Bulldogs should be headed to NIT

ATLANTA | Georgia‚Äôs turnaround season isn’t expected to include an NCAA tournament berth after it couldn‚Äôt come away with a must-win game against Kentucky Saturday, but there should be postseason basketball for the Bulldogs.

A berth in the 32-team National Invitation Tournament is expected, according to prognosticators.

NYCbuckets.com listed Georgia as a No. 3 seed in the NIT before Saturday’s games. Bracketmatrix.com put the Bulldogs as a No. 4 seed.

The NIT field will be revealed at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU after the NCAA field is sorted out earlier.

“I would be disappointed if our season doesn’t continue,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said.

So would Georgia guard Kenny Gaines. The Bulldogs are 19-13 overall and finished tied for second in the SEC with Kentucky at 12-6.

“I feel like we’ve got some pretty good wins under our belt,” Gaines said. “It would seem kind of odd not to play further in the postseason. It’s kind of out of our control.”

Regular season conference champions already made up 11 NIT automatic bids before Saturday, according to NYCbuckets.

CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm Saturday evening listed Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee as the only SEC teams in the NCAA projected field.

That would leave Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia and LSU for the NIT.

Even with the 70-58 loss to Kentucky, Fox thinks Georgia might be worthy of the NCAA field.

“I haven’t dug into everybody’s stuff, but I think we should be in the conversation,” Fox said.

Ole Miss may be on the outside looking in even in the NIT.

“Georgia’s beaten us twice,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I think Missouri deserves an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. Whether or not that happens, I think it will depend on whether or not we get an opportunity to continue to play. Will they take five teams from the SEC to the NIT? You know, probably not. And I like the format of the NIT awarding the regular season champion of low leagues, I think that’s a great move, but obviously it eats up slots.”

FRAZIER LEADS BENCH EFFORT

With Georgia in foul trouble in the first half for a second straight SEC tournament game, Fox leaned heavily on first-year players as 5-foot-10 freshman J.J. Frazier had six points and three rebounds, freshman guard Juwan Parker made 7-of-8 free throws and junior college transfer Cameron Forte had a tip-in with 1:08 left in the first half and then fed Marcus Thornton for a lay-up to beat the buzzer.

Georgia outscored Kentucky in bench scoring 23-4. Frazier, listed at 5-10 and 150 pounds, had five points and three rebounds in 16 minutes against Kentucky after scoring 11 with three rebounds in 21 minutes against Ole Miss.

“J.J. is a terrific player and when his name was called, he stepped up,” guard Charles Mann said. “I’m proud of him for all the progress he made this season. He’s a really good player.”

Fox gave Frazier more minutes in the second half even with Mann still with only two fouls.

“J.J. played well,” Fox said. “He really did. He was critical.”

GAINES BOUNCES BACK FROM SLOW START

After a scoreless first half, Gaines finished with a team-high 13 points on 6 of 14 shooting. He was 1 of 4 on 3-pointers.

“I tried to attack the paint more than usual and that was a little bit more effective,” he said.

Gaines and Parker missed Georgia’s loss at Kentucky due to injuries and it took Gaines a while to get on track this time.

“It just wasn’t falling for me,” he said. “I kind of struggled (against Ole Miss) but I was trying to be more effective. I was trying to drive more and it was working for me a little better.”

Gaines still hit double figures for the ninth straight game.

This and that

Kentucky improved to 38-2 in SEC semifinals and reached the tournament final for the fourth time in the last five years. …The Wildcats were 9 of 16 on 3-pointers. Aaron Harrison matched his career-high with four 3-pointers. …Kentucky’s 36-21 rebounding advantage marked only the third time that Georgia was outrebounded by a conference opponent this season. …Kentucky became the only opponent to beat Georgia twice this season.

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