UGA enters the SEC tourney having not yet shown us its best

A tough loss: Tennessee's Williams scores over Georgia's Barnes. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A tough loss, one among many: Tennessee's Brian Williams scores over Georgia's Chris Barnes. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Georgia has won 20 games, but only a couple of the victories — against Kentucky in January, at Tennessee last month — are worth recalling. Such has been the Bulldogs’ season: For all the good work done, there’s not much we could deem outstanding.

But the season, as of Thursday at 1 p.m., changes. Georgia needs to win at least twice in the SEC tournament to prettify its NCAA tournament profile, and this team is capable of winning twice that many games this week. This team, put simply, is better than it has played.

Said Dustin Ware, the junior guard: “We definitely feel that, as a team, we still have our best basketball in front of us.”

Said Chris Barnes, the backup big man: “We’ve had a lot of close losses.”

Only one of the Bulldogs’ 10 losses has been by more than 10 points, and that was by Florida in double overtime in a game Georgia led by three points with one second remaining in the first OT. It also lost in double overtime to Notre Dame, which finished second in the Big East, after leading by a point inside the final five seconds. And also on a last-second putback by Tennessee’s Brian Williams, who outfought Barnes for a rebound. (Georgia fans insist Williams fouled.)

Has so many near-misses made for a frustrating season? Said Ware: “That’s college basketball.” Then: “In a tournament format, anything can happen.”

Beat Auburn on Thursday and Georgia will play Alabama on Friday, and it’s possible if not probable that the Georgia-Alabama loser will land in the no-account NIT. But the Bulldogs should handle Bama, to which they lost in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, on a neutral floor. And then Georgia could cease fretting about the next tournament and focus on winning this one.

Which has, as we know, happened before. After his team’s practice Wednesday, Barnes was moved to recall his last Dome experience — the night in March 2008 that a tornado hit downtown and ripped the fiberglass roof and rerouted the tournament to Georgia Tech, where the Bulldogs, seeded last in the East, won the event and saved Dennis Felton’s job (for 10 months).

“For me and [fellow senior Jeremy Price], that was the first thing that came to mind,” Barnes said. “We were out in the tunnel, waiting to play [Kentucky]. I remember hearing the roar and the scoreboard swaying. It was a crazy day, a crazy night.”

And then Georgia, which had won four SEC games all season, won two at Tech the next day and another on Sunday. Barnes again: “It was something out of a movie. After we won, I said, ‘Somebody should make a movie out of this.’ ”

The 2008 SEC championship was among the most improbable stories in the history of college hoops. A 2011 SEC championship wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic, but it would be wholly satisfying to a program that has reached the NCAA tournament only once since 2002. Over the past 12 years Georgia has suffered the ineptitude of Ron Jirsa and the investigation of the Jim Harricks Sr. and Jr. and the intransigence of Felton, and happier days are finally here again.

Hired from Nevada in March 2009, Mark Fox has proved to be a fine coach, and these are the most talented Bulldogs since the Jarvis Hayes/Rashad Wright band of 2003. That star-crossed entity stands among the sport’s Great Lost Aggregations. Those Bulldogs would have entered the SEC tournament 19-8 and figured to be no worse than a No. 4 NCAA seed, but the school removed the team from postseason 10 days after Tony Cole made his allegations on ESPN.

This team doesn’t have quite the potential that one did, but it’s close. And if Georgia does reach the NCAA tournament, it could hang around. Last month Fox said, “There’s no question we’ve let a win or two get away.” It’s time for his team to get grabby. It’s time for us to see the Bulldogs’ as-yet-unplayed “best basketball.”

By Mark Bradley

71 comments Add your comment

Dawgitty

March 9th, 2011
2:41 pm

42-34 Dawgs STILL Run This State!

March 9th, 2011
2:44 pm

FIRST – looking forward to Thursday’s game against the Barn!

