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March 21, 2007

Hoops: Where the Dawgs Improved in 2007


Judging a program like Georgia's that is pursuing such a tremendous rebuilding job requires a longer view than game to game or even week to week. You have to look year to year.

When you consider that Felton has improved from 12th to 11th to tied for 5th in the SEC overall during the past three years, that's improvement. When you see his SEC win total rise from 2 to 5 to 8 over the past 3 years, that's also improvement.

This season also saw only our third SEC Tournament win since Tubby left 10 years ago. Felton has two of the three wins. We also returned to the post-season, which was the minimum requirement for calling this season "progress."

When you see all of this happening for a program that 4 years ago had no juniors, sophomores or healthy freshmen, that's all progress.

The Numbers:
A look inside the numbers shows other areas of improvement and opportunities to do better.

(SEC rank)
(SEC rank)
75.1 (5th)
70.3 (6th)
Improved, but they averaged 69.1 points / game in SEC play in '07.
Points Allowed
69.1 (7th)
70.9 (11th)
Improvement relative to others, but we're still giving up way too many per game vs. our peers.
Total Rebounds
37.9 (3rd)
34.8 (7th)
Nice improvement.
Offensive Reb.
14.03 (1st)
13.13 (3rd)
If it weren't for offensive put backs from the boards, our scoring really would look bad.
FG percentage
.462 (4th)
.431 (12th)
Great improvement! Mostly from adding Takais.
3 pt. percentage
.381 (2nd)
.340 (8th)
Solid improvement.
3 pt. percentage
.359 (11th)
.349 (6th)
Assists / game
14.67 (8th)
12.57 (10th)
Still way too low.
Turnover Margin
0.24 (5th)
+2.0 (4th)

Assists to Turnover
0.93 (12th)
.81 (11th)
Still no progress.
+5.7 (2nd)
-2.0 (11th)
Exceptional improvement.
Steals8.88 (2nd)
9.07 (2nd)
Gaines and Mercer are beasts, and they aren't alone.

Felton is making progress, but there are still HUGE flaws in our game. Flaws that haven't changed in his four years. Poor ball and player movement and bad turnover to assist ratios plague us on the offensive end.

On the defensive end, we give up WAY too many points from a coach who considers himself a "defense first" type of guy. When you consider what we have to sacrifice as basketball fans on the offensive end to watch paint dry from a scheme standpoint, it is inexplicable why we don't have a better defense by now.

The only numbers that are misleading are the rebounding stats. You could look at those rebounding numbers and assume that our big men are much better than they are. Sundiata Gaines, Mike Mercer, and Billy Humphrey are as good at rebounding as any guards their size in the country. We need to improve our front court rebounding in 2008.

The Players:
The two biggest improvements in personnel were Sundiata Gaines and Takais Brown. Brown became everything Felton could've ever hoped for and more. We'll cover that topic in more detail soon. Gaines has also evolved his game, and he became one of the better point guards in the SEC this year.

Woodbury also showed inconsistent flashes of greatness. His performance in Rupp Arena reminded me of a very raw Jarvis Hayes type game. However, his performance in many other games reminded more of Derrick Dukes (ie: no defense for long stretches and streaky as hell). Regardless, the kid has huge upside.

Rashad Singleton also made big strides defensively. Unfortunately, he is as useless as tits on a bull on the offensive end. But he's making progress.

Prior to the injury, Mercer was having a standout year. He still struggles with shot selection, but his retooled shot did look better than his FR year. Several of the players took big steps in 2007.

The team also had to overcome incredible adversity this year.

All in all, we improved year over year. The pace of improvement is still slower than anyone would like. Given the pace of progress, it's hard at this point to look to the 2007-2008 and expect anything less than an NCAA tourney appearance. Anything short of that goal would be either stagnation or regression, and we don't have the time for either.

It's time for Felton to take the next logical step. If not, there will / should be some hard decisions in Athens next year.

