Feb 25, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; A Georgia Bulldogs cheerleader performs during the game against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia defeated Missouri 71-56. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Georgia Bulldogs make the NCAA Tournament without winning the SEC?


Prior to Saturday and a 12-point road loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Georgia Bulldogs had won 6 out of their last 7 games, and Mark Fox’s club was causing the entire ‘Bulldog Nation’ to ask the question.

Is this an NCAA Tournament team?!

In this space, we openly opined about a push toward the bubble, but with the landscape changing a bit in the aftermath of a reasonable but unfortunate defeat, it’s time to re-evaluate a bit. The remaining regular season is entirely manageable, with a very winnable home game against Mississippi State (UGA may be favored by double-digits) and a toss-up on Saturday in Baton Rouge against LSU. There is absolutely no doubt that the Bulldogs must win both of these games to have any reasonable chance at an NCAA at-large bid, but the work isn’t done there by any means.

With two wins to close the year, Georgia would be at 18-12 overall and 12-6 in the SEC, but because the league is in shambles this season (to be perfectly blunt), the 12 conference wins are significantly diluted. Even with those marks from a record standpoint, Georgia’s RPI would be lucky to climb above 70 (currently at 86), and that leaves one scenario to even sniff the facsimile of the bubble.

The Bulldogs will receive the “double-bye” in the SEC Tournament based on their conference record, and that places them directly into the quarterfinals. However, that isn’t necessarily a great thing from a resume perspective, and it is a foregone conclusion that Georgia must advance to the SEC Finals to have an at-large claim. In addition to that, however, they desperately need a win over one of the “big two” to bolster their RPI, strength of schedule, etc. and that wouldn’t come until a prospective match-up with Kentucky in the SEC Semifinals.

The Wildcats are currently 16th in the RPI, and a win over this semi-struggling UK squad would easily be the best victory of Georgia’s season. If we eliminate the “eye test” altogether and look directly at the numbers, the Dawgs would be 20-12 overall at that point, and barring a blowout defeat against Florida in the Championship game, the RPI metric might have UGA in a reasonable spot.

With all of that said, it is a “dream” scenario for Georgia at this point, and there is nothing short of a conference-winning automatic bid that would guarantee a spot in the “Big Dance”. There is no shame in losing on the road against a very solid Arkansas team, but with one 40-minute period, the Bulldogs saw their at-large chances go from “half-decent” to “very slim”.

Now, it’s time to win out.

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