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Post Lady Dogs play the waiting game

Monday March 6, 2006

The SEC Tournament went about as expected for Georgia. Though they fought back from a poor start and held the lead in the second half, they just couldn’t stop Tennessee’s inside game. Parker and Fluker scored at will, and Georgia was outrebounded 40-22.

I guess if there was a disappointing part of the game, it was Tennessee’s (specifically Zolman’s) success from outside. Tennessee’s dominance inside was to be expected, but Georgia did match up along the perimeter. One sequence in particular put it all together – Tennessee had a slim 3-point lead late in the second half. They hit a basket and were fouled to set up a possible three-point play. They missed the foul shot, got the rebound, kicked it outside for a three-pointer, and a three-point lead was suddenly eight. Dagger. Nail in coffin. Game over.

Now at 21-8, the Lady Dogs await their NCAA Tournament fate. The seedings won’t be announced until a week from today (Monday the 13th).

Georgia’s current RPI is 16. If that were the only consideration, Georgia would be a 4 seed, probably in North Carolina’s region. Let’s look at some other factors:

  • Strength of schedule. According to the RPI figures, Georgia had the 11th toughest schedule. That’s a nice plus. Strength of schedule can help a team, but it can go overboard. For instance, NC State currently sits ahead of Georgia in the RPI because of their schedule rating of 2 despite three more losses and a .500 conference record.
  • Wins and losses. 21 wins, particularly with an SEC schedule, is what you’d expect from a team making its case for a higher seed. Eight losses seems like a bit much, but five of those losses came to teams in the RPI’s top 4.
  • Bad losses. Georgia simply has none. The “worst” loss is Temple – a team with an RPI of 39 who is ranked in the Top 25 and on the verge of winning its conference tournament. All other Georgia losses have an RPI better than 20. No shame there.
  • Big wins. This is a negative for Georgia. The Lady Dogs have played seven games against teams in the RPI Top 20 and lost them all. The best win RPI-wise might be Kentucky, and there are several decent wins against teams like Florida and Vanderbilt who are just on the periphery of being ranked and have an RPI from 30-40. The bottom line is that they pretty much beat everyone they should have (especially in conference) and did it in impressive fashion but lack any really landmark wins that stand out.
  • Finish to the season. Georgia is 7-3 over their last ten games, and those three losses were to LSU and Tennessee. The seven wins feature three wins by 20+ points over ranked teams (Florida and Vanderbilt) and a devastation of Kentucky, the SEC’s #4 team. Forget the last ten games – if the jersey hasn’t read LSU or Tennessee, Georgia has been playing at a very high level with great consistency since Christmas.

There aren’t many negatives that should drop Georgia much below a 4 seed. They might even move up. They present as good of a case as teams with slightly higher RPIs such as Western Kentucky, DePaul, and NC State. Let’s be honest -the Georgia name carries some weight, and at the end of the season they could play with all but about the top 5 teams. Could the Lady Dogs slide up into a 3 seed? It’s possible. Georgia would present a big concern for any 2 seed in a potential Sweet 16 matchup.

The NCAA selection committee, especially on the men’s side, always likes to add little twists to create matchups along the way. How would you like to see Oklahoma and their freshman phenom Courtney Paris as a 2 seed going up against Georgia and sophomore all-American Tasha Humphrey as a 3 seed?

Georgia will be extremely sensitive to matchups in this tournament. As we’ve known all season, they are thin (and short) in the frontcourt and have had problems against quality teams with strong frontcourts. A lower seed with those strengths might mean that Georgia faces a tough game in an early round. On the other hand, Georgia might get a draw where they can hold their own among the frontcourt and can get the upper hand with favorable guard matchups.

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