Friday, March 16, 2012

Is Georgia the most Underachieving Basketball Program in the Country

I wrote a lengthy piece last night for SB Nation addressing this question.  My methodology is to list the Rivals five-star players from the past decade in an effort to show which states produce the most top-end talent.  The results confirmed my suspicion.  Georgia is tied with Florida for third nationally in terms of production of five-star players.  Of those top prospects, Georgia has signed exactly two, one of whom went straight to the NBA (Louis Williams) and the other lasted a year and a half in Athens (Mike Mercer).

The comparison between Georgia and Florida is bad; the comparison between Georgia and Vandy is worse:

The chart above leads to the conclusion that Georgia and Florida produce a lot of basketball talent, but the flagship school of the Sunshine State has produced 17 trips to the Tournament, 11 appearances in the final AP poll, seven regular season SEC titles, four trips to the Final Four, and the aforementioned pair of national titles. The flagship school of the Peach State pales in comparison, having produced 11 trips to the Tournament, five appearances in the final AP poll, three regular season SEC titles, and a sole visit to the Final Four in 1983 led by Vern Fleming. Heck, Vandy has been in the final poll eleven times and has made 13 trips to the Tournament. What excuse does Georgia have to be significantly behind the Commodores in a revenue sport? (A note: switch Georgia's flagship program to the Flats and you do not do much better, as the Jackets have produced 16 trips to the Tournament, eight appearances in the final AP poll, three regular season conference titles, and two trips to the Final Four.)
I am working in my head through a follow-up piece seeking to explain Georgia's lack of success in basketball.  One possibility is simple luck.  What happens if Rick Pitino never blunders into the Boston Celtics' job?  Does Tubby Smith stay in Athens for ten years and builds the brand of Georgia basketball?  What happens if Louis Williams would have come along after the NBA passed its rule forbidding players from going directly from high school to the pros?  What happens if Mike Mercer doesn't tear his ACL?  What happens if both of the latter two what ifs occur and Georgia gets two solid seasons of a five-star back court?  As critical as my premise is, it's actually encouraging because UGA has the potential to be a top program if they can just get momentum going in the right direction.  The same is true for Georgia Tech, only for Tech, it's less of a hypothetical because the Jackets have experienced more recent periods of success than Georgia has.


peacedog said...

If you adjust criteria and just say "how many of the Rivals 150 has UGA signed?" over the pst 8-10 years, it's really ugly. UGA has missed on a lot of players, and this speaks more directly to the depth aspect of the point.

I believe, but we'll never know, that if Tubby had stayed UGA would have inked both Jumaine Jones and Dion Glover in what was his last class. Jumaine was a little up and down but very good. If Tubby stays I think it likely we can bring in enough quality big men that Jones doesn't have to exclusively man the post (and I think he'll be more productive than what we got out of him in year 2. That is, he wont just contentedly jack 3s and long jumpers and completely ignore his bumbling coach). Who knows what happens after that.

OTOH, a knock on Tubby at Kentucky was issues recruiting. There were arguments he couldn't bring in sufficient talent (both from a big name perspective and a depth perspective). Still, I think that notion would not have held if he had stayed at UGA.

There is a long road ahead. I think the 2012 class is actually underrated when looking just at the 3 commits. SG Kenny Gaines is extremely athletic (I watched parts of his state finals performance, it was pretty awesome) but more polished than Travis Leslie was (great touch at the charity stripe too). Future PG Charles Mann had quite a few big names calling on him, so the fact that he;s not a rivals 150 guy doesn't bother me. SF Brandon Morris is athletic but more of a prospect, so I'm unclear how much he'll contribute next year (plus, there's something of a PT dilemna as Caldwell-Pope's natural position is the 2. There's still plenty of minutes for Gaines to sub in there especially if KCP gets some minuts at 3, but the starting lineup could very well be Mann, Gaines, Pope from a best 3 perspective).

The problem with the class is the one that has haunted Fox in his 3 years: no major post prospects. Tony Parker is a 5* and UGA is still fighting for his signature, but it's a long shot (Morris is his teammate, but I think Morris gets an offer anyway).

I think UGA will be better in the post next year with maturation of Donte Williams, John Florveus (like PaulWesterdawg, I'm thinking ther eis a strong possibility that he takes a modest step forward in year 2, much the same way Donte Williams did this year) and Djurisic. But those guys are only solid players, and we need stars. Fox has missed on a number of blue chip post players in his first few classes (and we had a promising kid fail to qualify and then run off somewhere else). If he can fix this, I think UGA will slowly but steadily move forward.

I don't think there is any question UGA should be doing better in hoops. It has shot itself in the foot quite a bit post Tubby though (the Jirsa hire was a bad idea from the get go; Harrick did as Harrick does; there was a reasonable argument for the Felton hire but he stuck around for an awfully long time and was bad).

Anonymous said...

IMO, Tech is more underachieving because they at least have a history of being good at hoops. The used to be "the basketball school" in the state.
That, plus being in an urban setting would seem to put them in a better position than UGA.

dave clark said...

In my years of Georgia fandom (since 2001), I don't think I recall a basketball program that so continuously shot itself in the foot. And obviously it was doing that before I set foot in Athens.

Mean anything for the future? Not necessarily, I suppose. I'd prefer to be optimistic and not shackle Fox with the sins of the fathers. Crummy this year, but there were some highlights- the complete depantsing of Florida in Athens being the best of the best.

Speaking of Vandy: Oddly enough, the Dores and Georgia have the same number of SEC tournament titles all time.

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