This is Mark Fox’s most talented team, but will they play fast?
As much as can be said about the composition of the talent, chemistry and experience on the 2017-18 UGA roster, there is a limited amount of information to serve the role as a guide to forecasting how the team plays. However, there is one very known element with 13 years of data and an established track record at the collegiate level: Mark Fox. Mark Fox’s tendencies and inclinations will determine how this ship goes and how the team performs. After all, it’s Fox’s scheme, development and decision-making that make the most impact. So will this team play fast based on what is known about Mark Fox through the years?
A look through Mark Fox’s history will give the answers. Fox tends to value experience over talent, especially in the backcourt. It would require a monumental performance in the frontcourt to overcome any experience related issues in the backcourt. However, backcourt experience alone cannot carry a Mark Fox coached team as overall team experience and returning scoring matters more.
Fox is heavily reliant on Juniors and Seniors unless he has someone who is projected to play in the NBA in the case of Nik Fazekas, Javale McGee (languished as a Freshman and had a strong Sophomore year), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Just being a Junior or Senior alone is not reason for Fox’s faith.
No, a student-athlete has to be experienced in playing for Fox. It is why JUCOs typically struggle and regular transfers tend to do better. The transfer buffer year serves as an initiation to the Mark Fox way.
Coaches who have been in the profession long enough tend to not make severe changes in their style. They have a didactic methodology and preferences that remain for decades. It is rare to see a coach venture outside of their comfort zone because there is so much at stake and there are such high expectations. Bob Huggins is the most notable mid-career convert and his change was rather radical as he implemented his signature “Press Virginia” style in Morgantown. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski went decades without ever going zone, but chose to implement zone defenses out of necessity due to tight officiating in response to the NCAA’s Freedom of Movement rule changes in the 2015-16 Season. Izzo and Krzyzewski did not radically change their ways, but they adapted to an extent.
Mark Fox is not going to change and by bringing in Assistant Coach David Carter, he is actually reinforcing his style. Georgia Basketball is defined by set-oriented Offense and a strong preference for Man-to-Man Halfcourt Defense. Carter has known no other way in his career, the only difference at Saint Mary’s is that they run different Offensive sets. Saint Mary’s has the particular talent to execute those sets properly. Not every team could play like Saint Mary’s and not every team should either.
To expect anything to drastically change would be out-of-bounds. Given Georgia’s roster composition, returning scoring, and experience, Fox’s track record could easily give everyone an idea of what to expect.
What’s coming back this season?
- Frontcourt Returning Scoring: 94.8%
- Frontcourt Returning Rebounding: 90%
- Backcourt Returning Scoring: 53.6%
- Backcourt Returning Assists: 54.4%
- Years of Experience with Mark Fox as coach: 18
- Backcourt Years of Experience with Mark Fox as coach: 8
- 4 of the Backcourt Years of Experience with Mark Fox are possessed by Juwan Parker
The team that most closely matches this 2017-18 team is actually the 2012-13 Georgia Basketball Team and the commonalities are rather high between the two.
- More experienced frontcourt than backcourt going into the season.
- Point Guard position is uncertain and could remain this way up until January.
- Uncertainty as far as who is going to play what position and whether the positions they play are right.
- A consistent offensive focus: Yante Maten (this season) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2012-13)
- Loss of an important scoring Point Guard. J.J. Frazier and Gerald Robinson Jr. Both Frazier and Robinson Jr. were Point Guards who bailed the team out on stalled possessions and broke the script.
- Nevada ties: Kwanza Johnson on staff in 2012-13, David Carter on staff this season.
- Previous season pace decreased.
This Georgia team should continue the slowing of the pace of play as the team is stronger on the glass and this will result in more second chance points and possessions that effectively slow down the game. Fox is highly unlikely to deviate from this script and if he did it would say a lot about how he felt about his job security (he’s rather secure at Georgia). Georgia is going to likely have an Adjusted Tempo of 65 to 66 possessions per game and nothing will change as far as pace until Fox has a backcourt he can trust on offense (even though defense is what earns them minutes).