College basketball 2010-2011: Will these Dawgs really hunt?

Is there a lid on how high Trey Thompkins and UGA can climb? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Is there a lid on how high Trey Thompkins and UGA can climb? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

With the season almost here, our thoughts naturally turn to that bastion of college basketball — the University of … Georgia?

Speaking of which, will the Bulldogs be as good as some people seem to think?

Florida coach Billy Donovan suggests Georgia could be the conference’s best team. The Bulldogs’ Trey Thompkins, already projected as an NBA lottery pick, was voted the SEC’s preseason player of the year. And here we pause to wonder: Is all this too much too soon?

Reality check: The Bulldogs were 14-17 last season. They finished last in the SEC East. They were 0-11 on the road. For all the good work done in Mark Fox’s first season — beating Illinois, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida — Georgia operated without an ounce of pressure. Fox’s second band of Hounds is expected to reach the NCAA tournament. That’s at least 16 ounces of pressure.

For Georgia, the cheery news is that the players don’t seem overwhelmed and the coach, who graced NCAA tournaments while coaching Nevada, won’t be. And the Bulldogs, with Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson and touted freshman Marcus Thornton, stand to be much deeper than they were a year ago. (Although the high ankle sprain suffered by Thompkins could complicate matters.)

With the status of both Kentucky signee Enes Kanter and Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl in flux, the SEC East is unsettled. It’s not inconceivable that a team as gifted as Georgia could surge to the top of the division, but that’s a lot to ask of a team unaccustomed to being noticed.

Speaking of Bruce Pearl, does he still have a job?

It’s complicated. His contract has technically been voided, but Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton has made it clear that Pearl, who has admitted lying to NCAA investigators, is still the Vols’ coach. (The school and the coach are negotiating a new deal for less money.) But almost nobody seems to think Pearl will last much longer. Nor should he.

Speaking of coaches and jobs, what’s up with Paul Hewitt?

Georgia Tech reached the NCAA tournament last season but left the distinct impression it accomplished maybe half what it could have. Hewitt was approached by St. John’s in April but wound up staying at Tech, where he has the world’s greatest contract. He’ll be without his three best big men from last season, but he still has resources.

The Jackets will be deep on the perimeter, and we saw with the now-departed Derrick Favors that Hewitt’s strength isn’t in teaching his men to get the ball inside. Duke has proved you can have a fair measure of success by spreading the court and letting your guards work. If Tech can manage that, it can have a decent season. Picked to finish ninth in the 12-team ACC, the Jackets should wind up sixth or seventh.

Speaking of Duke: Will the Blue Devils repeat as NCAA champ?

They’ve done it before under Mike Krzyzewski, but that was in 1992 with a team that featured Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley. These Devils aren’t nearly so imposing. They’ll be very good, but they’ll miss Jon Scheyer’s distribution and guile. (Although the freshman point guard Kyrie Irving is a major talent.)

Duke deserves to be preseason No. 1, but the guess here is that somebody else  — Michigan State, Pittsburgh or Ohio State — will take the title come April 4 in Houston. Lest we forget, Duke was a missed Gordon Hayward 40-footer from entering this season as the reigning runner-up.

Speaking of Butler, who’s apt to be the new raging mid-major?

Even without Hayward, who left early for the NBA, Butler will again be strong. So will Gonzaga, which was the Butler of the ’90s. And a mid-major to watch is based in nearby Spartanburg, S.C. The Wofford Terriers return four starters off a team that beat Georgia in Athens, won the Southern Conference tournament and finished 26-9. Don’t be surprised if/when Wofford wins on the road at Minnesota or Clemson within the next 10 days.

Speaking of leaving early for the NBA, who’ll be the next John Wall?

The Kentucky one-and-done was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. NBAdraft.net projects seven freshmen among the top 10 selections in its 2011 mock draft. One is Kanter, the Turk who hasn’t yet been cleared by the NCAA to play for Kentucky. Another is Brandon Knight, who signed with the Wildcats after Wall announced he was leaving. Another is Irving of Duke. Another is Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, who’s the reason the Buckeyes might be improved even after losing player of the year Evan Turner.