NCAA Selection Committee

March 9th, 2011
2:47 pm

“and it’s possible if not probable that the Georgia-Alabama loser will land in the no-account NIT. ”

Yeah, it doesn’t work that way, Mark. See also: Hofstra vs. George Mason, 2006. Or, heck, Georgia vs. Colorado, 2011.

first man

March 9th, 2011
2:51 pm

FIRST!!!!!!!!! DANG!!!!!!!!!! :(

Gordon

March 9th, 2011
2:53 pm

What about the close wins against Auburn and Arkansas? It’s easy to just remember the close losses. But I agree this is a team that could win the SEC and make the Sweet 16.

stevie zero

March 9th, 2011
3:02 pm

speaking of underdogs taking this tourney, lets hope these dogs dont look past an auburn team with tons to prove

Ryno in Athens

March 9th, 2011
3:07 pm

I just don’t get Lunardi over at ESPN. He told himself back during late January-Early February that the Alabama-Georgia game at the end of the year is a play-in game. Now they most likely both get another chance to play again. Stupid theory if you ask me. Doesn’t that Zero Bad Losses thing mean something?

Dawg in Malta

March 9th, 2011
3:12 pm

Track’em down just like beagles….Go to hell you war-DAM-eagle!!
Dawgs should kick A$$ tomorrow…then beat bamas A$$ friday to insure a trip to the dance!!
I’ll be watching on ESPN3 from afar…1 eye on the game the other on Qaddaffi??
Building a new USA Embassy in Malta…to be completed by July…I’ll be in the Dome against BS!!
Go Dawgs!!!

npgator

March 9th, 2011
3:13 pm

I have to admit that Georgia does have a good team and could make some noise at the SEC tournament.

Hollywould

March 9th, 2011
3:14 pm

Dogs go down tomorrow. War Eagle

GTBob

March 9th, 2011
3:14 pm

The Zero Bad Losses does mean something Ryno. It boosts their RPI and puts them on the bubble. If they had lost to Auburn or Arkansas then they probably would need a really deep run in the tournament. The overall strength of the SEC is what is really hurting UGA right now.

Not A Hewitt Fan

March 9th, 2011
3:20 pm

Okay duhhhawgeees…..we @ Tech need you to make a strong run, thus furthering OUR cause that Pewey must go. The finals of the SEC wd be nice, as it adds to our point of needing a change just to catch up with you in OUR acclaimed sport…..Go Jackets, and (holding my nose at this point) Go Dawgs!!!!!! uuggh I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
:-(

NoGaGator

March 9th, 2011
3:21 pm

Fox has done a great job in getting the program to where it now is but it seems they need that one “gut check” time where they actually win a game to get the over the hump, so to speak.

Ron O

March 9th, 2011
3:21 pm

This has been the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda season the Dawgs. I hope that they can final play a complete game against good competetion and not fold at the end as they have done so many times this year.

freshd

March 9th, 2011
3:25 pm

If UGA is gonna make a post season run they are gonna have to correct three things.
1. Dustin Ware has to get more touches on offense because he has been the best three point shooter all season. 2. They need to play better team defense, because nobody helps out when shooter comes down the lane or try to take a charge. The lane parts open like the red sea. 3. Gerald Robinson has to play under control and quit trying to force something thats not there.Lately he has become a turnover machine waiting to happen.

Herschel Talker

March 9th, 2011
3:42 pm

MB:

We need these guys to stop talking about their best game and instead to go out and do it.

HT

phil

March 9th, 2011
3:43 pm

Bradley comes through with yet another ingenious observation about one of our teams. Did he just now realize UGA hasn’t played up to its potential? Was he unaware of the near defeat at Mercer back on December 23rd? Unaware of numerous other pathetic showings against other teams, such as needing OT just to beat Auburn at home? One of the worst teams in the country? Unaware of the constant excuses for why Thompkins hasn’t shown up this year?

We will not get past the second round in the SEC tourney, assuming we beat Auburn and I doubt we will. Write it down. NIT. Check our long history in that tourney. A rare 1st round win sometimes, then out on our faces. Not that it matters.

So, what can we conclude from all of this? Talk is cheap and empty, as keeps getting shown with ALL Atlanta and UGA sports, year after year, save gymnastics at GA. Gymnastics! The talk now at UGA in football is the new nutrition program. Are you kidding me? THAT’S the reason we collapse in the 4th quarter? McDonald’s? BS. I’m so tired of the talk and the excuses. Go win the dang games and then talk about this stuff. Is Tofu going to lead us over Florida next fall? Of course not. But some already seem prepared to say it will be the difference. Incredible.

PTC DAWG

March 9th, 2011
3:49 pm

I’m baffled at the folks who don’t think Fox has done a great job with this team. Our talent it not near what UK/UF/Vandy/UT is in the East, yet, he is right there with them.

