If We Did It: A Guide To Potential NCAA Tournament First Round Opponents (Part 1).

Let's go ahead and put this out there: this whole post is incredibly presumptuous, and smacks of tempting fate. Well not so much tempting fate. More like spitting in fate's face, kneeing fate in the groin, ratting fate out to the IRS for some questionable deductions, then drunk dialing fate and telling him to come on over if he wants to throw down. The Georgia Bulldogs still, at a minimum, need to defeat the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Tournament, and would do well to beat Alabama in the second round of that tournament to lock up a spot in the field of 68. That may or may not happen. Fate may also smile on the participants in various and sundry other conference tournaments, thereby dwindling the number of at large bids and leaving us without a chair when the music stops. We could, for those disinclined to delve too far into causation, simply get rightly and roundly screwed out of the Big Dance. Are we clear? Good.

With that out of the way, assuming that Georgia is among the teams in the tournament field, the next question becomes "Who do we play, and where?" The options are becoming ever clearer, and I'd like to take an early look at some of them now, so that when your friends ask on Selection Sunday "Hey, what are our chances against UNLV? Jerry Tarkanian's still there right?" you will know the answers to both questions. Because our goal here is to make you appear smarter than you actually are. What, you thought all the grammar kibitzing was just for fun?

A look at Chris Dobbertean's latest over at Blogging The Bracket is helpful for reference here. Dobbertean currently has Georgia as an 11 seed, which would put us against one of the 6 seeds: at this point the Dobber-man projects those to be Cincinnati, Kansas State, Georgetown and Vandy. Vandy can be all but eliminated as the committee historically frowns upon matching conference coevals in Round One (this year's Round Two). We'll get to the remaining teams in a moment.

Certainly there's no guarantee that Georgia's an 11 seed. But I think it's the most likely seed, and that it's marginally more likely that we're a 10 than a 12. My reasoning is that if we lose to Auburn, we're out of the tournament. That's the kind of RPI-killing bad loss late that the committee just won't overlook.  If we beat Auburn and lose to 'Bama, we might be in or might be out. But if we beat both in the SEC Tournament we probably move up a shake to a 10, and possibly a 9 with some help from our friends (I'm looking at you, Colorado and UAB). If we fall to a 13 as a major conference at large team we may very well just fall right past the various automatic qualifiers and out of the bracket. An at large SEC team with a 13 seed would be a rarity indeed. For reference, the 2008 Georgia team that had no business in the tournament was a 14, and the 2009 Missy State team that improbably won the SEC tournament was a 13.

 So I'm confining my analysis to teams we'd likely face in the 10-12 range. The team we ultimately draw may not be on this list. Heck, that team probably isn't on this list. That's one reason they call it March Madness. The unpredictability is half the fun. So, with all the requisite caveats and methodology out of the way, here's a snippet on some of the possible opponents for your Georgia Bulldogs.

Cincinnati: The Big East Tournament looks to be a bloodbath this year, but Cincinnati did itself a favor by earning a first round bye. They then dispatched South Florida and will now face Notre Dame in the tournament quarterfinal. I don't see Cincy beating the Irish, but they've put together a solid season in the nation's toughest basketball conference. Cincinnati as a 6 seed and tournament opponent for Georgia seems like a valid possibility to me and is a little worrisome. The Bearcats are a deep team with 5 players averaging 8+ points a game, and they've won 6 out of their last 7 (including a solid win over Louisville and 2 double-digit defeats of Georgetown).

Connecticut: BtB has UConn as a 5 seed right now, which would make them a real possibility for the 'Dawgs. But they've now beaten DePaul and Georgetown convincingly in the Big East tourney. If they continue to win, the Huskies might  pass out of our orbit and up to a 4 seed. That would be fine with me, because I don't want to think about how we'd defend sensational junior guard Kemba Walker, who dropped 28 points on Georgetown yesterday.

Georgetown: Currently a 6 seed on BtB's S-curve, the Hoyas have a tough road ahead to move up in seeding. Last night the Hoyas lost a rough 79-62 blowout against UConn to complete a slide that's seen them drop their last 4 games. Frankly, we may not see Georgetown unless we slide up to a 10 and they drop to a 7. John Thompson, III's squad has been depleted by injuries, especially to star forward Chris Wright who averages roughly 13 points and 8 rebounds per game. If Wright is back from a broken hand in time for the Big Dance (as he's expected to be), Georgetown may play above their seed.

Kansas State: Do. Not. Want. As noted above Chris has K State as a 6 seed, and coincidentally the Wildcats have won 6 in a row, including wins over #1 Kansas and #8 Texas. The Manhattanites are one of the few teams in college basketball who have rebounded the ball better than the Bulldogs, averaging 38.3 boards per game (Georgia by contrast is averaging 37.9). When we've struggled this year it's been because we broke down offensively and/or surrendered an advantage in rebounding. So a team that rebounds like gangbusters and holds the likes of Kansas below 70 points per game scares the heck out of me.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers got Marquette last night in a game they should be favored to win in the second round of the Big East Tournament. I don't know if they won it because I'm old and I work for a living and thus couldn't stay up to see the end of it. But assuming West Virginia pulled that one out they get Louisville in a game they'll be favored to lose against a squad that's playing good basketball right now, despite the fact that they lost in Morgantown last week. Much like Georgetown and UConn, West Virginia is flirting with the 5-6 line like it's last call on ladies' night at Pegleg Paddie's Seaside Tavern. I have a sneaking suspicion that one of these Big East teams will wind up as our opponent. Like a game of roulette, there's only so many numbers the little ball can land on.

Wisconsin: This one would require the Badgers gacking one up in the Big Televen Tournament and dropping to a 5. Barring that they're likely a 3 or 4 seed. Suffice it to say that the guys from Madison would be a serious problem for us if they're on their game. The Badgers loss last week to Ohio State was the first time all season they've given up more than 70 points. That's incredible to me.

I'll be back tomorrow with more potential March Madness matchups. Unless we lose to Auburn this afternoon, in which case I'll just open up a "Rebuke MaconDawg for tempting fate" open comment thread. Until then . . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!

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