Georgia believed it at least stated a case for an NCAA Tournament berth with its end-of-season run.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee didn’t agree, however, and left the Bulldogs (19-13) out of the big dance. Georgia lost to Kentucky 93-80 in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday, with the Bulldogs probably needing to beat the Wildcats in order to gain serious consideration.
Instead, Georgia earned a No. 3 seed in the NIT and will host No. 6 seed Belmont in the first round at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. If the Bulldogs win, they will play the winner of No. 2 seed St. Mary’s and No. 7 seed New Mexico State in the second round.
Against the other top-five seeds of the SEC Tournament — Kentucky, Texas A&M, LSU and Vanderbilt — Georgia went a combined 0-5.
“We needed more wins,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “I don’t think strength of schedule was valued as hard as we hoped.”
The SEC earned three bids with Texas A&M as a No. 3 seed in the West Regional, Kentucky as a No. 4 seed in the East Regional and Vanderbilt as a No. 11 seed in the play-in round. Along with Georgia, bubble teams South Carolina and Florida were left out of the NCAA Tournament. The SEC team with the biggest beef for being left out of the field is South Carolina, which finished the season and SEC Tournament with an overall 24-8 record. While the Gamecocks’ non-conference strength of schedule was horrid — ranking in the low 200s or at 300 depending on the source — South Carolina boasted wins over tournament teams Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Tulsa. Tulsa was quite the surprise to get a bid, with the Golden Hurricane playing Michigan in the play-in round in Dayton, Ohio. Former Georgia head coach Dennis Felton is an assistant at Tulsa.
Florida played its way out of the NCAA Tournament by losing five of its final seven games.
Georgia likely didn’t do enough in its big games to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Bulldogs’ three best wins all came against South Carolina, now making it tough to complain about being left out.
Vanderbilt’s addition to the field is quite the surprise given its performance at the SEC Tournament. The Commodores were upset by Tennessee, a sub-.500 team and the conference’s 12th-seed, in the second round. Vanderbilt, seeded behind South Carolina and LSU in the SEC Tournament, also lost to Mississippi State and Arkansas this season.
Following Georgia’s third win over South Carolina on Friday, Georgia head coach Mark Fox said he believed his team should earn consideration to the tournament.
“I think what I will say about the NCAA Tournament is that there’s a lot of teams who have not — didn’t challenge themselves with a schedule, and I think our non-conference strength of schedule is in the top-five in America,” Fox said. “And there’s a lot of teams across the country who have played one-third of their schedule versus teams outside of the top 200. We could have easily said, ‘OK, we want to go rack up some wins and play a bunch of cupcakes,’ but we didn’t do that.”
The Bulldogs won five games in a row before falling to Kentucky on Saturday. Their resume featured a top-five non-conference strength of schedule, 12 total wins (including the conference tournament) in SEC play and three wins over South Carolina. Georgia’s best non-conference win came against Georgia Tech, and it didn’t come out of conference play with any other major wins other than the South Carolina ones.
Also earning a bid to the NIT with Georgia is Georgia Tech, which earned a No. 4 seed. The Yellow Jackets will host No. 5 seed Houston. Whichever team wins will take on the winner of No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 8 seed High Point.