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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Another mailbag: Hoops, football and great writers (not me, obviously)

Wow, lots of basketball questions. Of course a few of them were about whether the game is on TV: Yes, but it depends where you live. It’s on the SEC network, so check your local listings.

I wish I could be there, but I’ll be watching on television with everyone else, gazing out all that white out my window. It’s too bad, because Vanderbilt’s home gym is one of my favorite trips of the year.

What are the keys to the game tonight in Nashville?
- NCDawg

This is going to be a tough one for Georgia. First, it didn’t get any favors by South Carolina, which came back to upset Vanderbilt in overtime, meaning the Commodores got three days of being kicked in the rear by head coach Kevin Stallings. Then there were the travel issues for the Buldogs.

Vanderbilt was undone in Columbia in part when the tempo got sped up and the Gamecocks hit a bunch of 3s. That’s not really Georgia’s game. But the Commodores also had trouble scoring inside and had to rely too much on outside shots, which stopped falling. Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price can handle that.

So in a nutshell, the Bulldogs need to contain the outside shooting damage of John Jenkins, Brad Tinsley and Jeffery Taylor, and control the inside game. Then they’ll have a chance.

Coming off of the big win over Kentucky, what in your mind, are the Dawgs chances of competing for an SEC title this year? Also, do you think the Dawgs deserve to be ranked any higher or lower than they are? In other words, do you believe we can be as good as we were Saturday week in and week out?
- DawgInVA25

The performance against Kentucky was a great sign for Georgia because it was clearly the better team on the floor. At least that day. But before we start crowning the Bulldogs – Dennis Green, thank you – we need to see them win some SEC road games. Vanderbilt is always a tough place to play, as will everywhere in the SEC this year.

That’s why Saturday’s game at Ole Miss might be the better indicator. So far the Rebels are the best team in the West, which isn’t saying much. If Georgia is going to have any chance to win the East, it needs to get at least a split vs. the East – hold serve at home, in other words – and dominate the West.

What are you thoughts on Vandy being the team to beat this year in the East (in basketball - probably not football) Granted, they just lost to SC in OT, but they've put together a pretty impressive resume based on the first 14 games. Wins over UNC and Marquette, and close games (though losses) to WVU, and Mizzu. I haven't seen them play, but they are always a solid tournament team. Seem like every year they are never talked about though.
- Steve

You’re right that Vanderbilt always seems to be solid – but never quite spectacular. Right now the East is there for almost anyone, with Tennessee’s 0-2 start putting it a notch below Florida, Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt. But it’s a very fluid situation.

With our big win against Kentucky, we finally cracked the AP top 25, something I've been waiting for ever since Jeremy Schapp showed up on Campus 8 years ago, but Lunardi still has us 6 spots out of the tourney on Bracketology. What, in your estimation, does Georgia need to do with the conference schedule to get ourselves off the bubble and in to the tournament field for sure?
- Dekalb

I was a bit surprised not to see Georgia in Lunardi’s first bracket. Jerry Palm of does have Georgia in his bracket, as a No. 9 seed. That’s quite a stark difference.

The Kentucky win gave the Bulldogs what they lacked – a quality win – while they still don’t have a bad loss. The RPI rank (48 as of Monday). If the Bulldogs hold steady in SEC play – nine or 10 wins – and beat Xavier at home, they should make the tournament comfortably.

Not to harp on UGA football, but how much of an impact does our administration and "tone at the top" have on our football team? After reading the UGA as next year's Auburn got me thinking....the school cracked down on tailgating on North Campus and basically outlawed home night games (granted we weren't that good this year so that may have had something to do with it). On the other hand, you've got Auburn rolling Toomer's Corner after every victory.
- Anonymous

The game times are purely a television decision, unless there’s some lobbying behind the scenes we don’t know about. As for the general question, I’ve said before (in Monday’s mailbag, most recently) that it seems the football program had seen some staleness creep in. Sometimes a college hierarchy, when it’s team has been winning and its fan base shows up no matter what, will take different measures than it would if it were trying to drum up interest.

That’s not to say I expect Michael Adams to change up on the tailgating policy. But Greg McGarity, having just arrived, is taking some smaller steps, largely at the suggestion of fans: For instance, placing big-screen commercials at times that wouldn’t interrupt crowd momentum.

It seems that the decision to allow Dowtin to transfer is a prudent one. Can you elaborate on what you know about his attitude and how it affected the team and do you sense from the players that they might be glad he's gone?
- Anonymous

The decision was either a mutual one, or done with a push from Georgia. The fact that Dowtin didn’t tell Richt about the Ocean City, Md., incident was probably the last straw. He didn’t play in the Liberty Bowl despite being on the trip, so I don’t think I’m stepping out of bounds by suggesting that something may have happened in Memphis.

It’s kind of tacky, in my opinion, for a reporter covering a team to only rip on a player after they’ve left the team. If there’s new information after the player leaves, then great, but if you hold onto something and only write it after the player leaves … eh, whatever.

I’ll just say that both Dowtin and Nick Williams were at times unhappy with their playing time. Williams seemed more eager than Dowtin to leave, but if the coaches made a big push to keep either of them around, I haven’t heard of it.

Whatever happened to Jakar Hamilton? I know there was a lot of hype around him coming in to the season and then he started a few games and then kinda faded away...what happened to the "hit-man"?
- Drew

His coverage issues happened to him, so first Shawn Williams and then Alec Ogletree got looks. They moved Hamilton to cornerback for the Georgia Tech game, but coaches said that was a one-time, matchup move, that they might reconsider in the spring. We’ll see.

Seth, I've been skeptical of the"our boys aren't as big and strong" argument but Tarkenton brought it up again. He claimed it was confirmed by his contacts with pro scouts. Give us an unbiased opinion. After spending time in Columbia and observing the rest of the SEC do you think we look smaller and weaker or is our problem talent and technique?
- Anonymous

The word for awhile in the coaching and scouting industry has been that Georgia was a bit behind in the strength and conditioning department. I started to hear those whispers during the season, and once Mark Richt made the change, more people said it was the case. (I say that so I don’t look like I’m speaking ill of the previous strength regime just because it’s safe now. I think it’s kind of tacky as a reporter to do that. Just my own thing.)

What are your thoughts on the Vandy game tonight and the rest of the season for the basketball team? What about Robinson all sec or Thompkins all American. Thanks.
- Jackson, Decatur

Thompkins was mentioned by Jimmy Dykes on the Florida-Tennessee game as his early SEC player of the year. All-American? I wouldn’t rule it out yet. Robinson and Travis Leslie would have a shot at first-team All-SEC if Georgia does well, if not they each have viable chances for second team. But it’s way too early to tell.

What is it about Coach Fox's abilities that have lead to the quick turnaround? Are the recruits much better, was Coach Felton a subpar coach other than the SEC tournament run, are the ramifications of Harrick just now ending?
- Anonymous

Wow, some big questions there. I’m really impressed by Fox’s steadiness as a coach, not acting like a maniac on the sidelines, but seemingly pushing all the right buttons. He inherited Thompkins and Leslie from Felton – whose curse seems to be that he never got to coach for a full season two of his best recruits, while the other (Lewis Williams) went pro.

In basketball, one or two players can make a difference. I think what we’re seeing right now is just that, along with a coach who knows what he’s doing.

If it turns out that getting the administrative duties off of CMR's plate does have an effect next season, how much of the blame for not doing that earlier should land on CMR vs. the departed Damon Evans? Is it possible that Evans is partly to blame for the current state of Georgia Football?
- Anonymous

It’s easy to pin blame on people who aren’t around anymore. I think it would be hard to pin the last few football seasons on Evans, considering Mark Richt coached under Vince Dooley with, presumably, those same “administrative” duties he had under Vince Dooley.

I’m also a bit skeptical of all these administrative duties and how much of an impact they’ll have. I’d like to find out more.

Why haven't we seen more of an impact out of Marcus Thornton (aside from his 3-pointer in the Kentucky game)? I expected to see a lot more from him during the OOC schedule, but he really looks like a deer in the headlights when he's on the court. Is it simply a matter of him not picking up the offense? From a size/speed/skills perspective, he sure looks the part of potential SEC star...
- Steve

You hit on what’s probably the main factor: He’s a freshman, and still adjusting. He may be a bigger factor in the latter portion of SEC play. But it’s got to be a good sign for Georgia’s future that such a highly-regarded recruit has that much potential yet to be filled, and his team is winning without much help from him so far.

I'm sick of hearing about how crappy my Dawgs did this year, so lets look at something else. Have you heard any "conspiracy theories" on the turf that was used for the BCS championship game? I heard that the majority of the money in Vegas was laid on the over (as some would tell it), so Vegas had the under "fixed" and the stadium was resurfaced only a few days before the game. With all that slipping around, it sure makes hard for the offense to get going.
It does appear strange if one buys into a "fixing theory". Two of the nations best offenses held to 41 points overall (nearly half the over) and neither defense has done really much of anything all year to merit such a defensive stand and now they both magically do just that. I'm just saying....
- Rodman

Whoa. I prefer to think the turf was shabby because the BCS, surprise surprise, just didn’t pay enough attention to a small issue. (Such as what goes into the formula for the computer rankings they use, and whether those rankings are correct each week.)

The struggles of the offense lay at the feet of the long layoff. If I had been in Vegas I definitely would have bet the under for that reason, and would have made a ton of money. Enough to buy a snowplow.

What writers do you respect or have influenced you?
- Nick

I grew up reading Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon and Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post, and was lucky enough to work there a few years and watch them at work. There are a lot of other writers I’ve admired who are less well-known: Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News (my friend and Maryland classmate) and Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star.

What's your aspiration: to write the Great American Novel or to be the next Stephen King/John Grisham(/Nicholas Sparks)?
- Ben

Sadly, my writing ability would tend more towards Sparks, schmaltz and teenage angst and all. I’m not smart enough to write like King and Grisham. Hell, I’m not smart enough to write like Emerson. And I’m an Emerson.

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