Tonight, a national television audience will see if either team can make use of its newly rediscovered skills in back-to-back games. Neither can afford to regress to its old ways.
Alabama ranked 11th in the Southeastern Conference in shooting before making a season-best 53-percent of its attempts from the field in a badly needed 84-68 home win over Auburn Saturday night.
After a brief stint as the nation's top-ranked team, Alabama (14-7 overall, 4-6 SEC) now is struggling to improve its status as an NCAA tournament bubble team. No longer ranked, Alabama may need to pull even in conference games to move into the NCAA tournament field, and to reach .500 it can't afford a home conference loss.
"We can all speculate, but basically we just need to keep winning games and we'll all see in the end,'' Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said Monday.
The Crimson Tide plays host to No. 22 Georgia (14-7 overall, 6-4 SEC) tonight at 9 ET. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Georgia ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense, but it held high-scoring Matt Freije to eight points and limited the Commodores to 33.9 percent shooting in an 83-70 win over Vanderbilt Saturday.
The aggressive man-to-man defense employed by the Bulldogs contributed to the deluge of 61 fouls called in the ugly win Saturday, but that's a price Harrick will gladly pay if it brings renewed defensive intensity from the Bulldogs.
"I thought our defensive intensity was outstanding,'' Harrick said.Still a strong No. 5 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), No. 1 in strength of schedule and among the nation's Top 25 in the AP poll, Georgia is not considered a bubble team. Still, Harrick wants to build momentum for the postseason and earn a good seed in the NCAA field.
"It's a big game for both teams,'' Harrick said. "We're trying to get to 18, 19 or 20 wins and they're trying to get to where they have a good record in the league. They had a monster game against Auburn and certainly figured out all the problems they had been having.''
Georgia is 4-0 against SEC West teams but is only 1-4 on the road in conference games this year. The Bulldogs have won only 11 of 58 games played in Tuscaloosa, but they had a four-game winning streak at Coleman Coliseum before losing in their last visit in 2001. Alabama then beat Georgia in Athens, 76-68, last season.
The Crimson Tide had lost seven of 10 before recovering with the big win over Auburn as Erwin Dudley scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
"Obviously, we feel a little better about ourselves after beating Auburn, but in this league there's no time to relax,'' Gottfried said. "Georgia is an excellent team. ... We have a little momentum from the (Auburn) game and hopefully we can build on that.''
Due to the limited availability of its charter plane, the Bulldogs left Athens Monday afternoon with plans to practice at Alabama Monday night. The team will have a full day in Tuscaloosa before tonight's game.