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UGA Basketball? I'm Bullish.

Chip Towers has an interesting interview with Coach Felton posted on the AJC site. As we head into our opening round SEC tournament game against Auburn tomorrow, the season is finally starting to come into clear relief. Barring an unbelievable run and luck on the order of winning the MegaMillions jackpot, the Dawgs will be a high seed in the NIT(PWD has a great interview with the Godfather of NIT bracketology, by the way. Check it out if you haven't already). The Dawgs finished the regular season 17-12 overall and 8-8 in conference. NCAA basketball fans have a pathological fixation on March, and fans of even struggling programs (like ours) reflexively get dejected about being left out of March Madness.

However, I wanted to take this opportunity to access the state of our program, and make the argument that we're actually ahead of where the rebuilding ought to be. And this is cause for excitement.

Let's start with the obvious: This was the first year in which Felton was able to move definitively out of the shadow of Jim "AAU Sugardaddy" Harrick. Untroubled by NCAA sanctions, Felton was able to bring in a slew of big, athletic players who have continued to get better and better at playing his style of basketball. This will continue next year with the addition of two more big athletic forwards (though Jeremy Price may end up at center) and point guard Zac Swansey, who fits the mold of a traditional ball distributing point guard (rather than the converted shooting guards Felton has had in that spot).

This team will be back. We lose Stukes and the ever-improving Steve Newman. Neither is a killer blow. The nucleus of this team will be back next year to compete against other SEC teams that are losing a lot more than we are.

The Athletic Department is committed to building a winner. Felton noted the progress on the new practice facility adjacent to the Stege. If you haven't seen this thing in person, you need to take this opportunity to enjoy the early spring weather in Athens. It is, in a word, palacial.

8-8 in the SEC is nothing to be ashamed of. If you had told me in September we would go 8-8 in conference I would have said "That only happens if Joakim Noah joins the Peace Corps and takes Glen Davis and Chris Loftin with him." I think our hot early start against less than stellar competition may have created what former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan refers to as "irrational exuberance." As of the Chattanooga Times Free Press noted, a lot of teams in the SEC are on the verge of getting the shaft because it really is a dog-eat-dog conference. We'll go to the NIT, where we'll get one, two, maybe even three more chances to build this team. As I've said regarding football, postseason games are all about next year.

So all things considered, I'm pretty happy. How about you?