published Friday, March 11th, 2011

Wiedmer: Williams saves Vols’ year again

ATLANTA — If you believe such bracketology experts as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, today’s Alabama-Georgia pairing in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals may well be an NCAA tournament play-in game.

Just don’t expect Bulldogs boss Mark Fox to share that view when the Bulldogs take the Georgia Dome court today at 1 p.m. against the SEC West champion Crimson Tide.

“We have tried to do what the [Selection] committee has asked us to do,” Fox said after the Bulldogs defeated Auburn 69-51 behind Trey Thompkins’ 22 points to improve to 21-10 overall and 10-7 against SEC teams.

“We’ve played a schedule that’s rated in the top 40 in the country, won enough games to have an RPI in the top 40, won more games than we lost in our league and had a winning record on the road. So that body of work hopefully will be evaluated as it’s always been.”

Perhaps he’s right. With an RPI of 39 and schedule strength of 35, the Bulldogs would appear to be safely in, especially should they defeat Bama.

But for both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide — especially Alabama, whose RPI is 82 and schedule strength is 126 — at least two scores from other conference tournaments had to stir the nerves. East Carolina, coached by former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, shocked UAB in Conference USA. Then Colorado stunned Kansas State in the Big 12.

With an RPI of 28 entering Thursday, UAB will be a difficult call for the Selection Committee as it attempts to choose the 68-team field from its Indianapolis hotel room. So will Colorado, whose RPI is 67 but rapidly rising.

UAB may have knocked itself out with this defeat and Colorado may yet have work to do, but both have stronger numbers than the Tide.

“We know who we’re playing now, so we can get prepared for them,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said through a news release late Thursday afternoon. “We just played them (a 65-57 Tide win) in our last game, so obviously we’re quite familiar with them.

“We’ve just got to make sure we take care of today, and hopefully the Selection Committee at the end of the day will feel we’re deserving with us going 12-4 in the SEC and winning 15 of our last 19.”

Logic says a Tide win today against the Dogs and Saturday against the Kentucky-Ole Miss winner (Alabama beat Kentucky and split with Ole Miss) would all but guarantee Bama (20-10, 12-4) a bid.

And Georgia’s players certainly became impressed with the Tide during last Saturday’s loss in Tuscaloosa.

“They gave us a good beating at their house,” said forward Chris Barnes. “It’s going to be hard playing them. They play great ‘D’; they’ve got some very outstanding inside post players with Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green.”

Still, isn’t it hard for the Bulldogs not to look ahead to Selection Sunday, to where and whom they might play?

“We don’t really look into the NCAA tournament seed or where we’re going to be,” said UGA forward Jeremy Price. “We’re just trying to take care of business here, and whatever happens after that happens.”

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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