But the best freshman stands to be Harrison Barnes of North Carolina. He’s a small forward who has been likened to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Grant Hill and Tom Gola. (Just kidding about Gola. Not kidding about the other four.) Barnes is why North Carolina, which somehow lost 17 games — including three to Tech — and missed the NCAA tournament last season, is again a Top 10 team.


78 comments Add your comment

Gravy Train

November 5th, 2010
11:24 pm

Could it be?

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2010
11:28 pm

Could, Gravy Train. The kudos are yours.

Gravy Train

November 5th, 2010
11:33 pm

That’s a first for me!
Basketball is the best winter sport there is.
Now to the discussion. I, for one, am very excited to see what the Dawgs can do this season. They had some very impressive games last season, playing UK to the wire in Lexington and a blow-out win over UT were two of my favorites. The obvious problem the Dawgs had last season was their lack of depth on the bench. I think some of the new guys will help solve that problem. Hopefully Trey will not be out for long and Ware can continue with his electrifying break aways. We need a good three point shooter for the triangle to work well. Look at the Lakers.

MB, as a UK alum, what is your over-under on how long it takes for Coach Cal to land UK in hot water? He seems to leave a stain everywhere he’s been.

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2010
11:38 pm

Calipari is always one step from hot water, Gravy Train. He’s uncanny.

5150 P.O.A.D

November 5th, 2010
11:40 pm

No but they will end up as the #2 in the SEC east.

5150 P.O.A.D

November 5th, 2010
11:42 pm

UCF wins over Houston. Schultz was right in putting the UCF cheerlearders on hiw weekend picks blog.

bigcalidawg

November 5th, 2010
11:44 pm

I believe we have the horses to do it. I say sweet 16, but not conference champion.

Upstate Dawg

November 6th, 2010
12:01 am

The Dawgs weren’t able to win on the road last year but they did win numerous big games at home. They played the fundamentals well: good defense & free throw shooting plus limited turnovers. With more confidence this year, the results will follow….both at home and on the road. GO DAWGS!

The Southerner

November 6th, 2010
12:46 am

Bruce will stay Chip…get off your high horse…You’ve been bashing Dooley as of late too, last I checked UT has had 5 arrests under his tenure. 2 involving D. Myles who has been booted….Meanwhile St. Marky Mark is up at 10+…you’re in the media at least try to hide some bias. And as someone who is a helluva lot closer to the Pearl situation than you are, I’m just gonna leave at he will be coach so long as a postseason ban doesn’t come down. We’ll know for sure in December when the NCAA sends its allegations, but as someone who is closer to the situation than you are, indications are pointing to
Pearl remaining at UT for at least the next few years, albeit he’ll be on a tight leash

Left Foot

November 6th, 2010
1:07 am

<<>>

I like reading your articles, Mark, but this is one of the dumbest lines you’ve ever written.

Left Foot

November 6th, 2010
1:08 am

whatever. read your own work and you’ll find the line in question.

Buckeye

November 6th, 2010
6:47 am

Howard (Trey) needs to toughen up in this his final year. Always had the tools/skills going back to his Wesleyan days. He needs the attitude that he’s the badest dude in the street and back it up with his play. He needs to rid himself of the whining and softness. Looking foward to see if he’s been in the weight room and develped some definition.

norman

November 6th, 2010
7:02 am

The next Butler? There’s a small university in Nashville, TN. called Lipscomb University. They are a Division 1A university with the nation’s second leader scorer back from last year, Adnan Hodzic. They play North Carolina Tar Heels next Friday on Fox SportsSouth. Check in on them, and keep an eye on them Bradley. They are going to surprise a lot of people.

Biff Pocoroba

November 6th, 2010
7:17 am

Hewitt won’t be around much longer. Last night, Tech looked worse than ever. Shumpert looked like he was worse than he was as a freshman. Shump and the rest of the team still can’t make freethrows. Hewitt even called a timeout to set up a play in the final minute and had to immediately call another one when they couldn’t get the ball in. Once again, he ran out of timeouts before the end of the game. Hopefully Clark Atlanta is better than Duke and UNC. If not, Hewitt will be gone soon. The fact that more Clark fans were at the game last night than Tech fans and more Tech fans were at the volleyball game than the basketball game, does not bode well for Hewitt.

