Archive for March, 2011

Double bummer: Georgia blows big lead, bigger opportunity

Mark Fox after a missed free throw. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Fox after a missed free throw. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Fox said he still feels his Georgia Bulldogs belong in the NCAA tournament, and after citing the numerical reasons he offered this: “If I don’t call that timeout and the ball goes in, you don’t ask that question.”

And that’s the point, sorry to say.

Given the chance to dissolve all doubt, Georgia authored a collapse that makes us wonder if this team is as good as its record. The Bulldogs led what was billed as a Big Dance play-in by 14 points with 6:44 remaining, and they wound up losing to a team with an RPI 44 places worse for the second time in seven days. If you can’t hold so big a lead in so huge a game, do you belong in the NCAA tournament at all?

Said Trey Thompkins, the Georgia forward: “It’d be nice [to make the NCAA], but it’s out of our hands. I can’t tell you whether we’re in or whether we’re not.”

Georgia scored its 49th point with 6:01 left in regulation. Eleven minutes later, it would finish with …

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Live from the SEC: UGA and Bama meet to crunch numbers

Mark Fox: "Hey, our RPI is twice as good!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Georgia coach Mark Fox states his case: "Hey, our RPI is twice as good as theirs!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This isn’t just a huge game — it could well become a test case. If Georgia loses to Alabama and the Bulldogs don’t get an NCAA tournament invitation but the Tide does … well, it would pretty much invalidate the way the NCAA committee has done its business.

Georgia carries an RPI of 39; Alabama’s is 83. (These according to ESPN’s InsiderRPI, the link for which requires registration.) A handy article in the Wall Street Journal — written by Darren Everson, it features a photo of Georgia big man Jeremy Price as illustration — informs us that, over the past 10 years, 84.7 percent of at-large candidates bearing an RPI between 31 and 40 have made the NCAA field.

And how many at-large candidates with an RPI over 80 have gained entrance? Everson’s chart stops at 70, which tells us all we need know.

The argument for Georgia over Alabama is the one Bulldogs coach Mark Fox …

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Pick the Final Four! Win fabulous prizes! It’s another Fiasco!

BradleyTopper

Pretty cool graphic, wouldn't you say? You'll be utterly shocked to learn that I had nothing to do with it.

Our story begins in 1987. I had, as was the custom even then, made my Final Four picks in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, and they turned out, as was and remains the custom, not so hot. And I got a letter — anyone remember letters? — from a reader saying, “You obviously know nothing about basketball.”

That sentence stuck in my mind, such as it was/is, along with another, this one spoken by then-AJC copy editor Gerry Overton, who said: “I really haven’t followed college basketball much this year, but it’s every red-blooded American’s duty to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket.”

And that, one year later, was what I did: Took two thoughts — one from a snippy reader, one from an esteemed colleague — and decided the guy who obviously knew nothing about basketball should have a little contest to see who did. Thus, in March 1988, was Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco born.

It …

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UGA enters the SEC tourney having not yet shown us its best

A tough loss: Tennessee's Williams scores over Georgia's Barnes. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A tough loss, one among many: Tennessee's Brian Williams scores over Georgia's Chris Barnes. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Georgia has won 20 games, but only a couple of the victories — against Kentucky in January, at Tennessee last month — are worth recalling. Such has been the Bulldogs’ season: For all the good work done, there’s not much we could deem outstanding.

But the season, as of Thursday at 1 p.m., changes. Georgia needs to win at least twice in the SEC tournament to prettify its NCAA tournament profile, and this team is capable of winning twice that many games this week. This team, put simply, is better than it has played.

Said Dustin Ware, the junior guard: “We definitely feel that, as a team, we still have our best basketball in front of us.”

Said Chris Barnes, the backup big man: “We’ve had a lot of close losses.”

Only one of the Bulldogs’ 10 losses has been by more than 10 points, and that was by Florida in double overtime in a game Georgia led by three …

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Tressel docked, but what does it take for a coach to get fired?

Not on his To-Do List: "Find out about tatto parlor." (AP photo)

Not on his To-Do List: "Find out about tatto parlor." (AP photo)

Jim Tressel said he’d “get on it ASAP” and didn’t get on it at A-L-L, and now the famous Ohio State coach has been fined a quarter of a million bucks and precluded from coaching two games. And that giggling you hear is from other coaches who’ve long believed the man in the sweater vest is just as, er, human as anyone else in his cutthroat business.

