Earlier this week, some of the talk surrounding the Georgia basketball program was how the Bulldogs didn’t have anything to lose in the SEC tournament.
A 20-win season in a power conference, the thought was, would get Georgia in the NCAA tournament, regardless of how it did this week in Nashville, Tennessee. Any wins would merely boost the Bulldogs’ seed.
In other words, some said, Georgia will be playing with “house money,” a no-risk, all-reward situation.
Well, not quite.
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Twenty wins should -- SHOULD -- get Georgia into the NCAA tournament. But until Georgia’s name pops up on the bracket Sunday night, nothing short of a conference title is a guarantee, especially with a team with double-digit losses.
Granted, a bracket without Georgia at this point, even in a one-and-done situation in Nashville, would be a major snub for the Bulldogs and the SEC, a conference that has worked to improve its scheduling to get more teams into the tournament.
A team in Georgia’s situation should want to do everything in its power to secure a spot in the bracket early. A win Friday night in the quarterfinals will shift the Bulldogs from the “probably in” category to “certainly in,” even among those who have their doubts about Georgia.
With “probably in,” Georgia sweats its out for a couple of days until the bracket announcement. “Certainly in,” on the other hand, will have an easy one-day wait.
Bracketology shouldn’t be Georgia’s only concern heading into the conference tournament. The pride of winning a conference tournament championship can’t be discounted; just ask the 2008 Georgia team that overcame a last-place finish in the then-Eastern Division to win the thing in the wake of a tornado that turned the tournament on its side.
There’s also the chance that an injury during the conference tournament could come back to hurt the team in the NCAA tournament. Mercer encountered that last week, when an elbow injury to Darious Moten in the Bears’ first-round game left the team short-handed in the semifinals against Furman, a game that Mercer lost 52-49.
Georgia isn’t the only team facing the “house money” proposition.
Unbeaten Kentucky likely has a No. 1 seed wrapped up and might already be slotted for early round games in Louisville. Sure, the undefeated season is at stake, as well as the conference tournament title, but Kentucky isn’t likely to budge from the top spot in the bracket.
Its opponent Friday, however, has every reason to win. Florida is 16-16, needing a win for any sort of postseason bid. The Gators played Kentucky twice this season, losing by seven in Gainesville and by 17 in Lexington.
Billy Donovan will have his young team ready for this one. It’s a definite trap game for Kentucky, a game where the Wildcats’ run at the history books could be in serious jeopardy if they don’t come out prepared and in focus.
That’s the danger of playing with “house money.” It tends to not stick around long.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or email@example.com