UGA Basketball

Latest on Georgia's tourney hopes: A path to March Madness exists, but it won't be easy

Jordan Harris.
Jordan Harris. Georgia Sports Communications

For the foreseeable future, Georgia will continue its NCAA Tournament quest without guard Jordan Harris.

Harris has been suspended indefinitely, although head coach Mark Fox isn’t revealing the cause of the punishment. Harris won’t practice with the team while he is suspended.

While Harris didn’t fill up the stat sheet at 3.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, he has been a valuable contributor on defense. Not having Harris will probably mean more minutes moving forward for guard Tyree Crump, who earned a start in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State.

Freshman guard Teshaun Hightower could return to the lineup soon after what Fox said was a confirmed case of the flu. Hightower did travel with the team to Mississippi State but was unable to play, and his defense was missed against a team that got outstanding offensive play from its guards.

As for the bigger picture regarding Georgia, it needs to string together a winning streak. The longest winning streak Georgia put together this year was winning the first four games of the year against Bryant, South Carolina Upstate, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Cal State Fullerton.

If Georgia is truly an NCAA Tournament team, it will need to show it this week against Vanderbilt and Auburn. And then again next week when it plays Florida and Tennessee.

Time hasn’t run out yet. But while the resume features some quality wins, there aren’t enough wins to feel good about it.

Key rankings

RPI: 59

KPI: 45

KenPom: 69

Sagarin: 61

Key numbers

Team record: 13-9 overall, 4-6 SEC

Non-conference strength of schedule: 163

Overall strength of schedule: 47

Record vs. RPI Quadrant 1: 3-5

Record vs. RPI Quadrant 2: 3-2

Record vs. RPI Quadrant 3: 3-2

Record vs. RPI Quadrant 4: 4-0

CBSSports.com conference RPI rankings: 1. Big East, 2. Big 12, 3. SEC, 4. ACC, 5. Pac-12, 6. Big Ten, 7. American Athletic, 8. Missouri Valley, 9. Mountain West, 10. Atlantic 10

Bracketology

ESPN's Joe Lunardi: Georgia’s loss to Mississippi State moved it out of consideration for the time being in Lunardi’s bracket. No longer is Georgia found in the First Four Out or Next Four Out categories. Lunardi has eight SEC teams in the tournament: 2-seed Auburn, 4-seed Tennessee, 5-seed Kentucky, 8-seed Florida, 9-seed Alabama, 9-seed Texas A&M, 10-seed Arkansas and 10-seed Missouri.

CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm: The same applies in Palm’s bracket as Lunardi’s. Georgia is not in the First Four Out category but is considered one of his 27 bubble teams. Palm has 2-seed Auburn, 3-seed Tennessee, 5-seed Kentucky, 8-seed Missouri, 9-seed Alabama, 10-seed Florida, 10-seed Texas A&M and 11-seed Arkansas in his bracket.

USA Today/BracketWAG.com's Shelby Mast: Mast had Georgia in his bracket after beating Florida. But upon losing to Mississippi State, the Bulldogs moved out and are considered to be in his First Four Out. Mast has nine SEC teams earning entry into the field, including 1-seed Auburn, 3-seed Tennessee, 4-seed Kentucky, 6-seed Alabama, 7-seed Florida, 8-seed Missouri, 10-seed Texas A&M, 11-seed Arkansas and 11-seed LSU.

Current state of affairs

Last 10 games: 4-6

Wins that help: Georgia has three Quadrant 1 wins over Saint Mary’s, Marquette and LSU. The Bulldogs also have three Quadrant 2 wins over Temple, Alabama and Florida. Those six wins are keeping Georgia on the bubble.

Losses that hurt: With Georgia’s schedule down the stretch, the Mississippi State loss might prove to be the worst it took if it is unable to make the NCAA Tournament. Beating Mississippi State would have, for the time being, been a Quadrant 1 victory and alleviate some pressure in upcoming games against Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina. In addition, losing to Massachusetts and San Diego State (although beating the Aztecs would have meant not beating Saint Mary's) have become burdensome. If Georgia had won those two games, perhaps it is still on the right side of the bubble.

A look around the SEC: Auburn has suddenly built a two-game lead in the SEC and is vying for a No. 1 seed. The rest of the SEC is even with one another, with teams 2-13 decided by only three games. By beating Georgia, Mississippi State is now tied for sixth in the conference with Missouri. Georgia is tied with six teams for eighth place.

Looking ahead

What Georgia needs to do this week: Georgia absolutely has to beat Vanderbilt. Losing to the Commodores, albeit a team that isn’t as bad as its 8-15 record may suggest, would be crippling for the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Beating Vanderbilt is a priority, especially since not many people will be expecting Georgia to then upset Auburn on Saturday.

  Comments