The Dawgs ended last season with an RPI of 37, which was certainly bolstered by playing the 33rd most difficult schedule in the country, according to ESPN. Coach Mark Fox made it a point to shore up the out of conference games leading up to SEC play, and his strategy paid off as Georgia maintained a solid RPI throughout the season, enabling them to earn an at-large birth into the NCAA tournament (of course, playing Kentucky twice in a year helped as well).
This season, UGA’s conference schedule should be slightly better considering the Dawgs only have to play Coach Cal’s team once. However, Georgia’s pre-SEC schedule looks rather daunting. Coach Fox’s team will play five teams from Power 5 conferences – Seton Hall, Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Baylor – before embarking upon league play.
Additionally, the Dawgs will take on some of the best teams that the Mid-Major ranks have to offer in Murray State, Winthrop and Robert Morris. Since 2010, Murray State has won the Ohio Valley Conference twice, and they’ve played for the championship the last three years.
Winthrop has been a powerhouse within the Big South for over a decade, appearing in 7 of the last 11 championship games, and winning 5 of those contests.
Only once in the past 7 seasons has the Northeast Conference championship game not included Robert Morris (2013) – the Colonials have won three league crowns during that same time frame.
Playing these types of games against smaller schools is always tricky for a team from a power conference because winning is expected and rarely doted upon, while losing can prove to be disastrous when the NCAA Tournament committee is looking at a body of work on Selection Sunday. Murray State, Winthrop and Robert Morris will all be fully-capable of winning in Athens and derailing UGA’s season if the Dawgs do not give them the respect that they undoubtedly deserve.