ATHENS – Never mind the RPI. Never mind the schedule strength, how past opponents are doing, or any other criteria for the NCAA tournament. Georgia is too far off that radar right now.
The Bulldogs, after an embarrassment at home, just need to win. And they need to win a lot of games, not just a few.
“I can’t control the (RPI) numbers. All I can control is my effort,” Georgia junior guard J.J. Frazier said. “We’ve got to win games. Simple as that.”
Frazier said that after last Saturday’s 34-point shellacking at the hands of Texas A&M, the worst margin of defeat in Mark Fox’s seven years as Georgia’s head coach. Texas A&M might be the best team in the SEC. But it’s not winning every game by 34 points.
When this year began Georgia had a good chance of making a second straight NCAA tournament for only the fourth time in program history. Instead Fox’s team arrived at the halfway mark 9-6, and with so much work to do that the NIT may not take the Bulldogs if the season ended now.
That’s not to say Georgia’s situation is hopeless.
This time last year Georgia was 10-5, and ended up making the tournament with room to spare. Now the Bulldogs are just one off that mark, with three of those losses coming by a combined five points. Turn around one or two of those, and things look much less bleak.
But they can’t go back. So they have to make up for it with a bunch of wins, and some quality ones sprinkled in. They have to make up somehow with the stink that a 34-point home loss will leave on its look test.
“I don’t want to drag this loss necessarily into the next game,” Fox said. “We have to use this loss as a way to get better. And we should have the same mentality entering every SEC game, whether we come off a loss like this or a win like we had (against Tennessee.)”
This week’s two games almost certainly have to be wins if Georgia is to get back on track: Missouri (8-9), which Georgia visits on Wednesday, is one of the worst teams in the league, while Arkansas (9-8), which visits on Saturday, is down from last year.
The problem for the Bulldogs is they don’t seem to know what they’re getting every game from their best players. The exception is sophomore center Yante Maten, who is averaging 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and was the only player who showed up in the first half against Texas A&M.
Otherwise, Frazier and senior guards Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann have been inconsistent, struggling in the blowout losses to Florida and Texas A&M.
Fox benched his veterans with plenty of time left in the Texas A&M game, trying to send a message. He said after the game that changes might be made, though he said he didn’t want to over-react to one loss.
But Fox was also blunt when asked how long his team should remember the debacle.
“Hopefully for a long time,” Fox said. “You shouldn’t forget the taste of losing. You shouldn’t forget that.”