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Saturday, February 9, 2013
Bulldogs among SEC's hottest teams

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Don’t look now, but Georgia is all of a sudden one of the hottest teams in the SEC.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is leading the Bulldogs, scoring 17.8 points a game and 6.4 rebounds a game.
Entering today’s 5 p.m. game against Texas A&M (14-8, 4-5 SEC) at Stegeman Coliseum, Coach Mark Fox's Bulldogs (11-11, 5-4) have won four in a row, all in SEC play. That matches Kentucky for the league’s longest active winning streak.

But the streak has greater historical relevance than simply where it ranks this season in the SEC. It’s the longest regular-season SEC winning streak for Georgia in a decade, dating back to February 2003 when the Bulldogs beat Vanderbilt, Alabama, South Carolina and Ole Miss in consecutive games during Jim Harrick’s final season as coach.

Of course, Georgia has a more recent winning streak against league opponents -- in 2008, when the Bulldogs won all four of its games in the tornado-impacted SEC tournament in Atlanta, claiming an unlikely spot in the NCAA tournament -- but a winning streak of such length is highly unusual at Georgia in recent decades.

Should the Bulldogs beat Texas A&M and Alabama (14-8, 6-3) at Stegeman on Wednesday, their six-game SEC winning streak would be Georgia’s longest since 2000-2001 -- a streak that included wins against three ranked teams and two top-10 teams (Tennessee and Florida) -- and would mark just the second time in the last two decades that Georgia won six straight against SEC opposition.

The streak is already notable in that Georgia’s recent teams have rarely won more than a couple of consecutive games in SEC play at any point. In the last five seasons, Georgia never won more than two games in a row during regular-season SEC play.

But after a dismal start to the season, it will likely take a great deal more success for the Bulldogs to play their way into NCAA tournament consideration. Having already played three of its toughest conference games -- Florida twice and a road trip to Missouri -- Georgia is trending toward a winning SEC record. The Bulldogs still lack a marquee win and sit way down the board in the key RPI standings, however.

Georgia is 112th in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s Daily RPI standings with an 0-6 record against top-50 teams -- 0-3 against teams from 1-25 and 0-3 against teams from 26-50. Georgia’s 9-4 record since mid-December is without question a step in the right direction, but the Bulldogs probably need to perform extremely well in the SEC tournament and post some wins against the top remaining opponents for the NCAA tournament to even be worth discussing.

Here’s where Georgia’s remaining opponents rank in Lunardi’s Daily RPI standings: Texas A&M (72nd), Alabama (which is 68th and which Georgia must play twice before the end of the season), Ole Miss (48th), Arkansas (76th), South Carolina (191st), Vanderbilt (155th), Tennessee (102nd) and Kentucky (41st).

STREAKING BULLDOGS
Georgia’s longest regular-season SEC winning streaks in the last two decades:
2000-01 -- Six games (Auburn, at Ole Miss, at Florida, LSU, at Vanderbilt, Tennessee)
2012-13 -- Four games (at Texas A&M, Auburn, at South Carolina, at Tennessee)
2002-03 -- Four games (Vanderbilt, at Alabama, South Carolina, at Ole Miss)
1995-96 -- Four games (Vanderbilt, Arkansas, at Florida, South Carolina)
1997-98 -- Four games (Florida, Arkansas, at Vanderbilt, Alabama)