Can Georgia Knock Off Kentucky? How Mark Fox Can Sign Off On a Signature Season
Georgia basketball hasn’t just improved during Mark Fox’s first season in Athens. It has drastically surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations.
Even at 13-14 (5-9 in SEC play), the Bulldogs can finish the season with a winning record and a handful of signature wins that two-thirds of the NCAA tournament caliber teams would like to have on their resume, including victories over Illinois, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida.
All five of these teams are either tournament shoe-ins or are on the bubble. Not bad for a team that had been picked to finish last in the entire Southeastern Conference.
In a heavily improved SEC East, a division that might be one of the strongest in college basketball, Georgia has done an amazing job of displaying just how good the division is from top to bottom.
They could solidify their legitimacy as a top notch SEC team if they can defeat the Kentucky Wildcats, who visit Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Back on January 9th, Georgia played its first SEC game on the road against Kentucky in Lexington, and nearly pulled off the upset.
Georgia fans at that point were more concerned with just getting that big upset at the time, because they were sure losses upon losses were on the way. Now Georgia’s confidence and the confidence of the fans has drastically changed.
Georgia has blown at least a five point lead during the second half in seven of its nine SEC losses. If this team was just a tad bit more mature, it might have only two SEC defeats right now.
They would currently stand at 20-7, and would be a tourney lock despite having an early season loss to Wofford.
Sure, Georgia did lose those leads. But, to think that the thought of a 20-7 record for a team that was predicted to lose five non-conference games, and almost all of its conference games, is definitely a fantastic sign.
Georgia knows they could easily be planning on skipping classes in March to go to the big dance. They know just how good they can actually be.
Strangely enough, if Georgia has proven anything in the past few months, it is that their mental capacity is holding back an otherwise very talented team.
Most people claimed in the preseason that the Dawgs roster just did not have the players to ever compete, no matter how fundamental they were.
Tell that to Trey Thompkins, who is averaging 17.9 points a game as a sophomore, including a recent run of games with 21, 25, 21, 21, and 20 points.
Thompkins is second in the SEC in scoring and fourth in rebounding.
Georgia as a team is third in the SEC in field goal shooting behind Vanderbilt and Kentucky—two teams that are tournament locks.
Georgia was also projected to be a terrible shooting team with a “ball control” guard in Dustin Ware and a former walk-on in Ricky McPhee.
Those two have helped Georgia lead the SEC in three point shooting. Georgia also leads the SEC in free throw shooting.
So far, Georgia is proving that the talent and ability exists to make them a tournament worthy team.
And on Wednesday night, Georgia is going to have a chance to prove to the country just how far they have come.
Trey Thompkins will face off against the nationally acclaimed DeMarcus Cousins down in the paint.
Travis Leslie and John Wall are sure to put on an equally exciting show in the backcourt.
Georgia will have another opportunity to run out with a double digit lead against a nationally ranked opponent.
And if Georgia can run with the big boys, maybe even win, they will definitely improve the national perspective on Georgia basketball.
Georgia has beaten or nearly beaten every team they should not have beaten.
A win over Kentucky would make the Dawgs 14-14, with just one more game to play at Louisiana State, who has won just one SEC game.
If Georgia can finish with a winning record, they might have enough boost in them to make a run in the SEC tournament, much like they did two years ago.
Nobody wants to play Georgia in the tournament. Georgia is playing with all of the confidence in the world.
Kentucky got whacked in the mouth by Georgia at the start of conference play and barely escaped, and Georgia has improved since then.
Do you think Kentucky is scared? I guarantee you that walking into a sold out “Steg-asaurus” will have the Cats on edge.
A win for Mark Fox will surely bring a gigantic standing ovation in the final home game of his first season, where Fox can finally show the South that he’s arrived.
And who knows? Maybe more Georgia fans will start caring about basketball again.
Soon, the most popular guy named Mark in Athens, Georgia might not have the last name “Richt.”
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