ATHENS -- This week has been the darkest time of an otherwise good season for the Georgia men’s basketball team. And there has been no effort to downplay the situation.
“You can’t paint a picture for how (ticked) off I am,” head coach Mark Fox said Friday, adding “excuse my language,” because he used a harsher word than “ticked.”
Nemanja Djurisic, one of the team’s two seniors, put it another way.
“We are a team that needs to get better, and we all know that. We hit a slump. A big one,” he said.
Georgia will take a two-game losing streak to Alabama on Saturday night, with both losses coming at home against bottom-tier SEC teams. That has taken the Bulldogs from comfortably in the NCAA tournament to scramble mode.
Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com is among the many analysts who still has Georgia (16-9, 7-6 SEC, RPI rank of 40) in his projected NCAA bracket, with a No. 11 seed. But Palm, in a post Friday, accurately summed up the Bulldogs by saying, “Georgia is a team going in the wrong direction at the wrong time.”
That sets up Saturday’s game as potentially the most critical of the stretch run. Get a win and the team is at least temporarily back on track, and there are a couple of winnable games left. Three wins down the stretch probably would be enough to get Georgia in the tournament.
But a loss at Alabama (15-10, 6-7, RPI rank of 68) would put Georgia in an even bigger hole. The Bulldogs would probably either have to win at Mississippi or at home against No. 1 Kentucky to at least be in decent position heading into the SEC tournament.
During other lulls this season -- Georgia has had three other two-game losing streaks -- the team has preached patience and taking the long view. Not this time.
“It’s not business as usual. We’re not playing well,” Fox said.
When asked what kind of message he has tried to convey, Fox answered, “That’s between me and my team.”
It would help to get J.J. Frazier back, and there’s a chance the sophomore point guard will be able to play Saturday. Frazier, the team’s fifth-leading scorer, missed Tuesday’s loss to South Carolina with a concussion.
Fox said “we’ll see” about Frazier, who has been practicing. But Fox expects sophomore Juwan Parker to miss a 12th straight game because of Achilles tendon problems.
Georgia has struggled twice in a row after losing a key player to a concussion. It went 0-2 while Marcus Thornton was out, then lost the first game after Frazier’s injury. But earlier this season, after Yante Maten’s concussion and Parker’s Achilles injury, the team responded with a road win at Vanderbilt.
That determination needs to return, Fox said, and his players agreed.
“We got in a little spat there, and we just haven’t played well. I know that sounds trivial and like a typical answer, but we just haven’t played well together,” Thornton said.
Some of that is on Thornton, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder who hasn’t played well since he returned from the concussion.
“Obviously there are things I need to work on,” Thornton said.
That goes for the entire team.