It goes without saying that the Georgia Bulldogs did themselves a lot of favors with Saturday’s huge SEC road win over the Tennessee Volunteers, but it’s time to get down to cases. How much better off are the Bulldogs after posting a 69-63 win in a game Ken Pomeroy projected to be a 68-63 Volunteer victory? Here is where the Hoop Hounds now stand:
With the Florida Gators set to tip off against the LSU Tigers at 1:00 Sunday afternoon, the Red and Black are tied with the Kentucky Wildcats for third place in the SEC East. (Georgia and Kentucky are 7-5 against the conference and 1-1 against one another, although the Blue and White have a slight edge in overall record, boasting 19 wins to the Bulldogs’ 18. Even in the unlikely event of a Gator loss in Baton Rouge later today, the Sunshine State Saurians still will remain in first place in the division with a 9-3 ledger, one game ahead of the Vanderbilt Commodores’ 8-4 SEC mark.)
The third-place finisher in the East will open the SEC Tournament against the sixth-place finisher in the West; currently, the cellar-dwellers in the opposite division are the Auburn Tigers, whom Georgia beat in Athens. The winner of that game will advance to face the SEC West runner-up in the second round; presently, that placement belongs to the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, whom Georgia beat in Athens.
The alternative---a fourth-place finish in the East---would mean opening against the West’s No. 5 team (at the moment, Louisiana State) and going on from there to face the West’s No. 1 team (who will be the Alabama Crimson Tide). In other words, we want that third-place finish in the East, in order to increase the likelihood of the Fox Hounds augmenting their NCAA Tournament resume with a couple of conference tourney wins.
Accordingly, what we need this week are two Georgia wins (of course), as well as either two losses by Vanderbilt (against Tennessee on Tuesday night and at LSU on Saturday afternoon) or one loss by Kentucky (at Arkansas on Wednesday night or against Florida on Saturday afternoon). We want the Wildcats to win enough to keep the value of the Bulldogs’ win over them in Athens high, but not enough for them to finish in a tie with Georgia; failing that, we want the Commodores to lose enough to fall behind the Bulldogs in the standings. A 2-0 record by Georgia, a 1-1 record by Kentucky, and an 0-2 record by Vanderbilt in the coming week would leave the Bulldogs at 9-5 and both the Commodores and the Wildcats at 8-6 in SEC play. That sequence also might constitute a sign of the apocalypse, by the way.
The upshot is that the Red and Black have a lot to play for in the next two weeks. Who knew there could be such a thing as consequential basketball in Bulldog Nation in late February?