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ThE tOm CrEaN eXpErIeNcE

Its been a ride...

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This Georgia Basketball team is somehow both the luckiest and unluckiest team I have ever followed in my life. I mean seriously, this has been an up and down ride.

After beating a Top 10 Memphis team on their own floor on January 4th they were 4-0 in games decided by less than 4 points.

They had also found a way to come back from down nearly 30 at the half to Michigan St and then lose despite Anthony Edwards’ 7 second-half 3-pointers and 37 total points. This was after losing to an excellent Dayton team by 20. They followed that up with this...

A couple weeks later Georgia lost by 20 on the road at Arizona State. The next game was against SMU, where 5’8” Sahvir Wheeler went off in double overtime and got Georgia the victory.

Georgia lost a heartbreaker at home to a top ten Kentucky team to start conference play. They followed it up with a 22-point loss to Auburn, a team they would later beat. The next game they played was a 17-point shellacking of a decent Tennessee team.

There was a 30-point loss on the road at Mississippi St next. Close losses to Kentucky and Ole Miss were followed by the blowing of a 20-point halftime lead at Missouri. A win over Texas A&M came before Georgia blew another 22-point second-half lead in Gainesville. That game was followed by a 105-102 loss in overtime at home against Alabama.

Next was a blowout loss to South Carolina. Then came another agonizingly close loss to Texas A&M that was followed by Georgia beating a highly ranked Auburn team with aspirations for a league title.

Georgia went to Vanderbilt to face the only SEC team that is definitively worse than them and trailed almost the whole game. Then this happened...

On Wednesday night the Dawgs went to Columbia and faced the same South Carolina team that had whipped them earlier this season on their own floor. The Gamecocks would almost certainly be out of the NCAA Tournament field with a loss. Georgia played them tight for 40 minutes and got the game into overtime. Anthony Edwards was every bit as good as advertised and carried the Dawgs with 36 points. Most of his buckets came with at least two hands in his face.

Down two with 5 seconds left, Sahvir Wheeler somehow found himself zipping down the floor at a pace only he can. He passed up an open three for the win, and got called for a charge that effectively ended the game.

As that transpired I jumped off of my couch and involuntarily made the following noises-

“Ahhh! Yeaaa?-NOOOOO!”

It was tragic. But do you know what else it was dear reader?


This entire season of Georgia Basketball has been filled with thrilling finishes- dramatic whistles, buzzer beaters and overtime periods have been an every week occurrence.

All of this has been happening while Anthony Edwards continuously rips off face-melting solos.

Unfortunately, Georgia has come up short more often than not.

Mark Fox was a great man and a good coach. When his team won games they often did so by making them utterly unwatchable and disgusting for all involved. Aesthetically, it was not much different then watching James Coley call the same inside-zone draw over and over against an eight-man front.

Tom Crean brought Anthony Edwards to Athens. For that, he deserves credit. He also put Sahvir Wheeler on the floor with him. Wheeler is slightly taller than Muggsy Bogues and a barrel of fun to watch. He told them and the rest of his team to run the floor and play fast. He did this because he is an entertainer and he wants you to come watch his basketball team.

People have shown up to Stegeman Coliseum consistently this winter despite Georgia being 14-14 overall and in 12th place in the SEC.

There are a lot of people on Twitter and other corners of the internet that are angry at Tom Crean. They believe he sold a bill of goods and is a liar because he got people to come see basketball games in Athens. Did those same people want him to get behind a podium before the season and tell the fanbase to take a gap year because he has a team with NINE Freshman?

In order for Georgia Basketball to become something substantial it needs to appear important to Georgia fans. That has to be the case no matter what the record is.

Crean has had some great moments this season. One of them came on Wednesday night when he called a timeout and got his young team into a solid set with just over ten seconds left in regulation at South Carolina. The result was some excellent off-ball action and a high screen that ended in Anthony Edwards streaking down a wide-open lane. He deserves credit there.

He also deserves criticism for things like letting his young team dangle in the wind while Florida cut a 22-point deficit down to 8 in a matter of just a few minutes in Gainesville earlier this month. The Gators were clearly feeling it, and Georgia desperately needed their coach to stop the bleeding, quiet the crowd and make some changes.

Crean didn’t.

That game could have been a turning point in the right direction for a young team. Instead, it was more discouraging evidence that they don’t quite know how to close a game yet.

I have watched Georgia outplay teams that will be highly seeded in the NCAA Tournament for long stretches of games. I have also watched them look lost and confused against teams they should beat.

I have seen Georgia score 100 points in a game and I have seen them score less than 60.

I don’t have the slightest clue what is going to happen when Georgia plays a basketball game. Lately, they’ve been in it down the stretch more often than not.

Hell, Tom Crean might show up wearing a cheap jacket that looks like a robe and was clearly bought in a rural Georgia Stuckey’s when he realized he wasn’t wearing the proper attire on a recruiting visit. Its purchase might have come with a Pecan Log.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When I see the man wearing a $20 jacket with a broken zipper despite making 3.2 million dollars a year, I fear for his judgement.

I am also entertained.

He has been known to do some strange things and make some odd decisions.

He has also assembled a team that is interesting (actually!) and could very well serve as the foundation for a new era of Georgia Basketball.

I’m well aware of the criticism around Crean for his talented Indiana teams flaking out in the Sweet 16. Do you have any idea how excited I’d be for a Georgia team to make the Sweet 16?

As I wrote this, Sahvir Wheeler said the following to the Macon Telegraph’s Brandon Sudge.

Dammit, I believe him.

This Georgia team’s strange and winding season isn’t likely to end with a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The NIT is probably a stretch too.

They might win out. They might lose out.

They could ruin something for Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Auburn or some other bubble team in the SEC Tournament.

At any moment Anthony Edwards could destroy someone’s life and dance on what’s left of their ego for good measure.