The Bulldogs are 9-5 overall and 0-1 in the conference heading into today's 7:30 p.m. game against Alabama in Stegeman Coliseum. Using the traditional benchmark of 20 wins as the realistic cutoff point for a shot at receiving an at-large NCAA bid, that means Georgia must go at least 11-4 in the remainder of its SEC games.
"I think we're very capable of doing that," sophomore center Albert Jackson said. "We have a great group of guys, and we have the talent to do it."
History is not on their side, though. Georgia hasn't counted that many conference victories since the 1990 season. (The Bulldogs won 11 SEC games in 2003 but had to forfeit those due to NCAA violations.)
The Bulldogs may have to win more than 20 games to draw the attention of the NCAA selection committee. They are currently 181 in the projected RPI with a schedule that is ranked 250th in the country.
Georgia has more bad losses – to East Tennessee State (126 in the RPI) and Tulane (130 in the RPI) – than good wins -- over Wake Forest (64 in the RPI), and the SEC is not considered very strong this year (fifth among conferences in the RPI) so wins in the league will be valued accordingly.
"We don't really set minimum standards or things like that, but (the NCAA Tournament) is definitely on our minds," senior guard Billy Humphrey said. "We try not to harp on it too much, but it's definitely a goal. We just have to be consistent. There are times when we can play with almost anybody, and there are times when we're not competing at a level that best represents us.
Georgia is coming off a 60-49 loss to Mississippi State in which it had the lowest field goal percentage of the Dennis Felton era (24.6 percent). That performance came immediately after a 79-72 win over Georgia Tech, which Jackson described as one of the team's best offensive efforts of the season.
"I think our main thing right now is to stay tough and stay consistent," Humphrey said. "There is not one thing to blame it on. If you can play at a certain level one game, you can certainly do it another game."
Alabama (11-6, 0-2) is equally desperate for a win and could be without starting forward Richard Hendrix, who injured his ankle against Arkansas on Sunday. Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried, who has two former Georgia assistants on his staff (James Holland as an assistant coach and Jeff Dunlap as director of basketball operations), said Monday he was unsure of Hendrix's status for tonight's game.
The Bulldogs will have extra motivation tonight when they look back on last year's 78-76 loss to the Crimson Tide, which ended in a controversial basket at the buzzer.
"We definitely have it on our mind that we owe Alabama one," Humphrey said.
NOTE: With four assists tonight, point guard Sundiata Gaines would move past Pertha Robinson and Vern Fleming and into fourth all-time on the team's career assists chart.