ATHENS -- For a team that has had so many travel issues this season, and had to scramble again Tuesday, road games have gone pretty well for the Georgia men’s basketball team.
When they take the court Wednesday night at Mississippi, Georgia will carry a 6-4 record in true road games, including four win in SEC play. After Saturday’s win at Alabama, a student manager compiled a list of all the places that Georgia has won in Mark Fox’s six seasons as head coach: every current SEC arena except Florida, Kentucky and Auburn.
Fox doesn’t have an explanation for it.
“If there’s a magic formula, we’re not sharing it with anybody,” he said.
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Georgia will have a chance to take Auburn off the list March 7 in a game setting up to have huge implications for the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament hopes. But a win at Ole Miss could make the Auburn game necessary only for seeding.
Georgia (17-9, 8-6 SEC, RPI rank of 37) likely needs two wins in its final four regular-season games to be in good shape for an NCAA bid. The most likely win comes Saturday against Missouri, the SEC’s worst team. The second one will be harder to come by, with No. 1 Kentucky visiting next week, and while Auburn has a losing record, it already won in Athens.
Ole Miss (19-8, 10-4, RPI of 34) will also offer a stiff challenge but also an opportunity.
“We’ve got some quality wins,” Fox said. “We’ve just gotta try to get more.”
Georgia’s play on the road could be its top argument to the NCAA selection committee. Besides the four wins in SEC play, the win at Chattanooga (RPI rank of 108) looks better now, and Georgia also won at Kansas State, which has an RPI of 92 and just knocked off Kansas.
The Bulldogs also played well at Kentucky, despite the absence of leading scorer Marcus Thornton, and had a big lead in overtime at LSU, only to lose that game.
So the Bulldogs at least go to Ole Miss with a dose of confidence. They’re also moving closer to full health.
Thornton, not quite himself after missing two games with a concussion, seems to be back to his old form. Point guard J.J. Frazier, who missed a game last week with a concussion, made his first 3-pointer in four games Saturday.
And Juwan Parker, who has missed 12 straight games with an Achilles problem, is “improving,” according to Fox. While Parker, a sophomore small forward, likely will require offseason surgery, the hope is he can contribute down the stretch. A decision on his status for the Ole Miss game will be determined Wednesday.
“He’s been dressed out for emergency-only,” Fox said. “(Wednesday) will tell us a lot about how past that we are. We’re getting close to being past that.”
Fox spoke just before noon on Tuesday as the team was scrambling to get to Oxford, which has been hit by bad weather. The Oxford airport is closed and is not scheduled to re-open until Thursday. So the Bulldogs flew into Memphis on Tuesday and then will bus about an hour away to Oxford.
The Bulldogs have had a lot of travel problems this year -- but mainly after games. They had to bus back from Tuscaloosa during the weekend because their charter plane had mechanical problems. Coming back from Vanderbilt, the team had to rent cars from Atlanta to Athens. And after the Kentucky game the team had to wait two hours for its plane to be ready.
“I don’t think this one’s a big deal,” Fox said.