SadDawg

November 6th, 2010
7:17 am

UGA Basketball Program > UGA Football Program

Mark Fox > Mark Richt

Sad indeed.

Not Don Waddell

November 6th, 2010
7:35 am

It’s amazing that in today’s age of superstars and hype, two working-class, largely untalented teams like Duke and the Giants have won titles lately.

It’s some sort of paradox where individual players keep getting better, but the teams who are around at the end keep getting worse. Strange times.

Uh Oh!!!

November 6th, 2010
7:37 am

LOL… GA BASKETBALL? THEY HAVE A BBALL TEAM? HERE’S A NUMBER FOR YOU 101-85… WE OWN YOU…

Max Sizemore

November 6th, 2010
8:50 am

Hey, Tom Gola could play. Really.

yellow thunder

November 6th, 2010
9:02 am

Did you say Dawgs and forget to say Mark Richt sux? What is the problem? We need to fire somebody here.

TommyP

November 6th, 2010
9:05 am

“…two working-class, largely untalented teams like Duke and the Giants…”

Maybe you’re “Not Don Waddell” but we’ll say you’re Billy Knight. Duke is full of high school All-Americans. Every year. AND they’re generally very good students.

The Giants? Only the best array of arms in a pitcher’s paradise you could ever dream about. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Bumgarner….Brian Wilson???? What the hell?

Football Fan

November 6th, 2010
9:13 am

Just enjoy a season where you don’t have to ignore the entire UGA basketball season like under Jirsa and Felton.

TommyP

November 6th, 2010
9:16 am

Forgot to comment on the Dawgs….East is definitely wide-open this year.

Mark: The loss of Thompkins for 3-6 weeks (tough to gauge that injury) will benefit Georgia in the long run. This will open some playing time for others and also force Jeremy Price to be the main option down low. Price comes up with a HUGE year this year.

hEWITT fAN

November 6th, 2010
9:24 am

MARK,

Will GT have to play the refs and the other teams in the ACC?..last year Duke was handed a championship, will it happen again….Duke won a National Champ with 2 guys who were all everything but couldnt make it out the summer leauge in the Nba( The big wrestler at center and the PG)…In the Acc championship game Kyle Singler shot 24 free throws, in the second duke game Lawai and Favors were on the bench in foul trouble in the first 2 minutes of the game…the purdue game against duke was a tragedy,(duke shot like 30 %, but shot a ton of free throws) the Baylor game was decided by the refs and even though Butler had white players like duke, they still call the game in favor of Duke, which made me realize it isnt about color, its about that cone head guy coaching!!!!

Worm

November 6th, 2010
9:28 am

Clark took Tech to overtime…Recruits, YOU still have time to come to your senses!

Jackets2010

November 6th, 2010
9:29 am

Ga Tech vs Clark Atlanta directed by Brian De Palma.
Put your dagger through their heart, will you?
Oh that was a joke on me to pretend u might lose.
Well at least it might be an important first step for Holsey.

boiler up

November 6th, 2010
9:55 am

Don’t count out Purdue>> Even though Hummel went down, They still have 2 first team all Big Ten and 1 first team All American in JuJuan Johnson with good depth.. Don’t count out Florida as a surprise.. Georgia has a GREAT shot at winning the SEC this year.. Go Boilers!!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BallerGeist, KwikTIK and Amy Reynalds, Mi Lottery Alert. Mi Lottery Alert said: College basketball 2010-2011: Will these Dawgs really hunt?: The Bulldogs' Trey Thompkins, already projected as … http://bit.ly/9c3aDi [...]

steverino

November 6th, 2010
10:09 am

Congrats Not Don.
I’ve NEVER seen Duke and working-class, largely untalented together in the same sentence. Imperial Duke, maybe regal Duke. Make no mistake, Duke may get a technical for too many white boys on the court, but untalented, not ever. Same goes for San Fran’s pitching-there is a reason Texas’ middle of the order didn’t produce.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Biff pocoroba

