Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hoop Dreams

Originally posted to on December 21, 2006

This past Tuesday the college basketball season officially started for me. I understand that each team has played roughly ten games and that there have even been some big games played but it just didn’t officially start for me until Tuesday when I was hanging out with my buddy D.C. and we watched Duke dismantle Kent State.

D.C. went to Duke and is, for obvious reasons, a big Duke basketball fan. I have come to realize that fans of Coach K and the Blue Devils are some of the most enthusiastic fans in all of sports. His enthusiasm was terribly contagious. Thank goodness the Georgia Bulldogs are off to the start that they are because I wouldn’t have been able to join in the conversation otherwise.

Coming off six straight wins, including notable wins at Wake Forest and against Gonzaga last Saturday night at the Gwinnett Arena, the Dogs hosted Jacksonville on Tuesday night. This was one of those games that everyone knew the Bulldogs would win…I mean, Georgia isn’t going to lose to a team whose mascot is a dolphin. Georgia ended up winning the game 93-77. Senior point guard Levi Stukes scored 27 points and was 7-for-9 from three-point range. Sophomore Mike Mercer, a Snellville-native, recorded 21 points and leads the team in minutes and scoring (17.8 ppg).

We saw the score roll along the bottom of the ESPN screen and D.C., without taking his eyes off the Duke game said to me, “So, Coach Felton has the Dogs playing pretty well.” When a Duke-guy tells you that your team is playing well, especially considering Georgia’s history of late, you just say, “Thank you” and move on. It’s like Martin Scorsese coming up to an unknown actor and saying, “I like the way you did that scene.” Don’t try to expound upon it; just say thanks and walk away.

Tomorrow night Georgia (8-1) comes into Atlanta to face-off against Georgia Tech (7-3) at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Jackets had lost three of their last four before completely destroying Centenary, 92-52, this past Monday. However, the Jackets are a solid team and the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them.

Tech, much like its Georgia counterpart, throws a lot of young talent out on the court. Paul Hewitt’s squad boasts three true-freshman starters in forwards Thaddeus Young and Zach Peacock and point guard Javaris Crittenton (who by some publications was the top ranked recruit in the nation last year). They are a fast group and can put a lot of points on the board in a hurry. They do, however, lack a true big man to play the post. The three forwards that record the majority of the minutes for Tech each chart 6’8”.

Dennis Felton’s Bulldog-crew does a lot of rotating through the bench. Fresh legs is a key for the quick “run-til-they-can’t-catch-ya” style that Felton has in place. Stukes, one of only two seniors on the team, plays the point and essentially sets the offensive table. He’ll rely on fellow guard Sundiata Gaines to distribute the ball to him and Mercer. The guards make this team. Steve Newman, Terrance Woodbury, Southeastern Illinois College-transfer Takais Brown and 7-footer Rashaad Singleton will rotate through as the role players. They don't pull down a lot of rebounds but with the Dogs shooting 54% from the field, they don't have to.

This rivalry has shaped itself into one that we will be able to watch for a few years without a lot of change to the major players. If Tech can successfully right the ship and make a solid run in the ACC then I see them lacing up their dancing shoes come March. With Georgia’s youth, the pundits were talking about Georgia being just one more year away from turning a few heads. I’m here to say that they may already be there. A win at Georgia tech would push them into the nation’s Top 25 and if they can scratch together anything better than a .500-record in the SEC then I would prepare for Georgia tourney-berth.

Dreaming of a white Christmas is not exactly a reality for us in Atlanta…especially since it is mid-December and I wish I was on the golf course enjoying the 60-degree weather. However, dreaming of a red and black March might not be out of the question.

The Reggie Ball – Shot of the Week: Are you serious? Academically ineligible? Nobody goes ineligible at the end of their senior season! What kind of classes is he taking? Matt Leinart took Ballroom Dancing his last semester. My last semester of college consisted of Basket-Weaving 101 and Beginners Lawn-Mowing. Reggie, you have got to quit giving me so much material, bro. Thank goodness you’re not going to be around next year…my computer might blow up.

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