Georgia basketball is headed to the postseason, but not in the way the team or fans would have wanted to. The Bulldogs are instead going to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament.
The goal Georgia basketball set when the season began was to make the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs were coming off of three-straight 20-win seasons for just the second time in school history and the first with only one head coach.
J.J. Frazier became the senior leader and Yante Maten was stepping into a leadership role as an upperclassmen. Juwan Parker was back, Derek Ogbeide was going into his second year starter as a sophomore. And Tyree Crump was the second 4-star recruit of the Mark Fox era.
This was going to be the team that took Georgia basketball to the next level. The program had gone from a level below mediocrity to being respectable. And now it was time to go from just respectable to being a solid team that expects NCAA Tournament appearances each year.
But five months later and Georgia basketball is still where it was a year ago. The team is yet to reach 20 wins. A 1-8 record against the RPI top-50 kept them out of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
While Georgia basketball is certainly in a better place than it was five years ago, the program is definitely not where it, or its fans want it to be. And that’s a problem.
Mark Fox brought Georgia from the depths it was in when Georgia hired him, but there are doubts about whether he is the right guy to take Georgia to that next level. Those doubts are absolutely justified.
There are doubts about whether the administration cares about basketball. Once again, those doubts are justified. The women’s basketball team has regressed since Greg McGarity became athletic director. And even though the Georgia basketball program is respectable, as we saw in links from a story published by Dawn of the Dawg last month, Stegeman Coliseum isn’t exactly a feared venue for opposing teams.
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This basketball season was a letdown. But you also shouldn’t panic about the state of Georgia basketball either.
Georgia still has a lot to play for this season and with a win against Belmont, Georgia can do something it’s never done before; complete four-straight 20-win seasons.
The Bulldogs are also the no. 2 seed in the NIT so not only will a win over Belmont give Georgia 20 wins but it would also allow Georgia to play one more game in Athens. They might even get to play Georgia Tech in the second round. And if no. 1 seed Syracuse gets upset, Georgia could end up having a third encore in front of a home crowd.
Georgia might even win the whole tournament. I know this isn’t 1955 and that the NIT isn’t as prestigious as the NCAA Tournament anymore. But this could be the first Georgia basketball team in school history to win a postseason tournament. What better way to show that the program isn’t backsliding and will still be looking to begin playing at a higher level in 2017 than a win in the National Invitational Tournament?
Next year’s Bulldogs will potentially be the best in the Mark Fox era if Yante Maten returns for his senior year. With 4-star power forward Rayshaun Hammonds joining Maten, Ogbeide, Parker, Mike Edwards and much improved versions of Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris, Georgia should make an NCAA Tournament run.
Five-straight wins to end the season will give Georgia basketball a ton of momentum for the 2017-18 season.
Yes, I am disappointed that Georgia is not playing in the NCAA tournament. I’m frustrated that this team didn’t live up to potential and I am critical of Mark Fox. But I’m not ready to give up on the 2016-17 Georgia basketball team just yet. And neither should you.