The Georgia Bulldogs (15-15,9-8) are coming off consecutive home upsets over Tennessee and Kentucky that have them in a position to finish the regular season with a winning record, both overall and in conference.
In his latests SEC Power Rankings, ESPN’s Myron Medcalf slated the Dawgs at the #7 position in the league, calling them “dream killers” for their recent home victories inside Stegeman.
For Georgia to get above .500 on the season, though, they must accomplish something that no other SEC team has been able to do this season: win at Alabama.
The Tide (19-11, 11-6) are a perfect 8-0 in Tuscaloosa this year, and they could jump to a 2nd place finish in the league with a win over Georgia on Saturday if a few teams ahead them were to lose.
While Bama has struggled lately, losing three of their last four games, it should be noted that all of those losses came on the road.
Over the past five games, however, junior point guard Trevor Releford has been playing his best basketball of the season, scoring more than 20 points a game and connecting on 11 of 22 shots from beyond the arc.
In the first match-up between these two teams, Georgia managed to keep Releford in check, holding him to 9 points on just 3 field goal attempts. Alabama won that game though, suffocating UGA defensively, holding Georgia to only 45 points and below 31% from the floor.
Team defense has been both of these teams’ bread and butter this year in league play, with Alabama (59.8) and Georgia (62.4) ranking 2nd and 4th in the conference, respectively, in points allowed in SEC games. No doubt Saturday’s contest will be any different, and the team that gets to 60 points first just may win this one.
Coach Mark Fox has been able to guide this team and help them grow as this season has progressed in a way that has seen them improve in some very critical areas of the game: scoring, rebounding and turnovers.
Through the first 16 games of the season, CMF’s team managed to average only 59.7 ppg, yet in the last 14 contests they have increased their output to over 62 points a night. UGA has also seen a marginal improvement in team rebounds over the same spans of games.
The most significant gain that this Bulldog team has enjoyed since the beginning of SEC play is in their ability to value the basketball. Through the first eight conference games, UGA was turning the ball over nearly 16 times a game, but in the last nine contests Georgia is only giving it away 13 times a night, limiting opposing teams field goal attempts.
Alabama played last Tuesday and they should be well-rested for their home finale. The Dawgs, on the other hand, will be playing on just a day’s rest after beating Kentucky in Athens late Thursday evening.
A UGA win on Saturday coupled with a Tennessee or Arkansas would see the Dawgs head into next week’s SEC tournament with the 7-seed. Should both those teams lose tomorrow – and Georgia wins – the Dawgs could move as high as the 6-seed.