Georgia Basketball: Dawgs Improve Tournament Chances in Knoxville

Mike Foster@michaelsfosterCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2011

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Dustin Ware #3 and Chris Barnes #4 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate afte their 77-64 win against the Arkanasas Razorbacks during the first round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Georgia Bulldogs men's basketball team finally found their winning stride Saturday afternoon, defeating Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Volunteers 69-63 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

Yesterday's road win was a much-needed remedy for a Georgia team that has suffered a handful of heartbreaking home losses this season.

More importantly, it put Georgia in a favorable position in the SEC East standings, with four conference games remaining.

The Dawgs currently sit in fourth place in their jam-packed division. While that might sound like a seat for a mediocre member, the eastern half of the SEC is where nearly all of the tournament-worthy teams reside.

As of now, the top of the SEC standings look like this:

Alabama, 18-8 (10-2)

Florida, 20-5 (9-2)

Vanderbilt, 20-6 (8-4)

Kentucky, 19-7 (7-5)

Georgia, 18-8 (7-5)

All other teams are pretty much out as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have no doubt benefited from playing the SEC West field, while the eastern teams have spent the majority of their conference schedule beating up on each other.

Even with Georgia sitting at the bottom of the five-team list, it's likely they would get the benefit of the doubt in the selection process based on the toughness of their schedule.

All three home contests Georgia played versus Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee were dropped in heartbreaking fashion. Florida needed a miracle shot from Erving Walker. Tennessee got away with a questionable buzzer beater and Vanderbilt went on a freakish shooting streak to erase a 13-point Georgia lead and eventually won.

The fact here is that Georgia has been mightily competitive against the toughest competition. They have a win versus Kentucky as well, and the victory against Tennessee on the road will definitely stand out on the Dawgs' tournament resume.

Georgia's win against the Volunteers gives them a 7-2 road record, with their only losses being at Kentucky and Vanderbilt; that fact will stand out in March.

The truth is, while Georgia has been inconsistent and has failed to capitalize on their sellout home crowds, they still might have the "safest" looking tournament resume in the SEC.

This is mainly because, even with eight losses, Georgia has not suffered any bad losses.

Their current losses are to Notre Dame, Temple, Xavier, two to Vanderbilt, one to Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida.

Outside of the Big East, the SEC East may be the worst place to be when you have a non-conference schedule that plays the Fighting Irish and two quality teams from the always underrated Atlantic-10 conference.

Georgia is safe—right now—with these results, because of the facts stated above.

However, it is critical that they finish at least 3-1 in the final four games.

The final four include two home games versus Louisiana State and South Carolina.

A letdown in either of those games puts Georgia in a tough, tough position.

The two road games left for the Dawgs are, unfortunately, against the top teams from the respective SEC divisions.

Georgia will play at Florida on Thursday and will finish their conference schedule with a road game at Alabama.

Another big road win for Georgia, and they are shoo-ins for the field of 68.

A strong showing in the SEC Tournament will also be vital to Georgia's championship chances.

But, if you really think about it, considering where Georgia stands right now, it is pretty evident that the tournament essentially starts in five days.

Georgia is making a run for postseason basketball for the first time in decades.

That means Thursday's game against the rival Gators, who are ranked No. 15 in the country, might be one of the biggest games in Georgia basketball's 21st century history.


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