Georgia has been in this position before. In fact, it was in this exact same position a year ago.
The Bulldogs are now 12-8 overall, the same exact record it possessed last year through 20 games. With 11 games remaining, the Bulldogs are at a crossroads. While it seemed more than possible to reach the NCAA Tournament just one week ago, those odds have diminished quickly.
But there are opportunities out there to change Georgia’s fortune. The only problem is that the margin for error has slimmed considerably.
Georgia head coach Mark Fox admitted as much after Wednesday’s 80-60 loss to Alabama. That defeat, combined with a loss last Saturday at Texas A&M, gave the Bulldogs two consecutive losses to teams ranked below the top 70 of the RPI.
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It’s an uphill climb from this point, especially with the opponents that remain on Georgia’s schedule.
“The season is so long and there are so many games,” Fox said. “You hit bumps along the way. You have to respond to those bumps. (Wednesday), we didn’t respond well coming into the game.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs face a Texas team in the Big 12/SEC Challenge that holds an 8-12 overall record and is in the midst of a down season. But the Longhorns have been battle tested, having faced five consecutive RPI top 40 teams (all of which were losses) before Monday’s win over Oklahoma.
Georgia can’t afford a loss to Texas at this stage of the season. But the pressure that comes it being a must-win game is compounded by Georgia’s following three outings against Kentucky (away), South Carolina (away) and Florida (home).
Georgia senior guard J.J. Frazier remembers what it felt like last year at this time. Taking the positive approach, he believes that experience can potentially lead to a turnaround.
“We’ve got to reset, relax and look at the big picture,” Frazier said. “Refocus, do what we got to do. We’ve been here before. I’ve been here before. I’ve lost two games in a row a couple of times before in conference play, mainly my sophomore year, that tournament team. As crazy as it sounds, we’ve been here before.”
After starting 12-8 a year ago, the Bulldogs closed their regular season 5-4, which included three consecutive wins. Georgia then picked up two more wins in the SEC Tournament before losing to Kentucky in the semifinals. That late-season run, which saw Georgia win six of its final 10 games, was not enough for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Given the recent history of limited bids for the SEC, Georgia might be in a position where it can’t do any worse than 8-3 in its final 11 games if it’s to have an NCAA Tournament chance. Last year, Georgia had a great strength of schedule but didn’t get enough wins. The same can be applied through 20 games this season.
Frazier knows there will be those down about where this team stands at the moment. He still believes Georgia has what it takes to reverse course and keep last year’s result from repeating itself.
“As crazy as it sounds, we’ve been here before,” Frazier said. “Our leadership is strong. We’re going to be fine. People are going to panic, say whatever. I know the character of my guys. I know the character of myself. I know the character of my coaches. We’re going to be all right.”