Welcome to Finals Week, that gap of time where there’s no sports and students are in a panic.
Finals Week, most readers have been through it or are currently going through it. It is not exactly enjoyable with the lack of sleep and goal test scores for a particular grade having been calculated. The party is truly over and putting together the pieces of a full semester and in some cases re-learning past material is just a part of the process. Downtown Athens is completely dead as far as foot traffic and the bouncers are studying at their posts.
Venture down to the Miller Learning Center (MLC) and take in the sense of panic on the part of the young ladies both inside the private study rooms from the interior window view or just outside the Quiet Room. Nobody is quite sure how panicked anyone is inside the Quiet Room. Alcohol and marijuana have been replaced by caffeine and Adderall. Jittery Joe’s, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts enjoy the Finals glee.
For more fun, the freshmen congregating inside the Boyd Graduate Center to take the MATH 1113 (Pre-Calculus) exams have their stomachs in knots. Everything is more dramatic as a freshman, it is just the way it is. The seniors have been through the drill and just want to get it all over. It is a bit like the Luvs commercial with the first time mother being compared to when the same mother has her second kid.
The first Final Exam of any set of Finals is typically the scariest psychologically, but not always as far as test material concerned. It is good to get the band-aid off and just start the grind of three hour exams. Each exam then becomes a whole new battle and for those unfortunate enough to take two of them in one day, one wins sympathy points, but those do not count.
When it is all done, there’s that familiar walk whether it be to the bus stop, the car or even back to the dorm. After the seeds of doubt have been implanted by fellow classmates, almost everyone exits alone as all may still be Bulldogs and have taken the exams together, but the journey is still for the individual. It’s an odd metaphor for the stages of life, but once a student’s Finals Week has closed, an eighth of the intensive University of Georgia experience has finished. It may be the first eighth or the last eighth, but it’s still an eighth of an eight semester experience that shapes the lives of thousands.
Here’s the awkward part, not everyone finishes their Finals Week at the same time. Finals Week ends for some earlier than others and during this time of the year, it’s not about saying goodbye to friends that completed their Finals or in the process of completing them. It’s about the jealousy, nostalgia, Christmas Lights and freedom to enjoy the Season. Seeing friends depart with their bags in hand ready to go skiing, head home or to a vacation home on a beach can certainly be a difficult distraction.
The packed parking lots on campus and in Downtown Athens slowly empty as the week passes and the locals get the town to themselves for a brief amount of time. The daily madness slows to a crawl, but still welcomes back alumni to enjoy Georgia Men’s and Women’s Basketball at Stegeman Coliseum. For the Georgia Men’s Basketball team, it means Georgia Tech, Clemson and Robert Morris coming into town.
Sure, alumni could just walk from their parking spaces in the deck or in the designated lot to Stegeman Coliseum and back, but that would not be any fun. No, Christmas Break is the time to soak in the campus without loud country music and drunk fans shouting randomly. Soak it in and just walk through it without anyone there in the late afternoon, it’s a special experience. If it is raining, this is all optional and hopefully use an umbrella. Do not just walk through North Campus like it is a commercial, walk through the parts of campus that were a part of the daily experience. Appreciate the formerly mundane for it is no longer. Feel the pheromones in the air that are so thick it can be cut with a knife, somewhat figuratively.
Now take the perspective of a Georgia Basketball student-athlete. They have the same emotions and experiences except they do not leave the campus and of course do not have the time to reminisce. After Final exams are over, it is straight to practice and the opportunity to build greater chemistry as a team. In seasons past, it is traditionally the time of year when Georgia comes of age and takes that next step of progress.
This Georgia Basketball Team still has the ability to make a run for the NCAA Tournament and make Mark Fox the first Men’s Basketball at the University of Georgia to win 20 games in three straight seasons. Two coaches that have National Championship rings and a coach that has reached the Final Four were not able to accomplish this feat in Athens, but Fox has the opportunity. The resume may not be as damaged as previously thought if the team starts winning and playing with confidence.
The above is Georgia’s resume right now, the current RPI is borderline and the Strength of Schedule is strong, but the team is expected to play poorly based on the results of the last seven games. Fox can prevent this team from going into a slide by giving the freshmen that needed confidence and making the necessary schematic adjustments. It is not terribly complex, Georgia has enough talent to have a memorable season.
Every win shifts the highest probability on this distribution of records toward a more positive final record.
Georgia’s losses may likely not be considered “BAD” losses at the end of the season. Losses outside of the RPI Top 100 typically fall into this category and it is highly likely that all three opponents that defeated Georgia will be in the Top 100. However, Georgia does not have the quality wins just yet. Georgia Tech provides an opportunity for Georgia to get a much needed win over an archrival that happens to be in the RPI Top 100. Clemson, does not provide such an opportunity, but becomes a must-win game regardless because a loss to them would be considered a “BAD” loss and it would hurt in recruiting.
Once January rolls around, Georgia will need to win the conference games the team was expected to win during the season and even a few that were unexpected. However, now is the time to put it all together. Study and execute on exams. Practice and execute in games. It’s all one big learning process and this team will take everyone along the ride with them in a vicarious fashion.