November 6th, 2010
10:16 am

This is Hewitt’s last season. Last night Shump looked worse than his freshman year and still can’t make free throws. Hewitt kept hanging his head in disgust wondering why he keeps relying on one and dones. Hewiit called a time out in the final minute to set up a “play” and then had to call another one when they couldn’t get the ball in as usual. If DRad was there and saw that there were more Clark fans than Tech fans and more people at the volleyball game, Hewitt is toast. If Duke is better than Clark Atlanta, Blewitt won’t win 10 games this year

Beast from the East

November 6th, 2010
10:31 am

The East is certainly wide open this year. Could be UF, UGA, UK, UT, Vandy, who knows? As a Gator, I have to say that I thought Mark Fox’s bunch gave as much effort as any team I saw last year. If they get that kind of effort again this year with the added depth they will be a tough team to beat.
Go Gators!

Beast from the East

November 6th, 2010
10:33 am

Mark,
Who do you see winning the SEC East? I have to go with my Gators. They have good talent and the best coach in the conference. Your thoughts?

steverino

November 6th, 2010
10:34 am

Mark, it has crossed my mind that you just put in time covering other sports during the rest of the year so you get to write about college basketball. Your passion shines through, and you are just the best. I can’t believe you haven’t been snatched up by national outlets like some of the other, less talented writers that have graced the AJC.
So many newcomers to the Atlanta area do not realize that through the years, the AJC’s sports page received many national awards for being the absolute best. Every day, during breakfast, I devoured the sports page end to end like the biscuits and gravy at Bobby and June’s on 14th.
So many national sports press stars came through Atlanta during the 70s, 80s and 90s. I remember when you were the “rookie” on that staff. You probably have some great tales to tell of those days with Minter, Grizzard, Hudspeth, Bisher and Outlar. Maybe a long article, or a book? You were terrific then and you are merely great now, esp. covering college hoops. Thanks for sticking around.

Delbert D.

November 6th, 2010
10:37 am

No more one-and-dones. Return college basketball to some semblance of respectability.

Hobo

November 6th, 2010
11:01 am

As a Wofford grad, I appreciate the props for the Terriers!

Beast from the East

November 6th, 2010
11:03 am

Delbert,
I agree. They should adopt a policy much like the NFL.

Reality

November 6th, 2010
11:07 am

Florida is loaded and will be the team from the SEC to go deep into the tournament. Georgia will be an also ran just like football.

Reality

November 6th, 2010
11:12 am

boiler up, “don’t count out Florida as a suprise”. ???? No kidding. They are the pre-season pick by the coaches and media to win the conference.
Beast from the East, NFL and MLB have the same policy. That is why I don’t even watch the NBA. Something should be done. 1 and dones are ridiculous.

wxwax

November 6th, 2010
11:29 am

Why is Tennessee negotiating a new contract for Pearl if “almost nobody seems to think Pearl will last much longer”?

That doesn’t make sense to me.

Observer

November 6th, 2010
11:37 am

All of a sudden uga basketball fans are acting just like the football fans (probably same people). We are supposed to believe that Fox is a coaching genius even though he has no track record to substantiate it. This year he is also proving he isn’t much of a recruiter. Last year this team finished 14-17, in last place. Their so called star, Tompkins is a center who prefers to play like a small forward, and is slow of foot and not much of a defender. The other star, Leslie, can jump. This is good, but doesn’t necessarily translate into winning games. The rest of their players are just average at best. I suppose with one more year experience they might improve to something like 16-14, and move up one notch in sec east. This would put them in NIT, which constitutes a great year for GA basketball. So, I’m wondering why GA fans are so excited and predicting championships, sweet sixteen, etc? Must be the same football fans who think GA will win BCS title every year even though they have no basis to think that.

Thugs R Us

November 6th, 2010
11:50 am

UGA’s success depends entirely on how many of their thugs stay out of jail.

