Bulldogs head to Bama wondering what might have been

Mark Fox's UGA team has lost four of its last seven regular-season games.
Mark Fox's UGA team has lost four of its last seven regular-season games.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Considering how SEC play started for Georgia, where it sits entering the final game of the regular season has to be viewed as a tremendous accomplishment. But it’s also difficult for the Bulldogs to not think about what might have been.

After Thursday night’s nationally-televised  72-62 win over Kentucky, the Bulldogs (15-15, 9-8 SEC) are guaranteed to finish no worse than .500 in the league. That’s a big deal after starting off 1-4. Georgia won five in a row back in late January and early February and enter Saturday’s game against Alabama (19-11, 11-6)  in Tuscaloosa one skinny point from having won four straight.

Meanwhile, a pair of controversial road losses against Ole Miss and Arkansas are all that stand between the Bulldogs being among the top four teams in the league and playing this weekend for a chance at the coveted double-bye for next week's SEC Tournament in Nashville. Instead Georgia is assured of finishing with a middle seed, anywhere from sixth to ninth, depending on the outcome of Saturday’s game against the Crimson Tide and the teams immediately ahead in the standings.

“We could’ve been in a great situation,” senior center John Florveus said. “We had some crazy games, Ole Miss, Arkansas, the Vanderbilt game. They were all so close, but they also brought us closer together.”

Georgia thought it was a victimized by officials’ calls – or non-calls – in an overtime loss at Ole Miss and a two-point defeat at Arkansas. Both would have gone down as quality road wins.

The Bulldogs also blew a 17-point lead at Vanderbilt and still could have won with a one-point lead in the final seconds. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dribbled the ball off his foot and the Commodores hit a desperation shot with less than a second remaining to score a 63-62 win.

Georgia also got the non-conference season off to an icy-cold start. The Bulldogs still can’t explain those home losses to Youngstown State and Southern Miss.

“We didn’t start the season well,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “But if you’ve watched us the last five or six weeks, we’ve got a pretty good basketball team right now. We’re pretty competitive. We’ve got a ways to go. I’m not saying we’ve arrived. We haven’t done anything. But we’ve become a better basketball team.”

The Bulldogs will look to drive that point home this weekend. Like Kentucky, Alabama has much to play for. The Crimson Tide are in a four-way tie for second in the SEC and hoping to get into the postseason discussion. Georgia led Alabama by a point with just over two minutes to play before the Tide rallied for a 52-45 win on Feb. 12 in Athens. The Bulldogs would love to return the favor by handing Bama its first SEC home loss of the season.

“It’s hard to not think about those close losses because we wanted to be at the top of the SEC, at least in the top four,” senior guard Sherrard Brantley said. “But we can’t do anything about it now. We just have to move forward from here and I think it’s a game we can take.”

As it is, Georgia needs to win and needs Tennessee (home vs. Missouri) and Arkansas (home vs. Texas A&M) to lose to finish sixth in the league. Otherwise a No. 8 seed would appear likely.

But from whence this group came, middle of the pack is not bad.

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