Georgia basketball is trending up. Here's why:
1. Overall Win Record
Had a maddening overtime defeat to LSU, and I hate losing to Georgia Tech, but if we win at South Carolina, UGA will be 15 and 5, a very strong showing through the first 20 games.
In the 20's according to the various sites. Still plenty of ball to be played, but as for now, our schedule strength and win-loss record project that we should easily qualify for the NCAA tourney this year.
3. Competitive in the SEC
Georgia is now 5 and 2 in the SEC, ranked 2nd place in the Conference.
We don't have a stable of big guys like Kentucky, but no one else in the country does. Meanwhile, we match up pretty well with the rest of the teams in the SEC.
4. Handling Adversity
Brandon Morris was arrested, then dismissed from the team before the season started. Kenny Gaines was sick when the year began, then injured shortly thereafter. Kenny Paul Geno got injured and is likely lost for the year. Cameron Forte got sick. Marcus Thornton battled and overcame knee problems over the last couple of years. Yante Maten got hit by a car. Wow.
The team could have folded under pressure. Instead, Fox has adjusted his rotation, and UGA has made it work.
5. No new off-court issues
Sure, the guys aren't perfect, but the current squad has avoided the kinds of missteps that could distract from team performance and derail the season.
6. Win Streak
Georgia has won 5 in a row with a winnable game at South Carolina up next.
7. Balanced Scoring
The game at Mississippi State was an anomaly. No one played well except J.J. Frazier (and he was exceptional). The Vandy game was more typical. Although Charles Mann did not have a good outing, everybody else played well enough, and the Dawgs got the win.
And that's the UGA recipe for success. All five starters currently average double-figures in scoring. Really helps UGA win a game when multiple guys can step up and get a bucket when we need it.
8. Free Throw Shooting
Georgia shoots a lot of free throws. Part of that is because Charles Mann always attacks the rim. Georgia attempted 25 foul shots against Vandy and made 23. Now, we haven't been hitting that percentage (92%) every game, but if we keep going to the line and shooting a decent percentage, we can win more often than not.
9. 2015 Recruiting
We missed on some targets this year. Malik Beasley, a two-guard out of Alpharetta, was supposedly going to commit. Instead went with Florida State. High-scoring wing Tevin Mack was predicted to UGA by some web sites. Ended up choosing VCU, if I remember correctly. We didn't get Georgia high school big men Daniel Giddens or Doral Moore.
However, unlike previous years, when we didn't get our top level recruits, this time we came back and were able to get next tier guys that can definitely help right away. Georgia signed Turtle Jackson, a big point guard who can score; Derek Ogbeide, an improving post with good athleticism; and E'Torrion Wilridge, an athletic 3/4. If we keep winning, who's to say that we don't have a real shot at Jaylen Brown out at Wheeler High.
10. 2016 Recruiting
If Georgia gets a B or B- so far for 2015 recruiting, we're tracking A+ territory for 2016. Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris committed early. When was the last time that we got pledges from two key recruits almost a full two seasons early?
KCP committed early, but Fox wasn't able to turn that commitment into a magnet for other highly ranked players. Felton recruited the dynamic duo of Lou Williams and Mike Mercer, but Williams never made it to campus, opting instead to go straight to the NBA. As good as Williams and Mercer were, I like Crump and Harris better, because Mercer couldn't really shoot the ball. Harris has Mercer-type athleticism, and he can flat out stroke it.
Fox will have to fight like crazy to keep them, but if he can, Crump and Harris may help UGA bring in a couple of posts.
Georgia basketball is trending up. If we finish the SEC slate with a few victories and complete our recruiting 2015 and 2016 classes with a couple of studs, the bandwagon will be suddenly full. Georgia fans who "always really loved basketball," but were waiting on the side of the road hoping that UGA would somehow get the program rolling in the right direction, might want to jump on now, buy tickets, and support the team.