There are no must-wins in a College Basketball Season, but Georgia really needs to sweep the month of December.
The month of January is going to be an absolute murderer’s row of a schedule for Georgia Basketball and there are no “breaks” against clearly lesser competition within the SEC and the showdown at Memphis. It is a brutal January in the middle of flu season, it will make everyone thankful that Georgia has depth and plays to it. The team’s first transformation may have happened in Maui, but that would be a massive step backwards. The hope is that December is a return to the style of play from prior to Maui, but with a greater commitment to defensive competency. Georgia does not have to be excellent, the objective is to achieve mere competency in the weaknesses so that the team’s strengths can shine through. There is much to improve and develop in December, but there lies challenges.
Every game matters in December because of Maui.
Maui put Georgia in a bind. Georgia has no official wins in Maui and the team lost two games to Dayton and Michigan State. Georgia did not get a redemption game to improve the resume, they lost a game on the official schedule by playing Chaminade and that is the punishment of the 7th Place Game in Maui. Losses do not help the resume, but quality losses merely prevent the losses from hurting the team’s resume moreso than a loss to an average or below average team. In the case of Dayton and Michigan State, these losses are excusable, but Georgia still needs to win quality non-conference games and the only one thus far is a home win over Georgia Tech.
Georgia needs more quality wins because they did not get them in Maui and they only have two more shots at it, which are both road games. If SMU comes into Athens undefeated, the Mustangs become a quality opponent. Thus far, SMU has benefited from a very soft schedule and they will face their first challenge against Georgetown at Moody Coliseum on December 7. An SMU loss to Georgetown will diminish the quality of a win or loss for Georgia on December 20.
Losing to North Carolina Central, Georgia Southern or Austin Peay would be devastating.
Taking a loss to any of these opponents would severely damage Georgia in every single metric that the NCAA Tournament Committee uses to judge each team and determine the Field of 68. Georgia needs to win against these opponents and use these games as opportunities to build depth and improve, which is not what the team did in Maui. Georgia needs to be treated as a team that has no room for error and beating non-conference opponents from buy games (SMU, North Carolina Central, Georgia Southern, Austin Peay) is non-negotiable. The objective is to leave no doubt if there are NCAA Tournament aspirations.
Fair or not, Tom Crean is going to be severely judged based on how his team performs this season. Why? Two reasons.
- Anthony Edwards. Having a hyped NBA Draft prospect and not winning with him will hurt recruiting and the program.
- Antagonistic media. The National Media hate Tom Crean with a passion and it will be very discouraging for a program trying to go through a culture change that many do not want to see in the first place. Even the New York to Washington D.C. media cabal want Georgia to be a Football School, it just fits the narrative that they want for the University of Georgia. Narratives are more important than the actual events. Convenient stereotypes from the media and a base that wishes to fulfill those stereotypes does not result in culture change.
The Acela media want to see Georgia LOSE in Men’s Basketball. They are far too lazy to promote anything other than Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas, Indiana (begrudgingly because they know the base is unstable, which is good for clicks, but the program is far less relevant like Nebraska Football), Michigan, Syracuse, and UCLA. It is what it is. They do not actually want to do the work necessary to expand beyond a sentence about any other program, if they can help it. They do not see the money there to justify the coverage and they want to make money in the most friction-less fashion in an environment where advertising revenue is shrinking. It is why they are slowly losing influence, having meltdowns on Twitter, and considering runs for U.S. Senate. The money is just not there because they are not that good and the media is becoming more niched than they can handle. If Generation X and Boomer media members think the current climate is tough and do not know how to adjust now, just wait until the 2020s when megaliths like ESPN realize that they have to compete in the marketplace as a production company without their brand name associated with it.
Georgia needs to beat Arizona State.
Losing to Arizona State would put too much pressure on this young team to beat Memphis at FedEx Forum. Georgia needs a scalp on the road and winning against Arizona State would take a lot of pressure off the team. Arizona State is fighting for possibly the same at-large spots as Georgia. A win at Arizona State would be helpful for Georgia’s NCAA Tournament chances, if both teams have similar resumes.
A road win over Arizona State helps with metrics and puts a quality win in the books for Georgia (possibly a Quadrant I victory).
The SEC is Weaker Than Expected Thus Far
The SEC is not winning the games that separate the conference. The SEC also has clear laggards in South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M. If South Carolina repeats history and plays well in conference play while the team struggles in the non-conference schedule, the SEC could lose 1-2 bids in March. Alabama joining the laggards is not considered a good sign either.
Auburn and Florida have debased wins in their schedule. The wins were better 3 weeks ago than they are now and they could potentially have less value as the season goes on. This applies heavily in Auburn’s win at Davidson and Florida’s win in Charleston over Miami.
Mississippi State has no quality wins thus far and neither does Missouri. Arkansas and Georgia have the same quality win – Georgia Tech, but Arkansas won at Georgia Tech. This devalues the win for Georgia.
Non-conference success sets up a stronger conference slate where losses carry less value and wins carry more. As a conference, the SEC leaves people asking…
The Month of January is Brutal and February Offers Little Redemption
Georgia’s schedule is horribly front-loaded in conference play. After facing Memphis, Georgia’s January looks like this.
- @Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
February is filled with trap games that could damage the resume.
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
- @Texas A&M
- @South Carolina
Sweeping December is very important because a loss now makes it much tougher later on for redemption. No coach wants to plead their case on ESPN like a pathetic beggar. The resume should speak for itself. Win in December and keep Rayshaun Hammonds focused unlike last conference season. There is no room for this team to spiral out of control on a losing streak and that sort of a downward spiral can happen in December.
Win the next five, get whatever wins you can get in January, avoid the February traps, and be ready for March.