It should be the last time Mark Fox and Bruce Pearl coach against each other, it’s for the best.
Auburn and Georgia have had completely different seasons, but yet face uncertain futures looking forward. Will Bruce Pearl be fired as far as his lack of cooperation with Auburn University’s internal investigation in the wake of the Chuck Person’s firing and arraignment? Will Mark Fox be fired for poor performance or reckless decision-making? Auburn has a new Athletic Director, Allen Greene, who has to make some tough decisions and Georgia has a well-entrenched, establishment Athletic Director in Greg McGarity who does not make tough decisions, but rather lets activist donors make the calls. It’s quite the contrast between UGA and Auburn, two institutions that are polar opposites. When there is commonality, it’s jarring and notable.
Auburn is pretty much the same team that was previewed and recapped in the last matchup in Auburn. Georgia is definitely the same team as the one that faced Auburn at Auburn Arena. Georgia has not been the same since the Auburn game, Auburn has carried a lot of momentum since that major comeback.
Auburn could be in a spot that is very similar to Hawai’i in 2015-16 when the staff and roster knew what was coming down the road and they had only one shot to have a special season.
Georgia is in a position to repeat history and lose a third straight conference game just like all the other non-NCAA Tournament teams that Georgia has fielded under Mark Fox.
It’s an unusual game to preview because while the teams are well-known, but the environment and what is on the horizon for both programs is completely unknown. Stegeman Coliseum could be Auburn Arena East if Bruce Pearl’s history is a guide and the Georgia Basketball Team quit on Mark Fox in Nashville, will they rebel, quit or adhere in front of what is supposed to be a sell-out crowd?
The #8 team in the nation is coming to Athens and it is a supposed rivalry game. The motivational factor is an unknown. Are the Georgia players looking to show off their wares to other coaches? Are the Georgia players looking to make the most of a trainwrecked season? Will there be sideline blow-ups and arguments?
There’s a lot that is unknown on the Georgia side and this could either result in a disaster or one of the bigger upsets in Georgia Basketball History.
Auburn is already in “Us vs. The World” mentality because of the dark clouds of the FBI Investigation hanging over the program. Auburn University is believe it or not, the best institution of higher learning (per rankings) in the State of Alabama and their desire to maintain that status may impact some decisions in Athletics. A relatively new University President in Steven Leath and a new Athletic Director who both come from outside of the “Auburn Family” and the SEC footprint will shake things up significantly in a possible new age at Auburn University.
At UGA, there’s a lot of frustration not just from the current roster, but from parents, UGA Basketball alumni and even internally on the staff.
At some point, it does seem like this in Athens…
When does Mark Fox just let this team enjoy the game of Basketball again rather than be a dance troupe that uses a Basketball?
All that is known going into this game from the Auburn perspective is that Bruce Pearl’s team is motivated, can shoot, plays 8 deep, is aggressive and is likely on borrowed time. All that is known from the Georgia perspective is that Mark Fox’s team is ready to move on, has questionable shooting and shot selection, has plenty of depth, is passive and will likely experience attrition starting as early as March 8.
For each Georgia player, this should likely be the motivation going into this game and the rest of the season:
- Yante Maten: Do whatever he can to impress NBA scouts and push the team toward an improbable finish.
- Turtle Jackson: Find confidence.
- Juwan Parker: Close out the season strong because his days of playing Basketball are over, he’ll be sitting behind a desk sooner rather than later.
- Derek Ogbeide: Finding aggression again and set the table for a good 2018-19 season. Ogbeide may have a bit more moves and has extended his range, but his rebounding and defensive efficiency have fallen off.
- Rayshaun Hammonds: Getting back to what he was doing before SEC play started and audition for a different coaching staff.
- Tyree Crump: Showing coaches around the country that he is more than just a shooter.
- Nicolas Claxton: Continue to progress and show he is deserving of heavy minutes. Much of the improvements are not going to come during the season, but during the offseason. Claxton is going to get stronger and a smart coach would do what it takes for him to retain and improve upon his versatility.
- Teshaun Hightower: Tenaciously defend to show the current staff that he can be a lock-down defender who can harass and pick pockets. He’s also looking to set a tone in case Ashton Hagans comes to Athens. He does not want to get lost in the mix.
- Mike Edwards: Show that he is more versatile than what the staff has forced him to do.
- E’Torrion Wilridge: Show that he’s not afraid anymore and ready to move on.
- Isaac Kante: Audition for a new staff and season. He’s already been softened up and Mark Fox has removed his physicality, which has been to his detriment. Kante needs to be Kante. If he’s going to play like Chris Silva or Takais Brown, let him.
This team needs to be de-programmed in the worst way. Sure, the team does not foul as much, but opponents are getting more shot opportunities and second chance opportunities are finessed and blown.
The Cuckdogs need to become the Bulldogs again. It won’t happen against Auburn, but it will return someday. That someday is presently unknown.
Prediction: Auburn 81 Georgia 60
3:10 PM ET update: Bryce Brown has been ruled out for Auburn due to a shoulder injury. Updated prediction: Georgia 71 Auburn 68.