In case you were snowed in and missed it, Coach Felton's 'Dawgs downed the Arkansas Razorbacks tonight in the Stege, 82 to 69. The win moves Georgia to 2-1 in the SEC, and couldn't come at a better time. This young Georgia squad suffered some abyssmal early losses in nonconference play. Frankly, when an SEC team loses on a neutral court to East Tennessee State, it tends to bring about a sense of foreboding among fans. When you're talking about Georgia basketball fans (this one in particular), the Hawaii swing created a sense of dull panic. Combined with the loss to Gonzaga, I had begun to believe that this team was unlikely to even be in consideration for the NIT at season's end, and that this season would be devoted to rebuilding and moral victories.
However, with back to back wins over Alabama and Arkansas (who came in with an RPI of 38), Georgia is back on the NIT track. It also looks like the youngsters are beginning to play more physical, and much smarter, basketball. Some random notes:
Jeremy Price moves better than any 270 pound freshman center ever should. When he learns to really use his body and continues to improve his court awareness, he's going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Things still get a little ugly from time to time on offense. But this year Coach Felton appears to have abandoned his "stand around till the shot clock hits 4 seconds, then chunk up a twenty nine footer" attack. Thank God.
When Dave Bliss leaves Athens, he won't be going to the NBA. But that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve credit for being a much better inside player than he was when he got here. Bliss is a legitimate shotblocker who eats up minutes and works well in zone defense situations. None of that is particularly glitzy, but when you are playing 3-4 freshmen at a time and trying to find your identity as a team, it's a nice bonus.
The Bulldogs will be back in action next Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. It should be a great test of how far this young team has come. A win (no matter how unlikely) would turn a lot of heads around the SEC and give Coach Felton the kind of signature win that tournament committees (NCAA and NIT) look for in March.