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February 27, 2006

NIT Looks Like Long Shot For Bulldogs

In the old days, a winning record in a power conference was all it took to qualify for the NIT Tournament. A month or two ago, the NIT selection process changed. The NCAA now owns the NIT.

If you're up to speed on the rule changes, skip down to "Why this is a problem for Georgia."

The biggest rule changes they implemented were:
- All regular season conference champions who do not win their conference tourney AND who aren't invited to the NCAA tourney now get an automatic bid to the NIT. For example, if IUPUI wins the Mid-Continent Conference regular season title, but loses the conference tourney to Oral Roberts University, then IUPUI would get the automatic NIT bid. Despite IUPUI's RPI of 146.

- Teams with losing records can now get invited to the NIT. This is primarily a win for major conference programs with Top 100 RPIs. Teams like Northwestern, Providence and South Carolina are possible beneficiaries of this rule change.

- Teams will be seeded 1-40, and home court will be given out accordingly. That means it's very possible that an SEC team like Georgia or South Carolina would open the NIT at Hofstra or Bradley.

Why this is a problem for Georgia
The NCAA Tourney has never been about inviting the Top 65 teams, and the NIT isn't about inviting the next best 40. Just because you have an RPI in the Top 105 does not mean you're in either tourney.

There are currently 8 teams slated to make the NCAA Tourney by ESPN's Bracketology guru that have RPIs outside of the Top 105. There are two more teams that will be added to the bracket after the play-in game is established. That's 10 slots outside of the Top 105.

So we're down to the Top 95 for the NCAA/NIT to pull from. Only there's a catch. For every conference that has an upset tourney champ, the pool gets smaller to pick from. If we have 5 upsets, the available pool shrinks down to around The Top 90 teams.

Georgia's RPI is currently:
Ken Pomeroy says 101
Real-time RPI says 114
Warren Noland says 102

And Georgia will likely fall further with games remaining against Florida and Arkansas. Two teams that are playing dramatically better basketball than the Dawgs. If Georgia finishes the SEC Regular Season at 15-14 as expected with an RPI around 115-120 and a non-conference strength of schedule of 240, we will likely need to win two SEC Tourney games to even get an NIT bid.

In other words, we scheduled so weak out of conference, that we're at risk of getting locked out of the NIT despite a winning overall record in a major conference.

It's frustrating, but if we had taken care of business against Auburn and/or Mississippi State we wouldn't be in this mess.

For an alternate view, try Steve's Georgia Slog.



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