Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Brutal bracket makes Diamond Dawg path even tougher

Monday May 23, 2011

Michael Pallazone’s complete game on Thursday gave Georgia a fighting chance to take the Vanderbilt series and position themselves for a postseason bid. Though the result cost Vandy an outright SEC East title, they responded like a title contender and fought back to take the final two games of the series and earn a share of the division crown. Georgia was six outs away from salvaging Saturday’s rubber game, but the visitors exploded for eleven runs in the final two innings to shut the door on Georgia’s regular season.

The Bulldogs finished 16-14 in the SEC, good enough for fourth place in the division behind the trio of heavyweights at the top. It’s a marked improvement over last year’s finish in the cellar, and it comes despite significant adversity and against the nation’s toughest schedule. The Dawgs finished with the fourth-best conference record and earned the #5 seed for this weekend’s conference tournament. (The SEC West champion receives the #2 seed even though their conference mark was worse than Georgia’s.)

But as any observer of the team knows, it’s the overall record that’s hurting Georgia’s chances to play beyond Hoover. The 2-2 record last week left Georgia at a level .500 (28-28). It’s a scenario we covered last week: due to the double-elimination format, Georgia will have to win at least three games to come out of the SEC Tournament with the winning overall record that would merit NCAA Tournament consideration.

The problem is the bracket. Georgia’s side of the SEC Tournament bracket features South Carolina and Vanderbilt – two of the top five teams in the nation. Needing at least three wins, some of them are going to have to come against those national powers.

The best case is for Georgia to upset Vandy in their opening game and for Auburn to knock off South Carolina. That would put the Dawgs in a favorable position for a second win and a day of rest, and it would eliminate one of the top seeds via the loser’s bracket before Georgia would face them again. A loss to Vandy in the opener means that Georgia would have to come back with three wins on consecutive days with at least two of them coming against SC or Vandy.

Impossible? No. Tough? Very. Georgia will have to play at a level with which they’ve only flirted this year. Those subsequent games, especially if Georgia heads to the loser’s bracket, will severely test the depth of a pitching staff that has struggled lately beyond Pallazone. The tournament gets underway for the Diamond Dawgs on Wednesday evening, probably around 9:00 or so depending on the finish of the SC-Auburn game. CSS will televise the opening round.

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