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Georgia head coach Mark Fox urges his team on during their game against Kentucky, on Feb. 3, 2015, in Lexington, Ky.
ATHENS, Ga. -- His team's 15th victory of the season complete with Saturday's 56-53 defeat of Tennessee, Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox bristled at a question regarding the closeness of the triumph.

"It's not about whether you have a girlfriend who's pretty or a girlfriend who's ugly," he said. "It's whether you have one. It's whether or not you won. You coach to have joy. It's the joy of victory, and we won."

The National Organization of Women may shudder over Fox's analogy, but basketball coaches everywhere understand his point. Especially in February.

If you want to be one of the 68 schools called by name during CBS's NCAA tournament Selection Sunday show, you need plenty of wins. Good, bad or ugly, they're each and and all more beautiful than any loss.

"You just want wins," said Georgia freshman forward Yante Maten, who scored six points, pulled down five rebounds and blocked three Big Orange shots. "It's like I was telling my teammates all week: This was a must win."

Now 15-7 overall and 6-4 in a Southeastern Conference remarkably liquid beyond No. 1 Kentucky, the Bulldogs certainly look like a team capable of reaching March Madness for only the second time in Fox's six seasons on the job.

They're fifth in the SEC in scoring offense in all games, fifth in field-goal defense, third in 3-point defense, fourth in 3-point offense and third in rebounding margin. Their biggest weakness -- which seems odd for a team that starts two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore -- is their minus-1.8 turnover margin, which is 13th among 14 league schools.

Fox was so annoyed with his Dawgs' 20 turnovers against UT's maddening matchup zone (the Vols turned it over only eight times against UGA's man-to-man) that he groused afterward: "We shot it great (55.3 percent from the floor), but we made some bonehead plays. I didn't make those plays in the fifth grade."

Added sophomore guard J.J. Frazier, whose three second-half 3-pointers were arguably the difference: "To be a mature team, we play real immature sometimes."

Yet however they sometimes play, the Dawgs have made enough plays over the course of the season to be projected as a No. 8 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi's projected NCAA field and to own a lofty No. 25 in the NCAA's most recent RPI. The Bulldogs have won at Kansas State and have posted respectable losses to top-ranked Kentucky (69-58) and No. 2 Gonzaga (88-76).

Saturday's win over the Vols will leave them no worse than third in the SEC standings heading into Wednesday night's road game at Texas A&M.

"(Fox) has got a nice team," said losing coach Donnie Tyndall. "They've got an inside attack, an outside attack and they played really hard and defended the right way."

This has been the Fox way pretty much from the time he left Nevada at the close of the 2008-09 season to take over Georgia. The Bulldogs are fundamentally sound, fight hard most every game and almost always draw respectful comments from the opposing coach.

Yet one NCAA berth in his first five seasons also makes one wonder how long Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity will keep Fox around.

Or, just as pointedly, how long Fox -- who's currently earning a somewhat paltry $1.7 million per year -- wishes to stay.

An announced two-year extension last April is yet to be signed and Fox told the Georgia media two weeks ago: "I'm not dealing with that right now, to be honest with you. I don't think that's fair to my team to have to try to deal with that. Hopefully, it will get done soon. It will happen after everything is done with my team."

The Bulldogs are now done delivering Fox his 100th UGA win against 84 defeats. Throw in his 123 victories at Nevada and he stands a highly respectable 223-127 overall (.637).

With two games remaining against .500 Auburn, another against struggling Missouri and a fourth against up-and-down South Carolina, the Bulldogs certainly appear poised to win at least 20 games and reach the NCAA tournament.

"When we have to be, we're tough," Frazier said. "Coach won't let me not be tough."

Whether it gets credit from the national media, the SEC is a tough league. LSU beat West Virginia. Georgia has won at Kansas State. Tennessee has beaten Butler and Kansas State. Arkansas has routed Wake Forest and won at SMU. Auburn topped Xavier. South Carolina toppled both Oklahoma State and Iowa State.

"This league is terrific from top to bottom," Fox said after last week's loss at No. 1 Kentucky. "What makes me angry is this: Why does everyone in this league have to beat Kentucky for us to be a tournament team?"

It's a good question. It's a fair question. But the best way to make the tournament beyond beating the Wildcats is to win as many of the rest of them as possible.

Or as Fox noted after he finished discussing girlfriends, "It's not about if you win pretty or win ugly. It's whether or not you won."

Especially as February races toward March.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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