After a 20-win season and a third-place finish in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs were supposed to be entering the 2014-2015 season with realistic NCAA tournament expectations, building off of an impressive 2013-2014 campaign.
Instead, the Dawgs could be kicking off the year down two starters from last season’s squad. Granted, Mark Fox and his fan base have had several months to sulk about, deal with and get over the loss of Brandon Morris, the team’s third-leading scorer and arguably its best defender from a year ago.
But, today’s statement from CMF insinuating that Kenny Gaines may not be ready to suit up next Friday might be too much for the Bulldog Basketball Nation to bear. During a press conference today, Fox told the AJC that Gaines would definitely not play in tomorrow’s exhibition, and that he was “pessimistic” about the junior’s chances of suiting up in Atlanta in the season-opener at Georgia Tech:
“Kenny has been ill,” Fox said Wednesday. “He will not play Thursday. He has not practiced. And really no timetable for a return. We know he’ll return at some point this season. He’s been very sick. He is getting better but he’ll not play tomorrow night.”
Fox’s vague description of Gaines’s condition will leave UGA fans speculating as to what the young man might be ailing from. Regardless, the Dawgs’ backcourt will need to reshuffle and regroup quickly, and sophomores J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker must find a way to make up for Gaines’s scoring.
Tomorrow night’s exhibition will give eager fans a small glimpse of some of what is to come from this year’s team, but for the players the game should serve as nothing more than a mild tune-up. In eight days the Dawgs will be playing in a hostile environment against a Georgia Tech team that I believe will finish the season much better than the media expects. CBS pegged the Jackets as the 13th best team out of the 15-team ACC, but with the addition of four transfers to go along with Marcus Georges-Hunt, I think that Tech could be a tough out.
Last year the Bulldogs’ NCAA hopes were plagued by early season out-of-conference losses, including one at home to Georgia Tech. This year, Georgia was hoping to return the favor to the Jackets, but now they might have to do it without their best perimeter player.