UGA Basketball

Georgia prepares for Belmont in NIT after being left out of NCAA Tourney

Jason Butt

jbutt@macon.com

Mark Fox switched his substitution strategy against Kentucky and it helped conserve energy.
Mark Fox switched his substitution strategy against Kentucky and it helped conserve energy.

Even though it’s dealing with the disappointment of not making the NCAA Tournament, Georgia still has another game to prepare for.

Georgia, as the No. 3 seed, will host No. 6 seed Belmont in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday. Georgia head coach Mark Fox said that oftentimes the first NIT game can be the toughest to prepare for.

"How our team reacts to the postseason remains to be seen," Fox said. "We hope they’ll be excited, focused and ready to play. But the first game of the NIT is often one of the hardest to play because you come off the disappointment of not playing in the NCAAs."

It doesn’t appear Georgia was receiving much serious consideration from the NCAA Tournament selection committee, based on an interview NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Joe Castiglione gave on ESPN. He said Tulsa was the last team selected into the NCAA Tournament, with St. Bonaventure, Monmouth, South Carolina and Valparaiso being the first four teams out. Those teams are the top seeds in the NIT.

The other final teams to earn at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, along with Tulsa, were Michigan, Wichita State and Vanderbilt. Fox said it was apparent that non-conference strength of schedule, which was Georgia's best trait in its case for a bid, wasn’t considered highly with the selection committee.

"You look at some of the last couple teams in and you have to probably look at the comparison between the last teams in and ourselves, and see what was important to them," Fox said. "Obviously, we needed more wins. I don’t think strength of schedule was probably valued like we probably hoped. That was something we’ll have to take a hard look at. You have to look at the last few teams in and take a hard comparison to our team and see what the committee thought was most important."

Fox also expressed, to a minor degree, displeasure with some of the selection committee’s decisions on Sunday. Among those decisions the committee made was to leave South Carolina, a team Georgia beat three times, out of the NCAA Tournament.

"I think I was probably a little disappointment in some of the results," Fox said. "I’ll reserve my comments until I take a closer look at it. South Carolina obviously had a terrific season. I thought it was a team deserving to go. I thought Vanderbilt was a team deserving to go. I’m disappointed for Coach Martin and his team. I did think they were an NCAA Tournament team."

With the NCAA Tournament selection committee making its picks, Georgia will continue its season in the NIT. First up is Belmont, a team Fox said will be a tough out.

Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday.

"(Belmont's) a team that’s had a great year," Fox said. "They’re very efficient offensively. Obviously, our team will need to play very well to have a chance to win."

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