Stipulation: Tressel is a good coach, one of the best, and seems — I say “seems” because he goes to great lengths not to reveal much about himself — to be an OK guy. But his program at Youngstown State was penalized (and Tressel cited for not investigating closely enough), and his BCS title with the Buckeyes was won largely on the legs of the infamous Maurice Clarett. Now this.

When last Tressel’s team played, it was with five players, including the noted quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who had been handed NCAA suspensions for their part in the memorabilia-for-tattoos case …

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Can Georgia Tech win a game in the ACC tourney? Why, yes

Brian Oliver scored 28 points when last Tech faced Tech. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Brian Oliver scored 28 points when last Tech faced Tech. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

When you’re the 11th seed in a 12-team field, there are no cushy draws. Georgia Tech’s, however, isn’t so bad, at least not for the first two rounds. The Jackets must start with Virginia Tech, which has done as Virginia Tech always does, which is play itself atop the ol’ bubble. The Hokies have to win Thursday to keep Seth Greenberg from doing his customary whining come Selection Sunday, and there’s some measure of hope for the Jackets.

First, Brian Oliver is scheduled to return for the ACC tournament, and he scored 28 points against Virginia Tech when the Jackets won by 15 in January. Second, Virginia Tech has been known to trip over such a game: Just last year it went to Greensboro needing to beat 12th-seeded Miami in the worst way; instead it lost in absolutely the worst way, seeing as how the ‘Canes’ leading scorer Dwayne Collins missed the game with an injury. Thus did the Hokies, …

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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 …

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The drills are finished at UGA, and Mark Richt’s starting over

"If this no-mats things works, next year we might wear orange jerseys." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mark Richt no longer preaches the virtues of the mat drill. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Athens – We can’t say Mark Richt refuses to change. We could for a while, but no longer. Last winter he fired three-quarters of his defensive staff, including his pal-from-college Willie Martinez. This time he reassigned strength coach Dave Van Halanger, who came with Richt from Florida State and who has been described as his best friend, and this yielded an even greater concession.

The Van Halanger mat drills? The offseason conditioning staple that yielded the famous slogan, “Finish the drill”?

They’re finished.

No more mat drills for the Georgia Bulldogs, Richt announced Thursday, meeting the media ahead of spring practice. “We were looking at the possibility of doing some mats after spring ball,” he said, “but right now I’m not interested in doing that.”

Under new strength coach Joe Tereshinski, there’s more weight-lifting — heavier weights and more reps — and an increased emphasis on …

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Can UGA win the SEC East this fall? ‘Absolutely,’ Boykin says

Here's Brandon Boykin, perhaps contemplating TWO trips to the Dome. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Here's Brandon Boykin, perhaps contemplating TWO trips to the Dome. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Athens – Simple question: Can Georgia win the SEC East this fall?

From Brandon Boykin, a simple answer: “Absolutely. I really believe that. I think everybody else believes that.”

By “everybody else,” Boykin meant his Bulldog mates. Moments earlier, he’d spoken of the disappointment of last season and the on-the-rebound promise of the season to come.

“We want to redeem ourselves for last year … There’s a hunger like I’ve never seen. Nobody is talking about us. They think, ‘It’s just Georgia.’ We know we’re better than that.”

Boykin was one of a handful of Georgia principals who met the media here Thursday. (Spring practice, if you didn’t know, commences next week.) He was, you’ll be shocked to learn, asked how a team of such pedigree could go 6-7. “It was a couple of things here and there,” he said. Had those couple of things gone the Bulldogs’ way, Boykin said, “we might have been 10-2, a …

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A furious comeback makes us take new notice of the Hawks

Don't know why he was so happy. Wasn't like he did much. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Don't know why he was so happy. Wasn't like he did much. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

To recap: I hated the Larry Drew promotion, wasn’t overwhelmed by the Kirk Hinrich trade and had been unimpressed by the games I’d seen the Hawks play this season. (I saw them blown out by Boston in November, saw them blow a 22-point lead against Charlotte last month.) And for 24 minutes last night I saw nothing to make me rethink.

The second half I saw a team worth watching. The second half reminded me why, not so long ago (meaning pre-Orlando sweep), I’d come to like the Hawks and the way they played. You can say it was just one game of 82, and you’d be correct numerically, but if this one game had become just another meek home loss we’d have been dismissing the Hawks altogether. But you cannot dismiss a team that surges from 19 points down without its third-best player to run down a big-time opponent at the end.

The first half was laughable, but the laughter ceased in the third quarter. …

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