Georgia Bulldogs Basketball, NIT Ambitions, and the Futility of Hope

Me, too, Mark. - USA TODAY Sports

We'd have been better off if the Mayans had been right.

It likely has not escaped your notice that our posting frequency here at Dawg Sports has slowed down just a bit in the last couple of days. I assure you this is but a temporary condition, attributable partly to (thankfully) slow news days---for the moment, at least, the player arrests and marijuana usage are someone else’s problem---and to the fact that (although the Bulldogs have been active in several sports lately) there were no University of Georgia intercollegiate athletic events of any kind on Wednesday or Thursday. Mostly, though, we’ve all just been bummed about Tuesday night’s basketball loss to Alabama.

No, we’re not as bummed as we were after another recent loss to the Tide, but we’ve been pushing Georgia hoops pretty hard around these parts for a while now, and it was disheartening to see yet another opportunity for the faintest sliver of roundball relevance slip through the Bulldogs’ fingers.

The Red and Black have been fielding men’s basketball teams annually since the 1905-’06 school year, yet the Athenians have made just eleven trips to the Big Dance, two of which later were vacated by NCAA sanctions. In those eleven campaigns, Georgia has been seeded higher than sixth just thrice, has won its first two tourney games just twice, and has received a bid to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons on just a trio of occasions. The Bulldogs have never gone dancing three years in a row, and they have played one and been done seven times in their eleven appearances. Are the Classic City Canines simply doomed to basketball irrelevance?

It sure didn’t look that way at one time. In the eleven seasons from 1980-’81 to 1990-’91, Georgia made it into postseason play ten times, attending five NITs and five NCAA Tournaments. During the first five years of that run, the Red and Black advanced past the first round of either an NIT or an NCAA Tournament four times, eventually falling in the semifinals of the 1982 National Invitational Tournament and the 1983 Big Dance.

At one time, 30 years ago, Georgia basketball appeared to be on the verge of something big. Since the SEC expanded in 1992, however, we have seen rival after rival after rival surpass the Hoop Hounds on the hardwood, as a period that saw five NCAA Tournament trips in a nine-year span between 1983 and 1991 gave way to an era in which the Red and Black made the Big Dance just twice in the nine years between 1992 and 2000. That situation isn’t getting any better, either, as the Athenians were included in two of ten NCAA Tourney brackets between 2003 and 2012, and one of those was a total fluke.

We’re who the Boston Red Sox would have been if they’d been saddled with the Curse of the Bambino without ever having had Babe Ruth in the first place; we’re who the Chicago Cubs would have been if they’d merely been losers without being lovable. Right now, we don’t even move the needle enough to warrant discussion as an NIT bubble team. What’s worse, I know something has to change, but I don’t know what; at least, when the football program was taking on water, it was clear what the problems were (Willie Martinez, kickoff coverage, Willie Martinez, strength and conditioning, Willie Martinez, undersigning, and Willie Martinez). I could come up with a list---all right, chuckdawg could come up with a list---of ten things about men’s hoops that needed fixing, but, if I could wave a magic wand and fix all ten of them overnight, I’m honestly not at all convinced that it would make a damned bit of difference.

The Fox Hounds will be back in action at 8:00 p.m. this Saturday night, when they will take on the Mississippi Rebels in Oxford in a game scheduled to be televised on ESPN2. The team will have my support, and all the enthusiasm I can muster, but, truthfully, I lack faith, not in the players, not in the coach, not in the fans, not in the administration, and not in the facilities---though I could find fault with all of them---but in the program. We have endured better than two decades of near-total futility interrupted only by intermittent bursts of success that were neither sustainable nor replicable nor (in at least one instance) permissible under the rules, and I have my doubts that Georgia men’s basketball ever will amount to much of anything. Our success at roundball, like Kentucky’s success on the gridiron, is a relative rarity whose occasional occurrence always is inexplicable, sinister, or a harbinger of something worse, and invariably is a short-lived chimera that is not to be trusted and not to be believed.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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