With college basketball's regular season now officially over, it's do or die time for teams sitting on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament appearance.
In the Southeastern Conference, there are a few teams who will need to play well in the SEC Tournament if they hope to make the field of 68 teams. Georgia, Tennessee, and SEC West champion Alabama all are considered bubble teams at the moment, and will greatly benefit from wins in this week's tournament, which runs from Mar. 10-13.
Losses against certain teams could also potentially destroy tournament chances as well.
The Georgia Bulldogs appeared to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament all year, losing only to Notre Dame, Temple, and Xavier out of conference. Also, their first six SEC losses came at the hands of Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, and Vanderbilt.
However, Georgia, who dropped their final game to Alabama on Saturday, is now considered one of the teams that would barely miss out on the tournament if it started today.
Georgia's first tournament game is against Auburn, who finished the regular season at 11-19. If Georgia loses their SEC Tournament opener they can kiss their season goodbye. However, a win from Georgia and another win in the next game should put them back into the field of 68.
Two wins, at least, are what Georgia needs to continue their season.
As for Alabama, they might be in the same boat.
The Tide finished their season at 20-10, just like Georgia, but have one of the lowest RPI ratings out of any conference (division) champion out there.
Alabama will receive a first-round bye because of their divisional championship, and will play against the winner of the game one between Georgia and Auburn.
If Georgia defeats Auburn, then it's likely the winner of the Georgia-Alabama game will find their way into the tournament. If Auburn upsets Georgia, then a win for Alabama against the Tigers would likely not be impressive enough to send them in.
Two wins for Alabama will be key if Georgia loses. Should the Bulldogs take on the Crimson Tide, it could very well become an essential play-in-game.
Tennessee has an interesting story of their own. Even with an 8-8 conference record, and an 18-13 overall record, the Volunteers are currently considered to be a seed in the tournament. As a five seed in the tournament, the Vol's would play their first game against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
If Tennessee has a strong tournament showing, it's very likely that they can qualify for the NCAA Tournament without winning the SEC Tournament. However, a loss for the Volunteers against Arkansas might raise some red flags.
Tennessee has the most to gain, and the most to lose in the tournament.
Many Georgia fans are bickering because the Dawgs losses have all come to quality opponents, yet their one loss to Alabama—the SEC West champion—dropped them from a projected 11 seed to one of the last four out (according to Paul Linardi of ESPN).
Georgia's 37 RPI appears good enough, and is better than all of the four teams who are projected by Linardi to be the last four in. Georgia may just need a strong showing or two to seal themselves a spot.
Alabama is in the same boat, however their RPI may not be good enough to squeeze them in. A deep tournament run will be more important for Alabama than Georgia.