I'll offer some thoughts / suggestions on how the program can improve over the next few days.

Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment.

See Also:
-- Chip Towers Season recap - AJC



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the analysis. I was disappointed in the lack of the effort in the last two losses of the season (FL & AF). Granted, those are great games - but it's difficult to watch such poor play.

I love Takais Brown, but he did not seem to improve at recognizing and passing out of a double team. All you have to do is trap him and he's stuck. That to me, is a coaching issue.

I am looking forward to next year and a fan of Felton and the whole team. The adversity (Broph, Mercer, etc...) should make us better.

Anonymous said...

I do not agree with so called "make or break" years. Everyone keeps saying NCAA appearance next year or else. Well no one knows what will happen even before then. Plus that does not take into account how good everyone in the east is supposed to be again next year. The schedule should be harder. That means we could end up on the bubble again yet still improve.

I guess we can hire and fire 20 more coaches. I just don't think it will help to change horses again anytime soon unless things go down hill. I guess you can say I just flat out do not want to start over again.

Unknown said...

Jim Donnan did a great job of stabilizing our program so that Mark Richt had a real chance to be successful.

If Richt had come here in '96 with the probation and perception problems of the Goff era, do you think he would've been as successful?

To me Felton is Donnan. Good enough to stablize the program, but not nearly as good as he thinks.

And not good enough to ever take us to the promised land. But you have to give him 5 years to figure it out.

It isn't NCAA or you're fired, but it's pretty darn close IMO. Another NIT bid with what we have returning would be purgatory.


Anonymous said...

Felton will probably receive a small extension after this year. I expect 2 years, but I am not sure if the teams performance garners a significant raise. I believe he only has 1 more year left on his current contract and Evans after viewing the team's progression will give Felton the vote of confidence with the extension.

Unknown said...

UGA hoops suffers from inconsistency, so the LAST thing we need to do is get rid of a guy who is so obviously (a) talented and (b) deeply, deeply committed to improving the product. No shortcuts here, people: this will take a couple more recruiting classes to upgrade. I don't care if John Wooden is coaching...the talent was non-existent when Felton got here, so he deserves no less than three more years.

Anonymous said...

I had an even bigger thing typed out using Donnan comparisons too but the word verification screwed up & I saw PWD's response which pretty much sums up how I feel.

The "Felton's not nearly as good as he thinks he is" comment is perfect. This team shows horrible fundamentals, he makes zero adjustments (that work anyway, in the rare instance we do make one) when we're getting pounded, the team just goes into "chuck treys" mode after our stale offense dies, yknow the one with zero movement and creativity, or paint presence when TK is getting doubled or tripled... and like anon 1 said, Brown still hasn't learned to get out of em quickly enough. Not to mention how other than maybe one year where one of our guys entered the NBA draft, Felton can't recruit against the big boys. There is more than enough talent in this state to field a very competitive and/or winning, tournament making type team. But they'd rather go to Tech or even Memphis or Bama.

How much more time does Felton actually DESERVE? Yeah, he inherited an awful situation. We got it. But how many more absolute blowouts are you willing to sit through? The East will always be good nowadays since Florida has surpassed Kentucky and Tennessee & Vandy are damn good too, the latter especially at home with their retarded court setup BS. I don't know about you but if 3rd or 4th in the East isn't good enough for our football coach, 5th in the East shouldn't be good enough for our hoops coach in his 5th year. Both the men's and women's programs are ready for new blood IMHO.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the reasoning behind the Donnan/Felton comparison, I think it is one that is flawed before it even begins.

Yes, Donnan took over a program that was dealing with probation issues.. but it's also a program that has a long history of success. Before Jim Donna even thought about coaching at Georgia, the Dawgs had won multiple national and conference championships.

Felton? He's certainly stabilized the basketball program much as Donnan did for the football program, but the similarities end there. There is no built-in fanbase with huge expectations. There is no waiting line for season tickets. There is no notice from the national media during a down year.

