The basketball teams at Georgia and Georgia Tech have struggled out of the gate in conference play.
The Bulldogs lost their SEC opener badly Wednesday at Florida, while the Yellow Jackets have lost their first two ACC games.
Thats not really a surprise, because going into this season it looked as if this would be a transition year for both programs.
Brian Gregory is in just his second season with the Yellow Jackets, and he is taking on this season with a tremendously young team. Gregorys roster has nine freshmen or sophomores, and a number of those players have important roles on this team.
Gregory scheduled accordingly with plenty of non-conference games against some programs Georgia Tech should beat, and the Yellow Jackets piled up 10 wins in those 12 non-conference games. But Georgia Tech came back to reality a bit in its first two conference games against Miami and N.C. State and continues its tough stretch with a home game against Virginia Tech on Saturday and then road games next week against Duke and North Carolina.
A five-game losing streak to start ACC play isnt ideal, but it wouldnt be a surprise, either. Gregorys group has played well this season, but it has to learn how to win in the conference (after going 4-12 in ACC play last year), and that will come with time.
If Georgia Tech can beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, that should be a big boost in confidence for the young players. But this season, truthfully, was going to be about continuing the transition from the Paul Hewitt era and building the program the right way.
At least the Yellow Jackets have that to hang their hats on.
Georgia? Not so much.
Mark Foxs Bulldogs also have plenty of youth, but this is not a young program anymore for Fox. This is his fourth season with the program, and theres a pretty strong debate as to whether its heading in the right direction.
The Bulldogs were 50-46 overall in Foxs first three seasons, and they were 19-29 in SEC play. After a 21-12 record in his second, the Bulldogs went 15-17 last year, and they are 6-8 this season, including some bad home losses to Southern Miss, Youngstown State and Iona.
Georgia, like Georgia Tech, has a winnable game when it hosts Mississippi State on Saturday. The Bulldogs from Starkville have a first-year head coach and not a whole lot of talent, so Foxs team really needs to win that game. If not, it could be a while before the Bulldogs get a win with games against Missouri, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M next on the schedule.
Fox does have something that Gregory doesnt have: a true star in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The sophomore guard is a terrific player and scorer, but at times he has had to carry the team on his back, and thats too much for one player to handle in a conference like the SEC.
Opponents will pick up on that and focus all their efforts on Caldwell-Pope and try to shut him down. At that point, someone else has to step up and help him.
Do the Bulldogs have that player? Well see.
If not, the struggles of the early part of the season will continue throughout the next couple of months.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org