Dawgs in Position for Run

ATHENS – It all sets up for Mark Fox and his Bulldogs now.

South Carolina sent the Dawgs to the bottom of the SEC East standings with their upset win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. In the process, the Gamecocks also made their path to the SEC title much more difficult, and made Georgia's easier.

Carolina has proven they can beat the best team in the SEC – Kentucky. They probably won't do it again this Friday (if they even win their first contest), but they have done it once before.

Georgia, on the other hand, has proved over the last month of SEC play that they are able to run up and down the court with anyone – except the Wildcats.

Mark Fox's thank you card is in the mail because these Dawgs now have a chance to get the job done. No one on Georgia's side of the bracket – no team – is so much better than the Bulldogs that they can't make a run to Sunday.

I've seen it before. Believe me, I have seen it before, and if it happens this time I'm hoping for no acts of God.

When it comes down to it, basketball is about tournaments. You have to learn how to play in tournaments because no one cares about anything other than how you play on natural courts in March. Tournaments are about execution and the desire to be there. Tournament games are usually close because everything is on the line, and every game is frantic. You can, at times, smell the panic in the air (or is that burned popcorn?).

The Bulldogs are good enough to beat every team in the SEC – expect Kentucky. They are going to need someone to ace the Cats before Sunday if they want to win the SEC Title for the second time in three years.

Laugh at the notion of it (you probably are not laughing if you know this team), but Georgia has as good a chance as anyone else on their side of the bracket to make it to Sunday. You can get good draws, and Georgia just got one.

All of those factors add up to favorable conditions for another championship run for the Dawgs.

Georgia would need to win their first game against Arkansas, which is a very winnable game, but a challenging game as the Dawgs lost a hard-fought game to the Hogs in Athens. Arkansas is one of only three SEC foes to beat Georgia at home. The first-round draw might be a more difficult matchup for Georgia than the second or third round games.

Next would be wounded Vanderbilt – just off a loss to woeful South Carolina. I am going to just put it out there that Georgia is better than Vandy… well, because they are – at least when the two teams play against one another. Much could be made that Vandy will have an advantage playing in Nashville, but that's not going to be the case because this is the SEC Tournament – not Memorial Coliseum – and the tickets are gobbled up by Kentucky fans, who will outnumber everyone in the stands. Those in blue and white will be cheering for an upset Friday night to make their road to the SEC title easier. Count on Georgia getting the CatVegas crowd to pull for the Dawgs.

The semifinals would be an interesting affair. The other pod on Georgia's side of the bracket is Mississippi State (who is fighting for their NCAA lives), Florida (same deal) and Auburn. If State and Florida meet, the winner of that game will go to the NCAA Tournament unless a Georgia-like team wins the SEC. The loser of that game is probably looking at the NIT. Georgia can win this semifinal, too. Florida would be the most difficult matchup of that group, but Georgia just beat them and could do it again.

Like two years ago, the title game would have to be won on momentum – no matter who Georgia played. The Dawgs would have to get out early and head to the locker room with a lead. Kentucky is susceptible to an upset, and the Cats have not won the SEC Tournament since 2004. But I find it hard to think Georgia is the team that can pull it. If anyone not named Kentucky is in the finals I would pick Georgia.

There is momentum in Georgia's basketball program, and it is coming at just the right time. Again, basketball is about tournament play. We don't yet know how Fox reacts to tournament play in the SEC, but his post-season record (7-4 in WAC Tournament play; 2-3 in NCAA Tournament play; 0-2 in CBI Tournament play) sits at .500.

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