Chris Dobbertean of SB Nation's Blogging The Bracket joined us to talk about the SEC Tournament starting tonight in Nashville. His thoughts should be some comfort to Bulldog fans, as the general tenor can be summed up thusly: the Hoop Hounds aren't in a lot of danger of torpedoing their tournament hopes, but with a solid tournament could really move up the bracket. He also had some interesting thoughts on some other teams to keep an eye on, both inside and outside the Southeastern Conference.
MD: How important is the SEC tournament for Georgia? I shudder to ask, but does a one and done effort put them back on the bubble?
Chris: Despite the fact I have Georgia in my "Avoiding Dayton/Last Four Byes" group right now, the Bulldogs' position is a bit more solid than that would indicate, as there are really only five spots truly up for grabs right now in my view, the "Last Four In" and BYU's position just above. Earning the quarterfinal bye was crucial, since it diminishes the possibility of the dreaded bad loss, something Ole Miss now has to worry about, thanks to that seed-dropping home loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday night. The Dawgs' chances of losing to South Carolina for a third time, or worse, Missouri, whose RPI is now south of 200, are now diminished by the fact the Rebels have to play them first.
MD: On the flip side, how much could the Bulldogs improve their seeding by making it to the tournament final?
Chris: Considering Georgia would likely have to defeat Ole Miss (RPI rank 50 as I type this) and Arkansas (22nd) to get to Sunday, I'd think that would boost them to at least an eight seed, maybe a seven depending on what happens elsewhere.
MD: What other SEC team has the most to gain/lose this week at the conference Tournament?
Chris: To me, it's Texas A&M. A third loss to the Aggies would not eliminate the Tigers, a team that has two road wins against teams in the RPI top 25 (West Virginia and Arkansas) in places that are notoriously difficult for visitors. However, a third victory over the Bayou Bengals would be significant for the Aggies, since they need as many quality wins as they can get. Even though A&M's worst RPI loss came against 80th-ranked Kansas State, the absence of bad losses can't gloss over a relative lack of quality wins.
MD: Scanning the wide universe of college hoops teams, who is the one club people should be talking about more? Put another way, who's the underrated squad we should have seen coming?
Chris: To me, it's Northern Iowa, which ranks 11th in KenPom right now and is his top 20 for both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency (only Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, and Missouri Valley rivals Wichita State share that distinction). The Panthers are effective inside and outside offensively and opportunistic on defense. Plus, they have Seth Tuttle, who is one of the more talented forwards in the entire country.
MD: And by contrast, who is the most overrated team in Bracket Land as we head down the stretch, and why?
Chris: Maryland is my answer simply because I'm not quite sure how good they are. Right now, they're the top three seed on my list and a Kansas Big 12 quarterfinal exit away from a two. Mark Turgeon is an excellent coach, but I didn't expect the Terps to have racked up so many wins. And, given the way they've struggled with some of the Big Ten's worst lately, I have to wonder if their luck will run out early in the NCAAs.
Our thanks to Chris for taking time out of his schedule to talk #SECBasketballFever with us. Later we'll be back with an open thread for discussion of all the action. Until then...