Dawgs need signature win against Pitt or Tech

As Georgia left Phillips Arena Saturday night they left behind them the sour taste of a loss to a virtual no-name in the world of big name basketball.

And while the Dawgs improved their record to 5-2 they saw in the game before them how difficult their season will be when January rolls around.

Georgia Tech put on an impressive show in front of a partisan crowd of more than 11,000. The Yellow Jackets are one of 3 ranked teams that Georgia will face in a row from December 30 to January 17. Kentucky, Tech, and Pittsburgh will all be ranked going into their contests with Georgia. South Carolina will likely crack the top 25 if they continue to win; the Gamecocks are undefeated on the season.

So the road before the Dawgs is a difficult one. The goal is to get back to the NCAA Tournament and that will take at least an upset win over Tech or Pitt to make the SEC schedule manageable.

In order for the Dawgs to get into the NCAA they will need at least 19 wins. They currently stand at 5-2 and have dates with South Alabama and Charleston Southern in the next 8 days. Both of those games are must wins.

That would move Georgia's record to 7-2. The Dawgs must at least split the games with Tech and Pitt (8-3) before they enter SEC play. Should Georgia go .500 in the SEC they likely will not make it to the NCAAs due to their pre-conference schedule and their end of the season record.

A 16-11 record going into the SEC tournament will not get Georgia where it needs to be. They will have to make it at least to the semifinals of the SEC tournament; a place that no player on this team has been before.

What Georgia needs is a signature win. The Dawgs need a win that is as good as the Winthrop game was bad. Pitt and Tech provide that opportunity.

Georgia travels to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers (a team that they beat last season) and hosts Tech in Athens. Both games are winnable and Georgia might need both for credentials later in the season if they only manage 8 wins in the difficult SEC.

However, the Dawgs can not continue to play the way that they are right now; sometime must change. The only way that Georgia can get into the NCAAs is by freshman players stepping up.

"They have to know that we need them to step up," said Jonas Hayes after Georgia's 61-56 win over Clemson.

He's right. The seniors are pulling their weight. Hayes is giving 14 and 6; Daniels is nearly averaging a double-double; Wright has stepped up his scoring to 18 per game; and Wilkins is giving Georgia 13 and 6 each night.

But the freshman have been hit or miss.

Levi Stukes has been the most productive freshman thus far but has been on and off. He played 16 minutes against the Tigers and managed only 4 points. Buzz Wehunt is playing plenty of minutes but is not scoring consistently. And Steve Newman, who has scored career highs two games in a row, is just now coming on.

Georgia's success in the future will depend on the play on its freshman and their ability to pick up where the seniors leave off. The elder statesmen of the team must be allowed to get some rest during the games and foul trouble will likely rear its ugly head at some point in time soon as well.

If the freshman can't step up night in and night out all of my scenarios about Georgia making it to the NCAA will be far fetched. If they don't step up the Dawgs will struggle to make the NIT.

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