That’s really the only way for the Bulldogs, who wanted a spot in the NCAA field, to place a positive spin on their spot in the NIT.
Coach Mark Fox said Georgia’s home game against Vermont on Wednesday night can be valuable for a team which starts three sophomores, one junior and the lone senior, forward Donte Williams.
“I think it’s very important for our guys to get this experience,” Fox said after the selections were announced Sunday. “We only have the one senior, so I think it could be a very valuable experience for our team. We start our season next year in the preseason NIT, so I think for a lot of reasons this could be a very good experience for us.”
Georgia missed the postseason the last two years. Williams and fourth-year junior forward Marcus Thornton are the only current players who appeared in the Bulldogs’ 2011 NCAA tournament loss to Washington. They combined to play only five minutes.
Fox said he believes the Bulldogs (19-13) were one win away from making the NCAA tournament field. Georgia beat Mississippi before losing to Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals last week.
“The first challenge will be, like it is for all teams who fall just short of their original goal, is being able to regroup and to play with the energy and intelligence and effort you need to play against a good team,” Fox said. “I think that’s challenge No. 1, but I think it could be a great experience for our guys to continue to develop as a team and for our program.”
Sophomores Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines are the team’s top scorers. They were named as honorable mention members of The Associated Press All-SEC team announced on Monday.
Georgia’s only previous game against Vermont was an 88-55 win on Dec. 31, 1973.
The winner of Georgia’s game against Vermont (22-10) will play the Iona-Louisiana Tech winner. The Bulldogs were 14-2 at home during the regular season.
“The fact we can play at home is great,” Fox said. “We’ve had success at home this year. We’ve had terrific support from our student body and we’ve had great energy in our building, so to be at home was certainly our preference and hopefully we can use it to our advantage.”
Georgia, a No. 2 seed in the Florida State regional, is one of four SEC teams in the NIT 32-team field. Missouri, Arkansas and LSU also are in the field.
Georgia State plays at Clemson on Tuesday night.