Georgia Bulldogs

Hardwood Shambles

By: Steve Norris

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The date was March 16, 1996.

Tubby Smith, Georgia’s head basketball coach in his first year at the school, had just beaten Gene Keady’s number one seeded Purdue Boilermakers 76-69 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

This was rare air for the Bulldogs. They hadn’t been this far in the NCAA Tournament since their magical run to the Final Four in 1983.

Unfortunately for Dawg fans, Georgia would lose six days later in overtime to Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orangemen in one of the most exciting tournament games in history. At the time, the loss stung for Georgia fans, but we knew Tubby had the program on the right course.

Unfortunately, in May of 1997, the one school that could lure him away, Kentucky, came calling. Smith accepted the job and immediately led the Wildcats to the National Championship the following year.

As for Georgia, the long NCAA Tournament nightmare was just beginning. Little did Dawg fans know that the upset of Purdue would be the last Tournament victory for at least the next 27 years. A streak that is still active to this day.

Yes…you read that right. The University of Georgia, one of the most powerful schools, not only in the SEC, but in the nation for decades now, has a basketball program that hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since the previous century.

You’ve heard of the NCAA Tournament, right? The one that basically lets just about everyone in?

When other schools in the state of Georgia like Mercer University have more NCAA Tournament victories (2014 over Duke) in the last quarter century than UGA, there is a serious problem in Athens.

You know the University of Georgia, right? The one whose football program has won the last two football national championships, which means they’re basically printing money due to the influx of donations just from their big time donors alone?

You know, the one who’s also getting over $50 million dollars per year in TV rights money from the SEC right now? And that amount is expected to double to over $100 million per school by 2028.

How could a school this powerful, with this many resources, that is an hour down the road from Atlanta, which is one of the most talent-rich high school basketball cities in the nation, possibly be this mediocre at basketball for this long?

One can only come to one conclusion…

The powers-that-be at Butts-Mehre in Athens simply do not care about basketball.

Well, not for at least 20 years, anyway.

In 1999, then athletic director Vince Dooley hired Jim Harrick to be Georgia’s head basketball coach. Harrick came with major accolades, including leading UCLA to the 1995 national championship.

Unfortunately, Harrick, who had been fired from UCLA in 1996 for allegedly falsifying receipts and then covering it up, got in more trouble at Georgia in 2003 due to an academic scandal just before the NCAA Tournament.

Dooley was so incensed with the situation, that he pulled Georgia out of the tournament and vacated all of Georgia’s wins for the 2003 season. Harrick was subsequently fired five days later.

Since then, Georgia’s coaching hires have been underwhelming, at best: Dennis Felton, Mark Fox, Tom Crean, and now Mike White.

The only coach on that list with any real accomplishments coming in was Crean, who had taken Marquette to the Final Four in 2003 and was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016 while at Indiana while winning the regular season championship. Even with those accolades, Crean went a very disappointing 47-75 over four seasons at Georgia and was fired a year ago.

Now we have Mike White, who just led Georgia to a 16-16 record in his first year, missing the NCAA Tournament yet again. Unfortunately for Georgia fans, this is considered a banner year! After all, the Dawgs only won six games last year, so a ten-game improvement should be seen as a good sign, right? Don’t bet on it.

According to Dawgs247, White’s first recruiting class (2022) was ranked 50th overall.

His 2023 class isn’t much better as it’s ranked 40th overall. So, unless White suddenly becomes Mike Krzyzewski overnight, I don’t see things improving on the hard court for Georgia anytime soon.

Oh, and speaking of the hard court…Georgia’s is falling apart. Literally.

In what can only be described as a perfect metaphor for Georgia’s basketball program, Stegeman Coliseum was closed down a couple of weeks ago because of hazardous conditions due to pieces of the ceiling breaking off and falling onto the court.

This is the same building that is going on 60-years-old and has been mocked by opposing fans for years for being outdated. While UGA did make improvements to Stegeman in 2017, it’s not the kind of stuff that’s going to impress recruits.

It basically amounted to putting lipstick on a pig. It’s far past time to knock Stegeman down and build a state-of-the-art facility.

Kirby Smart showed when he took over the UGA football program, that you have to be willing to spend a lot of money if you want to win championships. For Smart…mission accomplished.

If the powers-that-be at the University of Georgia are not going to step up and make basketball a priority right now, then when will they? What’s the right time if it’s not now?

I wonder if Kirby can coach basketball.

 

Former Love

By: Steve Norris

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I used to love college basketball.

Wait…let me change that. I used to REALLY love college basketball.

My passion for it began in the 80’s when Georgia had their magical run to the Final Four in 1983.

Unfortunately, that was the last year Georgia would ever get that far. In fact, other than a Sweet 16 run in 1996, Georgia hoops has been in the desert of college basketball.

