And trust me when I tell you that winning an NCAA Tournament game is the standard in college basketball.
If you are doing that math just take the last time the Bulldogs left the court – a 68-63 loss to LSU in the 2013 SEC Tournament – and subtract the amount of days since the last time the program won a game in the Big Dance – a 85-68 win over Murray State in 2002.
Needless to say that’s a long, long time.
Consider, too, that since the win over Murray State, Georgia has only been invited to the NCAAs twice:
2008 – A tornado kick-started one of the most unique stories in college basketball history. Lowly Georgia, a team who limped into the 2008 SECs with a 4-12 conference record in the regular season, won the tournament highlighted by buzzer beaters, small crowds and intravenous fluids. That spectacle will never be seen again – ever.
2011 – Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and company gained an at-large ten seed, but lost in Charlotte to Washington.
That’s it – just two bids into the biggest stage in college basketball. But Georgia’s failure on the hardwood should be put into further perspective. That number, 4,017, is staggering enough on its own, but it may be more startling to know the teams who have had more success on the hardwood in the tournament since Georgia last won a game.
Several non-power conference schools have won two or more games in the last ten years – Florida Gulf Coast, LaSalle, Wichita State, Bucknell, Morehead State, Pacific, Siena, Bradley, Cornell, Northern Iowa, Vermont and Winthrop.
Three of those teams use green as one of their primary colors – Green?
Even worse, UAB, Southern Illinois, UW–Milwaukee, Western Kentucky, Davidson and
Saint Joseph's have all won three games in the Big Dance. In addition, VCU, Butler, Nevada and George Mason have all experienced three wins or more in the NCAAs over the last 11 seasons of basketball.
Alphabet soup and directional schools.
On top of that every team in the SEC – expect pitiful and lowly South Carolina, which hasn’t won a basketball game in the NCAAs since the 1970s – has won at least one NCAA Tournament game since 2003.
But not the Bulldogs.
Is this Mark Fox’s fault? Not exclusively. Is it Dennis Felton’s fault? Not exclusively. How about Jim Harrick? Nope, but he hurt more than he helped in the end.
Vince Dooley? Damon Evans? Greg McGarity? That trio all tried, but failed to move the needle for longer than two years.
Program insiders will tell you that support from the athletic department is not an issue.
“No,” one said. “That’s no a problem at all. They are there for us. They are supportive.”
So what is the issue? Why can’t Georgia win? Is it that Georgia is not viewed as a destination job? The answer is that we wouldn’t really know.
Only one coach – Tubby Smith – came to Georgia, won and then left. All of the other coaches in recent memory – Felton, Harrick, Ron Jirsa and Hugh Durham – were all fired and shoved out the door on the way out.
With the exception of Harrick, none of the coaches who have been at Georgia and been subsequently fired have done enough to move on any way. They’ve all come, people have cheered and then the pitchforks have come out.
That process usually takes about four years.
So what is the explanation for poor performance over an extended period of time for a program? It always starts and ends with recruiting, but that subject has been covered at length. What, for instance, is happening at VCU, Western Kentucky, Davidson and UAB that’s not happening at Georgia?
There are a slew of things. But the thing that’s most notable is that basketball is the biggest thing on the campus of those schools. Obviously, that’s not the case at Georgia. But that can’t be an excuse – witness that every SEC school, save the Chickens, have won an NCAA game this decade. So football being a big deal/life or death does not prohibit schools from having success in basketball.
But that’s not where we are – so where are we exactly?
Often, academic institutions take the temperature of where they are at in the world of academics. It’s a snapshot of where they are and where they want to go. Its called peers and aspirants.
Right now, the University of Georgia considers schools like Ohio State, Florida and Missouri its peers in the world of academia. But aspirant schools, where Georgia wants to go academically, are higher on the scale. Georgia’s aspirants are North Carolina at Chapel Hill, California, UCLA and Cornell.
So what about for basketball? If we are being truthful, Georgia’s basketball peers are UNC-Charlotte, Auburn, South Carolina and Clemson. Its aspirants are not difficult to figure out: Tennessee, Florida State, Alabama and on the high end both Texas and Florida.
Those are all football schools who have won consistently at some point in their program’s history. Florida is, clearly, the best of that bunch right now, but for a long time both Alabama and Texas had very good basketball programs.
The question is how do you get to that point? That’s the tricky part. That’s the question that has not been answered by Georgia, and it’s the question fans are tired of asking.
For the most part those schools hired the right coaches at the right moment, and they won in year three - never looking back. Florida was 27-32 in Billy Donovan's first two years. He's won at least 20 games every year since. Tom Penders yanked Texas from winning totals in the teens in 1989 and won right away. The Horns have only failed to win 20 games in a season five times since.
Stability, at some point, has to enter the equation. But stability is getting a very hard look right now as Mark Fox is entering his fifth season, which is a critical, critical year the likes of which Mark Richt entered in 2011. Needless to say this is the turning point for Fox at Georgia.
If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stays at Georgia, and I expect him to, and if Georgia can get UCLA’s Tony Parker to transfer to Athens, then the 2013-14 season could be a very, very good one for Georgia. Even without Parker, who struggled to make it in Los Angeles this winter, Georgia should be better than this winter.
But Georgia basketball can’t be about getting slightly better over time – a jolt of success has to been seen at some point. And that jolt can't be a one-year thing.
Fox’s job is about fulfilling the potential of this program, and that’s not happened yet – not that fulfilling the potential of Georgia basketball is some sort of simple task as the past has dictated.
It starts and ends with recruiting. Fox and Georgia must do a better job of recruiting higher-level players to the program. The 2012 class – with Brandon Morris, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines – was solid, but most of the other recruiting efforts have not been what they’ve needed to be, which is the acute reason for the past decade’s lack of production.
Something has to change or be figured out, because fans of Georgia’s basketball program shouldn’t have to go through 4,000 days of watching their team sit at home in March.