Friday, October 17, 2008

Lessons from Vandy

Vanderbilt is coming to town tomorrow to play UGA in football.

Somehow, Vanderbilt has managed to reach this point in the season and they are #1 in the SEC East. They have a 5 and 1 record, and are one game away from being bowl eligible. Vanderbilt is ranked in the top 25 nationally.

How did they do it? Is there something in Vandy's experience that UGA can learn for its basketball team?

1) Stability in Coaching

Vanderbilt was 2 and 10 during Coach Johnson's first two seasons. Vanderbilt reacted by giving their coach a ten-year extension. Ten years!

2) Emphasize Team Over Talent

Jay Cutler is a pretty good football player. He is playing in the NFL now, and he was Vandy's signature player during his college career in Nashville. As good as Cutler was, he never led his team to a 5 and 1 start.

So why is Vandy having so much more success this year? The SEC could be down this year. Vandy may have gotten a favorable schedule. I don't know. But I do know that Johnson, without a marquee player, has built his program into a real competitor, beating Georgia two years ago and almost beating them last year. And he has done it by getting his guys to pull together as a team, stay focused at the end of games and find ways to win.

3) Do the Little Things Better

Vandy is not blowing teams away. They have had to catch up from behind to win a number of their games. They are winning the close ones because they are doing the little things better, like doing really well in the kicking game.

If Georgia can do the little things, the non-glamorous things, they may stay in enough games to win down the stretch. Box out. Hit free throws. Protect the ball.

4. Coach up the Talent You Have

Somehow, Vandy has gotten a number of players who were unranked or not highly recruited, and by the time these guys are seniors, they are ready to play at high levels.

Sounds like Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss.

Okay. Tech got the more heralded recruits for 2009. Coach Hewitt over at Tech has always seemed to be a pretty good recruiter. Hopefully, UGA will get Favors. But if we don't, stay focused, Coach Felton, and coach up the talent you have. And beat the more heralded team by getting your guys to play tough, smart basketball.

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