ATLANTA - If there was any doubt about Georgia's season continuing past this weekend, that ended with Friday night's SEC quarterfinal victory over Ole Miss. The Bulldogs will at least play in the NIT, perhaps at home.
But the NCAA tournament remains all about getting to Sunday's championship, and according to the experts, winning it.
Must win Sunday. Have to beat UK to have that chance. @ugadawg16: any chance for UGA to go to the NCAAs if they beat Kentucky tomorrow?— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 15, 2014
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Georgia's RPI rank moved up to 66 on Saturday morning, its best of the season, and nine spots ahead of Arkansas, thought by some to still be an NCAA at-large candidate.
Head coach Mark Fox has made the case that if Georgia reached Sunday's championship round, it should be given serious consideration. The Bulldogs would have finished tied for second in the SEC in the regular season, and second in the tournament.
That's true, but the problem for Georgia is that its nonconference record is still important. The NCAA selection committee isn't going to just forget Georgia's 6-6 record before SEC play. It also will look at Georgia's quality wins and only see the sweep of Missouri - which currently sits No. 50 in the RPI - and a win over Kentucky, if Georgia can pull it off Saturday.
I've also heard from Georgia fans that if it just gives Florida a close game on Sunday (presuming Florida were the opponent) that it should be enough for the committee. Here's the problem with that scenario:
The SEC championship tips off at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday. The NCAA selection committee has to have its brackets in before the CBS selection show begins at 6 p.m. There's not much chance the committee will be waiting Sunday to see how competitive Georgia is in the game. If Georgia reaches the game Sunday, my guess is they'll prepare two brackets: One with Georgia winning and in, and one with Georgia losing and out.
Of course, if Georgia doesn't beat Kentucky on Saturday, the whole point is moot.
That doesn't change that what the Bulldogs have done the past few months is remarkable, and worthy of much admiration. The fact we're even having this discussion now, after starting the season 1-4 and 6-6, is amazing. At that point few would have given the Bulldogs much of a chance at even the NIT, and now that's just the minimum.