SEC

Georgia’s Uphill Battle at the SEC Tournament

Georgia is playing better basketball, but winning the final two games may not be enough to avoid an extremely challenging scenario.

Tom Crean and the Georgia Bulldogs dug a hole for themselves and now have to find a way out.  Georgia should be an extremely dangerous team in the SEC Tournament, but it will likely be a tougher road than imagined.  Georgia is currently slated to play on Wednesday Night in Nashville, which means that Georgia will play in front of a dead, almost non-existent crowd that is filled with specks of Kentucky fans that have nothing else to do other than hate-watch Georgia in the creepy way that only they know how.  Wednesday Night in Nashville also means that to win the SEC Tournament and earn an NCAA Tournament bid, Georgia would need to win 5 straight games in 5 straight days. This is daunting and it is the only path for Georgia to make the NCAA Tournament.  The damage has been done.

Don’t be fooled by these standings, Georgia is actually the #13 seed in Nashville because of their head-to-head loss to Ole Miss.  That disinterested and weak performance at Stegeman Coliseum has consequences.  Georgia will need to pull ahead of two teams somehow to get to the #10 seed and avoid an incredibly difficult fate.

Avoiding Wednesday Night

There are four teams fighting to avoid playing on Wednesday Night.

Two-way ties:

  • Missouri and Ole Miss hold tiebreakers over Georgia.
  • Georgia holds the tiebreaker over Arkansas.

Three-way or Four-way ties:

  • If Georgia is in a three-way tie with Ole Miss and Missouri, Georgia would have the lowest seed.
  • If Georgia is in a three-way tie with Ole Miss and Arkansas, Georgia’s win over Auburn would give them the highest seed among the three.
  • If Georgia is in a three-way tie with Missouri and Arkansas, Georgia would have the second highest seed among the three.
  • If Georgia is in a four-way tie, Georgia would have the lowest seed.

The Road Ahead for the Four Teams

  • Ole Miss will face:  Missouri (Home), Mississippi State (Away)
  • Missouri will face:  Ole Miss (Away), Alabama (Home)
  • Arkansas will face:  LSU (Home), Texas A&M (Away)
  • Georgia will face:  Florida (Home), LSU (Away)

Georgia avoids Wednesday Night if these scenarios happen:

Scenario A:

  • Georgia wins out.
  • Arkansas splits their next two games.
  • Ole Miss beats Missouri.
  • Ole Miss loses to Mississippi State.
  • Missouri loses to Alabama.

Scenario B:

  • Georgia wins out.
  • Arkansas splits their next two games.
  • Ole Miss beats Missouri.
  • Ole Miss beats Mississippi State.
  • Missouri loses to Alabama.

Scenario C:

  • Georgia wins out.
  • Missouri loses out.
  • Ole Miss loses to Mississippi State.
  • Arkansas loses out.

Basically, root against Missouri.  A Missouri win takes Georgia out of the running for earning the #10 seed.  A Georgia loss will also take Georgia out of the running for the #10 seed.  However, if Missouri loses out, Georgia wins out, and Arkansas splits their next two, Georgia is going to play on Thursday.

Fatigue will play a role

Playing Depth

Load management and playing to the team’s depth will be absolutely necessary.  Crean cannot shorten the bench in any way, which is something he tends to do and was a catalyst for the late game meltdowns.  Georgia in non-conference games would get stronger as the game went on, but in conference games it was the opposite.  It is because Crean is shortening his bench without a justifiable reason for doing it.  He will have to reach back to his old ways and play more players or else this team will not have enough in the tank after two games.

Defensive Approach

Man-to-Man Defense can wear on this team.  1-2-2 Matchup Zone and 2-3 Matchup Zone are going to be used to conserve the team’s energy and slow down the opponent’s pace on offense.  This is win or go home, expect a playing style that reflects the team’s desperation to continue while also remaining cognizant of the long road ahead.

Coming Up Short if Playing on Wednesday

Does the season necessarily end in Nashville?

Of course, if Georgia wins the SEC Tournament, they will get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.  It would likely be a #11 seed and this team can certainly be a dangerous opponent.  However, if Georgia has to go through the gauntlet and come up short, it does not spell the end of the season.  If Georgia wins their next two games, Georgia is a 16-14 team (Chaminade does not count, this is the punishment of playing in Maui).  Georgia can accumulate wins in Nashville to possibly earn a bid in the NIT.

Sure, the NIT is not exactly where anyone wants this program to go and it was a common reward for Georgia teams in the latter half of Mark Fox’s tenure.  However, playing in Nashville on Wednesday provides this team an opportunity to pick up more wins.  If Georgia can make it to Saturday in the SEC Tournament, that is 19 Division I wins on the season and worthy of consideration for a spot in the NIT.

If 20 wins is a “magic number”… it can still be attained.

More basketball means more opportunities to pick up wins.  A longer run in the SEC Tournament combined with NIT wins can cosmetically make the season look better than it really was.  Plus, a run in the NIT is great experience for a young team looking to be better next season.  It also does not hurt to compete for an opportunity to play in the grandest basketball venue in the country, Madison Square Garden.

The NIT is a good place to succeed for programs that are rebuilding under new coaches or are simply in rebuilding seasons.  It’s not a good place for programs that have an experienced nucleus of players because those teams should reach the NCAA Tournament rather than be in the consolation tournament.

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