Is this where Mark Fox pops in the video of “Hoosiers?”
Maybe he invokes the name, Eruzione?
Or does he venture a little further back to David? What kind of odds was he getting against the Philistines, or anybody else in that Mideast tournament?
Georgia will play in its first SEC tournament under Fox beginning Thursday night against Arkansas. The Bulldogs have the second-worst conference record in the field (5-11). They are coming off a loss to the only team below them (LSU, 2-14). So as a general rule, Georgia does not define “smart money” in Las Vegas.
So why is it things don’t seem so hopeless?
“I’ve told our players to pack for a week,” Fox said.
This is not a prediction that the Dogs are going to run the table in Nashville. They’re packing neither a tornado, nor Sundiata Gaines. But there certainly is a more positive feeling around Georgia hoops today than there was two years ago when the team entered as the sixth seed from the SEC East and reeled off consecutive upsets over Mississippi, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas.
“No, I don’t think I’ll be showing any movies,” Fox said when asked about the “Hoosiers” motivational tape. “But obviously we have some players who’ve had the experience of winning the tournament. So I’m sure that they’ll share that with their teammates.”
It happened two years ago, when Dennis Felton was about to get fired. It certainly can happen this week, when Mark Fox is being celebrated. He has done more with less than any coach in the conference.
Most NCAA tournament projections have the SEC getting four teams in. Georgia has beaten three of them: Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida.
The other is Kentucky. The Dogs led the then-third-ranked Wildcats at halftime in Lexington and threatened an upset before losing, 76-68.
Where’s the hopelessness?
“I don’t need to tell our players anything, I think they understand what’s possible,” Fox said. “I think they feel like they can beat any team in the conference if they play well. There’s not a team they can’t beat. But the other side of that is, if we don’t play well, there’s not a team that can’t beat us, either. We have no margin for error.”
No. But they have direction. Also their shoes.
When he first took over in the spring, Fox recalled how one player asked him, “Do you really think we can win?” He was stunned. No player had ever asked him that before. There were the needed disciplinary measures of having his players run steps in Sanford Stadium in the August heat.
Most famous of all was the first road trip. Three players forgot to pack their sneakers. Fox recalled early in the season: “I was like, ‘OK, now I know why we’re having some issues here.’”
From there, the Dogs went on to upset Georgia Tech (ranked 17th at the time), Tennessee (eighth) and Vanderbilt (20th). They’re a team with two good players, sophomores Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, and a bunch of guys who really just try hard. They’re next-t0-last in the SEC in offense and middle-of-the-pack in defense, but first in three-point field percentage (37.3 percent) and second in free-throw percentage (71.9), two areas that can tip the scales in tournaments.
“I think we’ve made progress,” Fox said. “I think we’ve moved our program forward. Obviously, our season is not over yet. But we’ve established that our program is coming back.”
And that turnaround makes this week a little more interesting.
Also posted today: Tuesday Countdown ($160 for a Tim Tebow autograph?)