Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post So much for that

Thursday February 16, 2006

The scenario I talked about last week has now come true.

We’re at a very awkward time right now. It’s easy to leave behind the days of “hey, we got an SEC win isn’t that great?!” and try to leap straight to the chest-thumping “show me the respect we command”. If we don’t beat UT and/or Kentucky at Rupp, we’re right back to 4-7 in the league and talking about how we should be happy that we doubled our win total from last year.

So here we are. 4-7. The Banner-Herald concludes, “The whispers of the Bulldogs earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament likely will be silenced.” Georgia is back in the basement of the SEC East, if only by a half-game.

Let’s back up and say that this isn’t an unexpected condition or result. Tennessee is the best team in the SEC, and Kentucky was nearly a ten-point favorite at Rupp. What’s changed in the past week is that the perception of the current condition is a bit of a letdown, a disappointment. Georgia had a meager two-game winning streak, Coach Felton let out a bit of his frustration and eagerness to get the program on top, and fans – whether defensive or fired up over Felton’s comments – were at least talking about basketball and checking out the program.

But now the Dawgs have lost two straight, and though the Dawgs might not have been expected or favored to win either, there was some plainly bad basketball in there. The inability to bring the ball upcourt against pressure, missed foul shots killing a rally, balls bouncing off heads after a pick-and-roll, and minutes upon minutes of ineffective scoreless offense have people asking, “this was the team whose NCAA Tournament credentials we were talking about a week ago?”.

Now we have Vanderbilt at home this weekened – a winnable game that could give the team a nice shot in the arm and move them out of the SEC East cellar. A nice home crowd would be a welcome change from the “Memorial Magic” Georgia overcame in their earlier win at Vanderbilt. It’s not that the past week cost us a sellout for the Vandy game, but these two very high-profile losses ensure that the only interest in the Vanderbilt game (and probably the South Carolina game) will come from the diehard fans who have been there all along.

Making a big deal over the crowd for the Tennessee game should not have been the focus of the moment. That was a set-up, and it has caused unnecessary disappointment and grumbling among the fan base. Instead, it was the beginning of the audition for crowds in the remaining three home games which Georgia could win and really add to the accomplishments of this season. With the recent performance of the team, Coach Felton can be sure of lukewarm support the rest of the way this season. Hopefully a strong finish to this season can drum up some momentum and support for next season when this entire team will return and add some frontcourt bulk. A winning record over these last five games and an NIT berth would be impressive and clear progress over last season, and hopefully that message can get out over the disappointment of not making the NCAA Tournament.

Looking ahead, only Florida would seem like a heavy favorite over Georgia. Mississippi State should be a win, but that’s on the road. Arkansas, Vandy, and SC all could go either way. Georgia’s spread could go anywhere from 5-11 to 8-8. Perception-wise, that’s a pretty big potential swing.

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