Leave it to the Georgia Bulldogs to play just about the only game of the NCAA Tournament which has gone exactly how it should have on paper. The Bulldogs came out of the gate hot before succumbing to poor shot selection, not-unexpected turnovers, and even some missed layups to fall to the Spartans.
The Classic City Canines had their moments, making a couple of runs late in the second half to get close, taking a three pointer down by two that could have given them the lead, and even making it a one possession game with 20 seconds left. But in the end every time Georgia made a run Michigan State had an answer for it. That is exactly what you expect from a veteran basketball team composed of players who have never not made the tournament. Only the three senior Spartans know what it's like to not make the Sweet Sixteen, and it showed.
It's also worth noting (as the television announcing team did as time wound down) that MSU was a really strong #7 seed. As is often the case with Tom Izzo-coached teams, the Spartans are peaking at just the right time. That could especially be said for their big men, and doubly so for senior forward Branden Dawson, who finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds.
Georgia was led by 19 from Charles Mann and 15 from Kenny Gaines. Both however got in foul trouble, and that foul trouble coincided eerily with Michigan State's runs to widen the lead. In particular, when the pair went to the bench just before halftime the Spartans went on a run that delivered a 35-22 halftime margin from which the Red and Black never recovered.
What to we take from this one? Personally I think it was a good indication of where Georgia is as a basketball program. Mark Fox's team is a mixture of veterans who've developed well over time (Djurisic, Thornton) and talented younger players who still have room for improvement (Maten, Frazier). Nemi and Marcus will be tough to replace inside, but Georgia should return every other significant contributor from this year's squad in 2015-16. If some of the young big men step up, and the 'Dawgs avoid injury, there's no reason why next year can't be more successful than this one.
In other words, for the first time in a while Georgia actually looks like a program that's building toward better things. Really good things. But this year the Hoop Hounds were a solidly above average SEC squad which fought through a boatload of injury and tried to learn how to be consistent over a long season. Sometimes they succeeded, other times they didn't. But in the end this Georgia basketball season ended right about where one would have expected. Better than in the past. Not as well as we hope it will in the future. Until later . . .