This isn’t anything new for Georgia basketball. Actually it’s pretty familiar: It enters SEC play with plenty of work to do if it wants to make the NCAA tournament.
This time it just may be a little more disappointing.
Georgia (8-4) takes the floor Thursday night at Auburn needing to string together some victories to even get on the national radar. But as head coach Mark Fox pointed out, there’s plenty of time left.
“It’s really your entire body of work at the end of the day that is measured,” Fox said.
Georgia’s numbers aren’t actually that bad, despite the disappointing start. It ranked 58th in the RPI as of Wednesday, and 29th nationally in strength of schedule. But it only has one top 100 win (UNC-Asheville) and two wins away from home (George Washington and Georgia Tech.) It has two losses to teams currently outside the top 100: Marquette (104) and Oakland (170).
“This team has to prove it all over again. Our hope is a challenging non-league schedule will have prepared us for league play. But we have to grow from the experiences we’ve had,” Fox said. “If we do use the first 12 games as experiences for growth and get better, then we’ll look back and say it was beneficial to us.”
It’s hard to say for sure before it all plays out, but right now here’s the best guess at the formula for Georgia making the NCAA tournament:
A record of at least 11-7 in SEC play, with three-to-four wins both on the road and against top 50 RPI teams. A home win against Texas on Jan. 30, the one remaining non-conference game, would also be important.
If Georgia’s recent history is an indication, getting those 11 wins is easily attainable. Fox’s teams have gotten better as the season goes on, and have double-digit SEC wins in each of the past three seasons.
But it could be harder this year because the SEC is deeper. It’s not just Kentucky and everyone else.
Five SEC teams were in the RPI top 50 as of Wednesday, and Auburn (53) was close. Georgia plays Auburn and three of those top 50 teams twice: Kentucky, Florid and South Carolina.
That means getting those wins will be a challenge. But it also means an opportunity to climb out of its hole.
“We’re trying to put our numbers in the best position we can,” Fox said. “And really at this point all we can do is get the most wins we can.”