Bulldogs put 5-game win streak on line vs. Bama

Georgia’s current hot streak hasn’t gone unnoticed outside the region. Even national pundits such as ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who spends most of his time focused on teams expected to dance deep into March, has watched with interest as the Bulldogs have won five straight to climb up the SEC standings.

“I watch them,” Bilas said as he prepared to provide analysis for Monday night’s game between No. 15 Georgetown and No. 18 Marquette in Washington, D.C. “I think they’re going to finish the year really well. I don’t think this five-game streak that they’re on is some sort of anomaly. I think they’re going to continue to play better as long as they stay healthy. They’ve got a ways to go to be an NCAA tournament team, but by the end of the year I think they’ll be able to play with whoever they play.”

As for coach Mark Fox and the Bulldogs, they just hope they can play with Alabama on Tuesday night. Winners of five in a row and six of its last seven, Georgia (12-11, 6-4 SEC) plays host to the Crimson Tide (15-8, 7-3) in a nationally-televised game with a 9 p.m., primetime tipoff.

After losing seven of their first nine games this season and opening SEC play 0-3, the Bulldogs have definitely turned it around. But they will soon find out if that change of fortunes is the result of raw improvement or simply a product of the fortuitous scheduling.

Georgia’s win streak has come against SEC teams ranked 71 or worse in ESPN’s latest RPI rankings. In fact, one of the Bulldogs’ losses was to No. 223 Mississippi State. But that soft patch is now over.

Four of their Georgia’s final eight SEC games are against teams in the top 63. That starts with the 63rd-ranked Crimson Tide, which is currently fourth in the SEC, one spot ahead of Georgia. The challenge will continue on Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to Oxford to take on No. 47 Ole Miss (18-5, 12-3).

“We’ve had one focus the entire year -- the next game,” Fox said. “Just concentrate on the next game. We need to have a good day today; that’s all these young guys can handle. We can’t handle any bigger picture than that.”

Now that the Bulldogs have strung together some Ws, it’s easy to look back at the early portion of the non-conference schedule and wonder what could have been. Georgia suffered potentially disastrous losses to Youngstown State, which is now 11-11 and has an RPI ranking of 169, Iona (15-10, No. 123) and South Florida (10-13, 106). The Bulldogs also had an overtime home loss to Southern Miss (16-6, 47), which retrospectively is more forgivable given the Golden Eagles’ fortunes since then.

Flip those results and Georgia would be well-positioned for postseason play at this juncture. Of course, Fox won’t entertain such thoughts.

“Well, we lost two overtime games and free throws were costly,” Fox said. “But you can’t live life backwards. That’s why the rear-view mirror is smaller than a windshield. You just have to learn your lessons and keep moving forward.”

Realistically, Georgia will need to win at least five of their final eight SEC games to even get consideration as an NIT bubble team. Teams generally have to attain a Top 40 RPI ranking to get NCAA tournament at-large consideration. And, of course, they could always win next month's SEC Tournament in Nashville. But Florida and Kentucky will likely have something to say about that.

Bilas said before the season he thought Fox’s coaching acumen coupled with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s special abilities and the infusion of some young talent would have the Bulldogs in a better position at this point.

“I actually think Mark Fox is one of the best coaches in the country,” Bilas said. “I used to watch him when he was at Nevada and wonder why he was at Nevada. I think he’s phenomenal. I thought some of their guys would come along a little quicker this year, so I was a little surprised. But the rest of this year and the year after, they’re set up to really do well.”

IT’S NOT FOOTBALL

Georgia’s win streak has been against SEC teams ranked 71 or worse in the latest RPI rankings, one league loss was to No. 223 Miss. State, and four of their final eight SEC games are against teams in the top 63. (Source:ESPN)

Rank, Team (Rec)

  • 5. Florida (19-3)
  • 32. Missouri (17-6)
  • 44. Kentucky (17-6)
  • 47. Ole Miss (18-5)
  • 63. Alabama (15-8)
  • 71. Texas A&M (14-9)
  • 80. Tennessee (12-10)
  • 92. Arkansas (14-9)
  • 107. LSU (13-8)
  • 110. Georgia (12-11)
  • 145. Vanderbilt (9-13)
  • 204. Auburn (9-14)
  • 205. South Carolina (12-11)
  • 223. Miss. State (7-15)

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