GATA Fox…keep up the good work.

weezie

March 9th, 2011
3:50 pm

Agree w/ fresh d- Robinson must play under control, but Trey MUST show up big for SEC tourney.
Hurting at this time of season is par for course-show you’re bulldog toughness and SUCK IT UP!!!!!!
Will be watching from a memorial for life time dog fan-we will pull this one out and gain great deal of confidence heading in to Bama game.

go for 2

March 9th, 2011
4:08 pm

Enter your comments here

joe

March 9th, 2011
4:13 pm

Can you say one and done? Auburn in an upset sends UGA to NIT

Gbal

March 9th, 2011
4:16 pm

I think looking back at the end of last season, we would have hoped for 18 to 20 wins and considered it a big step forward. So I think UGA has met or exceded expectation form a W standpoint. What is really bitter sweet is the fact that we had some good chances to end the season at 22-23 W’s. Sweet that Fox had us in position to have a chance so ofter but bitter that those ended in losses. No big disappointment but feel if the DAWGS will really focus, they can go a ways in the post season. They do need to get through or do away with those slow 6-8 minute spurts and take it to the hole when inside. Seem to miss more than our share of 4-8 footers.

Good news for you, Phil

March 9th, 2011
4:20 pm

“Talk is cheap and empty, as keeps getting shown with ALL Atlanta and UGA sports, year after year, save gymnastics at Georgia.” That word ALL is key to what I am about to say. If you, Phil, are a UGA fan, and I assume you are by using “we” in your post, I have some good news for you.

130+ SEC championships, 30+ national titles in 8 different sports. We are not a one trick pony when it comes to winning championships.

Paul in RDU

March 9th, 2011
4:23 pm

Mark,

I seem to recall you wrote a similar column about GT this time last year before the ACC tourney – and you were correct with that one, as GT had a nice run. Maybe this is your 1x a year where you are correct.

Peter in Scottsdale

March 9th, 2011
4:36 pm

Too much looking past Auburn going on…

Go for 2

March 9th, 2011
4:36 pm

Mark, why don’t you get to the point here?

You predicted the Dawgs would contend to win the SEC and it was a really bad prediction at the time (but not surprising as both Jeff and you have been hyping UGA hoops all year). So now we are getting a CYA article from you saying we haven’t see their best. Oh and thanks for the note on close losses, reminds me of Coach Richt’s recent comments/qualifications.

GF2

Matt

March 9th, 2011
4:40 pm

PTCDawg, did you seriously just say that UGA doesn’t have the talent that VANDERBILT has?? UGA has some athletes, they’re just undisciplined and choke when the pressure’s on.

BALI ..

March 9th, 2011
4:49 pm

never heard get grabby before…is grabby a word…get grabby dogs

Hutch

March 9th, 2011
5:04 pm

if uga loses to bama, they aren’t in. can;’t be a bubble team and lose to a bubble team twice in a week and make it

OldFan

March 9th, 2011
5:04 pm

This is the time of year when a hot team can cause a lot of damage. Right now, Auburn is hot. UGA less so. Sure would be a good time for the Dawgs to light the wick

Daba Daba Doo Dawg

March 9th, 2011
5:20 pm

“Tech professors charged with fraud”

hahahahahahhahahahahaahhhahaha

Rumor has it thier football and basketball coaches will soon be indighted as well.

hahahahahahahhahahhahahhahaha

9-1

5150 UOAD

March 9th, 2011
5:37 pm

I think the Dawgs win against Auburn. I still want to see a BIG game from the TEAM as a whole. They will need to rest, come out HARD against Bama, and really make a second statement in a row to make the Tourney. Good Luck Dawgs. I just hope Tech can play in the NIT after firing Hewitt.

phil

March 9th, 2011
5:38 pm

I am well aware of the numerous SEC titles and national championships, mostly in tennis and gymnastics and a few other sports that few of us care about. I’m proud of them all, yes, but I don’t see many being posted in football or basketball….that’s my main point. Tennis doesn’t pay to keep the lights on at Sanford Stadium during our now routine losses.

Beast from the East

March 9th, 2011
5:44 pm

The Dawgs are capable of winning it all or going back to Athens tomorrow. Need to be aggressive in the paint and limit the turnovers. They do those 2 things and they can beat anyone.
Best of luck!

Boise Dawg

March 9th, 2011
5:49 pm

This is a good basketball team, but they are not a great team because they don’t have a go to guy in the clutch. Great teams don’t lose that many close games… a lot of basketball games are close and we seem to struggle down the stretch against better competition.

