Monday, March 10, 2014

Would UGA Basketball Be On The NCAA Tournament Bubble If They Had Beaten Georgia Tech?

Mark Fox didn't think the loss to Ga. Tech was funny and especially not now/AP
 The Georgia Bulldogs hoops team finished the SEC regular season in a tie for second place with preseason number 1 Kentucky by virtue of winning 8 of their last 10 games.

In a normal year, tying for second in the SEC would be a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament.  But this season the conference is down ranking last of any of the seven major conferences in RPI.  Also, anytime UGA's NCAA Tournament chances are discussed the conversation ends with their poor showing in the non-conference part of their schedule where they were just 6-6. 

The Bulldogs RPI is in the 70s, which is off the NCAA bubble, largely because of these two factors.

One of those six losses was to in-state rival Georgia Tech back on November 15.  The Bulldogs were down by five at halftime, down by 17 early in the second half, and spent nearly the entire second half in a double-digit deficit before pulling within nine in the last minute.  The loss was the third straight to Georgia Tech.

After that game, everyone in the crowd thought the team with NCAA Tournament aspirations come March was Georgia Tech, not the Bulldogs. 

But a multitude of injuries sank the Yellow Jackets season and their RPI to the 160s at its lowest point this season.  Ga. Tech currently ranks 149th after defeating Syracuse and Virginia Tech this past week.

After frustrating non-conference results UGA's RPI was in the low 200s and it seemed like a foregone conclusion Mark Fox would be fired, maybe even before the season ended.

Bolstered by a 12-6 league record the Bulldogs have moved their RPI all the way up to 73 and still have a chance at the NCAA Tournament, but will need to do it the old-fashioned way by winning the SEC Tournament.

If we look at what is hurting Georgia's chances of an at-large bid it is that nasty non-conference record.  The loss to Georgia Tech is one of the worst based strictly on RPI.

But what if UGA had beaten Tech?

The website RPIWizard.com can forecast such a change in history.   

If Mark Fox had notched a win over Brian Gregory, UGA's RPI would jump 15 spots up to 58.  This RPI would put Georgia on the NCAA bubble. Jerry Palm's bracketology as of March 9 has Arkansas as one of the last four teams in the Tournament and the Razorbacks RPI ranks 62nd.  

College basketball detractors say the sport's importance has been watered down by not enough games mattering like they do in football.  I think UGA hoops 2013-14 season is a great counterpoint to that argument and one Fox will harp on to his team all offseason.

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