Okay, Dawg fans. We're heading into the fourth year of the Mark Fox regime. During the Fox era, the Dawgs are a combined 50 and 46 overall (.520) and 19 and 29 in the SEC (.395). We had a great season last year, going 21 and 12, but this year has to be considered a disappointment.
I'm not happy that we had a losing season and we finished 11th out of 12 teams in the SEC. Next year Texas A&M and Missouri will join the league. Had the expansion occurred this year, we would have been 13th out of 14 teams (Texas A&M is arguably better than we are and Missouri is currently 30 and 4 on the year).
I know people say that we have never been successful in basketball, but does it really have to remain that way? We just have to step up in basketball and mine the talent in the Atlanta area. I hope we can do it without another sea change in our coaching ranks.
Please, no more woulda' coulda's. Our focus has to be playing with the guys we have, not those we don't. I understand that Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left early. I'm tired of hearing that excuse. The key point is that Thompkins and Leslie were Felton's recruits. The way to guard against a downturn because of inherited players going to the pro's is
a) Convince the inherited players to commit to the program and stay in school, or, even better,
b) Recruit your own talented players.
We failed at convincing them to stay, if we ever attempted to do so, and we also failed to bring in a low post scorer. We own it, so let's move on.
The bottom line is as disappointed as I am with this year's 15 and 17 season, I do have some cautious optimism for the future. Here's why:
1) Recruiting has improved
KCP is a player. He'll be better next year. We didn't get a bunch of the players we wanted this year, but we're getting closer. Charles Mann is a tall point guard who although was not in the Rivals 150 was the best at his position in the state. Kenny Gaines is a powerful two-guard who has a great shot and fantastic leaping ability. Brandon Morris is not really a shooter, but he is a tall, lean player who can compete in the SEC. Morris defends well, gets buckets in transition, passes well for a big man and can handle the ball against the press. All three of those guys were on high school teams which won the state championship in their division. Good to recruit winners.
2) Georgia will Rely Less on the Three-Point Shot
I don't mind shooting threes if we can make'em. The problem was that we would hoist up shot after shot from behind the arc while hitting a low percentage. And it seemed as though Fox didn't know how to adjust. We only had one guy this year who could consistently create his own shot-- Gerald Robinson. We didn't press, we didn't change the offense to post up our guards, we didn't go to the 1-3-1 to get more steals in the half-court.
Next year, things should be better. Even though we were unable to recruit a pure shooter (Evan Nolte was a guy we went after, but he ended up at UVA), perhaps that's for the best. Each of our three signees can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, which should result in making Georgia harder to defend. We should also get more free throws.
3) The SEC next year will be Kentucky and Everybody Else
Kentucky will lose some guys to the NBA this year. Calipari is unconcerned. They will bring in their normal haul of 5-star guys to replace them and they'll keep truckin'. I will refrain from making a detailed analysis, but my point in short is that although Kentucky will continue to have elite talent, the jury is out on some of the other teams.
Vandy will be down next year. Ezeli, Goulbourne, Taylor, Tchiengang and Tinsley will all graduate this summer. Dai-Jon Parker, Kedren Johnson and John Jenkins are likely to be there for the 2012/2013 season, but Vanderbilt didn't do much in recruiting for 2012. Who knows? Jenkins may bolt for the pro ranks. This year they both out-shot us and out-athleted us. Not so, next year. Florida has some talent, but we beat them this year. Next year, they are bringing in guards. As long as we can play them relatively even in the post, Georgia should have a decent shot against Billy Donovan's squad.
South Carolina was last place in the league and they will still struggle. Mississippi and Mississippi State will be tough, but not significantly better than Georgia. Alabama and Auburn are on their way up, but the Crimson Tide will lose JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell may not come back. Auburn will lose Kenny Gabriel and although Barbee has recruited quite well, they finished this year one spot ahead of Georgia during the regular season, so they have a ways to go. Besides, who knows where this Varez Ward point-shaving situation will take them?
So even though Georgia wasn't a barn-burner in recruiting for 2012, in my opinion we did about as well as the other SEC teams that do not have blue grass.
4) Marcus Thornton may get better
Not sure about this one, but anyone who has followed his career knows that Marcus Thornton is hurting. Can he come back and be the explosive player he was in high school? Who knows. How good would Blake Griffin be if he couldn't jump? It makes a big difference when a player has knee problems. Let's give Thornton the summer and fall for his surgery and rehabilitation. If he does recover his leaping ability, he will be a significant boost to the team's performance.
5) Georgia has height
As they say, you can't teach 7-feet. Call them projects if you will, but John Florveus and John Cannon are listed as 7' and 6' 11" respectively. Even if the roster listed on Yahoo exaggerates things just a tad, Florveus and Cannon are in that 6' 10" range and reasonably athletic. They're not elite scorers by any stretch of the imagination, but they can run the floor and catch the basketball. Put 20 pounds of muscle each on Florveus, Cannon and Donte Williams during the off-season, and all of the sudden Georgia has a formidable-looking post rotation.
6) Two and Out
Coach Fox develops his bench. I don't much care for the two fouls and you're out rule for the first half, but as we saw in the Vanderbilt game in the SEC Tournament, utilization of the rule forces guys to be ready to play and in fact leads them to get minutes on the floor in key situations. Florveus and Cannon have had playing time this year. That experience can only give them confidence for future seasons.
7) No Flame-Outs
There is little margin for error on a basketball roster. For the most part, the football team can survive and adjust without missing a beat if two or more of their players flame out, or are lost due to suspension or academic reasons. Not true for basketball. If a couple of guys flame out in hoops, the entire trajectory of the season can change. Mark Fox has a roster of good guys. No arrests, drug issues, suspensions for not going to class, etc. While they did not win a lot of games, they did not lose them either for non-basketball reasons.
8) Tony Parker
Georgia is still in the discussion for Parker's recruitment. That's a great sign. We could very well have an all-Miller Grove starting front line next year. I've got my fingers crossed. If Tony Parker suits up in the red and black, Georgia becomes a projected top-tier team in the SEC.
Hope springs eternal. Maybe the hope I have for Georgia's basketball program will all be for naught and next year we will still be in the lower half of the SEC. Let's pull for the guys. Bear with me and tell me what you think will happen next year...