Hoop Hounds Report: Han Vance of BIG HAIRY BLAWG covering Georgia Men’s Basketball for you here now that the football regular season has come to a close. Back with more football on Tuesday.
We have a strong product on the court so far, off to a great start with a 7-1 record and SEC Preseason Player of the Year in Yante Maten. Coach Mark Fox has pushed Georgia to the twenty-win per season plateau and been able to maintain, without much else to show for it. Considering our less than stellar history in the sport, Fox has been a good hire and productive, winning coach. We’ve been dancing only a couple of times, though, and exited the tourney immediately both times, losing to Washington and Michigan State. This year we could make some noise.
It is okay that when the football full month off happens after the SEC Championship game – or even a week longer if the last game is Tech – many in the Dawgnation turn more closely to college basketball, building to March Madness which enraptures the country. It’s our key winter sport at UGA and we want it to do well. While the tournament is the best postseason in all of sports.
It rarely has gone well over the years, UGA claiming just one Final Four team (1983). The year after our greatest player Dominique Wilkins left Georgia, Hugh Durham’s team made a run and got in, with the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars playing in their school’s first title game and Louisville, who was another strong team that year called the Doctors of Dunk. NC State was included as a Cinderella, and they won it all on the long miss dunk put-back in the final, where Jimmy V glided around the court, stunning Olajuwon and company, it was a fabled Final Four. First they beat Georgia. At this point, Georgia’s realistic goal is to get to and win a tournament game.
Last SEC championship was back in 2008, the year the Georgia Dome was vacated after an overtime game, because of the tornado in downtown Atlanta. Playing at Georgia Tech and winning two games on one day, Georgia shocked the league with a tourney title. At 7-1, we are an outside contender for the SEC this year. Although we are overly-reliant on one player right now, with Fox trying myriad lineups and playing a dozen guys, we appear to have enough talented pieces to find a winning formula before league play commences. Dawgs open SEC play at (#8) Kentucky on New Year’s Eve at 6 p.m., by the way. Win that game and all of America will hear about us.
We are projected by many to be a bubble team again this season, which is just fine and exciting when we get in (again, just twice under Fox), and a letdown when we come close but are left at home without a team to cheer.
Tuesday night in Athens, Maten had 25 points and 11 rebounds, a nice double-double for the senior. Dawgs opened a very early 12-point lead on perennial NCAA tourney team Winthrop, then played about even with them as their best player Cooks went off, dropping 30 on us in merciless fashion from his forward position. He and Maten both got in foul trouble and sat key stretches of the game, including fairly late in the 2nd half. Maten overall had enough stats to hold us in a high percentage chance of winning, and then Turtle Jackson finished them off with a gritty high runner he banked off the glass, when the game was tight at the end.
Our only loss on the season was when we played in a West Coast tournament (went 3-1) and dropped one to San Diego State, our team having suffered food poisoning earlier. We beat St. Mary’s out there, who were ranked at the time, and we more recently got a quality win at Marquette, avenging their win in Athens last year.
Upcoming non-conference schedule slate: at UMass (12/16); Tech (12/19) as we go for The Sweep (football, basketball, baseball), having lost already in football to them last year when we won at hoops in Atlanta; and Temple (12/22). Liking our chances to get to 10-1.
Recent Articles by Han Vance