Where is Georgia basketball in 2015?


When the Auburn Tigers lowered the boom on the Bulldogs Saturday night, they also pin pointed where the Georgia basketball program is in 2015. It’s not a bad place.

Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. – François VI, duke de La Rochefoucauld

I never had much use for the French, still this quote is all Georgia basketball fans have to hang a hat on today.

More from Georgia Basketball

The Dawgs scrapped to within a whisper of averting a disaster against the Auburn Tigers Saturday afternoon. However, as that other great philosopher, Mike Bobo, once said, “This is a bottom line business.”

While athletic competition is scored on a win/lose binary system, a look inside the loss to the Tigers shows exactly where the Georgia basketball team and program is on this gloomy winter day.

Georgia entered the Auburn game with a great shot at a 20 game regular season. With four games remaining against SEC bottom dwellers and 16 wins in the box, the sun was bright. But with the Stegeman Coliseum rocking and rolling, the Dawgs could not survive the modest turnaround from a Wednesday game and the persistent disadvantage of playing weeks without two of its top nine players.

The drag of Juwan Parker and Kenny Paul Geno in street clothes caught up with the team Saturday. With jump shots fading from the rim, a poor Auburn team beating a superior defensive squad down the court and off the dribble, and the Bulldogs unable to claim a loose ball, the Dawgs were clearly fatigued. Asked after the game by this Georgia fan if the Bulldogs looked “a little tired”, Fox Sports analyst Larry Conley leveled a stare:

Very tired.

Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia Bulldogs /

Georgia Bulldogs

Coach Mark Fox has molded a feisty, never-say-die, team first-me second squad, placing the Georgia basketball team within a rung of the national stage . . . and not yet on the stage. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Dawgs were one of the top four teams in the SEC, but a team that could not survive the wear and tear and injuries all teams must endure in any conference season marathon to beat lowly Auburn.

With the pre-season loss of Brandon Morris and the injuries to Juwan Parker and Kenny Paul Geno, Taylor Echols has performed more than admirably – he has proven himself an SEC basketball player. (His second half three-point basket nearly propelled the Dawgs to victory over Auburn). But he is just one player replacing three.

J. J. Frazier, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann can compete with any backcourt, but the Dawgs lack an elite talent that overcomes fatigue or injury and the replacements for fatigued players. Up front, the three-man rotation of Marcus Thornton, Nemi Djurisic and Yante Maten is the best blend of experience and young talent at any position the Dawgs have had since Jim Harrick paced the coach’s box. But a three-man rotation will not hold up for a season and Houston Kessler cannot yet give all the minutes the Dawgs need in the dog days of February.

Feb 14, 2015; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs forward Marcus Thornton (2) scores past Auburn Tigers forward Cinmeon Bowers (5) during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum. Auburn defeated Georgia 69-68. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

So here is Georgia basketball: in the top third of the SEC as measured across two seasons, winning nearly half its road games, lurking all season just beyond the national top 25, and a team still missing the combination of front-line talent and bench depth to compete effectively in all 16 SEC games.

Are things, as the Frenchman said, better than they seem on this gloomy morning?

Mais oui.

Simply translated, help is on the way.

After this season, Georgia loses its heart and soul, its MVP, the Professor Marcus Thornton, along with his running mate Nemi Djurisic. The talented future NBA draft choice Yante Maten returns along with Houston Kessler. The entire backcourt also returns, including crowd favorite small forward Cameron Forte. Add to the veterans a talented freshman class of guard Will Jackson (6’5” 175) from Athens, small forward E’torrion Wilridge (6’6, 170) from Beaumont Texas and the stout post-man Derek Ogbeide 6’8”, 240 from Mableton.

Not only is the 2015 class Mark Fox’s most talented recruiting class, (247.com national rank of 53, underrated due to evaluation injuries to Jackson and Wilridge), each member is not only a scorer, each is blessed with great defensive talent. Mark Fox built a nationally ranked defensive squad this year. The incoming freshman fit Mark Fox’s philosophy and style, will mesh with the returning veterans to enhance the Dawg’s defensive strength and add offensive firepower.

For the 2016 class, Georgia has the commitments of Jordan Harris (6’4” 165) of Donalsonville and Tyree Crump (6’2”, 175) of Bainbridge, two of the top guards in Georgia. If Georgia can hold these two commitments, and it will be a chore to keep Harris as he attracts the interest of top programs (he holds a UConn offer already), it can be the best  pair of Georgia guard signees in memory.

Although the Dawgs must collapse in the next two weeks to miss the NCAA Tournament, Georgia basketball fell short of the national stage this year.

However, the journey continues. If Georgia basketball can avoid its usual once a decade self-imposed train wreck, the Dawgs are a better team next year and the year after as well, will crack the 20 regular season win ceiling, venture into the top 25 during the next two seasons, and gain the attention of the nation.

Next: Georgia football: underachieving or unlucky