There is a bit more separation today in the Southeastern Conference standings between Georgia and the rest of the pack that trails Florida and Kentucky.
If the third-place Bulldogs happen to stumble in the homestretch of the regular season, there is no shortage of teams lurking behind trying to catch them
Half the league teams are two games behind Georgia in a tie for fourth. Really.
Among those seven is Missouri, which visits Stegeman Coliseum for a 9 p.m. game today.
Just don‚Äôt expect Georgia coach Mark Fox to be able to rattle off all seven off the top of his head.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs a big grouping, it‚Äôs really remarkable really,‚Äù Fox said Monday afternoon. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of us that are the same. We‚Äôre very similar. How you play in key moments can make a big difference and how smart you are in certain times during a game, the breaks you get and how the ball bounces.‚Äù
Even with its place in the league standings and winning five of the last six, Georgia (15-11, 9-5 SEC) isn‚Äôt in favorable position to land an NCAA tournament at-large bid because of its No. 89 official RPI.
That ranks ninth in the league.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a tough league as evidenced by all the teams with the same record we have,‚Äù Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ‚ÄúJust everybody beating up on each other.‚Äù
Besides Missouri (19-8, 7-7) and Vanderbilt, the other 7-7 teams in a logjam in fourth in the SEC are Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a lot of parity, and it‚Äôs true teams in our league have really struggled on the road,‚Äù Missouri coach Frank Haith said. ‚ÄúThat has caused the numbers being the same there in the middle.‚Äù
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs going to make it interesting going down the stretch,‚Äù Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ‚ÄúCould anyone have foreseen this taking place? Not really.‚Äù
Missouri, a projected 11 seed, is the only other SEC team besides top-ranked Florida and No. 17 Kentucky currently in the NCAA field predicted by CBS‚Äô Jerry Palm.
‚ÄúI think they‚Äôre going to get three but I‚Äôm not betting my house on it,‚Äù former Villanova coach Steve Lappas, now an analyst for CBS Sports Network, said on the air.
Stallings said the national perception has been hurt by the SEC teams eating their own.
Fox had a different take last week on that.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve dominated in football,‚Äù Fox said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre tired of us whooping them in football so they just call us a football league.‚Äù
Florida coach Billy Donovan said that Georgia, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas and Missouri could ‚Äúdo some special things in the tournament,‚Äù if they were in the field. Tennessee is a fourth SEC team in a projected NCAA tournament field by ESPN‚Äôs Joe Lunardi.
Georgia‚Äôs only top 50 RPI win is the 70-64 overtime win at Missouri on Jan. 8. The Bulldogs‚Äô resume includes losses to four teams No. 142 or lower: Davidson, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Temple.
Three of those losses were in November.
‚ÄúYou wish you could have some of those back, but we put ourselves in that position and we can‚Äôt have them back,‚Äù Fox said. ‚ÄúWe can just make the most of where we are.‚Äù
The top four teams in the SEC earn double byes for the SEC tournament March 12-16 in Atlanta‚Äôs Georgia Dome.
‚ÄúI feel like we‚Äôre in a pretty good place,‚Äù Georgia freshman guard Juwan Parker said.
‚ÄúIt will be competitive until the end,‚Äù Stallings said. ‚ÄúIt will be a fight to the finish and we‚Äôll see what happens.‚Äù
MISSOURI AT GEORGIA
When/Where: 9 p.m. today/Stegeman Coliseum
TV/Radio: ESPNU/The Ref 960-AM
Records: Missouri is 19-8, 7-7 SEC; Georgia is 15-11, 9-5 SEC.