ATHENS — To be clear, Georgia coach Mark Fox says he doesn’t care about Georgia’s eventual finish in the SEC regular-season standings or what seed it gets or which game it plays in next week’s SEC Tournament.
“We don’t ever worry about that,” Fox said Monday. “I think the only time you ever worry about a lot of that is if you’re in a position to get a bye and we’re not in that position. Our focus with this group all year, as young as we were, was just to try to win the next game and keep getting better. That’s how we’ll approach it this week as well.”
For those who do pay attention to record and seeding, this is a very big week for the Bulldogs (13-15, 4-10 SEC). Coming off an impressive 76-62 upset of No. 12 Florida this past Saturday, Georgia wraps up the regular season with a road game against No. 1-ranked Kentucky (27-1, 14-0) late Thursday night and the regular-season finale at home next Saturday against South Carolina (10-18, 2-12). The Bulldogs will be favored in one of those games and not in the other. I’ll let you guess which one.
But at least for the sake of perception, this week is a challenge to stay out of last place. Georgia is currently tied with Auburn for next-to-last place in the SEC, each with 4-10 records. The Bulldogs would be the 11 seed since the Tigers (14-14, 4-10) own the tiebreaker thanks to their 59-51 win over Georgia on The Plains on Feb. 1.
South Carolina is in last place at this point but could play its way out with two wins this week. The Gamecocks, who beat Georgia 57-56 in Columbia on Feb. 15, also hold the tiebreaker.
Here’s a side-by-side-by-side look at their remaining games:
Of course, beating the Wildcats at Rupp on Senior Night is next to impossible (though the Bulldogs were the last to do it, with a pretty bad team in 2009 no less). But then the Bulldogs absolutely have to beat the Gamecocks. That’s a task made even more difficult by the fact Georgia will be playing a late Thursday night game on the road and an early-afternoon home game (1:30 p.m.) two days later.
“Obviously it’s a big challenge to go there and play the ‘Cats,” Fox said. “Then we have . . . a quick-turnaround for the Saturday contest versus South Carolina and our Senior Day. Hopefully we can play well.”
If the season were to end today, Georgia would be the 11 seed and Face Alabama in the late game (about 10 p.m.) on March 8. Of course, that’s subject to change by the events of this week.
At the moment, Georgia appears to be playing better than both the teams with which it’s jockeying for position. Auburn has lost five of six since beating the Bulldogs and the UGA win remains the Gamecocks only one in the last nine games.
In retrospect, Georgia is probably going to look back with some regret at those losses to South Carolina and Auburn. In both cases they simply played poorly and and had terrible shooting nights.
As it is, the Bulldogs can control only their future. And after thumping the NCAA tourney-bound Gators, it would appear they will head into the final stretch with a considerable amount of confidence. What that might mean against Kentucky team that manhandled them 57-44 in Athens in January remains to be seen.
“I don’t think it will do much,” Fox said candidly. “I feel our team has been pretty focused on taking things one game at a time and not trying to take the previous game into the next game. Obviously a win over a great Florida team gives us some confidence. But it’s not going to have a whole lot to do with the outcome of the game on Thursday. We’re going to be playing a different team and on the road. We’ll have to pay, extremely, extremely well to have a chance to win the game.”
– Chip Towers, The UGA Blog