The line about 'not nearly as good as he thinks' smacks of smarminess that he quite frankly doesn't deserve. Not once has CDF ever paraded himself as a savior nor shown a lack of class in leading this program. I'm actually pretty offended by your careless comments.

Anonymous said...

First of all, we WILL make the NCAA tourney next year as long as our key players don't sustain any major injuries. There is no question we would have made it this year without Sundiata's ankle injury early and Mercer's knee injury late.

Second, I agree with Hobnail completely. Comparing Felton to Donnan is just stupid as is the comment that Felton "isn't as good as he thinks he is".

In 101 years of playing basketball, UGA has made NINE NCAA tourney appearances(along with 11 NIT appearances). Our historical SEC record is better than only one team - Ole Miss. We've got a few "fringe" NBA players now, but very few have graduated to that level in our history.

The point is that you blow hards need to continue to be patient and realistic. We've still got guys taking up valuable scholarships who would have never suited up in a UGA uniform under normal circumstances - Newman(gone now), Bliss(1 more year) and Singleton(2 more years) - were projects from the word go, but Felton had to get some big bodies and they were the best he could do considering the circumstances.

What this program needs more than anything is STABILITY - a good coach(and a good man) who is committed to bringing a consistent winner to UGA....a guy who will be the face of our program for 20 years. If Felton is here for 20 years, I'm confident that he'll deliver 7 to 10 NCAA tourney appearances and that would be a FANTASTIC accomplishment based on our history. Even if we were able to lure a bigger name or a hot young talent to Athens as head coach, who's to say they wouldn't treat it as a stepping stone job and jump ship in 2 or 3 years? We don't need that. Felton has pulled us out of the depths and seems to be very committed for the long-haul. We'd be better served supporting him rather than criticizing and throwing out ultimatum's. Good times are ahead.

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup. I guess what people feel to recognize is much like football, playing in the SEC is brutal. Any team can win on any day. Just look at the NCAA tournament, the SEC is ruling it as we speak.

Has our turn around been as quick as we hoped? No, but we are making progress. I really believe our progress would be more evident if we didn't play in such a difficult league. With that being said, that will only make our team better in the coming years and truly prepare us for the NCAA tournament.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I just don't have the same belief that others do that this program will ever get its act together without first building a foundation. The closest that we have ever been to that was under Durham. But because of his NCAA problems and other problems that were outside of his control, even he never could not sustain success after the 1990 championship season.

I cannot think of even one other school as large as UGA is that has such a small basketball following and zero foundation in which to build on. There aren't even 5,000 what I would call diehard supporters of this program in my estimation. You probably saw all 500 or so of them at the SEC tournament. But we have all of these high expectations and people calling for the coach's head. I'm not sure that we even deserve the coach that we have.

Felton isn't perfect. We can all agree that he's a mid tier SEC coach at best at this point. It's not about lowering expectations. It's about keeping it real. If the coach hasn't done as good of a job as some think, then neither have we as fans.

I too want to see the day when UGA expects to be in the NCAA every single year with rare exception and contends and occasionally wins SEC titles. But I do not think we will ever get to that point by keeping the UGA head coaching job like a revolving turnstyle.

So I just want to say that if we do change coaches, I hope that these folks hollering the loudest will get off their duffs and do something to help the next coach along. Because we sure didn't help this one out.

Changing your underwear often is a good thing. Changing coaches often isn't.

Anonymous said...

I was going to point out that you ought to factor in the SEC schedule and realize that Felton's improvement is just that much better, but it looks like everyone else has ralized that. I don't think that Felton is Donnan. Donnan was funny. Donnan was also a good coach. CMR has had great success, but I am not certain that Donnan could not have done as well. Imo, the only reason to let Felton go (barring a collapse of epic proportion) is if you knew you could get some one really great, and that seems unlikely. I'm happy with CDF and don't feel like purgatory is around the corner.

Anonymous said...

