If you aren’t reading Blogging the Bracket on a daily basis, you should be. SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean is keeping us up to speed on the NCAA Tournament bracketology as we close in on Selection Sunday, and he was kind enough to agree to allow me to pose a few questions to him about the Georgia Bulldogs and the Big Dance. Here is our exchange:
Dawg Sports: Obviously, the Bulldogs’ win at Tennessee gave Georgia some breathing room as a bubble team. Provided they beat South Carolina and LSU, how secure are the Bulldogs in their status as a tournament team?
Dawg Sports: If Georgia manages to finish third or fourth in the SEC East, the Bulldogs will draw either Auburn or LSU in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. How important is it for Georgia’s chances on Selection Sunday that the Red and Black card at least one win in Atlanta?
Chris Dobbertean: I'm going to answer your first two questions together, since they hit on the same point from a selection perspective. Georgia should be safe if they beat the teams they should. However, they must avoid picking up the dreaded "bad loss" at this stage of the season. A loss to Auburn or LSU in Atlanta would be particularly bad just because they're both RPI deadweights (AU sits at No. 270 and LSU at 222) who have no hope of improving. I have the feeling the Selection Committee will be looking for reasons to leave teams out this year, since it's so difficult to separate bubble teams.
Dawg Sports: Aside from Georgia’s own remaining games, what games are most important for improving the Bulldogs’ RPI, and how high a tournament seed can this team receive if the right teams lose?
Chris Dobbertean: (puts on biased Florida alum hat) While you all want Chandler Parsons to sit out on Thursday and really don't want to cheer for the Orange and Blue, his return and Florida's continued success is key for Georgia's hopes, particularly since the Gators have a better record against the RPI Top 50 than anyone in the country, even the top seeds. (takes off biased Florida alum hat)
Seriously, with the way the East has been so far, I feel things could end up being a wash among the top five, particularly if Parsons is out for an extended period for Florida, because of their brutal closing stretch.
Outside of the SEC, you want to see Xavier, a team the Bulldogs hit at a very bad time, do well. The Musketeers' toughest remaining game comes on Sunday at local rivals Dayton. Temple's matchup with Duke tonight is crucial because if they can pull off that upset, their RPI will get a nice bump. Notre Dame closes with two huge games, Villanova at home and UConn away. Finally, keep an eye on Colorado (as long as Georgia keeps winning, of course), as they have quality win opportunities left against Texas and Nebraska, both in Boulder.
Dawg Sports: How important is a 2011 tourney bid for the long-term prospects of the Georgia program?
Chris Dobbertean: Huge. It's so much easier to sell a program that's making it to the NCAA Tournament to recruits, particularly given the strength of the SEC East. Things will be so much easier for Mark Fox if he can do it consistently, but considering where the Georgia program has been over the past few years, he's off to a very good start. You can have the best facilities and campus in the world, but if you don't have some direction, you're dead in the water when it comes to attracting good talent. With Fox in charge, that's no longer a problem in Athens.
Dawg Sports: Assuming the Bulldogs make the field as an at-large selection, how far can Mark Fox’s team realistically go in this year’s tournament?
Chris Dobbertean: You had to close with a toughie, didn't you? It really depends a lot on the draw the Bulldogs' get on March 13th. I think they can make the new Third Round (what was called the Second Round before) out of a 7 vs. 10 or 8 vs. 9 game, but they may need a matchup with a team that has issues with physical interior play, like Duke, to make it to the second weekend.
My thanks go out to Chris for his willingness to share his knowledge with such woefully ignorant basketball fans as
us me. Be sure to check out his great work at Blogging the Bracket.