There are a lot of good athletes at Georgia.
In putting together the bracket we have been featuring all week, I, Nick Suss sports editor at The Red & Black, had a lot of options between which to choose. And I tried my hardest, but I couldn’t fit every great athlete into the top 16.
So for both transparency and as a thought exercise, I have decided to, on the last day before voting for the first round officially closes, disclose my rationale on snubbing some of the athletes I did.
To begin with, I’d like to let you, the voters, know that the concept of having a men’s bracket and a women’s bracket was completely coincidental. When I, as well as one of my assistant editors Connor Riley, was seeding the bracket, we accidentally finished with eight men and eight women and divided naturally. For this reason, don’t think that the athlete you want to defend was snubbed on the basis of gender. We genuinely believe these are the 16 best athletes Georgia has to offer.
Well, for the most part.
There are a few egregious snubs and a few people we wish could’ve made it but just missed the cut. Our logic for leaving these athletes off the bracket felt sound at the time, but if I had the chance to do it over, I might have done some things differently.
Firstly, leaving Maicel Uibo and Garrett Scantling off the bracket was hard. The two are outstanding athletes who are nationally-ranked and Southeastern Conference champions in the heptathlon and by the logic of sheer athleticism are quite possibly among the best Georgia has to offer. But the competition at the top of the men’s bracket was quite stout and Connor and I were comfortable with the top-six seeds being Lee McCoy, Robert Tyler, Nic Fink, Nick Chubb, Leonard Floyd and Chase Kalisz. I don’t think anyone has a problem with any of their inclusions. Seeds seven and eight were where things got complicated.
Wayne Montgomery and Kenny Gaines obviously don’t have the national or conference accolades Scantling and Uibo do, but campus relevance and significance to the team mattered in the ruling. And the fact remains that while the pair excels in the heptathlon, its team finished eighth in the SEC in indoors this year, which is less-than-stellar to say the least. Meanwhile, Montgomery is the No. 1 player on a top-10 team and Gaines is leading the Bulldogs likely to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
While I’m on the subject of Gaines, I received a lot of questions as to why he was Georgia basketball’s representative and not Marcus Thornton or Charles Mann. The answer is simply consistency. Gaines has been as good as he is for longer and for more consecutive periods of time than either of his teammates have.
Speaking of teammates, men’s basketball wasn’t the only sport where arguments over who should’ve made the bracket arose. Everyone’s favorite Georgia sport, football, sparked a veritable powder keg as to who belong on the bracket. Chubb and Floyd ended up being included based on their overall playing acumens, but Chubb almost missed the countdown entirely for Malcolm Mitchell to make the list since Mitchell has succeeded on the team on both offense and defense for three seasons rather than Chubb’s stellar one. Chubb did make the last however because of his value to the offense and Mitchell’s durability issues.
But football should count itself lucky. The football team had two representatives on the countdown, as did softball and women’s track and field. Heck, the swim team had three athletes, one female and two male, make the bracket. And compared to swimming, the Georgia teams with zero representatives feel small. But while some teams were snubbed simply because they lacked the superstars, one team was snubbed as a matter of nomenclature.
There is no question Georgia equestrian, the defending national champions, is an elite program. But when the bracket was presented to the entire The Red & Black sports staff, an argument broke out about whether the riders or the horses deserved to be deemed the true athlete. When compounding the facts that the horses don’t travel with the team and no one on our sports staff has an extensive understanding of the ins and outs of the sport, we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t in good faith include any member of the equestrian team, especially when it would mean bouncing Georgia soccer off of a bracket that already doesn’t include gymnastics, volleyball or women’s golf.
Not including those sports was a little easier. Gymnastics is in a dry spell and doesn’t have a true standout among its competitors and the other two are stacked with quality talent, but no athlete who would justify bumping a Keturah Orji or a Marion Crowder into the honorable mentions.
It’s easy to focus on those who were snubbed. It’s easy to say that I got it wrong and don’t know what I’m talking about. But after a week of this bracket, I can safely say that the snubs weren’t as big as I thought they would be when we conceived the idea of this bracket two weeks ago.
As I’ve posted at the end of every single round of this bracket so far, feel free to comment on the bottom of this article or vote in the poll to the side to let your opinions be heard. The results for round one of the tournament will be posted tomorrow along with some explanation of how the voting works. After that we will take a few days off for spring break and then the second round will begin.
And when your favorite athlete is eliminated in that round, I’ll be here to explain my rationale again.