Here's the story I filed from Stegeman Coliseum tonight. A very cheery, somewhat surprised group at Stegeman, I might add.
ATHENS - After 48 hours of nervous helplessness, the players and coaches of the Georgia men’s basketball team met uneasily in their locker room Sunday night. They settled in for the NCAA tournament selection show, having spent two days hearing they might be out or might be in, but if they were in it wouldn’t be by much.
“Everybody was tense, sitting in our locker room, biting fingers, looking at each other like, ‘Oh man, we don’t know what’s gonna happen,’ ” junior forward Trey Thompkins said.
The tension turned to surprised joy a short time into the show as Georgia was revealed to not only be in the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years, but a No. 10 seed, higher than predicted by most experts.
“The way we were jumping around, it seemed like we won the national championship,” guard Travis Leslie said.
Here's a few other notes and quotes that didn't make the story:
- Mark Fox spoke about the importance to the program of getting to the NCAAs.
“Eventually you have to say: This is what you did,” Fox said. “So it was a very important step for us. Because what we’ve been telling people came true, and now we can push forward.”
- Fox on the moment the team saw it was picked:
“When we saw the play-in game that was listed right before us, I felt like in my research that we were ahead of those teams,” Fox said. “So when I saw our logo, when I saw the G, I think the players saw the G … they jumped around like seven-year-olds who just won a Little League championship. And guys that maybe didn’t have great relationships when I walked in the door were hugging each other and it was really a terrific moment.”
- Thompkins described the scene after the selection as “mayhem in our locker room. Everybody was throwing stuff, grabbing each other, jumping around. It was a joyous occasion.”
And yes, it validated his decision to return for his junior year.
“This is exactly why I came back, so I could be in the tournament, and feel what we felt,” Thompkins said.
- Forward Connor Nolte was appointed as the team's official "bracketologist" by Fox a couple weeks ago. I have a bit about that in the above story. Nolte was monitoring the experts throughout the weekend, including the most famous one, ESPN's Joe Lunardi, who had Georgia out.
“It was surprising for him to have us out of his final bracket. But I liked what the other people were saying,” Nolte said.
- The team will be bussing to Charlotte. The NCAA has a new rule mandating teams go by bus if the regional is less than 350 miles away.
- I'll leave you with one last quote from Leslie:
“It was hard thinking that we were probably not getting in. Everyone wants to get in the NCAA tournament. And then we saw our name.”