The 2018-2019 college basketball season is fast approaching. There’s a new era of Georgia basketball beginning in Athens as former Marquette and Indiana head coach Tom Crean is now in charge of the program. Could Georgia be the surprise team in the SEC this season?
It’s certainly possible for the Dawgs to have a breakout year in Crean’s first season in Athens. Since he stepped on campus earlier this year, Crean has made immense efforts to increase fan and administration support for the men’s basketball program. After almost a decade with Mark Fox as coach, it’s clear that the Georgia program is heading in a completely new direction under Crean’s leadership.
Crean’s experience as a coach at Marquette and Indiana also make it more likely that he turn the Dawgs into a respectable SEC contender sooner rather than later. At Marquette, he coached a team led by Dwyane Wade to the Final Four and his Indiana teams were frequent visitors in the NCAA tournament.
Georgia only made the NCAA tournament twice during former head coach Mark Fox’s tenure in Athens and never won a game during those two March Madness appearances. Crean was brought in to elevate Georgia’s program to a place where the Dawgs can compete for conference championships and consistently make the NCAA tournament.
The biggest challenge for the 2018-2019 Dawgs will be finding a way to replace star forward Yante Maten who is now a member of the Miami Heat organization. Maten left the program as one of the best players in Georgia basketball history and was the focal point of the team’s offense for the last two seasons.
In my opinion, Georgia has the talent to be able to effectively cope with Maten’s loss. The only issue will be if that talent can be used in the best way possible. That’s where Tom Crean’s experience comes into play. He has an extensive track record of sending players to the NBA and his teams have often had high scoring and high flying identities.
Georgia will need every player on the roster to contribute this season but there are two key players who could elevate the Dawgs to an NCAA berth: sophomores Teshaun Hightower and Nicolas Claxton.
Hightower is a long, athletic point guard who really came on strong at the end of his freshman season. He’s the most athletic player on Georgia’s roster and he is a good two-way player. He needs to emerge as a leader and elevate his offensive game this season in order to offset the lost production of Yante Maten.
Claxton may be the best player on Georgia’s roster. He stands at nearly seven feet tall but has one of the most diverse skill sets I’ve seen for a man his size. He can handle the ball, shoot the three pointer, and is an extremely effective shot blocker. He needs to be more of a physical presence inside this season and most reports indicate he will be after spending lots of time in the weightroom this summer.
Georgia can be the SEC’s surprise team this season. The Dawgs have the coaching and the talent to do it. The conference seems to have a breakout team every year. Tennessee did it last year. Why not Georgia this year?
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