ATHENS — The SEC wanted a more competitive league in men’s basketball. Well, it’s got it.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, there’s a logjam in the middle. Ten teams in the 14-team league have won between 6 and 8 conference games with three more to play. That has resulted in a six-team tie for third place — just two wins out of second place or two losses out of 12th — and a three-way tie for fifth, just two losses away dead last.
Confused? It’ll work itself out. Tiebreakers will determine places for the upcoming SEC Tournament in St. Louis (March 7-11). For now, everybody’s just trying to find a way to claw out a win, and that’s what LSU and Georgia will be doing when they meet for the second time this season on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (15-12, 6-9) won the first meeting, but just barely (61-60 in Baton Rouge on Jan. 16). They are currently in a three-way for fifth, but that also can be described as one game out of last place. LSU has one more conference win and is fourth in the current standings. But depending on how it all shakes out, the Tigers could end up being seeded anywhere from second to 14th for the tournament.
“There’s no easy games, there’s no chance to catch your breath,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Everyone is going to be 16, 17, 18, 19 wins except for a couple in the low 20s.”
With one win or a Tennessee (20-7, 10-5) loss, Auburn (24-4, 12-3) will lock up the No. 1 seed.
Everybody else is bunched in the middle, and that’s not where the Bulldogs expected to be this season. The expectation was to be headed the NCAA tournament. There remains a path there but it’s slippery and dangerous.
With its midweek loss at South Carolina, Georgia dropped its second game to the Gamecocks and thus loses any tiebreaker. But it could gain an edge with a second win over LSU and by Texas A&M in the home finale Wednesday night. The season ends on the road at Tennessee.
“I think if we got to 9-9 (in SEC play) we’d have a great chance,” said Fox, looking for just his third in NCAA bid in nine seasons at UGA. “But we have no idea what’s important. It’s a moving target.”
The first step is LSU, which is a tough matchup for Georgia despite having already won in Baton Rouge on a last-second basket from Yante Maten. The Tigers are typically a high-scoring, guard-oriented team. Led by point guard Tremont Waters (15.2 poing, 5.9 assists per game), they average 77.5 points with balanced scoring and are coming off a 64.5 percent shooting performance in a win over Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs’ are averaging an SEC-worst 68.3 points despite having the league’s best power forward. Maten (19.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg) leads the SEC in scoring average and had 21 and 12 rebounds in the last matchup. He just needs to find some help, particularly from the perimeter.
Meanwhile LSU has struggled on the road, losing its last five away from Pete Maravich Arena, three by double-digits. Georgia is expecting its fourth consecutive Saturday sellout at home.
So, expect it to be like almost every other SEC game this year, close and unpredictable. Just the way the league likes it.
Georgia-LSU basketball: Game info, details
- Time: Tip-off is at 2 p.m. ET
- Date: February 24, 2018
- Location: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens.
- Records: Georgia 15-12 overall, 6-9 SEC; LSU 16-11 overall, 7-8 SEC.
How can I watch the game?
The game can be watched on ESPU.
How can I live stream the game?
The game can be seen on the WatchESPN app. (Cable or satellite subscription required.)
Projected Bulldogs starting lineup
- Guard: Junior Turtle Jackson
- Guard: Senior Juwan Parker
- Forward: Freshman Nicolas Claxton
- Forward: Senior Yante Maten
- Forward: Freshman Rayshaun Hammonds
What’s next for Georgia?
Georgia plays Texas A&M on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m.