We’re nearing the end — news flash! — of the calendar year, and our weekly Heat Check takes on broader scope. We review the year just past, and we look toward 2012 and we tick off folks in the process. Got that? Here we go.
Georgia Bulldogs: They rose from 6-7 to the top of the SEC East, winning 10 consecutive games in the process. Then they lost by 32 points to LSU. The debate will rage until next September whether Georgia got really good again or just benefited from a bunny schedule. The view here is that it did both. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive.) But it’s true that the Bulldogs lost to the three best teams they played, and it wouldn’t hurt to beat Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. 2011 Heat Index: A hot season removed Mark Richt from the ol’ hot seat. 2012 Hotness Outlook: Should be a preseason Top 10 pick and the favorite to win the East.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: They rose from 6-7 to 8-4, but losing four of the final six games took the edge off the turnaround. That said, Tech did beat a team that is gracing a BCS bowl, and it is scheduled to return just about everyone of consequence. But the schedule will be tougher next season: Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia must all be faced on the road. 2011 Heat Index: The one-season slide was arrested, which was the main objective. 2012 Hotness Outlook: A better team facing a worse schedule should produce a similar record, give or take a game.
Georgia State Panthers: The brightness of a 6-5 inaugural season faded to the reality of a 3-8 followup. And next year GSU opens conference play in the Colonial Athletic Association, which could deliver another slice of reality. 2011 Heat Index: What have you done for us lately, Bill Curry? 2012 Hotness Outlook: More chills could be forthcoming.
Georgia basketball: The Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA tournament as an at-large team for the first time since 2002 but lost to Washington once there. The whole season had a similar mixed feel — Georgia was good enough again to take seriously but managed to lose most every serious game. And then Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left early for the NBA. The 2011-2012 Bulldogs are 6-5, having won two in a row after losing four straight, and one of those four losses came against Georgia Tech at Stegeman Coliseum. 2011 Heat Index: Making the Big Dance was nice, but the season could have been nicer. 2012 Hotness Outlook: A chilly winter awaits.
Georgia Tech basketball: The Jackets had another losing season, prompting the buyout of Paul Hewitt and the advent of Brian Gregory. With limited talent, the new man has done OK. As noted above, Gregory beat Georgia in Athens, something Hewitt never managed. Tech should be 9-4 headed into the New Year, which figures to start with a thud — first Alabama, then Duke. 2011 Heat Index: An upgrade at coach constitutes a warming trend. 2012 Hotness Outlook: ACC play will prove no day at the beach.
Georgia State basketball: Fired Rod Barnes and hired Ron Hunter, who has led the Panthers to a school-record-equaling eight consecutive victories against nobody you’ve heard of. Which, in the grand rebuilding scheme, beats losing eight in a row to Name Brands. 2011 Heat Index: It’s getting a bit warm in the walk-up gym, if you get my drift. 2012 Heat Index: If Hunter can get close to .500 in CAA play, he should be the league’s coach of the year.
Kennesaw State basketball: Fired Tony Ingle and hired Lewis Preston, who comes with nice credentials. But this is a tough job, and Preston’s first season began with a 44-point loss at Wisconsin and has continued apace. The Owls are 2-8, having lost six in a row. But they are ranked 63 spots ahead of Georgia State in ESPN Insider’s RPI, for what that’s worth. 2011 Heat Index: Think Antarctica. 2012 Hotness Outlook: Think Saskatchewan. Which is warmer than Antarctica, is it not?
By Mark Bradley