Ruminating on the current state of UGA basketball

Georgia will enter the upcoming season without its top 6 scorers from last season’s team that managed a 7-11 conference record before being bounced by the Missouri Tigers in the Dawgs’ only SEC tournament game. UGA will return just one starter – P.J. Horne – as it heads into Tom Crean’s 4th season at the helm of this program. If that doesn’t get your juices flowing full of optimism for next year, I’m not sure what will.

Obviously, the biggest losses from the roster were Sahvir Wheeler, Toumani Camara and K.D. Johnson. All three averaged double-figures last year, and both Wheeler (All-SEC Second Team) and Johnson (All-SEC Freshman Team) garnered postseason conference accolades. Possibly the biggest gut-punch of all of this turnover is that the Dawgs will have to play against 3 former starters next year when they take on Kentucky (Wheeler), Auburn (KD) and Ole Miss (Tye Fagan).

While the transfer portal taketh away, it also giveth, and UGA’s roster for next season is about as piecemeal as they come. Georgia is trying an experiment of bringing in guys that barely saw the floor on NCAA tournament teams to see if they can gel and turn UGA into a competitor. Even though Justin Kier transferred to Arizona, Crean did bring in some three-point shooting with the additions of Aaron Cook, Jailyn Ingram and Noah Baumann. Both Cook (Gonzaga) and Baumann (Southern Cal) come from schools with strong basketball pedigrees, yet neither really produced much for those programs as they netted just 4.2 ppg and 3.6 ppg, respectively. Cook had more success at his previous school, Southern Illinois, where he averaged 15 ppg in his junior season; however, one has to consider that Wheeler scored 14 ppg in the SEC, so for now I’m going to assume that there will be a bit of a drop off at the point guard position for the Dawgs next year.

Ingram averaged double-figures for 3 of his 5 years at Florida Atlantic, yet both Kier and Andrew Garcia were double-digit scorers at their previous schools before arriving in Athens, and neither of them were able to replicate that type of production through an SEC slate of games.

The biggest wildcard of all of Georgia’s new additions has to be Jabri Abdur-Rahim, a 4-star recruit out of high school who went to Virginia only to play less than 5 minutes a contest. He could have been underutilized in Charlottesville, or he might have been slightly overhyped out of high school; only time will tell.

Last season’s team was severely undersized in conference play, yet the only addition to the roster to help shore up that handicap was Braelen Bridges, a 6’10” forward from Atlanta who netted 9 ppg off the bench for the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. Hopefully he can help to protect the rim on defense because I imagine he may struggle to find baskets against bigger, stronger and more skilled SEC bigs.

Barring a late addition of Tre Mitchell (UMASS), next year’s team might struggle to continue the upward trajectory that Crean had this program on for the past three years. In my opinion, the best-case scenario for this crew would be another 7-11 run through the league.

The transfer portal has completely upended the recruiting landscape of college basketball. Just yesterday, I read that 35% of the players that entered the portal have yet to find a new home. It’s quite possible that this is a fad that corrects itself naturally over time as players learn that not everyone can play for Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.

However, this is the current state of college basketball and for now I’d say that Crean is failing in regards to making Georgia a legitimate SEC contender/NCAA tournament team. Players transfer either because they want to play on a team that wins or they want more playing time. Right now, it feels like UGA is offering playing time to guys that were unable to earn it at their previous schools. If Crean has any hopes of making Georgia a winner, he has to figure out how to keep and develop the talent he has, or how to attract the caliber of players that can instantly transform a team into a potential at-large NCAA bid-getter.

4 thoughts on “Ruminating on the current state of UGA basketball

  1. Welcome back Hoop! We needed your calm voice of reason in these turbulent times! 🥴
    Per usual, I agree, although I’m a bit more pessimistic about our conference win total. I see a big downgrade in guard play and essentially no change in the front court. We’ll shoot the ball better overall, probably, but I think we’ll be more like those old Loyola-Marymount teams, but without the talent. As me that will probably be the end of Crean.

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  2. Crean is the perfect coach for fans of off-season content. There’s never not some news for the recruiting trail followers to ruminate over and get excited about. I never could go that route — I can only react to the product on the floor. And so my engagement dims with this lack of continuity, although I welcome anyone who wants to come play. It’s a stew of mystery ingredients.

