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Georgia Bulldogs v. Auburn Tigers: The Haphazard Ill-Informed SEC Basketball Tournament Preview

Georgia's draw is both good and bad. It's good in that Auburn is terrible, so the Bulldogs should be able to win their first game. It's bad in that they can't really build their March Madness resume with a win. The presumed second round rematch with Alabama could be to see who gets the SEC's last at-large dancing ticket.

Year2 (March 7, 2011)

Although I understand Seth Emerson’s point, it makes absolutely no sense to me that Mark Fox’s squad was securely in the field thanks to its body of work before losing a game it was expected to lose put it in a precarious position behind other teams it already had beaten. Still, I promised you a preview of Thursday afternoon’s first round SEC Tournament game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, so here it is. What, though, is there for me to tell you that I didn’t tell you when I previewed the regular season meeting between the two?

Well, for one thing, the Plainsmen are much improved. After opening conference play with six straight losses in January, Auburn beat the South Carolina Gamecocks by 15 points on the road, took Georgia to overtime in Athens, upset the division runner-up Mississippi St. Bulldogs, narrowly missed upsetting the division champion Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, fell by two points to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and closed out their league slate by claiming consecutive wins over the Mississippi Rebels and the LSU Tigers in March. Has this recent surge given the Tigers renewed confidence?

Apparently so. Going ahead and penciling in not only a Friday rematch with the Tide, but a run though the NCAA Tournament field is, shall we say, a bit of a reach for an eleventh-place team with no standouts that is reaping the bad karma its football team has sown.

Thanks to Georgia’s participation in Orlando’s Old Spice Classic, the Bulldogs are the only team in the Eastern Division with a losing record on neutral courts. However, the Red and Black’s 1-2 ledger in such outings includes an 89-83 overtime loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and a 65-58 setback suffered at the hands of the Temple Owls. The Irish grabbed a piece of the conference championship in the Big East, which may land as many as 11 teams in the tournament, and claimed the No. 2 seed in the league tourney (even if they owe it all to the SEC). The Owls finished behind only the Xavier Musketeers---yes, those Xavier Musketeers---in the Atlantic 10, and second-seeded Temple is looking to win the conference tournament for the fourth straight season. Notre Dame and Temple are projected as one and seven seeds, respectively, in the field of 68. Meanwhile, only one SEC West squad is above .500 in neutral site outings, and the Tigers are winless in such contests.

Through the end of the regular season, Auburn ranks tenth in the SEC in three-point field goal percentage allowed and three-point field goals made; 11th in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, field goal percentage allowed, rebounds per game, assists, and assist/turnover ratio; and 12th in free throw percentage, blocked shots, and defensive rebounds. The Plainsmen rank behind the Bulldogs in every measured statistical category except offensive rebounds, three-point field goals made, turnover margin, and steals. I am demonstrating supreme self-control by not commenting on the fact that the Auburn Tigers rank second in the SEC in steals.

Don’t think anything about the fact that the Orange and Blue average more offensive rebounds per game (12.5) than the Red and Black (12.2), by the way. Georgia actually has a higher offensive rebounding percentage (36.4%) than Auburn (34.0%), so the Plainsmen’s greater number of grabs off the glass attests chiefly to the Tigers’ poor shooting. They are one of just two teams in the league averaging under 40 per cent shooting from the field. The Plainsmen have attempted 1,646 two-point baskets in 30 games, sinking a conference-worst 656 of them. In an identical number of contests, the Classic City Canines have taken a similar number of shots (1,664) yet found the bottom of the net more than 100 more times (757) for a field goal percentage that is 5.6 per cent better than the Orange and Blue’s.

Despite having won two in a row, Auburn has scored more than 60 points once in its last six games, and that was against Ole Miss, which sports the second-worst scoring defense in the conference. Georgia has scored at least 62 in four of the Bulldogs’ last five outings, and the lone exception was in last Saturday’s game against the Crimson Tide, who lead the league in scoring defense.

For what it’s worth, the Tigers have just completed their first season in Auburn Arena, the 9,121-seat gymnasium that replaced Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Auburn Arena also has the distinction of featuring commemorative plaques with prominent typographical errors; viz.:

I mention the Plainsmen’s home court because they have won outside of the so-called Loveliest Village just twice in ten games in other venues this season, carding victories outside of Auburn Arena against LSU and South Carolina, the only two SEC teams other than the Tigers to have finished the regular season under .500 in conference play. A win outside of Lee County over an opponent with a winning record would be an unprecedented achievement for the Orange and Blue this season; hopefully, the availability of student tickets will give the Dome the feel of a home game for the Red and Black and an away game for the Orange and Blue.

Heading into the SEC Tournament, Georgia sports a record of 20-10. If the Fox Hounds are to be among the invitees on Selection Sunday, they cannot afford to go 20-11 in 2011. Oh, by the way, for whatever it’s worth, I hate Auburn. So there’s that, too.

Go ‘Dawgs! Auburna delenda est!