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Chip Towers

ESPN’s ‘bracketologist’ Lunardi calls Georgia ‘the tallest midget in the circus’

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ATHENS – Ever since Georgia’s 71-56 win over Missouri on Tuesday night, I’ve had a lot of people asking if I thought the Bulldogs had a chance to get into the NCAA Tournament. They do, but it’s the longest of long shots.

Georgia is 16-11 overall and 10-5 in the SEC with three regular-season games and the SEC Tournament left to play. In my opinion, there is a chance the Bulldogs could land an at-large selection if they win out and reach the finals of the SEC Tournament, which is in Atlanta this year. That will mean they will have beaten either Florida or Kentucky along the way.

Granted, Georgia is playing very well. The win over Missouri, the nation’s 45th-ranked team in terms of RPI, was impressive. But because the RPI of the SEC as a conference is so low, the Bulldogs moved up only to 82 from 88 in the power ratings. With road games left at Arkansas (Saturday) and LSU (March 8) and a home game against a weak Mississippi State team, they’ll have the same dilemma in terms of the inability to make much headway in the rankings. Never mind the accomplishment that would be beating either Arkansas or LSU on the road.

Turns out that’s not just my opinion. Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s so-called “bracketologist,” sees it the same way. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, he referred to Georgia as “the tallest midget in the circus.”

“If I said, ‘Let’s spend a lot of time talking about their best wins,’ it would be a fairly short conversation,” Lunardi said. “The league just isn’t good enough where being third or fourth, wherever they’re going to finish, is in and of itself good enough. So I think that they have work to do, especially away from home. Their best road win was probably the first win over Missouri, I guess. Again, we’re talking lots of bad, bad games on the non-conference schedule, which is sinking their RPI. Because of that they have to get all their good work done in the league and the league isn’t good enough to make that work easy to come by. I don’t think they’re there yet. They’re not really even that close yet.”

It’s a shame, but that fact is that Georgia’s poor showing in November (2-4), when it lost to Davidson, Temple, Nebraska and Georgia Tech, is undoing its good work in February (6-2).

But, again, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

“If they win every game and lose in the finals (of the SEC Tournament), they’re going to be minimally on the board for heavy conversation,” Lunardi said. “What will they be at that point, 13-5? Barring significant upsets, they will have beaten Kentucky or Florida to get to the final on a neutral floor. Can they? They’ve won five out of six, six out of seven, something like that. I hate to be this way; I try not to inject my basketball opinions into all of this. I just don’t think they’re good enough to do that.”

Perhaps such talk will motivate the Bulldogs to even greater heights. But even if they don’t make the “Big Dance,” an NIT berth would be a significant accomplishment given the team’s growth in the last year.

And having witnessed firsthand the “Tornado Tournament” of 2008, I know anything’s possible.

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