College basketball will be on its biggest stage the next few days, with the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Oh, and there is the NIT.
The NIT is the only place to see teams from the state of Georgia. It is shut out of the big dance this year, as not one team is good enough to be in the field of 68 teams that will battle for the championship.
Mercer did not get in after a 15-17 record, but you’re not hearing much angst around Macon about it. Bob Hoffman is not happy, but the head coach has averaged 23 wins per season in the past five years. He’ll get a pass with the trust the Bears will be back better next year.
Georgia Tech can get a pass, as well. The Yellow Jackets weren’t expected to do much in head coach Josh Pastner’s first season. A 17-15 overall record and an 8-10 mark in the ACC exceeded expectations, and the Yellow Jackets were picked to host Indiana on Tuesday night in the NIT’s first round.
What’s Georgia’s excuse? Mark Fox’s team was supposed to be better this season. Instead, the Bulldogs finished 19-14 overall and 9-9 in a mediocre conference. Then there’s this — Georgia was 1-9 against teams 1-50 in the RPI.
Fox just finished his eighth season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. After having three losing seasons in his first four, Fox has led Georgia to four straight winning seasons. But the average record in those four years is 20-14.
Georgia has made it to the NCAA tournament just twice in Fox’s tenure and lost in the first round both times. The Bulldogs haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2002.
Fox has not made a difference.
Is Georgia’s program better off now than it was eight years ago when Fox took over? No. It’s just as mediocre as it has been for decades. And there’s no reason for it to be this bad. Sure, it’ll never be football, but shouldn’t Georgia men’s basketball be better than this?
People say Fox is a good coach but not a good recruiter. Well, maybe he should go to the NBA. College coaches must recruit. That’s half of the job. You must get talent, and Fox has fallen short. Georgia simply has not gotten enough talent.
Why has UGA athletics director Greg McGarity protected Fox so much? McGarity issued a stern statement last week when reports surfaced Georgia was looking at potential replacements for Fox. McGarity acted like that was crazy talk. That puts McGarity’s credibility on the line with his support of Fox.
McGarity already has little credibility. The story he tried to sell to the media and fan base of how he decided to replace (or fire) Mark Richt was baloney. McGarity said he left Georgia Tech, after Georgia had won in 2015, and decided somewhere along the drive back to Athens a change was needed.
Come on. McGarity was told by big-money supporters to fire Richt after the debacle in Jacksonville when Richt started his third-string quarterback against Florida. So, I guess since no one cares as much about Georgia basketball, McGarity will let Fox stay on.
Georgia basketball should be more relevant. Many passionately care about the program, but too many are just not interested. After Fox’s eight years at the helm, shouldn’t someone else be given a chance to make this situation better?
Or are we in the same boat we were in several years ago when another man named Mark was kept around too long just because he was a good coach and a good man? Well, just like Richt, Fox has shown he’s just not good enough.
Maybe Fox will get Georgia into the tournament next year, but it just seems like McGarity’s decision is delaying the inevitable.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.