Dean Legge/Dawg Post

Critical Test Arrives for UGA, Fox

ATHENS - The biggest game of the early season has arrived for Georgia’s basketball team.

The fight with Marquette on Sunday provides a very good opportunity to beat a quality team, and thats important because there are not a ton of those on the Dawgs’ schedule. Marquette’s RPI is low right now (174), but it should climb as the season goes on. Texas (214) is losing its luster with a slow 3-3 start to the season. South Carolina (13) and the Gators (4) have surprised of late, so they are higher than one might have thought at the start of the season. Needless to say, Kentucky (25) is a major opportunity, but a rather difficult one. Splitting those four home games will show real progress in the program. But losing three or more would be par for the course. 

Beating Kentucky seems out of reach for most nonprofessional basketball teams. The Gators have played well, but they might be beatable in Athens. The Chickens have played well early this season, but UGA seems to have their number of late. 

That leaves Marquette. The Golden Eagles are 5-2, but are 1-2 against teams you would know - that’s probably why their RPI is so very low. They blistered Vandy before falling to Michigan and Pitt on back-to-back nights in November. Marquette hasn’t played a true road game yet. Unlike the Dawgs, Marquette has a slew of high-level PRI foes thanks to being in the Big East. 

Let me add that Georgia, sitting at No. 95 in Friday’s RPI, has to jump start this season with wins that matter, and the Marquette game will matter one way or the other by the time this thing is said and done. 

There’s a lot left in this season, but its fair to say that this is one of Georgia’s biggest games of the year. I’m not sure we can say that for Marquette. Will that matter once the game is tipped? Can Marquette figure out how to stop Yante Maten? Is UGA going to shoot better from 3-point land?

Questions aside - this is a heck of an opportunity for Georgia. The Bulldogs have played well at home of late. Last season, the Dawgs blew out Georgia Tech and Clemson at home in December. In 2014, Georgia beat Colorado and Seton Hall in Athens in December. The only home loss in December here lately came last season against Kansas State. 

So we know that Georgia can play well at home in December against big-name programs. The truth is that if Fox and company can get this win under their belts they could be in for a long run of wins. KenPom.com, which analyses basketball like very few other places, says that if the Bulldogs beat Marquette (and it predicts that UGA will win 74-73) they will win 11 games in a row. That would include wins over vs. Marquette, at Georgia Tech, at Oakland, at Auburn and vs. South Carolina.

That would put Georgia, sitting at 14-2, well past the bubble and into the NCAAs. But there’s a lot of unknown in there - namely the unknown that this team will play better in order to get some of those wins. Wins on the road, too, have been difficult to come by for Fox. Assuming or even predicting the Bulldogs could get on that sort of run is naive. 

Still, they have the chance… but only with a win on Sunday.


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