Georgia basketball defeated Georgia Tech Tuesday night to improve to 8-3 with one more game until conference play begins
Georgia basketball has come a long way since Mark Fox became head coach in 2009. Prior to that, the Bulldogs only had 21 post season appearances and just three under previous head coach Dennis Felton.
Before Felton, Georgia was a program on the rise, albeit a slow rise. Georgia made eight post season appearances in the 1980’s and 1990’s each. But the wins vacated from the 2002-03 season, the probation that followed and Felton’s inability to get Georgia basketball back to building upon what Durham started set the program back for coach Fox.
When Fox became coach, Georgia had several goals that they wanted to achieve. They wanted Georgia basketball to be a program that makes trips to either the NIT or NCAA tournament every year and always hang around 20 wins.
Since 2011 Georgia has appeared in the NCAA tournament twice (2011, 2015) and the National Invitational Tournament twice (2014, 2016). And Georgia has won at least 20 games in all four games.
So it’s fair to say that Fox and Georgia basketball has achieved most of the goals they had in 2009. Georgia is back to what it was the 80’s and 90’s. We now expect Georgia to play in either the NIT or the NCAA Tournament and win 20 games each year. And we also now expect Georgia to be successful in basketball recruiting. So now what?
New goals for the Bulldogs
Georgia basketball has gotten over many humps since 1980. But now there are new humps that Georgia needs to get over before they reach the ultimate goal of all college basketball programs; perennial National Championship contender.
But this piece is about Georgia’s five-year goals and making the Final Four annually just isn’t an achievable goal.
Post season goals
But what Georgia should set as a goal to reach by 2022 is to become a program that makes trips to the NCAA Tournament much more often than the NIT. In Georgia’s 25 post season appearances, 13 of them have been in the NIT and 12 have been in the NCAA Tournament.
That’s great for a program with zero post season appearances from 1905 to 1982, but it’s time to start putting the NIT behind us.
Right now Georgia fans expect the Bulldogs to make the NIT. So by 2022 Georgia fans should be able to expect the team to make the NCAA Tournament every year. And when Georgia does slip and has to settle for the NIT, fans should expect to be at least tournament runner-ups.
But before Georgia basketball can think about the post season, the Bulldogs have to do well in conference play. And that is the second goal Georgia needs to accomplish by 2022. The Bulldogs need to go from being a middle of the road SEC team to a conference championship contender.
In five years, not being one of the final four teams in the SEC in the regular season and the conference tournament should be a disappointment.
I do not expect Georgia to dethrone Kentucky any time soon, But Florida has fallen and Texas A&M has not yet as the no. 2 team in the SEC. Then there are teams like Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Auburn and Arkansas all on the rise in the SEC making the conference better.
But Georgia doesn’t need to settle and become a part of that crowd, they need to lead it. No matter how good and consistent any of those programs become, by 2022, Georgia basketball needs to be a team that is expected to compete for championships in the SEC.
Achieving these goals begins with the 2016-17 season. Georgia has the potential to have a great showing in conference play, put together a run in the SEC Tournament and then make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia can make their fourth straight post season appearance and 20-win season in 2017. It can also be Georgia’s 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and third this decade. It would definitely mean Georgia is well on their way to accomplishing those five-year goals.
As for next season, Georgia looses J.J/ Frazier and Kenny Paul Geno to graduation. But Yante Maten and Juwan Parker will be seniors and they are already great leaders as juniors. Maten is even one of the best players in the SEC.
Then Derek Ogbeide, Turtle Jackson and Mike Edwards will become juniors, while Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump will be sophomores. Four-star power forward and no. 7 player in Georgia Rayshaun Hammonds will also be in Athens along with three-star Nicolas Claxton and a few more players who may commit to Georgia.
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Georgia basketball will be a much more mature team next season while they bring in a great recruiting class. The 2016-17 team has the potential to put Georgia in the NCAA Tournament, but the 2017-18 Bulldogs can make a run in the tournament.
From there it’s just more building, keep replacing stars who graduate through recruiting and develop players into leaders by their junior years. If the Bulldogs stay on this course, they’ll achieve the goals mentioned earlier in five years time