Monday, May 30, 2011

Diamond Dogs get 3 seed, open NCAA Tournament in Oregon

1:38 pm May 30, 2011, by Chip Towers

David Perno has led Georgia to six of its 10 NCAA Tournament bids, including the one the Bulldogs received Monday. They'll play in Corvallis, Ore.

Athens — The Georgia Bulldogs received an NCAA tournament bid as expected on Monday. That they’ll have to travel all the way across the country to play is but a minor hindrance.

After playing the nation’s most difficult schedule, the resilient Bulldogs (31-30) were rewarded with a three seed in the Corvallis, Ore., Regional during the Road to Omaha Selection Show on Monday. Georgia will open against No. 2 seed Creighton (44-14). Two-time national champion Oregon State (38-17) is the top seed and Arkansas-Little Rock (24-32) is No. 4.

The Bulldogs won three games — including two against Top 5 teams Florida and South Carolina — at the SEC Tournament in order to meet the selection committee’s criteria of finishing with an over-.500 record. There was some speculation that, with 16 wins over Top 25 teams and a No. 16 RPI, Georgia may get a 2 seed and play closer to home.

But Coach David Perno wasn’t complaining.

“Nah, I’m not disappointed at all,” said Perno, who has led the Dogs to six of their 10 NCAA tournament bids. “We’re excited to get back out to Oregon. Obviously Creighton is a good ballclub and we’ve played Oregon State a lot. It’s a good opportunity for our team and one we feel like we deserve.”

Georgia faced Oregon State in the 2006 College World Series, then played the Beavers in back-to-back, home-and-home series in 2007 and ‘08. Oregon State won national championships in ‘06 and ‘07.

The Bulldogs have the least wins of any at-large selection in the 2011 field but no one came close to playing as difficult a schedule. Georgia faced 34 Top 25 teams during the season and went 16-18 in those games.

Athletic Director Greg McGarity said last week Perno over-scheduled this season. Perno did not disagree.

“No doubt about it, this schedule was ridiculous,” he said. “If you look at the [strength of schedule] numbers, it’s not even close. I mean, we had to beat No. 1 and No. 3 just to get through the SEC Tournament. No doubt there was too much heat on that schedule. But if we don’t play it we may not be where we are today.”

Georgia also executed a 15-game turnaround over last season despite losing a starter and one of its best players to a career-ending injury in the 10th game of the season. Johnathan Taylor, who is now in a wheelchair after breaking his neck, was in attendance Saturday for the bid-clenching win over Florida on Saturday.

“South Carolina and Florida were two of the biggest wins we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Perno said. “It was an emotional day and pretty special to have JT there. It’s been a gut-wrenching season in a lot of ways, but these guys fought through and played some good ball. We’re feeling pretty good about everything.”

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