Houndspeak ~ Han Vance on Georgia basketball: Welcome to the second season of writer Han Vance’s Houndspeak for Bulldawg Illustrated. Houndspeak, of course, covers the Hoop Hounds, from a fan perspective, while quality Lady Dawgs coverage will be provided elsewhere at Bulldawg Illustrated.
The University of Georgia Bulldogs men’s college basketball team won a charity exhibition game versus the UAB Blazers 56-54 in Birmingham way back on October 18th. West Georgia fell 98-59 in an Athens exhibition November 1st. As I wrote and edited this, my first piece of the coming basketball season, a whole new era in Georgia basketball was underway.
Athletic director Greg McGarity appears to have struck gold with the hiring of former Georgia football player Kirby Smart as head coach, and McGarity instead went with a proven winner with head coaching experience in the attempt to upgrade the basketball program. The Hoop Hounds lost the SEC Player of the Year, Yante Maten, to the professional ranks but return a tall, deep and young team with potential to bloom in many areas. No double-digit scorer returns, however.
Looking over the upcoming schedule, there are some interesting spots for new head coach Tom Crean to continue to establish his successful legacy, by winning at Georgia. I expect the team to play a more entertaining, higher-flying brand of offensive basketball this athletic year.
Unlike college football save the postseason bowls/CFP, basketball fully bridges two calendar years each season. The early season before the calendar change is a time to both pile up surer wins and to increase RPI strength of schedule by playing stronger programs. Again unlike football, the coaches rather than the athletic directors tend to do the scheduling in college basketball.
After a tune-up that actually counts against little Savannah State at Stegeman Coliseum on November 9th, Crean gets the first road challenge of his new job in visiting Philly to take on the Temple Owls (17-16 last season), on November 13th.
Then, the Bulldogs are off to the Cayman Islands – sign me up – for a tourney that they will be opening with Illinois State on Monday, November 19th at 1:30 p.m. Hey, some weekday daytime Georgia sports on screen (SEC Network), for those of us not fortunate enough to be making a tropical trip. Two more games in Grand Cayman over the next two days follow at times to be determined.
Kennesaw State comes east from Cobb County on November 27th. Then, the next few games in Athens are: Texas Southern, Arizona State (of the Pac-12) and Oakland (of Michigan, not California).
Georgia Tech hosts the Dawgs Saturday, December 22nd at noon in the Thrillerdome. The home team always winning in the series is a trend that has not held up lately, Georgia winning two years ago in Atlanta and blowing Tech out last year in the Classic City, in the most important basketball rivalry for both. Will the Sweep (besting them in football, basketball and baseball) be in play that day? UGA handily pulled off the Sweep last school year, and the pressure will be on Crean to win there immediately.
UMass visits Athens December 30th, meaning UGA gets the Minutemen there in both football and men’s basketball. It is the only game scheduled between December 23rd and January 4th. A time of year when there is always plenty to do and college football bowl games take place; I still love the bowls.
The year turns, then the SEC begins. The league is looking to me like one of the toughest in the nation, this preseason. Rick Barnes’s Tennessee Vols pose a very tough challenge in the league opener at Rocky Top; sharpshooting Vandy the SEC home opener a few days later.
The SEC/BIG 12 Challenge has the Texas Longhorns (I was born in Austin, by the way) in Athens on January 26th, in the annual two-league battle that is a break from league action. Georgia edged Texas 59-57 in the same set-up in Athens back in 2017 but have lost two road games in the challenge including a winnable game at K-State last season. Mark Fox needed one more team resume big win to get in the NCAA tourney last season, which could have come in the challenge and didn’t.
Regular season league play comes to its conclusion for Georgia March 9th. The SEC Basketball tournament is in Nashville this season March 13-17, with the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis.