As a seemingly disappointing Georgia Bulldogs basketball season drew to a close, students and alumni already began looking towards the next football season while somewhat overlooking the hard working Bulldog teams with seasons in between the days of pigskin.
More specifically, the UGA basketball team wasn’t talked up much despite a strong amount of solid returning players and a fantastic head coach in Mark Fox. However, the Bulldogs managed to turn some heads throughout their season and the future of the program looks very bright.
Although Fox’s Dawgs lost their first and only game in the Big Dance this year, the Dawgs managed to capture their second consecutive winning season. Despite all the injuries throughout the year and losing a crucial starter in Brandon Morris to the classic UGA dismissal, Fox made due with the talent he had and forced other teams to play his game leading him to his fifth appearance in the NCAA tournament and the Bulldogs second showing under his tenure.
Big man Marcus Thornton stepped it up in the paint, while JJ Frazier was known for hitting the big time deep 3 to get the fans on their feet. Nemi Djurisic was dismal and extremely frustrating to watch at times, but when he was on top of his game he was tough to stop.
Charles Mann was a phenomenal leader on the court and put together some outstanding drives throughout the year. Kenny Gaines appeared to be the glue holding the team together, as the Dawgs performance was clearly lacking whenever Gaines was out with miscellaneous injuries. Put together these players with dependable bench play from Juwan Parker, Kenny Paul Geno, Yante Maten, Houston Kessler, and Cameron Forte, and you get the recipe of success seen within this season.
Only losing seniors Djurisic and Thornton, fans are and should be looking forward to next season. Maten will do an awesome job of filling in for Thornton as evident by his performance and double-double against South Carolina when Thornton found himself in foul trouble. Djurisic can be replaced but his defensive skills will be missed by the UGA squad.
The Dawgs received a tough draw in the tournament against Tom Izzo’s underestimated Michigan State Spartans and lost 70-63. The tournament dangerous Spartans have now managed to upset 2-seed Virginia to make it to yet another Sweet 16.
Izzo, who is an extremely accomplished legendary coach in the NCAA, graced the Dawgs with the flattering comment “We played a lot of good teams this year, that’s as good a team as we played.”
This illustrates how solid the Dawgs were this year and just one example of how much respect they earned from opposing teams.
The 2014-2015 Hoop Dawgs put together a season for the books and deserve praise. Game attendance grew from last year. People showed up early and stayed throughout the game. The Kentucky game was sold out early on and was quite possibly the most hype game in Stegeman Coliseum since the 1980s when Dominique Wilkins rocked the red and black.
Overall alumni attendance was more visible but students provided most of the noise and support for these hard working gentlemen. Fox’s Dawgs will be back and barring injuries, even better than they were this season. 2016 March Madness will see the Bulldogs return yet again and making it past the first game in the tournament will be the next step in the master plan.
*Section Photo credit to Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports