Fox’s Georgia team finishing strong

dshirley@macon.comFebruary 28, 2014 

Earlier this season, there was plenty of “Mark Fox is on the hot seat” talk and discussion about Fox’s job security.

And with good reason.

Now, there is talk Fox should be in the mix for SEC coach of the year honors.

And with good reason.

It has been that kind of season for the Georgia basketball head coach and his team.

Fox is probably a long shot for the SEC coaching award, as that likely will go to Florida’s Billy Donovan. The Gators, after all, have cruised through conference play undefeated so far.

But Fox’s performance and the play of his team deserve notice.

The Bulldogs started the season with a whimper, losing four of their first five games, and they entered SEC play with a 6-6 record against their non-conference schedule. But since then, the Bulldogs have been impressive and resilient in a stunning turnaround.

Georgia enters Saturday’s game at Arkansas with a 10-5 SEC record (16-11 overall), and, remarkably, the Bulldogs are in third place in the conference. The SEC certainly isn’t the best conference around, but for Georgia to sit third and have a chance at a double-bye in the SEC tournament is a big statement about this program and Fox’s tenure as its head coach.

For the second straight season, Georgia was dreadful against the non-conference portion of its schedule, only to rebound in conference play. That says a lot about Fox as a coach because his players and team are getting better from the start of the season to the end of the season. And really, what else can anyone ask of a coach?

The Bulldogs have won six of their past seven games, and they have a real shot at postseason play. The NCAA tournament? Maybe not, unless they can win the SEC tournament or get a ton of help from the many average teams on the NCAA bubble.

But the NIT looks like a real possibility, and that would be a big step forward for this program. It also could be a springboard to something even bigger the next couple of seasons.

Entering this season, the Bulldogs were looking for a leader, especially on offense, after the early departure of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the NBA. That void led to some of the problems in non-conference play as the Bulldogs struggled to replace the NBA lottery pick.

But sophomores Charles Mann (13.5 points per game) and Kenny Gaines (12.6) have stepped up to lead this team, and the Bulldogs have gotten plenty of contributions from several players: Marcus Thornton, Donte’ Williams, Nemanja Djurisic and others.

Williams is the only senior on the roster, meaning there will be plenty of talent and experience returning next year.

That bodes well for Fox and this team as things look much more stable than they did just a couple of months ago. And that has quieted any of the talk about who should be the Bulldogs’ head coach.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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