Welcome to the Bulldawg Illustrated Hoops Report: Georgia vs Auburn. It’s like a long day in the office topped off by traffic that never ends. And that’s basically the way the Dawgs season has gone this year.
They’ve actually played their way out of the NCAAs this year. After losing two games last week, the only way to dance now is win the SEC tourney. It’s hard to put your finger on why things didn’t click this year, but I think Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines would tell you they weren’t happy with their play. Also, as a unit the offense never really got it going. Throw in a ridiculous number of turnovers and mediocre FT shooting, and you have the season in a nutshell. However, I’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness. Let’s look at the positives.
First, Yante Maten has been amazing all year and should win Most Improved in the SEC for sure and possibly in the country. JJ Frazier continues to prove he is very capable and can produce most every night. When he lets the game come to him, he’s capable of 35. Just ask the North Ave Nerds. Oh wait, you can’t because they heard there’s a Harry Potter look-a-like at the Varsity. So they’re preoccupied at the moment. But I digress. The issues came when J.J. has to press and try to carry the team. That’s when he forces shots and makes mistakes. You also have Derek Ogbeide who was called a “project”. That guy is better than Project X and just as entertaining to watch.
Plus, you have two talented freshmen, Turtle Jackson and Mike Edwards, that never really contributed this year. So the future in bright. But again, don’t think this is a postmortem for this season. We still need to stay focused on the present. Why? Because of the last two names I mentioned. The Dawgs won’t get an at large bid now in my opinion. We have to win the SEC Tourney to accomplish this season’s goal. If I’m Mark Fox, I’m treating the next four games like training camp almost. Let’s get Turtle and Edwards 12 to 15 minutes a game. Forget getting three minutes a game. Throw them out there. No hurries, no worries. As his high school coach said just before he won a game by outscoring the opponent 24-6, as legend has it, in the last four minutes, “Turtle, do your thing”! Even if the experiment doesn’t work out, those guys roll into next year with extra experience and even more confidence. I know Coach Fox is a lot smarter than I am, but I’d give everyone the opportunity to contribute at this point and play the guys that give you the best chance to win in March. Whether it be a freshman or a senior, it must be who competes the best at this point. I love Mann and Gaines and have certainly loved watching them for four years. They’re DGDs and I wish them the best. But it’s time for Turtle to soar. It sounds really weird talking about a turtle soaring, but this turtle can fly.
Anyway, our regular season is toast. Luckily, the SEC is wide open. Kentucky’s been hot, but they’re beatable. Alabama is the Soup du Jour, but their talent is subpar and they could be exposed. The Gamecocks and Aggies thought they were Hot to Trot early, but someone stole their running shoes and they’ve fallen back to the pack. LSU has proven tough, though beatable, all year. And personally, I think Vandy may have the best talent even though they continue to under perform. So no one looks like they are head and shoulders above the rest. If the Dawgs get focused, they can win the SEC Tournament. I guarantee the odds are better than they were in 2008. It starts Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Auburn. They pretty much stink overall but are respectable at home. No matter what happens, it’s time to focus on March. Play everyone, Coach. I know this is the first time in three years we have not had a chance to make the The Dance. So our mindset must change. Get better as a team and win it all in Nashville must be goal one. Go Dawgs!