Since that Sweet 16 appearance, Georgia hasn’t won another NCAA Tournament game. That’s hard to do, much less considering they let in 68 participants to the tournament now.

While my allegiance has always been to UGA first, I grew fond of the Georgia Tech basketball teams in the 80’s.

Tech’s 1985 and 1986 teams were good enough to win the national championship. They were loaded with players like Mark Price, John Salley, Duane Ferrell, and Bruce Dalrymple.

However, just like Georgia, Tech always seemed to find a way to blow it come tournament time.

It was in 1989 during the NCAA Tournament that I found my new team to follow, and that was the Duke Blue Devils.

It was March 26th, 1989. Duke was playing Georgetown in the Elite Eight. Georgia Tech had lost in the first round to Texas and Georgia didn’t make the tournament.

At the time, Georgetown and their head coach John Thompson were a big deal. They had won the 1984 national championship and had barely lost the 1985 national championship to Villanova.

Personally, I hated Georgetown. In my opinion, Thompson was a bully, who whined incessantly during games and off the court. I was sick of his act. They had a freshman named Alonzo Mourning who ESPN and the other sports media regularly hyped up every week.

I thought he was good but he wasn’t THAT good. I was ready for someone to shut him down and knock Georgetown down a peg.

Enter freshman Christian Laettner. That fateful day, Laettner put the clamps on Mourning, holding him to 11 points and five rebounds, while scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds in a 85-77 victory that sent the Blue Devils to the Final Four.

Georgetown would go on to make the Sweet Sixteen a couple more times after that season but were never the same under Thompson until he retired after the 1997-98 season.

Duke would lose the next week to Seton Hall in the Final Four but my loyalty had been earned.

The next season, my all-time favorite player came along…Bobby Hurley. Hurley, along with Laettner and Grant Hill, would go on to lead the Blue Devils to two national championships. He also set the all-time assist record with 1076 assists; a record he still holds to this day.

For me, these were the golden years of college basketball. The 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s were the years when you could count on players normally staying all four years, no matter what their star status was. It was easy to follow teams from year to year. Even Shaquille O’Neal, stayed three years at LSU before heading to the NBA in 1992.

Then came the “one and done”. Duke’s first “one and done” was after the 1999 season when Corey Maggette bolted for the pros after helping Duke to the national championship game.

That wasn’t a surprise at the time as Duke was loaded with players like Elton Brand and Shane Battier. Duke wouldn’t have another one-year player until many years later, so for a while it seemed Maggette was just a one-off.

Unfortunately, the “one and one” would go on to become normal for college basketball.

It was around 2010 that my love of college basketball began to wane. That year, Duke barely squeaked by Butler University to win the national championship. I was excited that Duke won but I wasn’t quite as elated as I had been after the 1991, 1992, and 2001 championships that Duke had won.

After that season, I didn’t plan my nights around watching college basketball anymore.

My passion for it had left town and has never come back. I think the reason was because I began to realize that the product had become watered down. The top high school players no longer cared about being great in college.

They just wanted to showcase their talent at some school for a year and then leave. It also didn’t help that the regular season has become an afterthought.

Now that the NCAA Tournament lets in 68 teams, you have to really be bad to not make it in. Plus, most conferences have tournaments at the end of the season, and the winner is considered the conference champion.

That never made sense to me as winning the regular season is much harder. Why reward a bad team who just happens to get hot for a week?

Due to my loyalty to all things UGA, I still find myself turning on a Georgia basketball game now and then. And, sure, I turned on the Duke-UNC game for a few minutes and smiled a little when Duke won.

But going forward, my only hope of ever loving college basketball again depends on if Georgia ever begins to take it as seriously as it does football.

Head Coach Mike White seems to be the right coach at the right time, but he has a tall task in front of him.

Let’s hope he can get it done because I’d really love to get that passion back again and Georgia is the only school I care about anymore.

 

Out Of The Swamp

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Georgia Bulldogs aren’t leaving the SEC to fill their coaching vacancy. According to Jon Rothstein, Georgia will hire Florida Gators basketball coach Mike White.

Georgia fired Tom Crean on Thursday, March 10. His tenure at Georgia ended after four seasons and a 47-75 record, including a 15-58 conference record. The school owes Crean a $3.2 million buyout, per his contract.

This will be White’s third opportunity to run a program. He got his head coaching break at Louisiana Tech before taking the job at Florida. White also spent time as an assistant coach at Jacksonville State and Ole Miss. Most of White’s career has been spent in the SEC and he’ll stay in the conference with the Bulldogs.

White had received a two-year extension prior to the 2021-22 season. That kept him under contract through 2026-27.

“Though he’s still relatively young by coaching standards, White has already established himself as a successful head coach,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement on June 1, 2021. “Because of his work ethic, intelligence, and competitiveness his career has such a high ceiling, and it’s going to be fun watching what his Gator teams accomplish for years to come.”

