Riddle me this. A traditional football power in the SEC gets a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA to commit to a basketball program that doesn’t have near the success as the football team. The team is led by a much maligned head coach and the thought process among fans and boosters is if Coach (Blank) can’t win with this guy then when will he ever win? Who am I talking about?
If you thought Johnny Jones, Ben Simmons, and the Fighting Tigers of LSU you’d actually be wrong.
I’m referring to Tom Crean, incoming super recruit Anthony Edwards and the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia is entering year two of the Crean era after a disappointing year one. But expectations for year two are higher in Athens after Crean retained some key returning talent and added a major recruit in two-guard Anthony Edwards. Here to better familiarize us with the Bulldogs is Andy Walsh from Georgia’s student newspaper Redandblack.com. You can follow him at @atwalsh10. You’d also want to follow Tori Heck who will be Georgia basketball’s beat writer this year for Red and Black.
1. Tom Crean certainly didn’t have a successful first season in Athens. The Bulldogs went 11-21 overall, 2-16 in conference and only finished ahead of Vanderbilt in the league. What’s the expectation for Crean and company in year two?
The 2018-19 season definitely didn’t go as planned for Tom Crean, but I wouldn’t say the fault was his. Although he had some great talent on the team, he didn’t have the type of talent which complements his coaching style and the way he likes to play. Crean loves to play up-tempo (Indiana led the Big Ten in scoring in 5 of his last 6 years there) and get up plenty of threes — not necessarily the strong suit of Georgia in years past. Nicolas Claxton and Tyree Crump are exceptions to this, but as Crean starts to bring in players that suit his style, I think we will see better results from Georgia. With 10 new players (nine freshman) coming into the 2019-20 season, it’s safe to say the expectations are still somewhat tempered but cautiously optimistic with Anthony Edwards. Don’t get me wrong, Georgia has a lot of athleticism, speed and shooting, but experience can be a dealbreaker. Give this group (sans Edwards) a couple of years and some more top-tier recruiting classes, and I think Crean will start to feel a lot more comfortable.
2. I feel like there’s some major parallels in this Georgia team and the Ben Simmons LSU team. LSU, a football program, lands a player that, in hindsight, they probably had no business getting to come to campus. The season ends up a total disaster, LSU not only misses out on the NCAA Tournament, they miss out on the damn NIT, and Johnny Jones was fired. Yes Anthony Edwards is from Atlanta, but still it’s not often that Georgia basketball signs potential lottery picks to its recruiting class. How does this Georgia program not make the same mistakes LSU so infamously made?
I do like this comparison, but I think Georgia could dodge some of the mistakes LSU made in 2015-16. For instance, I think Johnny Jones hindered a lot of the success that LSU team could have and he often seemed pretty clueless and in over his head, and he got fired for it. I think Crean has showed he has the ability to coach top-tier talent (Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade), and he knows how to get the best out of them. I think the supporting casts are more comparable between the two teams, with no real second fiddle to be seen. Rayshaun Hammonds or Tyree Crump are good choices for ancillary pieces, but I just don’t see them taking over games if Edwards finds himself double-teamed or keyed in on by defenses. Maybe one of the freshmen could emerge, but that is to be determined. I also think a big factor is that Edwards is playing in his home state and he has a certain level of accountability with countless friends and family most likely in attendance at every home game. I don’t think that Simmons had that type of responsibility on his back and maybe led to some indifference on his part.
3. Who fills the power forward spot now that Nic Claxton is playing for the Brooklyn Nets?
I think there are no real candidates to replace the type of impact Claxton had on the game. He was a certified stat sheet stuffer, of which I don’t think Georgia basketball will see for a while. So, I think his void will be filled through a committee of players. Those players haven’t really emerged quite yet because of the 10 new players, but as of now I would put my money on Rayshaun Hammonds. He’s one of the more experienced players and probably fits the mold the best. I think a player to look out for is sophomore Amanze Ngumezi, who showed some serious bounce and athleticism at the “Stegmania” scrimmage.
4. Georgia’s first few games don’t exactly feature the stiffest of competition. But the intensity gets revved up to 11 the week of Thanksgiving where the Bulldogs travel to Maui and will play Dayton that Monday and either Virginia Tech or Michigan State the following day. What do you expect we’ll learn about this Georgia team when they travel to Hawaii?
I think something we’ll learn is just how young of a team Georgia is. If the Bulldogs do in fact face off against Michigan State on that Monday, their inadequacies could be exposed by a veteran team led by a possible Naismith award winner in senior guard Cassius Winston. Another possibility could be the emergence of Anthony Edwards. I know he’s already had plenty of attention, but a standout performance against some of the country’s best defensive guards could showcase just how ready Edwards is for the next level.
5. I guess it’s the question everyone wants to know: how good is Anthony Edwards? What’s his ceiling?
Based on the 12-minute “Stegmania” scrimmage that was played on Oct. 11, Edwards seems to be everything as advertised: athletic, a lethal finisher and a capable ball-handler. I think we could see him run some point guard this season, and that might ultimately be his lasting position. It’s really hard to gauge his ceiling because of how young he is, but at a glance I would liken him to another Tom Crean player in Victor Oladipo. They have similar frames and play styles, so I think that’s a a believable player to compare him to.