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  3. “It isn’t over til its’s over”, one of the truer Yogiisms, I believe.

    Was Taylor hurt all year or is he another Walton, who couldn’t or wasn’t interested in the defensive
    part of the game. I’m sure if Crean finds another transfer, Ned will suddenly see the light that there isn’t any playing time for him.

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  4. It’s almost November, and another season under Crean approaches. I am underwhelmed to say the least – not with the boys – whoever this year’s crop turns out to be, but with Crean.

    Gotta take issue with this statement, “next year’s team might struggle to continue the upward trajectory that Crean had this program on for the past three years.”

    There hasn’t been any upward trajectory…at all.

    When Crean arrived I found the change in attitude (vibe?) coming from people who actually interact with the program quite different. How might I describe it? Irritated maybe, definitely less open, and palpably unhappy. Always found that strange.

    So, what do I make of Crean’s initial jettison of players, and then the subsequent flight from Crean of so many other players since? (Granted, transfers have stayed, but where are they going to go?) It hasn’t looked like anyone wants to stay and fight for the man, and whatever love the boys may have had for Georgia, it hasn’t been enough to overcome their desire to jump ship on the UGA CREAN. So, if the boys who play for the man can’t get excited about another season with him, how am I supposed to feel the program is on an “upward trajectory”? If you build anything, it has to have a foundation, a framework. What does Georgia build on?

    And now that we can are past the time of weak excuses such as “Give the man time to right the disastrous state of the program!” We can judge him on his work. It’s all hype and hope, but nothing more.

    Edwards was nothing more than our Ben Simmons – a trumpet of the new age that grew increasingly off key as the coach couldn’t find a way to make it all work. Some pundits point to “sellouts” and “exciting basketball” but that ignores a reality. With Crean’s arrival came a change to the Bulldog Club’s basketball points system. “What? You mean all my football donations will now count for my total basketball points, and I can get really really great lower bowl seats…and this guy Crean is supposed to be the real deal? Ok, I’ll bite. Sign me up.” And really, what else gets you out of the house on cold Saturdays in February? So, yes there were some sellouts, but in total numbers of fans, not much more. Of longtime fans, who hasn’t seen a full Stegeman in the past?

    And what to make of “exciting basketball”? Has it brought more wins? Go on, look at Crean’s records. You tell me.

    I’ll even grant that at those moments when every 3 falls, and every gallop to the rim brings a thunderous jam, it is very exciting, and I’m happy for the boys. However, what about when the 3’s keep clanging off the rim, and the other coach adjusts his defense to stop the gallops to the rim? What has Crean shown us of his coaching acumen? Can we see how his adjustments have found the weakness in the other team’s D, and we pull out that ugly yet hard fought win? The record, which is there for all to see, often says, “No.” And too many margins of defeat are inexcusably tragic. Tell me, what is that? That’s an inability to adjust offensive schemes, and an inability to play D. Consistency reflects coaching. Period.

    And there isn’t much reason to discuss our defense because there hasn’t been any. If there is one consistent theme of Crean-coached UGA basketball, it has been the woeful lack of a defense. In the paint, guarding the 3, adjusting to the opponents offensive strategies – regularly it has been atrocious. But somehow Crean always gets a pass on this glaring deficiency. “At least it’s not boring,” some mindlessly yell, but sometimes, even when our offense approaches 100 points, we can still lose! How is that even possible? It’s only possible if defensive basketball is an afterthought. It’s also where good coaches separate themselves from hype men. Hype men rarely have answers, and even more rarely yield an “upward trajectory”. (Goodness! Where else but politics can you make so much money for such incompetence.)

    So November is almost here, and I’ve paid dearly again to wait out Crean’s contract. I can’t blame the new boys for taking a flyer on Crean. Which of them, once the golden gods of their high school, could endure another lost year sitting unappreciated on a lonely bench? I’d probably feel the same. I hope this group of young men light it up. I’ll happily cheer for them if they do for I’ll know that they succeeded in spite of Crean, not because of Crean.

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