Georgia and Alabama were inextricably tied and compared to each other during the 2010s.
To say that Georgia and Alabama went in their own separate directions would be an understatement. The hiring of Tom Crean by Georgia was the first stage of separating the programs and the next stage was Alabama hiring Nate Oats. Both programs are better off due to the changes, but they are both rebuilding programs in a completely different image and not having to fight each other on the recruiting trail. Mark Fox’s recruiting efforts intersected with former Alabama Head Coaches Avery Johnson and Anthony Grant the most out of all programs. Fox’s talent evaluation happened to be virtually the same as the Alabama staffs, which led to marginal success and ultimately failure. Bruce Pearl was able to recruit players that Fox and the Alabama staffs did not fight over, which actually played a large role in his rebuild at Auburn. The recruiting battles for Alabama and Georgia are different as the evaluation styles have changed greatly and the need for animosity does not exist. Both programs are trying to fit holdover talent into their systems and face challenges, which requires patience.
Georgia vs. Alabama on the Recruiting Trail
When it came to “talent level”, which is such a subjective term. Alabama has almost always enjoyed an advantage over Georgia. Alabama has more tradition and success historically than Georgia, even though their program has never made the Final Four. The other major difference between the two programs is that there were no efforts to undermine the Alabama Basketball program, there was an historical effort to win in Men’s Basketball in Tuscaloosa. Mark Gottfried, the former Alabama Head Coach, was paid more than former Head Coach Mike Shula. Alabama and their base valued winning in Men’s Basketball. At Georgia, most of Bulldog Nation see Georgia Men’s Basketball as a threat to the money that Georgia Football should receive and that they pose a threat to Georgia Football’s standing with the NCAA. When it comes to how the base treats the athletics portfolio, this is the only time anyone can actually say that Georgia is more backward than Alabama.
Below is a measure of “talent” over the course of the past 11 seasons, the light red is Alabama and the darker shade of Red is Georgia.
Mark Fox struggled with recruiting and the Alabama staffs were able to outperform his staff. Fox never had a coherent recruiting strategy or vision for what Georgia Basketball was supposed to be. Fox was a tool of liquor oligopolists and a racist former President of UGA who actively encouraged him to not recruit “dirty AAU thugs.” This sort of language would be cleaned up by local media to make it look like Fox was trying to bring in more “suitable” talent and disparaged everyone involved in the shoe circuits. However, the local media were just whitewashing over good old fashioned racism. The whole point of Georgia Basketball during the Fox era was to just field a team that would not be perceived to harm the Football Program.
Alabama’s fortunes started to fade when Georgia was able to close the recruiting differential. The two programs really could not co-exist as being successful due to their recruiting rivalry.
During the time shown in the chart, the level of success between the two programs was similar due to the talent pool and coaching incompetence.
- Alabama: Two NCAA Tournament appearances (2012, 2018) and Six NIT Appearances.
- Georgia: Two NCAA Tournament appearances(2011, 2015) and Three NIT appearances.
Alabama and Georgia fought over the same talent in Alabama and Georgia, but both programs were completely lost. Mark Fox could not win a roster comprised of mostly talent from the State of Georgia and Alabama could not win with talent that came from Alabama and Georgia either.
A tough to swallow fact about the talent from the State of Georgia is that prior to Auburn making the Final Four last season, only 11 players from the State of Georgia from 2011-2018 played in a Final Four game and that only 4 players from the State of Georgia were on a Final Four team from 2015-2018.
Roy Williams’ “Least Gifted” Team Features Players Recruited Heavily by Mark Fox.
North Carolina is struggling with and without Cole Anthony. Although one can make the case that Cole Anthony was a terrible fit for Roy Williams in the first place. However, Roy Williams’ roster is comprised of a lot of players who were recruited by Georgia and they are having results very much like Georgia.
Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Brandon Robinson, and Brandon Huffman were all heavily recruited by Mark Fox. They are all now a part of one of the worst North Carolina Basketball teams of all time.
Roster Compositions are Changing at Alabama and Georgia
Georgia’s Final Roster under Mark Fox (2017-18)
Among the scholarship players, six were from the State of Georgia.
Georgia’s Current Roster under Tom Crean
Among the scholarship players, five were from the State of Georgia and three of them were holdovers from the Mark Fox era. Amanze Ngumezi is no longer on the roster and does not count and Jaykwon Walton went to High School in Montgomery, Alabama. The veterans are largely from Georgia and the newcomers are largely from out-of-state.
The emphasis on local talent has been replaced by meeting needs and fitting the philosophy. Dramatic signing periods and being roped along by fickle recruits who end up being busts on the college level is a rarer occurrence.
At Alabama, the roster stratification is very clear.
Nate Oats’ freshman class are all from out-of-state. The holdover players are in-state talent.
Both coaches are having trouble getting their holdover players to buy into their systems. Habits and egos are tough to break, especially for players who were hyped as recruits and now are Juniors and Seniors that have not met expectations.
Alabama and Georgia Have Similar Objectives, But Different Directions
Alabama and Georgia want to play fast. This game will be a track meet, they both want to get quick scoring opportunities. Nate Oats is the ultimate “money zone” coach, his teams do not shoot mid-range shots. The shots are going to be in the restricted arc or from three point range. Tom Crean can do the same, but he cannot control the shots that Anthony Edwards takes from the field.
When Alabama and Georgia face off, it is all about which team has bought in more. For Nate Oats, it seemed before the season that Alabama was in Year 1, but the reality is that Oats is in Year 0 much like Crean. He has players who do not fit, but he wanted to keep the talent from the previous staff much like the way Crean did. Unfortunately for Oats, the results are very similar. There is exciting basketball, but the results are disappointing. Blown leads, road wins over rivals, close losses, and inconsistency.
Tom Crean is showing that Year 1 after a Year 0 season, even with a likely #1 pick in the NBA Draft is tricky. Crean’s challenge is finding a way to mesh the holdovers from the Fox era with players that Crean brought into the program that appear ready to take the torch. Chemistry, confidence, and consistency is what is needed to salvage this season for Georgia. Anthony Edwards’ talent is not being wasted if it means that the transition to the Crean recruits results in a strong finish this season and a massive breakthrough next season. Edwards’ contributions would not be in vain.
Christian Brown appeared to be ready to make a breakthrough against Florida, it is possible that he strings another strong performance at Stegeman Coliseum tomorrow. Toumani Camara will have an easier defensive assignment against Alabama than having to face Kerry Blackshear and Keyontae Johnson. Sahvir Wheeler is an established cog for this Georgia team, Camara and Brown seem to be the players who are ready next after him to be reliable options. Mike Peake and Rodney Howard can still be impactful as well.
It is a frustrating time as Georgia should be on a four game winning streak, but instead are scuffling midway through the SEC season. There are only 9 games left and this is not a team that will be playing for an at-large spot. Crean has to focus on getting this team to make a run in Nashville rather than stringing together a non-existent resume.
Expect a high scoring game where Sahvir Wheeler, Christian Brown, and Toumani Camara play well to spell the slumping Rayshaun Hammonds and Tyree Crump. If there is any game where Anthony Edwards could chase the elusive triple-double, it is tomorrow. John Petty Jr. has been struggling over the past three games and while he has been strong from the perimeter this season on the road, he has not been this way during his time at Alabama. Petty regresses back to his career mean and continues his slump.
Prediction: Georgia 95 Alabama 89