For the past several seasons, the scenario for the Georgia men’s basketball team entering the SEC tournament has been the same.
The Bulldogs start the tournament with at least a remote chance of making the NCAA tournament, only to fall short in the SEC tournament and ultimately not make the Big Dance.
There will be no anxious waiting for Selection Sunday this year. At 11-20 and coming off a 2-16 SEC campaign, the Bulldogs are nowhere near the postseason conversation. But for 13th-seeded Georgia, the tournament setting in Nashville offers a chance to hit the reset button.
The first opponent for the Bulldogs is Missouri, the same foe who trounced them 64-39 on March 6. Georgia head coach Tom Crean said the Tigers chose to simply not guard some Bulldogs, resulting in the worst offensive performance of the season and causing the staff to make adjustments heading into Wednesday night’s game.
But for junior guard Jordan Harris, it is the team’s mentality from the first meeting that still sticks in his mind. He said the team didn’t have the same edge or chip on its shoulder last week against the Tigers.
Heading into Nashville as the next-to-last seed provides an opportunity for that mindset to return.
“We probably have more to prove than any team in the tournament as far as where we stand in the rankings,” Harris said. “But I think our mindset, definitely, is to go in and win as many games as we can and get to playing some good basketball.”
Adding to that newfound edge is the senior class which will be playing its final games at Georgia. While Crean said it is ultimately the responsibility of the entire team to bring that to the game, he also mentioned it comes from the senior class more than anyone else.
While the Bulldogs won’t be favored in any game they play in the Music City, they don’t necessarily see themselves as underdogs. At least that’s the mindset of freshman guard Tye Fagan, who said each game is “up for grabs.”
Indeed, before suffering a pair of blowout losses to close the regular season, Georgia had lost four games by a combined nine points to projected NCAA tournament teams before finally breaking through with a 61-55 road win against Florida on March 2.
“I think that is a great confidence booster because [the coaches] showed us each game what we could better, what we did really well, things that we could do more of, things of that nature to help us get better,” Fagan said.
Crean mentioned defense and rebounding as areas where he needs to see improvement heading into the tournament. He also said he doesn’t want his team, which has shot just 24-for-93 (25.8 percent) over the last two games, to lose confidence shooting the ball.
“We’ve had a couple of games where shots we make, shots we have made, are not going in,” Crean said. “We just can’t lose that confidence to take those shots. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep looking for what the defense is giving you.”
At practice on Monday, Crean said he thought he saw his team with a good edge, but he also mentioned he thought the same thing heading into a 20-point loss to South Carolina last Saturday.
But to hear the players tell it, they’re looking at Wednesday as a reset on their season.
“The records don’t matter, none of that matters,” Fagan said. “Each game, you win or go home. It’s just a confidence booster because everything that’s in the past is in the past. It’s a new season.”