Georgia won last night, 74-69 at South Carolina. That moves them to 3-1 in SEC play as they venture up to face a top 10 ranked Kentucky squad in Rupp Arena (they lost to A&M in overtime last night but new rankings won’t hit until next week).
That brings Mike White’s second pack of Dawgs to 13-4 on the season, with wins over Wake Forest, FSU, and Tech plus a pair of conference road wins already on the books. 20 wins and a winning conference record seemingly are within reach, and that combination in a strong SEC makes for at least a bubble and possible invite to the NCAA Tournament come March.
With a solid returning nucleus led by forward Jabari Abdur-Rahim and 6th man/PG Justin Hill, plus big contributions from newcomers like freshman G Silas Demery, and several transfers, Mike White has led a group effort of effective backcourt play and smothering front court athleticism. Abdur-Rahim leads the group in scoring, and along with G Noah Thomasson (grad transfer from Niagara) are the only ones in double figures.
The RJs, both wing Fs - Melendez from Illinois and Sunahara from Nova Southeastern, have had a great impact. So has starting C Russel Tchewa, who came from South Florida. Freshman G Blue Cain, originally from Tennessee but spent his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida, adds an outside shot maker off the bench.
But enough introductions to all the new faces (welcome football fans, to the transfer portal world college hoops has lived in the last few years), let’s get back to this team and last night. It was an ugly game. We shot like, well a similar word with a different vowel. But they fought through against a solid team on the road and got a win. We don’t win pretty. We can score and are solid offensively but don’t expect us to push the pace or get near 100 points. Defensively is where this teams earns its wins, and with numerous players able to carry the load on a given night offensively.
We lack the star power of a Kentucky squad or others, at least for now as Asa Newell arrives next year giving us our first five star since rising NBA All Star Ant Edwards left to go first overall in the NBA Draft. But after beating the pitchforks out of Florida to get to Athens, White has built a solid foundation over the last 18+ months. Plus it looks a bit ahead of schedule considering the disaster that was Crean’s last season and dried out husk of a program he left behind. There is well over a month and a half left this season, but we were are starting to get the wins required to go dancing. South Carolina is one a lot of bracketologists had in, and we beat them on the road.
Long story short, there’s some good news coming out of Stegeman these days. Men’s hoops is looking good and like it’ll only be getting better from here. For someone that has suffered through the ups and downs of the last few decades, this new feeling of hope scares me. Am I allowed to be optimistic? Since when are Georgia basketball fans allowed to have nice things?