ATHENS — Georgia basketball was among the “Final Four” SEC teams playing in the postseason.

That’s the answer for Bulldogs’ fans if anyone asks them about the direction of Georgia basketball.

Yes, really.

Who knows, maybe the March Madness will continue for Coach Mike White this afternoon when the Bulldogs play at Wake Forest in a 4 p.m. tip (TV: ESPN) in Winston-Salem.

More importantly, maybe Georgia is building a winning culture in basketball.

The NCAA basketball portal window is open, priming hundreds of players to transfer in what amounts to a free agent frenzy.

But these Bulldogs are still competing together with a cause, and White said he’s yet to work on retaining players.

“No, never before the ball stops bouncing for this team,” White said. “We’re focused on potentially advancing, putting our best foot forward to be as competitive as we can be on the road at Wake (Forest). That’s it.

Georgia (18-16) already knocked out one basketball school, eliminating Xavier 78-76 last Tuesday in Athens.

Did you know that Xavier had been 9-0 in first-round NIT games before that loss and won that tourney two years ago? Don’t try to say that game didn’t matter.

And, how about White in opening tourney games as a head coach? He’s now 9-0 in first-round NCAA (4-0) and NIT (5-0) games in his career. It’s more than coincidence.

Things got tight last Tuesday, for sure, but only after Georgia played some of its best basketball of the season building a 23-point lead on the Big East school.

The proud Musketeers, a Sweet 16 team last season under Sean Miller, scraped back to within two points as the game wound down.

But White won the chess match in the final minute, and Georgia players made the plays to win the game.

An RJ Melendez steal with 50 seconds left led to Silas Demary Jr.’s drive to the rim through contact (no whistle), and then there was that Russel Tchewa blocked shot with 1.9 seconds left that preserved the win.

Those were game-winning plays at any level, NIT or NCAA.

White acknowledges the NIT tournament isn’t the goal, but he also understands the importance of building a winning culture and generating program momentum.

“Our guys continue to like being around one another and have productive practices,” White said of the days leading up to this afternoon’s big challenge.

Georgia did beat Wake Forest earlier this season, but that was in Athens, and the Demon Deacons are a much different and better team at home.

Georgia will play to keep it close and take its chances, the team 9-8 in one possession games in the final five minutes.

It might not be the Big Dance, but Georgia basketball took a step this season by beating Xavier for its first postseason tourney win in eight years, earning a shot to upset Wake Forest in an ESPN-televised game.

Here’s a look at the SEC teams that were eliminated from the NCAA tournament without winning a game:

First Round NCAA SEC losses

Michigan State 69, Mississippi State 51

Oregon 87, South Carolina 73

Colorado 102, Florida 100

Oakland 80, Kentucky 76

Yale 78, Auburn 76

Here are the SEC teams still playing in the NCAA tournament:

Tennessee (Sweet 16 vs. Creighton, TBA, Friday)

Texas A&M (Round of 32 vs. Houston, 8:40 p.m. Sunday)

Alabama (round of 32 vs. Grand Canyon, 7:10 p.m. Sunday)