In a weekend where it was win or go home and watch the selection show on television like everyone else, the Georgia Bulldogs men's basketball program pulled off a feat that even Hollywood would be envious of.
Given up for dead in the heap of the SEC, the Dogs pulled off the impossible Saturday night after having their scheduled meeting with Kentucky postponed by a tornado that destroyed most of downtown Atlanta, including the facility that they were scheduled to play in, the Georgia Dome. Moving some three miles up I-75 to (of all places) Alexander Memorial Coliseum, the home of their most hated rival, hated even more than Florida, Georgia Tech, the Dogs had to beat a Kentucky team that manhandled them a few weeks ago in Lexington.
Dennis Felton and the team must have said some rosaries and a few prayers, because they took Kentucky to overtime in a strange place with only family members, pep bands, cheerleaders and other officials looking on before beating the Wildcats to force a meeting with Mississippi State. The other Bulldogs played an overtime contest in the original venue against Alabama but had to move as well. Mississippi State almost had Georgia on the ropes before they mounted a comeback that would have made Rocky Balboa happy. Beating Mississippi State some six hours later the same day, UGA evened their record to 16-16 and had one more river to cross, one more Herculean labor to perform. They had to beat Arkansas.
This was not going to be an easy task. It meant that if they lost, it would have been for nothing. If they won, they were going to the NCAA Tournament. They got a jump on the team they beat in Athens earlier and never let go of the lead. It was as if survival itself was the most important thing for them. They wanted to prove to the world that they were worthy of being where their hated rivals from the Swamps of Hell had gone for two consecutive years.
Playing above themselves, Georgia hung on and beat an Arkansas team that they needed to beat. They were going dancing! For them, Cinderella wore red and black and said, "Meet me on the dance floor, big guy."
Now Georgia has a date with Xavier Thursday in the opening round of the Big Dance in Washington. Will they be successful? Here's hoping so. Even if they do lose to Xavier, they already have the respect of their peers in the SEC. Dennis Felton may have saved his job.
And walked off into the sunset in the process.