Georgia’s basketball team went into the season with Tournament aspirations. With those hopes slipping away, what has happened to Mark Fox’s team in 2017?
Although they take very much a back seat to the football team, UGA’s basketball team went into this season expected to push for relevance in March. However, after a close loss to South Carolina, they are currently sitting 13-10 and only 9th in the SEC. The team is struggling all over the court and it looks like Mark Fox’s team are going to miss the tournament for the 6th time in his 8 seasons as coach. Why are Georgia struggling so badly this year? Well there are several factors going into their disappointing season so far:
J.J. Fraizer has taken a step backwards.
By far and away the second best player on the team behind Yante Maten and the key senior leader of the team, much was expected of Fraizer this year. The point guard averaged just under 17 ppg in 2016 and while that number hasn’t changed much this year, his efficiency has. He has seen his 3pt % drop from 38% to 29% this year and that lack of consistency has really hurt his game. He is also turning the ball over much more than in his two previous years, with 2.5 a game compared to 1.6 in 2015 and 2016.
Fraizer remains a key player for UGA and continues to give it is all. He’s not playing badly, he just hasn’t taken the leap many were hoping for but he continues to be a good leader for the team. The best chance this UGA team had to make a big jump was if Fraizer took that leap and unfortunately, that just hasn’t happened this year.
Undisciplined front Court Play
One of the biggest issues the team has suffered through all year is their inability to keep their front court players on the court. A lack of discipline throughout the rotation seems to leave many of the players in foul trouble far too much. Far too many of these fouls are cheap, silly ones that players simply should not be making.
Yante Maten offers UGA their best chance to win very night, but he often ends up playing less than 25 minutes due to silly fouls. Mark Fox is also being forced to play a zone defense much more than he would like because of these issues. This is leaving the team vulnerable to offensive rebounds and Georgia are getting hammered in the paint as a result. Opponents are having far too many second and third chances to score which continues to help UGA blow big leads, especially late in games.
Complete and utter lack of consistency from the 3 spot.
Georgia has also lacked a small forward for much of the season. Jwan Parker has flashed at times and there have been moments where it looked like he could be the 3rd scorer the team needs. However, after a strong run of games in mid January, he has come back down to earth since the Texas A&M game and UGA once again is lacking a threat on the wing.
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Having one position, so clearly deficient leaves the team scrambling to find scoring throughout the game. Parker remains Georgia’s best option at the position at the moment but its very hard for UGA to win when he has a down game.
Mark Fox is a good (but probably not a great) coach. That being said, he has made several mistakes this years that have put this team in difficult positions. His substitution patterns throughout the year have been very inconsistent and even now, he does not seemed to have settled on the best way to use his bench. He has struggled to implement freshmen Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris into the lineup at a time when Georgia is screaming for points.
There have been several occasions where Harris has missed a tough shot and has been immediately pulled from the game, something that Fox does not do with older players. He also benched Crump for 2 games after he scored 16 against Morehouse and is yet to put him on the court for more than 4 minutes since then.
Again, Fox is a proven coach who surely has his reasons, but these decisions have not paid off this year. He has a tough job competing in a talented SEC at a school with little history or interest in basketball but 2017 will likely be a year to forget for him. That’s not to say he should be replaced, Fox has achieved some success at UGA and deserves time to rebuild after this disappointing season. But if Kirby Smart builds the winning program many are hoping for at Georgia, then more lost seasons will continue to see fan’s interest wane in Basketball.