The Gators are the only SEC team (one of nine power Six teams), who have not posted a losing conference record over the past seven seasons. While White’s teams were consistently making the tournament, he wasn’t winning over fans.

In seven years with the Gators, White comprised a 243-128 overall record. His teams were 122-69 in conference play. It’s worth noting that White ranked inside the top-20 in all-time SEC winning percentage during his seven-year tenure.

White’s family had stopped coming to games to avoid vitriol pointed towards White. Leaving to a program like Georgia would lend credence to that information. The Bulldogs are in total rebuild mode. White has been a solid recruiter while at Florida and Georgia is looking for a coach to rebuild a program in shambles.

White had led the Gators to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, the only SEC program to ever do that. However, the Gators hadn’t made it past the second round since their 2016-17 season’s Elite Eight run.

White, who has spent the last seven seasons guiding the Gators to each of the last four NCAA Tournaments prior to Sunday’s 2022 bracket announcement, also expressed his excitement to be headed to Athens.

“I am beyond excited for the opportunity to lead the men’s basketball program at the University of Georgia,” White said. “President Jere W. Morehead and Athletics Director Josh Brooks are united in a strong vision for UGA Basketball which resonated with me deeply. They believe, as I do, in developing our young men as students, athletes and leaders, as well as providing them with the support they need to be successful. I believe in the limitless future of Georgia Basketball.”

White will take over a Georgia team that went 6-26 this past season, the most single season losses in program history. UGA also had more losses than any other SEC program, with a 1-18 in conference record.

One program’s trash is another’s treasure, and there is reason for Georgia fans to be excited. White is a proven recruiter in a high-performance state where recruits are available.

Florida fans can hate him as he goes, and only time will tell if Mike White can raise Georgia’s basketball program from the abyss.

 

Crean Not Rising

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia is riding high after winning the national championship in 2021.

They had a historically great defense that helped deliver their first football national championship since 1980. The question is can that inspire some of the other teams in the athletic department?

The UGA men’s basketball team needs some help. They currently sit alone in last place in the SEC. Their overall record is 6 – 15 and 1 – 7 in conference play.

The most recent game was an 85 – 77 loss to Vanderbilt (11 – 9), led by Scottie Pippen Jr. The younger Pippen scored 23 points and dished a season-high 9 assists and Vanderbilt snapped a three-game losing streak, leading from the opening tip. This was the first time the Commodores swept an SEC opponent since 2017.

Aaron Cook led four Bulldogs into double-digit scoring, finishing with 18 points. Kario Oquendo and Noah Baumann each scored 15 points and Braelen Bridges contributed 14 points. Baumann led Georgia (6-15, 1-7) with nine rebounds.

Vanderbilt led by as many as 15 points in the second half after a Pippen layup with less than five minutes to play. The Commodores hit 7 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half and knocked down 12 of 23 overall. Vandy shot 63% from the floor in the first half, hitting 28 of 55 (50.9%) for the game.

Last season the Bulldogs were 14 – 12. Not great but at least they were over .500. They had one returning starter from the 2020-21 team, P.J. Horne. The 6’6 forward from Tifton, GA suffered a season ending knee injury in October.

Head coach Tom Crean had to know then that season would be tough.

“This is such a major blow to us because (Horne) was playing so well and showing great leadership as our leading returning player,” Crean said on Twitter. “But more so because he is such a great person and one of the finest people I’ve ever coached. He cares about his teammates deeply.”

In May, 9 players entered the transfer portal. This is happening to every team but to have that many players enter at once is still shocking.

No team has been hit more squarely in the mouth by player free agency than Georgia. They have been picked nearly down to the bone. From a raw numbers’ standpoint, the Bulldogs have lost 83.4% of their scoring (1,680 points), 72.5% of their rebounding (701) and 72.1% of their 3-point field goals made (119).

One of their best players, K.D. Johnson transferred to Auburn. The Tigers are currently the number one team in the nation. The Bulldogs had the 4-star recruit for all of 16 games, with Johnson missing the first 10 because of NCAA academic eligibility issues. He averaged 13.5 points a game, second on the team.

Another notable name to leave was graduate transfer Andrew Garcia, who transferred to Kent State.

The Bulldogs appear to have done reasonably well with the six transfers they’re bringing in, led by sophomore guard Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who’s coming from Virginia.

Crean has been in Georgia for four seasons and last year was his only winning record. He did go 16 – 16 in 2019-20. The finished 10th in the SEC that year which was the best they have done in his tenure. He has a 47 – 64 record in Athens.

It might be a good time to move on from Crean after this season and rebuild.

Crean Of The Crop?

