Georgia's win at Ole Miss on Wednesday night changed the complexion of this final stretch run: The Bulldogs are in much better shape now for an NCAA tournament bid, and they're back in contention for a double-bye in the SEC tournament.
First, the NCAA situation:
Georgia's RPI rank improved to 30 on Thursday, and it gained a third win over a top-50 RPI team. (That's two over now-No. 43 Ole Miss, and one over No. 31 Texas A&M.) The Bulldogs also now have seven road victories, which historically the selection committee takes into account. Five of those have came in SEC play, one came at Kansas State (now a top-100 team), and the other was at Chattanooga, which has snuck up to 107 in the RPI, thanks to a strong conference season.
The stench of the two losses to South Carolina and home loss to Auburn still hasn't worn off, and the loss at Georgia Tech continues to look bad. That's why Georgia still must beat Missouri on Saturday to feel safe, and may still need to win at Auburn next week in order to be absolutely safe.
Still, even if Georgia does trip up again, what's important to remember is that the committee still has to slot the field with 68 teams. In other words, not only will Georgia have to lose a couple more games, but enough teams currently on the wrong side of the bubble will have to get hot. You saw that this week with N.C. State winning at North Carolina, which vaulted the Wolfpack back into the field, temporarily. More of that kind of thing will put more pressure on teams like Georgia.
The selection committee also looks at a team's record vs. the top 50 and top 100 in the RPI, and right now Georgia is 3-3 and 8-5, respectively. That's pretty good. But it's also fluid, as Ole Miss is only seven spots from falling out of the top 50, and no other Georgia opponent is close to getting in it. (Seton Hall comes the closest, at 73.) Meanwhile, there are a number of Georgia opponents who are close on both sides of the top 100: Tennessee (84), Kansas State (89), Florida (91), Chattanooga (107), Stony Brook (116) and Vanderbilt (119).
Georgia fans should be rooting for all those teams down the stretch, especially Vanderbilt, as it would mean two more top-100 victories.
Of course, shock the world and beat Kentucky next week, and all these numbers become moot. But even without that upset, Georgia's situation looks pretty good right now.
Now, the SEC tournament situation:
Georgia (9-6 in the SEC) would be the No. 6 seed if the season ended today, matched up with the winner of the 11-14 game (which would be Vanderbilt and Missouri right now, respectively.)
Georgia is tied with LSU, which holds the tiebreaker because of head-to-head. But the Bulldogs are just one game behind Ole Miss and Texas A&M and holds the tiebreaker over each of those teams.
The remaining schedules for each of the teams:
- Texas A&M: Auburn, at Florida, Alabama.
- Ole Miss:M at LSU, at Alabama, Vanderbilt.
- LSU: Ole Miss, Tennessee, at Arkansas.
- Georgia: Missouri, Kentucky, at Auburn.
So it's a bit of a conundrum for the Bulldogs: Do you root against Texas A&M and/or Ole Miss in order to potentially have a double-bye? Or do you root for those teams in order to preserve the top-50 wins?
The best thing would be somehow getting the right results and have both things happen. That requires Georgia going at least 2-1 before the SEC tournament, and that's the only part the Bulldogs can really control.