Game Preview

Tom Crean and Bruce Pearl Face a Hostile Stegeman Coliseum Crowd

Georgia faces Auburn in a game that may be considered unusual on many fronts.

The Georgia fan base wants Tom Crean gone.  The Football fans, non-alumni, and media have stoked a fire that will not go out.  The objective is very simple, they want a return to the way things used to be.  These same fans are in a quandary when they hate watch this game, do they choose to cheer for the Dawgs to win or for Bruce Pearl?  There may be fans who will just boo both teams and quite frankly, this would be embarrassing, but not the most embarrassing moment of Georgia Basketball history.  They want the oligopolists back in control.  This will be a hostile crowd for everyone, nobody will be happy.  The general lack of happiness is consistent with a world that is more connected, depressed, and anxious than ever.

There’s Something about Bruce Pearl that gins up attendance at Stegeman Coliseum.

Regardless of record, Pearl inspires the ire of the base.  It’s not about Auburn or a rivalry with Auburn, prior to Bruce Pearl’s arrival, it was not a game of great significance in Men’s Basketball.  Bruce Pearl represents something odious, some would say ‘cheating’ and ‘lying’ to the NCAA, as if the NCAA is the ultimate arbiter of moral authority (remember Todd Gurley and A.J. Green?).  However, it actually boils down for some who would never care about Men’s Basketball at Georgia to show up just because Bruce Pearl is “the other.”

It’s not about beating Auburn or for Georgia to win, it’s about beating Pearl.  Pearl represents a different culture than the one espoused by the more opportunistic members of Bulldog Nation to Stegeman Coliseum.  If Auburn had any other coach, the game would mean considerably less.  Why do some Georgia fans get incredibly testy with Josh Pastner in a way that they did not with Brian Gregory or Paul Hewitt?  Is it because he represents Georgia Tech or is he “the other”?

It’s uncomfortable, but this is reality when Georgia faces Auburn as long as Bruce Pearl is at the helm.  It’s about so much more than a Basketball Game for some of the Georgia base, it is about the feeling that they are being robbed of their culture by transplants, gripes with change, and the people they believe threaten their way of life.

Bruce Pearl Derangement Syndrome is real.

Impatience and Delusion in Bulldog Nation

Impatience, Irresponsibility, Ungratefulness, and even Repugnance

The Georgia fan base has a sense of undeserved entitlement and the local media is more than willing to play into it for clicks, views, and subscriptions.  The willingness to challenge Mark Fox was not there compared to the willingness to fight Tom Crean, there is a peer pressure in the industry to take on Crean, especially from those who supposedly know more in Indianapolis, Lexington, and New York City.  Men’s Basketball is not a revenue driver for local media, Football is and this is where the sport could be threatened in the future.  The mentality of “it does not count since it is Basketball” exists with both fans and media.  The hostility and willingness to stoke hostility understanding that in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant with the AARP/AMac reader base, could drive extreme acts.

It happened in Bloomington with Crean and Aaron Murray and Christian Robinson were targeted in Athens in a heinous fashion.  There’s precedent here and if one believes that Georgia Basketball could turn things around next season, it does seem any small act of horribleness from the base could inspire Crean to get out of Athens immediately for a more favorable environment when success comes.

Who wants to deal with an ungrateful fan base?

It is one thing for a coach to bury a program and create a culture of fear like the way Mark Fox did over the course of nine years, but time has already run out on Crean to turn the program and culture around?  These things take time.  The Auburn Family did not call for Bruce Pearl’s firing after two seasons and there was no worry that there would be an act of horribleness on their part.  There is great concern is that the UGA base sees programs like Alabama and Kentucky and considers it acceptable to adopt the same passion and tactics.

Bulldog Nation should be thankful that a UGA Men’s Basketball coach wants to be out in front as a personality rather than diminishing the program or is too shy or “better” than the so-called plebeians.  The plebeians may boo the team tomorrow and Tom Crean on ESPN2.  Remember when UGA Football teams were routinely booed during the Mark Richt era?  There’s precedent.  The Georgia base booed the Football Team this season too.  Bulldog Nation is divided and some can be quite disgusting in their behavior and repugnant in their values.

All it takes is one incident and it brands a group of people for at least a generation. 

Internally, there is Delusion and Cognitive Dissonance

On February 9, 2019 after a loss to Ole Miss, Tom Crean gained national attention for telling the hard truth to the media.