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been three years since The University of Georgia moved on from former head basketball coach Mark Fox and hired Tom Crean, who seemed to be a perfect fit for what the Bulldogs were looking for at the time.

However, looking back at his past three seasons with the Bulldogs, things do not appear to be getting any better.

Before coming to Athens, Crean coached at two basketball powerhouses in Marquette and Indiana also coaching two of the NBA biggest stars to date in Dwyane Wade and Victor Oladipo.

The resume Crean had established seemed promising for Georgia fans and were hopeful to be able to return to the NCAA tournament in a few short years after his hire but so far, the only thing to show for it is a first overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft in Anthony Edwards.

Upon Crean’s hire the main focus of the Bulldog basketball program was to be competitive not only within the conference but also earning NCAA tournament bids and winning tournament games. After a 9-34 start in conference play, it is safe to say that Crean has definitely underachieved to this point.

Crean began his tenure at Georgia by talking about his recruiting successes at Indiana and Marquette with the idea that would be able to do something similar in Athens.

He was able to come through on his quest to sign the nation’s top guard in 2019 in Anthony Edwards.

Since the signing of Edwards, the Bulldogs have let some of the best recruits coming out of the state slip away. Other schools like Auburn, Alabama, LSU and even some mid major schools are poaching recruits from my home state.

However, heading into the 2021 season the Bulldogs had some solid pieces coming back from last year with Sahvir Wheeler and Toumani Camara.

They were also able to add some transfers as well to improve their roster. The Bulldogs began their season with an undefeated 7-0 non-conference record, but their biggest win was against an unranked Cincinnati team.

The Bulldogs dropped to 7-4 after going 0-4 in the first four SEC games of the season losing to Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas (by 30), Auburn (by 18).

So, it is safe to say that although it was the best start since their 1982-83 season it wasn’t as good as some thought.

These losses triggered some “worrisome” emails in the newly appointed AD in Athens Josh Brooks’ inbox.

Patience is key for Brooks, if you look at head baseball coach in Athens Scott Strickland, who had four straight losing seasons in Athens before the Bulldogs appeared at number 8 in top 25 back in 2018.

Athletic Director Josh Brooks is adamant that if you want to build a successful program ‘the right way’ it takes some time.

Although Crean is just 39-43 overall in Athens, it seems that Tom Crean has the right people believing in his abilities to get the Bulldogs where they need to be.

Hot Start

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

A season ago, Tom Crean was entering his second season as Head Coach and the Bulldogs had a future first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft in Anthony Edwards.

Despite having such an elite talent as Edwards, the Bulldogs failed to finish the season above .500 on the year.

With Crean being able to bring in a talented group of freshmen along with Edwards, the bulldog faithful hope to see much more success without Edwards than we were able to see with him wearing the red and black.

The Bulldogs two leading scorers in Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds left for the NBA the Bulldogs after last season, leaving Tom Crean and the rest of the Bulldog coaching staff having to replace the team’s top two leading scorers for the 2019 season.

Point Guard Sahvir Wheeler (9.0 PPG and 4.5 Asst.) and Center Toumani Camara (6.6 PPG and 4.3 RPG) were the best two returning players for the Dawgs in terms of numbers and in-game experience.

In 2019, the Bulldogs were 16-16 overall and 5-13 in SEC play giving them the 13th spot out of 14 in the SEC tournament. Heading into the 2020 season Tom Crean and the Bulldogs look to improve the program that has seen much improvement since Mark Fox left in 2018.

The Bulldogs were off to a Hot 7-0 start that carried them through the non-conference without losing a game.

Although, having their best win in that span being against the Cincinnati Bearcats at home in Athens, it doesn’t discredit the Bulldogs best start since the 1982-83 season where the Bulldogs had their one and only Final Four appearance.

As conference play begins with SEC Men’s basketball, let us take a look and see what the 7-1 Bulldogs look like and what to look for moving forward.

As expected, leading the way for the Bulldogs this season is the duo consisting of Sahvir Wheeler averaging 13.7 PPG and 7.4 Asst. and Toumani Camara averaging 14.8 PPG along with 8.3 RPG so far through eight games this season.

As the Georgia Bulldogs get further into the season, they will need Wheeler to take better care of the ball as well as being able to feed the hot hand down the stretch of games.

The biggest and best change for the fans of the Georgia basketball team is that the Bulldogs currently have five players averaging double figures and the Bulldogs also rank 11th in offensive rebounding and 18th in adjusted tempo.

Although not much was expected from the Bulldogs this season, they seem to be out to prove their worth on a campus that has had its eyes on the College Football Playoff for the past four seasons.

Wheeler, Camara and company look to better their conference record from a year ago, which ended up in just five SEC wins.

After a 7-0 start for the Bulldogs, they finally gave one away at home on December 30th to the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-3) ending Georgia’s hopes at breaking a school record for best start in program history.