As the 2020 college basketball season rolls around, Tom Crean and the Georgia Bulldogs are preparing for the post-Anthony Edwards era. Edwards became the highest-selected Bulldog ever when he was drafted first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2020 NBA Draft. Crean is now in his third season as head coach of the Bulldogs and will rely on a new squad as he looks for his first winning season in Athens. Here are five reasons for fans to get ready for Georgia basketball this season.
- A much different roster this season
This season Georgia will have eight newcomers on the roster. Tom Crean recruited only two freshmen in the 2020 cycle, K.D. Johnson and Josh Taylor, both of whom are from the state of Georgia. The Bulldogs also added three junior college transfers to this year’s team, all of whom were ranked as top-15 JUCO recruits, according to 247sports. In addition, Georgia added three graduate transfers to gain some experience, including P.J. Horne from Virginia Tech. The Bulldogs return six players from last year’s squad, five of which are sophomores from Tom Crean’s star-studded 2019 recruiting class.
- Not just a football school
Last season, Georgia basketball set a school attendance record for the second straight year, with 164,071 fans in the stands over the course of the season. Whether due to Tom Crean’s fiery coaching style or Anthony Edwards’ high-flying dunks, there seems to be more excitement for Georgia basketball than ever before. This year will obviously be a bit different with the COVID-19 pandemic. Stegeman Coliseum will only hold 1,638 fans (17% capacity) this season, and will only allow 358 students into games to start the season. So, despite the fact that the crowd noise inside Stegeman might not be as loud this season, the buzz around Athens this winter should make up for it.
- Flexibility with lineups
The Bulldogs will be lacking in sheer size this season and could struggle with rebounding and interior defense. Josh Taylor and Tyron McMillan are Georgia’s tallest two players, both standing 6-foot-9. However, this will give Crean the ability to space the floor with shooters and athletic playmakers. While some of the matchups against the more skilled big men in the SEC may give Georgia’s coaching staff headaches, it could be fun for fans to watch Georgia get into more high-scoring shootouts this season. Last year, Georgia was fourth in the SEC in points per game, averaging 75.9 points per game, and this season could be more of the same.
- Establishing the next star
The 2020-2021 Bulldogs’ squad does not have a player that will be the first overall pick in next year’s draft or any five-star recruits. With the departures of Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds, Georgia will have to find its next star. Sahvir Wheeler showed flashes of being that player last year. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, Wheeler is crafty in traffic and finds ways to finish around the rim and get his teammates involved. Tye Fagan is the only player on the team with more than one year of experience with coach Crean. He played sparingly last season, but as a senior in high school averaged 25 points per game and led Upson-Lee to an undefeated season. He should step into a starting role and replace some of Edwards’ production.
- Room for improvement
Most media outlets predicted Georgia to finish in the bottom half of the league, but with all the uncertainty surrounding this season and limited practice time this summer, the SEC could be wide open this year. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play 24 games this season, after their opener against Columbus State was cancelled due to COVID concerns. Tom Crean has another year to implement his system and grow this Georgia basketball program. After respective records of 11-21 and 16-16, Crean has an opportunity for his first over .500 record with this more experienced squad as Georgia faces the likes of Kentucky, Florida and Auburn this year at Stegeman Coliseum.