Crean had a group of Seniors last season, he had to keep because they needed to finish their degrees.  However, everyone else stayed with the exception of Isaac Kante.  Crean kept everyone who wanted to stay in Athens believing he can turn around a roster that was equipped to play for Mark Fox and had been traumatized by the 2017-18 Season.

Crean’s first act of delusion came during the interview process.  He believed with his mere presence he could fix things in Athens and that it would be an easier job than what he inherited in Bloomington.  This is patently false.  Crean was entering into a very hostile situation with a very surly base.  Crean did not understand what it meant to be the Georgia Basketball Head Coach in 2018.  There’s more than a few great players in past years and a few current players who were very talented.  He realized this job was tougher than it really was in his first post game press conference as the media was both hostile and ignorant.

Crean’s second act of delusion was to assume that he can fit these square pegs into round holes.   Most of the talent were not skilled enough nor developed well enough to play the style he wanted to play.   It was an act of good will that actually turned the season in Year 0.  Crean was trying to be the nice guy and even placate the base by keeping a largely Georgia based group of players.  Instead, he was doing the worst thing for some of them without realizing it, until he let everyone know about it on February 9, 2019.

Crean’s third act of delusion was to make the next noble assumption that the holdovers from the Fox era was turn into leaders.  This is just not how it works.  When mergers and acquisitions take place, layoffs follow for good reason.  Employees absorbed into the company may not fit needs or the company culture.  Crean needed to make sure a lot of the players found soft landing spots and built the program in his own image, but his assessment of the talent, naivete, and unbridled optimism prevented the rebuilding process from moving along faster.  He is hinging on a few players to carry the team through and this is not happening.

Crean’s fourth act of delusion is to play a conventional style of play with a roster that is built in an unconventional fashion.  Georgia has a long, athletic team that is lacking in true posts and quality perimeter shooters.  This is a team that would be a candidate to press and play “40 Minutes of Hell”, instead the defensive philosophy is a slightly more aggressive version of his predecessor’s man-to-man defense.  Effort is optional on the defensive end and the roster is not conducive to playing in a more traditional fashion.  Georgia is a team that should be using 1-3-1 Zone Defense, 1-2-2 Zone Defense, and 1-1-3 Zone Defense as the core defenses.  If disruption and deflections are so important, why are these Dawgs in a laid back man-to-man defense?

The cognitive dissonance comes at every stage where Tom Crean realizes he messed up.  The first three acts of delusion, Crean has realized his errors.  The fourth act is purely strategic and it will be very difficult to implement midseason.  However, this offseason would be a good time to make changes, especially when the program is able to go on a foreign tour.

There is cognitive dissonance with the fan base as the base does not want to recognize that the program was destroyed.  The fan base did not rise up to put an end to the Mark Fox era and just let things regress further.  The President of the United States and Congress had to create the environment to bring about change.  Otherwise, Fox would still be in Athens.  Bulldog Nation did not step up when it was right time to do so and now a segment of Bulldog Nation and the media is overcompensating.

Onto this Georgia-Auburn Basketball Game and What to Expect

Auburn should win this game because they want to be there for 40 minutes or more.  Georgia could be there for 0 to 30 minutes.  Crean will double down on relying on the veterans and tighten the bench because this is what coaches do when they think of the best way to win a game from a roster perspective.  The defense will be same conventional way of playing and Austin Wiley should have an easy time with anyone not named Rodney Howard.  Ball screen defense will be tested and Auburn will just be able to get to the rim with ease.  It’s going to be the same issues popping up for Georgia as the approach will not change beyond a shorter bench, which will make those who miss the Jim Harrick era happy.

However, this one should be a blowout.  Auburn should rip Georgia to shreds at Stegeman Coliseum and the game plan that Tom Crean has should be ripped up as well.

Auburn’s ability to dominate at the rim and Georgia’s inability to force Auburn into a game that favors their own style of play will be the difference.  Isaac Okoro will have a big game and Anthony Edwards will be cold from the field.  It’s not going to be pretty.

There will likely be plenty of booing.  Who they are booing will be hard to determine, but the good news is that the fans who want the whipper-snappers to be quiet and sit down will be able to leave early to get home in time to watch Laura Ingraham before they go to sleep.

Prediction:  Auburn 87  Georgia 62

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