This is a nice little debate you've got going on here. I'm not among those who are 100% sold on Felton (more like around 80%), but as Paul pointed out as long as we can see the general trend of improvement in the program I'm behind him. Granted the program hit rock bottom Felton's second year, so we've basically climbed back uo to where we were his first year: Now let's see where he can take us from there.

One thing Anonymous8:30 said is how "In 101 years of playing basketball, UGA has made NINE NCAA tourney appearances". Believe it or not, that's 4 more appearances then Florida had when Donovan took over and 6 more then when Kruger did. It's also 5 more then when Stansbury took over at MSU and just 4 less then when Weber took over at UT. Turning around a program with no tradition in this conference is not an unrealistic goal.

Unknown said...

For you guys railing on me about the "not as good as he thinks he is" comment.

That may have been too harsh.

But in fairness to me, I'd just like to point out that the article and associated comment on this thread was over 800 words long. If you're insulted by 8 of the 800 words, then I don't think you're being fair to the entire article which pointed out PLENTY of positives.

I also think he deserves a contract extension and modest raise for improving and progressing.

I also think he should stay as long as he's showing improvement OR that he's brought us to a new level from which we can build higher.

However, so far...ALL that Felton has shown is that he can get us to our historical par in what I would call the modern era of UGA Hooops -- post-1980 (aka Nique's FR year).

I would argue that since Nique's arrival we've almost always been within 2 games of the bubble with 3-4 exceptionally awful and 3-4 exceptionally special years.

If our historical "par" is within 2 games of the bubble, that's all he's shown he has the offensive, defensive or recruiting ability to meet.

You give him more time to show he can do more.

If he shows more, then he should be rewarded for that as well. But at some point you HAVE to take the next step to find someone who can take that step.

BTW -- To the person that said, "How do we know the next coach wouldn't use us a stepping stone?"

My retort..."How do we know THIS coach won't do that?" Get serious.

As for calling for heads. I'm not doing that. Nor have I ever done that. Nor do I intend to do that.

In fact, Felton was BRUTALLY attacked on a personal level on message boards. I've gone as far as outing one of his biggest attackers. And I've defended him from some of those personal attacks.

I think his performance professionally is fair game for commenting by fans who support the program. I'm one of those.

I've been to 6-10 home games a year for the past 17 years. I've seen us play in Knoxville, Columbia, Charlotte, Chicago, Boulder, Lexington, Nashville, and Atlanta. I even attended the SEC Tourney in New Orleans when my team couldn't make it. I'm a diehard hoops fan.

I support the program, and I pump more than my fair share of sunshine relative to some of my more private thoughts.

If you're unhappy with my article about the progress we made last year, I'd wager you won't enjoy the next several articles regarding areas for improvement.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response Paul.

I didn't intend to come across as focusing solely on one line of what was otherwise a fairly positive review of the season.

I don't think this was the greatest season ever, but I also am of the opinion that the rebuilding truly started during Felton's 3rd season.. talk about strange and limiting conditions.

You Don't Have to Call Me Mr. said...

Good writing as always. I love UGA with every piece of my soul, and I still hate that we did not get to go to the tourney my junior year w/Jarvis and the others. I personally believe that Felton is out of his league. Since he has been at UGA, the shot selection and movement on offense is atrocious. And on defense, if we don't get a steal the opponent gets way too many easy shots. It is truthfully, painful to watch. Brown is a beast though.

Anonymous said...

I'll bite, reason being I think this one is easy. We're a football school. Period.

Could we be good at Hoops? Sure, why not, the state is covered up in talented HS players but the school hasn't seriously committed to wanting to be big time.

Yes, the practice gym is nice but come on, the arena is a joke, everyone knows that. Do you think we would let Sanford become the equivalent?? heck no.

Money and boosters could turn things around, but right now the two are not committed.

And honestly, I'm okay with that. Pick your battles, I'd rather invest in Football and that's how 90% of our fans feel too (they may not admit it but they vote with their feet and dollars)

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