ATHENS, Ga. — With fans behind him still applauding his team's sweep of Kentucky, Georgia coach Jim Harrick already was looking ahead.
Said Harrick after Saturday's win, daring to dream big: "If it breaks right, we could get a piece of the East.''
At the time, Harrick may have been one of the few thinking about his team's chances of actually winning the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference. Saturday's 78-69 win over then-No. 10 Kentucky was about reclaiming second place in the division.
When Harrick spoke, he did not know Florida would fall at Mississippi 68-51 later in the day. Thanks to that game, Georgia — which moved to No. 18 in Monday's Associated Press poll — is only one-half game behind Florida in the division.
Harrick will be cheering for Auburn when it visits Florida Wednesday night. Georgia (19-7 overall, 8-5 in the SEC) is off until visiting Louisiana State Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
If Auburn can upset the Gators (19-5, 8-4), Georgia would be tied for first. If Florida wins, it would be a full game ahead of the Bulldogs with each team having three more regular-season games to play.
The schedule may favor Georgia. After Saturday's game at LSU, it plays host to South Carolina and then closes its regular season at Tennessee. After Wednesday night's game against Auburn, Florida plays at Alabama next Saturday in a match of division leaders before playing host to Tennessee and closing at Kentucky on March 2.
While Georgia does not have a game left against a team that now has a winning record in SEC games, Florida does not play a team that not has a losing record. (Tennessee now is 6-6 in the SEC.)
LSU, coming off wins over Mississippi State and Arkansas last week, will not be an easy place for Georgia to visit on Saturday. At least the Bulldogs will have the benefit of the off week and the confidence boost supplied by the big home win over Kentucky.
A year ago, Georgia was a bubble team in the NCAA tournament picture. This year, the win over Kentucky affirmed Georgia's status as a lock. The last two weeks will be geared toward making a final run at Florida and landing a high seed in the NCAA field.
"We didn't want to leave any doubt (with the NCAA tournament selection committee),'' Harrick said.
Harrick gave his team two days away from basketball Sunday and Monday, and he was anxiously looking forward to a long-awaited three straight days of practice with his full squad — free at least for now from suspensions and injuries.
"That's what I like to do ... I'll be the most excited guy out here,'' Harrick said.
Thanks to its first sweep over Kentucky since the Georgia team remembered as "The Miracle Workers'' managed the feat in the 1986-87 season, the Bulldogs can still talk about championships when they return to practice.
Said Jarvis Hayes after scoring 19 points against Kentucky: "With a full team, no suspensions, no nothing, we can play with anybody. ... All the goals we set at the start of the season are still there for us.''