Belmont at Georgia: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

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.


  1. He needs to play his PLAYERS doesn’t matter what year they are in. He needs to let them play instead of trying to control everything on the court. Basketball is a game of mistakes, don’t take young players out when they make a mistake–this just blows their confidence. Try more zone defense your man defense is horrible. If a player can’t play don’t put him on the court. Play some different kinds of offense your offense is boring. Make Georgia exciting to watch. And take responsibility for why Ga can’t win—it is the coaching, can’t or won’t do what needs to be done to WIN—PLAY YOUR PLAYERS not your wannabees.

  2. I was worried about the Belmont game last year and we might have lost that game if Maten hadn’t had a career day. Now, the rematch is a game that UGA certainly didn’t want. Another nothing to gain game against a team that is used to winning. They aren’t as athletic as us, but they’ve got some kids who can shoot the 3. That alone will keep them in the game. We drew just under 3k for last year’s game and I would think this year will be around the same. If we can get by Belmont, the 2nd and possibly 3rd games are much more attractive. Indiana or GT in Athens would be an entertaining game and a trip to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse wouldn’t be bad either. If you’re going to play in the consolation tourney, you might as well play some “name” schools”. It’ll be a shame if JJ’s career ends with a home loss to Belmont in front of a couple thousand people. If we make it to round 2, Fox has to be a little nervous about the prospect of playing Tech again. After beating GT handily early in the year, a loss to them in Athens would accentuate how much better Pastner has done in developing his team over the course of the season in year 1 than Fox did with his team in year 8. As it stands now, we are the higher seeded NIT team, which would imply that UGA had a slightly better year than GT. I would argue that’s not the case considering GT had THREE wins over top 15 teams (UNC, ND and FSU)…with a very limited roster under a first year head coach. Those are the types of wins that gives a fan base hope and gets them energized and excited. Sadly, those types of wins have been few and far between over the past 8 seasons with Fox. In any case, I’d rather see Indiana than GT as well. We’re going to play Tech at home every couple of seasons while we rarely get traditional powers like Indiana to come to Athens.

    As for Fox, the man’s aversion to introspection is stunning, especially given his failures over the past 8 seasons. His recent comments imply that two things caused UGA not to make the NCAA tourney this year: (1) the ref’s screwed them in College Station and (2) the schedule that was put together didn’t allow them to make it. I read last night that UGA had the best RPI of the Power 5 schools that didn’t make The Dance. You can be sure this will be something that Fox mentions frequently in the offseason, as if UGA somehow got screwed out of an NCAA bid. I don’t know how the RPI formula works, but they need to take a hard look at revising it. I don’t think the committee considers it nearly as much as they used to. How is UGA barely outside the top 50 when they only beat one of ten teams they played in the top 50 and the one top 50 team they beat, Vanderbilt, was finishing up a stretch where they won only 4 of 11 games at the time we played them. They weren’t playing like a top 100 team, much less top 50, when we beat them. No one in their right mind would argue that this UGA team deserves to be playing in the NCAA tourney. We had two players who were voted first team all-conference, yet we beat no one of consequence all year long (unless you are counting “moral victories). What does that say about our coaches ability to build a roster and outwit the opposing coach in tight games? How many times did the opponent surge just after coming out of the locker room after halftime? How many times did the UGA offense stand around for 25 seconds and then rely on JJ to create something just to get a shot off? This is not year 1, 2 or 3, this is year 8. Yet our floundering AD remains loyal to Fox.

  3. Why is it so hard for Fox to figure out what the committee looks for?……..Wins vs top 50. Nothing to tweak except his coaching skills for bids, and then to get higher seeds, his recruiting skills.

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