ATHENS - If it weren't for its putrid start to non-conference play, Georgia might be spending this week studying bracketology and wondering whether it had a chance to make the NCAA tournament. It still wouldn't be likely, but it wouldn't be laughable.
As it is, Georgia's situation is still almost certainly that it needs to win the SEC tournament and get an automatic NCAA bid, or its season is over. The NIT is still far-fetched for a team only 14-15 overall, and it's very unlikely UGA would accept a bid to the CBI or Collegeinsider tournament. (SEC teams have typically turned those tournaments down.)
So, about winning the SEC tournament ... around these parts, we've learned not to laugh at the idea.
This is the five-year anniversary of Georgia's miracle run at the SEC tournament, commemorated by ESPN in a new "30 for 30" documentary, which aired on Sunday. So I suppose we are obligated to remind everyone that ... you never know.
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(And for those who would say: "Well, as long as there isn't a tornado," we point out that a year later Mississippi State did the same thing.)
There's also a new format for the SEC tournament, thanks to expansion. Here's a link to that newfangled bracket.
As you can see, the top four seeds get a "double-bye" into Friday's quarterfinals. The next six seeds get a single-bye into Thursday's round. The bottom four seeds have to start play on Wednesday, and would have to win five games in order to win the whole thing.
Georgia's situation, with a week to go, is far from clear: The Bulldogs can technically still finish in the top four, or slip all the way to the bottom four. Yes, that's how tightly-bunched the standings are:
Florida ................ 13-3
Alabama ............. 11-5
Kentucky ............ 11-5
Missouri .............. 10-6
Ole Miss ............. 10-6
Arkansas ............ 9-7
Tennessee .......... 9-7
Georgia .............. 8-8
LSU ................... 8-8
Vanderbilt .......... 7-9
Texas A&M ......... 7-9
Auburn .............. 3-13
Mississippi St. ..... 3-13
South Carolina .... 3-13
For Georgia the double-bye is the least likely, as a lot of things would have to happen - starting with Georgia beating Kentucky and Alabama this week. The additional things that have to happen for that scenario fall in the head-hurting scenario, so let's cross that bridge if we come to it.
It's much simpler to see how the Bulldogs would avoid slipping to one of the final four seeds: By simply winning one of their final two games. That's because Georgia owns the tiebreaker over Texas A&M (the Bulldogs swept the Aggies), so it would win a head-to-head tiebreaker. And while Georgia lost the tiebreaker to Vanderbilt, a three-game tie between those two teams and Texas A&M would also see the Aggies being the odd team out.
LSU could also figure into this, and Georgia owns the tiebreaker over the Tigers too. Basically, there are a ton of scenarios that even the SEC office isn't having fun working out, so remember it this way: Georgia wins one of its next two, or Texas A&M loses one of its next two, and Georgia doesn't have to play on Wednesday in Nashville.
Texas A&M's final two games are home against LSU, and at Arkansas.
Vanderbilt's final two games are at Florida, and home against South Carolina.
LSU's final two games are at Texas A&M, and home against Ole Miss.
It's also not far-fetched that Georgia could finish ahead of Tennessee, which plays at Auburn and then hosts Ole Miss. If the Vols lose those two, and Georgia wins one of its final two, then the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker over the Vols.
Anyway, there's a whole lot of scenarios, tiebreakers and such. Hopefully some clarity will kick in as the week goes on.