The hole the Georgia men’s basketball team dug itself in during nonconference play has left the Bulldogs still barely in the conversation for an NCAA tournament at-large bid despite racking up the wins of late.
The Bulldogs are No. 84 in the RPI, which means even a third-place standing in what’s considered a weak SEC leaves Georgia with plenty of resume building still to do despite a 10-5 league record.
“I don’t want to say that it’s a tallest-midget-in-the-circus type of thing. … but if I said, `Let’s spend a lot of time talking about their best wins,’ it would be a fairly short conversation,” said ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the network’s resident bracketologist.
Georgia’s best wins are two against No. 46 Missouri. The Bulldogs’ remaining SEC schedule has road games at No. 65 Arkansas and No. 66 LSU and home against No. 214 Mississippi State.
“The league just isn’t good enough where being third or fourth or wherever they’re going to finish, is in and of itself good enough,” Lunardi said.
Of course, Georgia will get into the tournament if it can get the automatic bid by winning the SEC tournament next month in Atlanta.
That may not be the only path to get in the NCAA field. Getting to the SEC tournament finals by beating Kentucky or Florida would probably put Georgia on the bubble at least.
“If they win every game and lose in the final, they’re going to be minimally on the board for heavy conversation because what will they be at that point, 13-5? ” Lunardi said. “Barring significant upsets, they will have beaten Kentucky or Florida to get to the final on a neutral floor. Can they? They’ve won (six out of seven). I hate to be this way. I try not to inject my basketball opinions into all of this. I just don’t think they’re good enough to do that.”
If Georgia (16-11 overall) hadn’t entered league play 6-6 with losses to three teams 146 or lower—Davidson (No. 146), Temple (No. 163) and Georgia Tech (No. 165)—the Bulldogs’ would be in much better shape. A loss to No. 157 Auburn also is a drag on its RPI.
Tournament expert Jerry Palm wrote on CBS.com that the Bulldogs “aren’t close to being a tournament team. They had a very rough nonconference portion of the season, during which they picked up three of their four bad losses.” The lowest RPI ever for an at-large team, according to Palm, was New Mexico at No. 74 in 1999.
Among SEC teams this season, only Alabama has a lower nonconference RPI than Georgia, which got its best win before SEC play against No. 176 Wofford.
“We’re talking lots of bad buy games on the non-conference schedule, which is sinking their RPI,” Lunardi said. “Because of that they have to get all their good work done in the league, and the league isn’t good enough to make that work easy to come by. I don’t think they’re there yet. They’re not really even that close yet.”
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