Sorry for the lack of entries – I was unable to watch the LSU game due to work, and then I had to immediately shoot down to Amelia Island for a wedding, not leaving much time to write about Georgia basketball.
I was able to follow the flow of the UGA-LSU game on ESPN’s Gamecast however, and I was certainly amazed by the Dawgs’ ability to overcome a 20-point first-half deficit, almost tying the game with under a minute remaining.
At 15-17 overall, Georgia would be attempting to make history by getting an invite into the NIT, considering no team without a winning record has received a bid since 2006 when the selection committee removed the “must have .500 or better record stipulation”. Honestly, it feels like this basketball season is over.
All and all, I have to say I am pleased with what transpired on the court this year for Coach Mark Fox’s team. After an abysmal 2-7 start to the season which included home losses to Youngstown State and Iona, Georgia rallied to win 13 of their next 23 games, finishing at eighth place in the new fourteen-team SEC.
During the Dawgs’ initial slump, Coach Fox appeared to be gliding towards a hot seat. However, when conference play finished and UGA had won 9 games, members of the media began rumoring that CMF might be the league’s Coach of the Year (deservedly so). Florida’s Billy Donovan won that award, but I am not sure if what Fox did with this year’s UGA team isn’t more impressive.
Looking ahead to next year, any person who even remotely follows Georgia basketball knows that the success of the 2013-2014 teams relies heavily on whether Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns for another season or not. Should Pope return, UGA would possess a lot of offensive firepower with more-seasoned versions of Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris.
Mann, who was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team this year, could be an All-SEC first-team player by as early as next year. Towards the latter part of this season, Mann really began to come into his own at the point guard position, consistently attacking defenders and driving the ball to the rim. In three of UGA’s final six games, Mann got himself to the foul line for double-digit attempts – he finished with 14 or more points in all three of those games. With his size, his level of play can only go up as he gains maturity.
Should KCP choose to return, I think he would enjoy a lot less double-teams and traps next season as teams will have to pay more attention to Mann and Gaines – Pope may actually have the opportunity to show NBA scouts what he can do in one-on-one type situations.
A KCP-led Georgia basketball team would have a legitimate chance of finishing in the top five of the SEC, and I would feel pretty confident that they could earn an NCAA-berth.
However, if Pope decides to leave for the NBA in the next two weeks, obviously UGA basketball fans will have to temper and readjust their expectations.
Whether KCP stays or goes, Coach Mark Fox is going to have to play with less depth at the guard position, since both Vincent Williams and Sherrard Brantley will be graduating. Not that either of the aforementioned players were key elements of this season’s team, but both of them shot better than 36% from beyond the arc, consistently making key shots late in games for this young team this year.
Georgia’s two incoming freshmen – JJ Frazier and Juwan Parker – are both guards, but neither player will be ready to make significant contributions next season (ESPN rates each as a two-star recruit).
For the sake of the UGA basketball program, everyone needs to cross their fingers and hope that KCP wants to play one more year donning the Red and Black.