Back to the NIT: Belmont at Georgia Style
Could it be Belmont at Georgia… “Back to the Future?” Ignored (justifiably) by the NCAA tourney, the Dawgs accepted a bid to the NIT. In something of a surprise, the Dawgs, a #2 seed, are set to host a game against the #7 seeded Belmont Bruins (22-6), whom UGA defeated 93-84 just last season in the NIT in Athens when Yante Maten scored a career-high 33 points at Stegeman Coliseum. The game is set for 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 15, in a return to Stegeman Coliseum. This will be the 4th contest between UGA and Belmont all time.
In the 2016-17 season, Belmont won its ninth regular season conference championship since 2006 (this one the Ohio Valley Conference), third only to Kansas and Gonzaga over that time. The Bruins have made seven NCAA Tournament appearances during the last 11 years. In last year’s game, Belmont put 5 players in double figures, but that could not overcome Maten’s heroics. The Bruins are coached by Rick Byrd, who has manned the helm at the Nashville school since 1986, where he is 668-329. Of the 6 losses, 3 were to Vanderbilt (by 14), Florida (by 17) and Rhode Island (by 9).
In a new article on DawgNation, Head Coach Mark Fox seems to, at least in part, be blaming scheduling issues created by not knowing what criteria the NCAA tournament selection committee will base their decisions upon.
“Does it (playing a tough[?] schedule) bear the fruit that we want it to bear? I think we have to look at that.
“If indeed the seeding is what it is and there’s teams ahead of us that played schedules that are far weaker, then we have to evaluate (if) that’s the right thing to do, to schedule as we’re scheduling. Again, it is frustrating exactly what it is they want. So you’re trying to check all these arbitrary boxes, and you just hope that you check the right ones.”
– Mark Fox, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Georgia
Blaming the schedule is simply a poor, cowardly excuse. Winning games against top competition is absolutely necessary. Those who can’t, don’t deserve to be in the Big Dance, and the coach is clearly failing to meet objectives. For those who pay attention to these things, you will know that Fox is really good at devising excuses for failures. UGA’s failures are not failures of scheduling; they are more failures of philosophy – of approach, as previously discussed.
Losses in non-conference play over the past six seasons:
- 2016-17: Clemson (which UGA had beaten the year before 71-48), Kansas, Marquette and Oakland.
- 2015-16: Chattanooga, Seton Hall and Kansas State (at home after defeating them on the road the season before).
- 2014-15: Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Minnesota
- 2013-14: Georgia Tech, Davidson, Temple, Nebraska, Colorado and George Washington.
- 2012-13: Youngstown State, Southern Mississippi, Indiana, UCLA, South Florida, Georgia Tech and Iona.
- 2011-12: California, Xavier, Colorado, Cincinnati and Georgia Tech.
Are these losses really evidence of bad scheduling or overly tough scheduling?
Fox promised, “We’ll re-evaluate everything obviously, in trying to clean up the areas that I think are costing us.”
Fox needs to drop the excuses and build a basketball program and culture that can be a source of pride. Selection Sunday should not be just another Sunday in the State of Georgia.
What looms ahead if Georgia gets past Belmont? A possible second round game at Stegeman Coliseum against the arch-nemesis – the North Avenue Trade School. Those NIT schedulers are trying to create intrigue with a rivalry game with Georgia Tech or maybe they think that Georgia should host an embattled coach who French Kissed his own son? Don’t click the link, please don’t.