For the most part, this season of college basketball in the state of Georgia could easily be categorized as the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: Georgia winning its first SEC basketball championship in 25 years.
Head coach Dennis Felton must be in awe after enduring such a disappointing season. That is until the Bulldogs earned the right to advance to the NCAA tournament after beating Arkansas on Sunday at, of all places, Alexander Memorial Coliseum, home of the instate rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
In a year filled with defections and dismissals of players, the Bulldogs still found a way to hold on for one more day. Despite losing its last 10 of 11 games heading into the SEC tournament while being trapped, literally, in a tornado in downtown Atlanta Saturday night, Georgia basketball made history once again.
The Bulldogs (17-16 overall, 4-12 SEC) solidified themselves as a legitimate contender with a four-game winning streak. They earned a bid as the No. 14 seed, and will take on No. 3 seeded Xavier (27-6 overall) Thursday during the first round in Washington, D.C.
The last time the Bulldogs were invited to the big dance was in 1990 under head coach Hugh Durham. However, they were knocked out of the Midwest Region in the first round by Texas, 100-88.
Georgia did make it all the way to its only Final Four appearance in 1983. Of all opponents, the Bulldogs defeated North Carolina in the elite eight, 82-77. But they then fell to eventual national champion N.C. State, 60-67 in the semifinals.
Over the course of the weekend, I watched this scrappy Georgia bunch display a great deal of heart, especially under extreme circumstances, like playing two games in one day. If the Bulldogs can keep up their high level of intensity, remain focused and put up a great fight as they did during the SEC tournament, don't be surprised if they advance far enough into the tournament to make a little noise.
The Bad: Georgia Tech will stay home this postseason.
Head coach Paul Hewitt continues to maintain that his team was fighting hard to make it through a tough year.
Yet excelling in the ACC tournament was the last thing on his mind prior to playing Wake Forest, Virginia and Clemson at home in the regular season finale.
"We are not thinking about the tournament right now," said Hewitt after the big win over Wake Forest earlier this month. "We still have three long ball games left to play. We don't know what kind of shape we are in. Right now for us it's more about getting healthy and getting ready."
As at turns out, in the end they weren't.
But injuries and lack of preparation did not seem to be a problem against the Demon Deacons, especially since I got to see the Yellow Jackets (15-17, 7-9 ACC) firsthand defeat them in an impressive victory at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
After two more wins to give them a much needed three-game winning streak under their belt, the Yellow Jackets appeared to be playing their best basketball at just the right time entering the ACC tournament.
And after topping Virginia in the first round, 94-76, Georgia Tech was feeling pretty good. That is until Duke stopped the Jackets by handing them a crushing 82-70 loss in the second round.
It's no secret that Georgia Tech's starters and key players have been bruised and battered all year long. But if the Yellow Jackets are planning to make a serious run next season they must develop a solid rotation from their bench. At least that should make them more competitive in the long run, especially in a conference such as the ACC.
The Ugly: A dreadful year for two local programs, Georgia State University and Oxford College.
Former head coach Lefty Driesell led Georgia State to its last NCAA appearance in 2001. The Panthers were 29-5 that season.
My, what a difference a few years make.
This year, under coach Rod Barnes the Panthers finished 9-21 overall, 5-13 in CAA. The caliber of players and desire to play has declined since Driesell's departure, and Georgia State will be in the same exact boat next season if something is not done, immediately.
Meanwhile, Oxford College played so poorly this season it actually stopped posting its losses on the school's Web site. In fact, the Eagles only won one game this year, forcing them to commit to some serious rebuilding prior to next season.
Regardless if you're a fan of the Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets, Panthers or Eagles, at least this much is true: the madness has only begun!
So fill out those brackets, gather around the tube and brace yourself for what should be yet another exciting trip to the Final Four.
Otherwise, there's always next year, right?
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