Paul in RDU

November 6th, 2010
12:16 pm

UGA has made some good steps in the b’ball program lately, but they still have to translate that to wins on the road – not uncommon for a lot of teams trying to improve. They would be mid-pack with GT in the ACC but should be in the upper half of the SEC.
How the heck does Bruce Pearl still have a job? Then again why the heck isn’t UConn under probation?
GT doesn’t have the post players but they should be strong at guard this year. With only 1 game a piece against UNC, Duke, NCSU and MD they should be able to finish at 6 in the ACC.
This year’s Duke team doesn’t have the talent of the 1992 team – but then again, neither did last year’s team and they won the NCAA. They have loads of returning talent (Singler, Smith, the Plumlees) and Irving and Seth Curry (brother of Stephon, son of Dell) are going to light up some teams. The only question on Irving is whether he will go to the NBA after his freshman year or wait until after his sophomore year.
Barnes is likely to be this year’s John Wall, but he is only one of the reasons why UNC is in the top 10 in the polls. Henson, Zeller and Strickland are excellent players and Ole Roy knows how to coach. If he gets solid play at PG from Drew they could go all the way.

There will be quite a race for rookie of the year in the ACC this year. As well as Irving and Barnes, CJ Leslie of NC State (who went to the same school as John Wall) is going to be in the mix.

Paul in RDU

November 6th, 2010
12:24 pm

Not Don Waddell – Duke largely untalented??? They had 6 McDAAs on the roster last year. Or are you trying to say that Scheyer, Singler, Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers aren’t talented?

Paul in RDU

November 6th, 2010
12:29 pm

My opinion on “one and dones” is that kids should be allowed to go to the NBA out of high school, but if they do go to college they should stay 3 years. This is pretty much the way baseball works.

Ted M

November 6th, 2010
12:49 pm

Here is my prediction…Paul Hewitt will cry like baby about being a young team. He does it every year, amazingly even last year with Lawal & Peacock.

Ted M

November 6th, 2010
12:59 pm

Mark,

No offense and know this wasn’t your baby but the NBA Preview section in the print edition a while back really sucked. I’m hoping you NCAA Basketball Preview section is much much better.

dog alum in SC

November 6th, 2010
1:21 pm

The UGA fans should really support this basketball team. No players have been in trouble and two stayed when they could have left for cash. The basketball program makes the football program, players and attitude look like sewer dwellers. Support UGA basketball. Maybe the football team will learn a lesson from their example this season.

Biff

November 6th, 2010
2:13 pm

This will probably be Hewitt’s last season. There were more clark fans then Tech fans there last night as most people have lost interest in Hewitt’s “team”. There were more people at the volleyball game than basketball game which DRad must love. Hewitt just stood there shaking his head all night looking more clueless than usual. It was obvious that things haven’t changed when Hewitt took a timeout in the final minute to set up a “play” and then had to immediately call another timeout when they couldn’t get the ball in and then didn’t have any left for the final seconds. If Shump continues to shoot more than five times a game, this will be a 7-10 win season since he can’t even make free throws and even blew a lay up last night. If the new congress can get the economy turned around, we will finally have enough money for Hewitt’s buy out this year and he can go home to cheer for his beloved Yankees.

Not Don Waddell

November 6th, 2010
5:01 pm

If anyone watched Duke last year and thought that was a great, or even very good team is seriously deluding themselves.

There just aren’t many good college basketball teams anymore, and most of the coaches are used car salesmen who can’t coach a lick but are good at pimping kids (See Calipari, John). Duke’s advantage is that they have a PHENOMENAL coach who has learned that it is better to have a team full of decently talented kids who still give a damn about college basketball versus a bunch of mercenaries looking for their next paycheck.

College basketball is simply a different sport than it was even 10 years ago, but the one guy on the sidelines keeps winning games more than anyone else.

Nilo Silvan

November 6th, 2010
5:07 pm

Norman, Lipscomb will never even win the A-Sun as long as Sanderson is there.

The SEC east is Loaded!!! I think UT will come out on top in the end behind the play of Freshman Tobias Harris. No team will dominate though.