Kudos to this team and Coach Fox though… they won the games they were supposed to win and 20 wins is quite a turn around from 3 years ago. I just hope we can continue to bring in enough talent were 20 win seasons like this are the norm and that we have the potential for another sweet 16 runs in the near future.

Terry Funk

March 9th, 2011
5:55 pm

I’m with beast…if we lose tomorrow I wouldn’t be shocked…pisssed..but not shocked…I think we make it to the semi’s and lose to UK on Sat…which would be great let Thompkins get some rest…if we win the SEC tournament we’re a 7 seed…if we beat Bama & Auburn we’re a 10 seed…who cares..!!! we just need to get in..Let the Big Blue fans spend a bunch of $$$ for 3 days in Atlanta…

Joe

March 9th, 2011
6:27 pm

UGA is know for playing good against losing teams, and bad against winning teams. I expect UGA to fold quickly.

Phil's Loser Alterego

March 9th, 2011
6:31 pm

Phil- You have got to be kidding me. You win the award for most ridiculous blog statement EVER. The University of Georgia is one, if not the, top sports univeristy in the nation. Yes, we win constant national championships with our tennis, golf, and gymnastics programs, they are year in and year out dominating opponents, and consistently in the top 10, top 5, and most often National Champs (and this is a bad thing?). I guess the point you were trying to make in between time from your unemployed, apathetic couch-surfing life is that our football and basketball programs arent winning national championships and SEC championships every single year. Well Georgia has 5 claims to National Championships in football (1927, 1942, 1946, 1968, 1980), and really should have won in 82 as well, and should have gotten the chance in 2007, as we were #4 the final week, when the #3 and #2 teams both lost, and we still get left out somehow. Anyways, the NC is a popularity contest no different than Miss America or your high school prom king contests, just with football. They can only control what they can, thats why I look to SEC titles to gauge a football program rather than NC’s, and Georgia has 12 SEC titles, the most recent in 2002 and 2005. We havent been much of a national powerhouse in college basketball, other than our lone final 4 trip in 83, but is that your point- to find one chink in UGA;s athletic armor and harp on it? Needless to say our college basketball future looks very bright with Fox, so go ahead and nit pick with our 20 win season…you are pathetic and probably a loser in life…. NO TEAM CAN WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP EVERY YEAR!!! You also make fun of ATL sports, and must have conveniently forgotten the Braves 5 National League Pennants, and 1 World Series Pennants in the 90s, and that should have been at least 2 Pennants, as we had golden opportunitys in both 91 and 96, so I am a Proud sports fan of the winning traditions of UGA and Atl sports, you are a pathetic loser….that is the difference…

Buzz 2010

March 9th, 2011
6:39 pm

I am afraid the Dawgs go down before Alabama game. Alabama just beat them and
will be flying high..

Steve

March 9th, 2011
7:21 pm

Joe, AKA moron, so you call Auburn a winning team? Smart guy.

[...] Florida Favored To Win It AllSportsbook GurusBeware of Dogs of MSUChattanooga Times Free PressAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 249 news [...]

Reg Mackworthy

March 9th, 2011
8:44 pm

Yeah – Auburn a winning team. BBWWAAHHAAAHHAA
They really should budget more of their cheating money on basketball.
I’m sure that is more difficult this year with the reforestation cost of Toomer’s corner.

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman !

March 9th, 2011
8:56 pm

The Dawgs still wont show anything this season. Mark it down!

Joe

March 9th, 2011
8:57 pm

Mark-

What’s Georgia’s record against winning teams this season?

Mark Bradley

March 9th, 2011
9:44 pm

The better question: What’s Georgia’s record against teams ranked in the RPI top 50? The answer is 3-9.

Beast from the East

March 9th, 2011
9:53 pm

Mark, That’s the one stat that might keep them out.

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

coloradobulldog

March 9th, 2011
11:03 pm

Would love to not only see DAWGS make NCAA but play out here in Denver.

Joe

March 9th, 2011
11:17 pm

Mark Fox will never have 2, top 10 NBA picks on his starting 5. If Fox can’t win big with these 2, it’s ALL downhill from here.

Joe

March 9th, 2011
11:19 pm

Mark-

Fox has a 3-9 record against RPI top 50?

That’s not good enough.

like Richt last year, his wins were worthless, against lousy teams.