Dawgs Looking for Signature Win

ATHENS – Mark Fox has been through it before. Now he's just trying to guide his players through it.

As the stretch arrives, the Georgia men's basketball team appears to be squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. And one of the most important games for its fate could be the next one, Wednesday at home against No. 18 Vanderbilt.

But Fox isn't just now getting around to talking to his team about playing for the NCAAs. He started doing that last August.

"I've been talking about it all year, because it's not just the last six games," Fox said on Tuesday. "The games in November matter, the games in December matter. So it's something we've talked about."

Those first few months will matter, but for Georgia the finishing stretch looks to be vital.

The Bulldogs are 17-7 overall and 6-4 in the SEC. Their RPI rank as of Tuesday was 39, which is usually safe territory for major-conference teams.

But Georgia also has very few signature wins: Kentucky (14 in the RPI) and UAB (35) rank as the best. So any of the next three games would be a boon to the Bulldogs' resume': Vanderbilt (15 in the RPI), at Tennessee (25) and at Florida (12).

Fox said he doesn't talk to his players about RPI and bracket projections, just in general

"We're trying to position ourselves to make our resume' look as good as we can. I addressed that early with this team, because I felt like it was something that we were gonna have to deal with at this time of year."

Fox said "without question" that it was a challenge to deal with a team not used to playing meaningful games down the stretch. The last time Georgia made the NCAAs as an at-large was 2002.

But Fox has experience with it: Twice his Nevada teams were at-large selections (2005 and 2007).

"The first time I talked to them about a resume' game, which was probably in August, I'm not sure they knew what that was," Fox said. "So they haven't been in this position before. That's not their fault. But it is the first time, so being able to manage that is certainly a challenge."

As the bubble continues to stay weak, the experts continue to have Georgia in fairly safe position:

Jerry Palm (CollegeRPI.com and CBSSports.com) has the Bulldogs as a No. 8 seed

Joe Lunardi (ESPN.com) and Andy Glockner (SI.com) each project Georgia as a No. 10 seed.

Still, the longer the Bulldogs go without more quality wins, the more risk is involved.

There's something else at stake on Wednesday: Georgia and Vanderbilt are tied for second in the East, so the winner could have inside track for a first-round bye in the SEC tournament.

"That's the reason we don't look past (Vanderbilt): We want second place in our league right now, only winning (Wednesday) is gonna do that for us," Georgia forward Trey Thompkins said. "Vandy's a tough team that's a great shooting team, a great defensive team the first time we played them. And that's how we expect them to be in Athens."


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