Thursday, January 17, 2013

Where is the UGA Basketball Program Headed?

I thought I understood during the Felton years.  Seemed like we were building something.  We weren't great, mind you, but considering the trash dump of the NCAA investigation and the self-imposed sanctions, at some point during Felton's tenure I was starting to feel good about the program again. 

Over his five full seasons, Felton's SEC win loss record was

7 and 9
2 and 14
5 and 11
8 and 8
4 and 12, not counting four wins in SEC Tournament championship run

That next year, Felton was fired after going 9 and 11 overall and 0 and 5 in the SEC.  Felton won a total of 26 regular season SEC games.  He lost 61.  Felton got us to the NCAA's and Dawg fans enjoyed winning the SEC Tournament.  Considering what he had to start with, Felton performed admirably, but a 30 percent record in the SEC is not good enough.

Mark Fox came in and his teams went

5 and 11
9 and 7
5 and 11
0 and 3

Of course there's still a lot of basketball to be played this year.  But if Fox could somehow match Felton's last full year mark of 4 and 12, that would be a huge accomplishment.  I seriously doubt that even if we win 4 games, we would follow that up by winning the SEC Tournament. 


Felton hit the ground with tough issues to face.  Coach Harrick could get guys committed, but getting them into school was another matter (ex., Julius Lamptey, Larry Turner, Alexander Johnson, etc.).  In his last class, Harrick had a marginal class of signees, all of whom asked to be released when the NCAA investigation hit, and none of whom did anything much in college basketball. 

Therefore, when Harrick was fired, Felton had seniors, but no freshmen and just a couple of scholarship sophomores and juniors.  Battling scholarship limitations and the clould of NCAA sanctions, Felton beat the bushes, brought in some low-ranked guys and took a chance on some others.

Over time Felton was able to generate some recruiting momentum.  Starting with Levi Stukes and Steve Newman, Felton started to hit his stride by bringing in Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss.  Things got better from there.  UGA basketball had some really important misses, too.  5-star recruit Lou Williams went to the NBA instead of suiting up for the Dawgs (a huge, huge loss).  Felton rebounded by replacing Williams with Billy Humphrey, a talented shooter, but he had no stand-in when Derrick Favors decided to go to Tech instead of UGA.

By and large, however, Felton brought in some pretty good players-- guards like Sundiata Gaines, Levi Stukes, Mike Mercer, Billy Humphrey, Ricky McPhee, Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie.  We got an even better haul of big men:  Trey Thompkins, Jeremy Price, Dave Bliss, Takais Brown, Chris Barnes, Ajax. 

Wins and Losses

Felton got the team to perform in his first year, going 16 and 14 overall, 7 and 9 in the SEC, and making the NIT.  The second year, in which Felton had just seven scholarship players, the overall record was 8 and 20.  Note:  There was a significant drop-off in year two, the year when a new coach generally lives and dies with his predecessor's players.

Thereafter, however, performance was trending up.  The team went from the SEC basement to the top of the SEC tourney field, from NCAA sanctions to the NCAA Tournament.  Felton couldn't sustain it, however, and he was fired mid-season.  My point is that although we weren't ever great in basketball, we were respectable and reasonably competitive.  In five full years under Felton we went to three post-season tournaments (two NIT's and one NCAA).

Comparison to 2013

We're definitely not trending up. 


Recruiting is in trouble, in my opinion.  I look up and down the roster and wonder, where's the beef?  There's no low post scorer.  I thought Donte Williams was going to have a great year, but now that he has been slow out of the gate, we don't have anyone who can finish reliably.  Nobody with a big butt  and good hands.  No Trey Thompkins, no Jeremy Price, no Chris Barnes.  Not even a troubled but talented guy like Takais Brown.

Hate to say this, but we don't have makers on the perimeter either.  A Ricky McPhee, Levi Stukes or Billy Humphrey sure would make a huge difference to this team.  KCP is a great all-around player and Vincent Williams had a nice game against Missouri.  Maybe the guys coming in next year will help, but it's the combination that we lack.  We need a low post guy who can score and a consistent three-point threat when defenses collapse.

Wins and Losses

Fox has an overall winning percentage in the SEC of 37 percent.  The high-point for Fox was in year two, in which he had the benefit of Felton's recruits.  Now that Fox is in year four with a roster full of his own players, we are definitely struggling.  It's hard for me to watch a game and see us barely show up at Florida, and end up losing by 33 points.  Our pre-conference record included defeats at home to teams I had hardly ever heard of.

Even counting the extremely challenged 2004/05 team, Felton went 22 and 42 in the SEC in his first four years.  Fox will have to go 3 and 10 in the SEC from this point forward just to match Felton's record.  Fox can do it, but if your current coach can hardly match the record of the last coach who was fired, that's a bad sign.  Especially so when the current coach makes over twice the salary of the last guy.

Where are we headed?  I hope Tony Parker comes to town, or we get a big-time JUCO low post scorer somehow for next year.  Otherwise, looks like given our downward trajectory, a change is in the wind.  30 percent wasn't good enough in 2009 and it's certainly not good enough now.

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