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Monday, March 15, 2010

Georgia vs. The Field

Unless you were under a rock yesterday, you're well aware that the tournament brackets for the NCAA tournament and the NIT were both announced. Not at all surprisingly, Georgia didn't make either field -- but that doesn't mean the announcements were without impact in Athens.

As it turns out, Georgia's schedule was no simple task this season. The Dawgs made strides this season on the court despite playing 12 games against NCAA tourney foes and six more against teams invited to the NIT. (That's up three from last year overall, for what it's worth, but nearly double the total against NCAA teams.)

Seven of Georgia's non-conference foes made either the NIT or NCAA this year, too -- so it wasn't just a boost in competition within the SEC. Georgia challenged itself early and often, and that was probably a good thing -- even if the results weren't fully realized in their 14-17 overall record.

But speaking of records, the Dawgs' improvements certainly weren't just about beating the weakest of their opponents.

Last season, Georgia faced seven NCAA tourney teams and lost all seven of those games.

This season, Georgia played 12 games against NCAA tourney teams and finished with a respectable 4-8 record.

Of course, you might say, "Come on, Hale, 4-8 isn't exactly respectable." And that'd be true if we were talking about Duke or North Carolina or Kansas. But for Georgia, it's real progress. (And in truth, I saw plenty of arguments for teams to be included in the tourney when they boasted records worse than 4-8 against RPI Top 100 teams.)

But let's look beyond the records, too. For Georgia, step 1 wasn't winning games. Step 1 was simply being competitive -- and that's where the Dawgs really progressed this year.

In the 2008-09 season, not only did Georgia finish winless against tourney teams, it wasn't even close. The average score of the Dawgs' games against NCAA tourney foes last season was 79-61 -- i.e. the Dawgs didn't just lose those games, but instead were blown out by an average of 18 points.

This season, they won four more games against tourney teams, but that, too, doesn't tell the whole story. The average score against NCAA tourney foes this season was 74-71 -- turning those blowout losses into close calls.

(Note: Even if we look at games vs. NIT opponents, where the Dawgs were 3-5 last season and 1-5 this year, the margins still improved. On average, Georgia was outscored by 10 points per game against NIT foes last year, and that number dropped to seven this season, despite winning two fewer games. It's also worth noting, the majority of the NIT opponents were non-conference games early in the season, before Fox's plan had much time to develop.)

Much as Mark Fox said all season, this wasn't just about how things shook out in the standings. It was about earning respect.

By that measure, it's hard to consider the 2009-10 season anything but a rousing success.

And in case you're curious, here's Georgia's record vs. tourney opponents this year and last...


Miss St - 60-79
Tenn - 48-79
LSU - 62-80
Tenn - 77-86
WKU - 63-67
Missouri - 76-83
Illinois - 42-76

Record: 0-7
Score: 428-550


S Carolina - 68-79
S Carolina - 51-68
Kentucky - 45-68
Kentucky - 90-85
Virginia Tech - 67-66
Auburn - 59-71
Florida - 57-83
Florida - 88-86

Record: 3-5
Score: 525-606


Wofford - 57-60
Missouri - 68-76
GT - 73-66
Kentucky - 68-76
Kentucky - 68-80
Vandy - 66-78
Vandy - 72-58
Tenn - 60-69
Vandy - 94-96
Tenn - 78-63
Florida - 71-87
Florida - 78-76

Record: 4-8
Score: 853-885

UAB - 56-72
Virginia Tech - 62-74
Miss State - 69-72
Illinois - 70-67
St Johns - 56-66
Ole Miss - 76-80

Record: 1-5
Score: 389-431

SIDE NOTE: My early look through my brackets keeps leading me to pick three Big East teams in the Final Four. That can't be right, but I just don't trust Kentucky.


rbubp said...

The Big 12 was the best conference this year. I haven't looked closely at the brackets, but Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A & M, and Baylor are all going to make very loud noise.

David Hale said...

I probably agree Rbubp. I think I may have all four of them in my Elite 8.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the 3 Big East teams. I got WVU, Syracuse, and Villanova in my final four. I tend to have a positive bias toward that conference in basketball. Those three schools are consistently strong unlike Kansas St, A&M, and Baylor. BTW, hope Syracuse performs better against Vermont this time around.


David Hale said...

Same as I came up with on first glance, Joe. And yes... I didn't chuckle at all at the NCAA's little inside joke pairing Cuse with Vermont again. That '05 game was up there among my most unpleasant sports memories (although still not close to Eagles-Bucs NFC title game or Game 5 of the '03 NLCS).

MikeInValdosta said...

I like the Big 12, but drop the bottom 2 from the Big East and The Big East is better top to bottom.

Having said that, watch out for Baylor!

Kentucky also scares me, but a lot of growing up will take place each weekend.

WVU and Kansas both got screwed by the committee! Syracuse got a pretty decent draw. The committee went out of their way for Duke!

Swap Duke and Kentucky and the brackets balance out better.

Buffalo in March. Good times!