great defense and create well off of turnovers. Anthony Grant has them swarming to the ball. Agreed that they are different team at home. We’ll see how it plays out on a nuetral court if UGA takes care of business against the Barners.
Good luck, Dawgs!

brian

March 7th, 2011
12:13 pm

i agree pope looks like the real deal and when hewitt gets fired next week at this exact time after losing in the ACC first round we can add the number one PF in GA to our recruiting class. thanks nerds hahahaha lets just hope fox wins more than 20 wins with a new core of basketball studs

Michael Scharff

March 7th, 2011
12:18 pm

I was at the LSU game last Wednesday. For a team with a “question about their depth,” Coach Fox substituted freely and often until we wore LSU out. Yes, we started slow, and yes, we were playing a very young team. Also, who did not have a very strong game on Saturday? Mr. Travis Leslie. He only had one assist, and he did not rebound well at all. Speaking of rebounding, we are AWFUL when one of our guys heaves up a three pointer and misses. We need players in position, but I think the problem is that we don’t seem to have any designed plays for three point shots. From watching all year, it seems to me like Dustin, Gerald, and Trey just hoist up a three whenever they feel like they have an opportunity. We are not in a good position right now. We needed OT to beat a mediocre Auburn squad, and we lost to a decent but not great Alabama squad. We have the talent, but everybody needs to really step up their game for the next (hopefully) three weeks!

girldawg

March 7th, 2011
12:26 pm

I thought for a moment Dawgs had it in them to shoot 3 points consistently and that seems to be t it a moment. It seems our 3 point attempts ends up in the other team scoring 2… so why not go get the 2 points for ourselves work on the foul shots and let the 3 point game pretty much go. Ware is not consistent enough with the 3 point game and neither is Trey to rely on it some may argue the fact but I just don’t see it being much of a threat or a winning factor Go inside go underneath. It is up to the Dawgs to decide if they want to go to the dance or not… Saturday did not look much like they did. Did Coach Richt give the pregame speech or what? Better get fired up or you will be watching the dance at home. SEASON OVER!

NFLDAWG

March 7th, 2011
12:33 pm

Unless Bama anihilates UGA in the SEC tourney or UGA loses to Auburn, there is no way they should get in ahead of UGA. Bama has fattened their record against SEC west opponents. Bama’s conference record is built on 10 games vs. West and 6 vs. the East. Georgia had 10 vs. the East and 6 vs. the West. Bama will have had two significant advantages in both matchups against UGA. The first being that Bama played at home. The second will be that Bama will be rested while UGA will be coming off a game with Auburn the day before. Therefore, I do not think that a loss to Bama, if it is a close loss should be the ultimate determining factor. After all, they say you have to look at the entire body of work and UGA’s is certainly more impressive.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

DawginLex

March 7th, 2011
12:43 pm

Bama lost to Seton Hall, Iowa, St Peter’s, Providence and Oklahoma state. Not too impressive.

Georgia lost to Notre Dame and Temple and beat UAB. No bad losses except for losing to Bama.

How can Georgia not be in?

Field of 68 Dreams

March 7th, 2011
12:44 pm

NFLDAWG, before you chat about Bama “fattening up on the SEC West,” consider that Tide was 4-2 against the SEC East, while Georgia was 4-6. And Bama led during the final 20 seconds of a loss at Vandy.

dixiedawg

March 7th, 2011
12:46 pm

How can Lunardi have Mich St & Colorado getting in over UGA? That’s just crazy! It looks like the Dawgs will have to beat Bama to punch their ticket.

elroy

March 7th, 2011
12:49 pm

wrong guess bradley. both bama & uga are in. but you’re only looking for a response. weak!

Skeezix

March 7th, 2011
12:50 pm

Got to at least beat Auburn, but to ensure that they get in they really need to win the first two games in the SEC Tournament. Grant is a great coach-I was hoping Tech would hire him back when he became available.

VinceVanGo

March 7th, 2011
1:06 pm

The Dogs don’t shoot 3’s very well and the opponents have went to a tight 2-3 zone to keep our bigs away from the basket, and it’s been working. Robinson(if he can stay under control), Leslie, and Ware should be driving to the basket often to open things up, and the Dogs should be trying to fast break on every possible opportunity to keep the opponents from being able to set up their zone defense. This team with its poor outside shooting should only play in a half court offense when it’s absolutely necessary. Next year will be different with the addition of Caldwell.

joe

March 7th, 2011
1:08 pm

UGA will beat Auburn, lose to Bama and go to the NIT, while Bama gets that NCAA spot for beating UGA twice in one week.

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman !

March 7th, 2011
1:10 pm

Dawgs are NIT bound ! Mark it Down Folks !

Bawbie

March 7th, 2011
1:11 pm

Fire Dave Perno !

All equals out

March 7th, 2011
1:13 pm

Mark Fox =’s Mark Richt…. they both choke on the big ones !

Cant Beat Gatuah

March 7th, 2011
1:16 pm

Dem Gatuahs are tough to beat in all sports….football,basketball,baseball,gym and even underwater basket weaving.

Gordon

March 7th, 2011
1:16 pm

What if they lose to Auburn, who is playing better lately? Are they definitely out?

mexdawg

March 7th, 2011
1:18 pm

It’s too bad Georgia will play Thursday and Friday at 1pm.With the games in Atlanta we could have a lot more fans there if these games were in the evening when people finish work.That being said I like our chances in this bracket.LET THE BIG DAWG EAT.

5150 UOAD

March 7th, 2011
1:18 pm

SEC west Football. SEC east Basketball. UGA can’t be the Champ in either sport.
UGA should make the NCAA Tourney, but they have to beat Auburn for sure.

boots

March 7th, 2011
1:26 pm

It is funny – we complain about the lack of a football playoff and how subjective things are. But now we complain about how subjective the NCAA tourney can be, too. I know it is an old argument, but teams like UGA should be a lock over the goof-ball conference champions who play high school schedules. As for Bama, they should man-up and play a better non-conference schedule – in football and basketball.

robodawg

March 7th, 2011
1:42 pm

C’mon Dawgs. Let’s at least win the first two and leave no doubt.

ATLER (ramblin wreck)

March 7th, 2011
1:58 pm

Mark Bradley is a loser. Get a real former athlete to write about sports!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kudos to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!