Get ready for more drama, folks.
Georgia hasn’t made things easy on itself this season. Georgia took Kentucky, the SEC’s top team, to the wire twice in close losses. The Bulldogs took LSU, the SEC’s worst team, to the final seconds in an 82-80 win Saturday. That has been par for the course no matter the opponent. But hey, that win over the Tigers kept Georgia’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
All Georgia has to do from here is win.
In two full games without Yante Maten, Georgia’s offense has been just fine, especially with senior guard J.J. Frazier scoring at will with 28 points against Alabama and 29 points against LSU. More than likely, Georgia will be in for two tough games against Auburn and Arkansas that will come down to the final moments.
Will Georgia be able to pull those games out and further cement its case for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth?
ESPN BPI: 65
Team record: 17-12 overall, 8-8 SEC
Non-conference strength of schedule: 24
Overall strength of schedule: 22
Record vs. RPI 1-50: 1-7
Record vs. RPI 50-100: 7-4
Record vs. RPI 101-200: 6-1
CBSSports.com conference RPI rankings: 1. ACC, 2. Big 12, 3. Big East, 4. Big Ten, 5. SEC, 6. Pac-12, 7. American Athletic, 8. Atlantic 10, 9. West Coast, 10. Mountain West
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi: Lunardi gave Georgia a huge boost in his Monday bracket by placing it as the fourth team out of the field at the moment. That makes Georgia his sixth SEC team, with Kentucky (No. 2 seed), Florida (No. 3 seed), South Carolina (No. 7 seed), Arkansas (No. 9 seed) and Vanderbilt (play-in No. 12 seed) in his bracket. Vanderbilt, in fact, is Lundardi’s last at-large team in. Behind Georgia, Tennessee is the fifth team out of his tournament.
CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm: Palm is slightly more bullish on Georgia than Lunardi, marking the Bulldogs as his second team out of the NCAA Tournament at the moment. Palm has Kentucky (No. 3 seed), Florida (No. 4 seed), South Carolina (No. 8 seed) and Arkansas (No. 10 seed) as the teams representing the SEC in his bracket. Vanderbilt is not in Palm’s “First Four Out,” meaning Georgia is his fifth SEC team being considered.
USA Today/BracketWAG.com’s Shelby Mast: Like Palm, Mast has Georgia in his “First Four Out” as the second team from getting in. Entering the week, Mast has five SEC teams in the tournament in Kentucky (No. 3 seed), Florida (No. 4 seed), South Carolina (No. 7 seed), Arkansas (No. 9 seed) and Vanderbilt (play-in No. 11 seed). Mast is also considering Tennessee for a tourney berth. He lists Ole Miss and Alabama on “life support.”
Current state of affairs
Last 10 games: 4-6
Wins that help: Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt is now its lone victory over an RPI top-50 program. The lone problem is that Vanderbilt’s final two regular-season games are at Kentucky and at home against Florida. A loss at Kentucky will likely still see Vanderbilt’s RPI ranking rise. Losing at home to Florida? That is the one Georgia needs Vanderbilt to win. Wins over UNC-Asheville (No. 65), Tennessee (No. 66) and Mississippi (No. 70) certainly help, too.
Losses that hurt: Oddly enough, Georgia’s 80-60 home loss to Alabama is a potential problem. The Crimson Tide’s poor showing last week dropped them to an RPI No. 96 ranking. With Ole Miss and Tennessee up next, Alabama could wind up falling out of the top-100 by the regular season’s end. That stated, Sagarin (No. 66) and KenPom (No. 67) do think higher of Alabama. While the Oakland loss still stings, it soon may not be a top-100 loss. Entering the week, the Golden Grizzlies are ranked No. 103 in the RPI.
A look around the SEC: Florida (No. 6), Kentucky (No. 7) and South Carolina (No. 30) are in the RPI top-30. Arkansas is right outside of that group at No. 31. Vanderbilt (No. 48), Georgia (No. 56), Tennessee (No. 66) and Ole Miss (No. 70) are the next four in line. While the top four SEC teams are comfortably in the field of 68, those other four teams are still vying for at-large spots. It should be noted Georgia has beaten Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
What Georgia needs to do this week: Ideally, Georgia needs to win both games against Auburn on Wednesday and Arkansas on Saturday. But there’s still a pathway to the tournament as an at-large team with a loss to only one of those teams. A loss to Auburn would mean more work needs to be done in the SEC Tournament, such as reaching the championship game. A loss to Arkansas is much easier to handle and would likely result in needing two wins in the SEC Tournament. A win over both will probably have Georgia on the play-in side of the bubble when the SEC Tournament begins.