Georgia had a shamefully bad performance against Texas A&M at Stegeman Coliseum.
Texas A&M notched their first win over Georgia in style and sent a message to the College Basketball nation that they are in the driver’s seat in the SEC. Georgia sent the message that this is a team that is in denial of being in rebuilding mode. This is a loss that teams suffer in a rebuilding season and it happens to be the worst home loss in at least fifteen seasons, it could be the worst since 1980 or well ever… who knows?
This ought to help tell the story in this one. Georgia played a much slower paced game and Texas A&M exploited Georgia’s inability to score outside of the top four scorers. It is really easy to key in on four guys when there is clearly unbalanced scoring and overall production. Georgia played lethargic, predictable and reactive. Nothing about this game said that this team wanted to impose its will on Texas A&M. Georgia was content to take a beating and Mark Fox deserves a lot of blame for it. He’s too content to play opponents on their terms and today’s performance made that very clear.
NCAA Tournament talk can officially be thrown out the window for quite some time. The next opportunity for a quality win is against Baylor and if this Georgia team is going to play in any way like the way this team has played for four of the last six halves, it’s time to call it a rebuilding season. Mark Fox needs to sell Greg McGarity and the fan base on what Year 8 means at UGA. Year 7 was supposed to build upon the success of making it to the NCAA Tournament, but it is very clear that there is no postseason for this team. Not even the NIT as the NIT standards are far tougher than the fans think and College Hoops has far more parity this season.
There was no game plan for Texas A&M and if there was one, Mark Fox would be smart to change the subject when asked. This is as bad as this team can play this season. However, even with a floor established, the ceiling seems more limited than thought.
There’s no need to go through the typical statistics and even answer the questions that needed to be answered. The effort on the part of this team and the lack of confidence the team has speaks volumes. Mark Fox has taken away a lot of the confidence with his substitution patterns and by the language he uses with his team. The idea of breaking them down to build them up creates these cycles of madness. Mark Fox’s philosophy of valuing experience over talent is creating booms and busts. The question is not whether this team will make it to the NCAA Tournament, but rather where in the cycle this team is currently. With a pair of Seniors in the backcourt, this would be unthinkable, but it happened in 2011-12 with Gerald Robinson Jr. and Dustin Ware! Is this 2011-12 or 2012-13 all over again?
Will this Georgia team eventually find a way to give the freshmen a more active and confident role while making clear strides toward the end of the season? The 2011-12 team did not do that, but the 2012-13 team did.
Mark Fox coached teams do not give up and continue to fight, but this team completely lost its confidence and were content to just get it over with. Mark Fox pulled his starters after the under 8 minute media timeout and it was thought to be an opportunity for the freshmen to gain experience, make mistakes and try to show that they deserve more playing time. Fox pulled his freshmen with four and a half minutes left to play all of his starters except Ogbeide, Kessler got the nod instead. Fox salted the wound by doing this and then when he inserted his freshmen back into the game, Texas A&M was left to play against a hodge podge of bench players that had zero confidence. In the opener against a very good Chattanooga team, Georgia played with confidence and every single freshman played with a level of confidence in a game where there was clear adversity. Where did it go?
Mike Edwards seemed to be getting his confidence back today due to Houston Kessler’s foul trouble (he’s still being used completely wrong and his confidence is still a bit low compared to earlier this season) and Derek Ogbeide’s injury shielded him from having the same experience that Turtle Jackson and E’Torrion Wilridge have had. There’s no reason for any member of Georgia’s backcourt to play more than 28 minutes per game. There’s enough talent to go around, but there’s not enough confidence and trust. Even when all seemed to be lost and there was nothing that could possibly make things worse as far as the outcome of the game, Fox chose to give the freshmen the hook.
Georgia’s offensive schemes are respected when all five players on the floor are credible threats. It’s very easy to defend against a team that only has four “approved” scorers. Texas A&M knew this and took full advantage. Texas A&M slowed Georgia down to a crawl and the offense played stagnant. The second half against Tennessee was a very good coaching job by Mark Fox, but this game is clearly Mark Fox’s absolute worst.
Cultivating the Georgia bench and re-defining Georgia’s identity looks to be necessary. Georgia came in statistically strong, but this team is a paper tiger that has played well below what the efficiency ratings and defensive statistics indicate. There is a clear crisis of confidence on so many levels. Facing Missouri on the road next is not really going to give the team an opportunity at a cathartic feeling of accomplishment.