Georgia basketball builds ‘foundation,’ but longest NCAA tourney drought in SEC continues

Georgia guard Justin Hill is one of the players who is eligible to return to play for Coach Mike White's Bulldogs next season.
Tony Walsh

.Georgia basketball coach Mike White called his first season leading the Bulldogs a step in the right direction, even if that step fell short of a postseason appearance.

“The way we finished the season was not what we were looking to do,” White said earlier this week, moments after No. 14-seed LSU bounced Georgia out of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament on the opening night, handing the Bulldogs their sixth-consecutive loss.

“Tough way to go out, but I do feel like we laid a foundation.”

FLASHBACK: Mike White sees ‘limitless future’ upon taking over UGA basketball

Final numbers

The Bulldogs finished the season 16-16 overall and 6-12 in league play, 11th in the SEC after being picked 13th in the SEC preseason poll.

SEC Network analyst Dane Bradshaw called Georgia’s season-ending game and provided DawgNation with his take on White and the Bulldogs.

“Coach White got as much out of this roster as possible,” said Bradshaw, who starred at Tennessee under former Vols coach and current Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.

“He had to implement strategies he’s never utilized as a head coach to keep them competitive.”

“They have some obvious holes to fill talent wise, but he never made excuses, and they’ll address those needs in the offseason,” Bradshaw said.

“I’ll be excited to see Year Two and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last time you see UGA in the Wednesday game at the SEC tournament under Mike White.”

The Bulldogs haven’t won a game in the SEC Tournament since the 2019-20 season, when No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Anthony “Antman” Edwards helped lead a 16-16 Georgia team to an 81-63 win over Ole Miss.

That tournament and the postseason was canceled on account of COVID-19, derailing previous coach Tom Crean’s best chance for a postseason run.

White, meanwhile, didn’t have one player among the 16 SEC basketball players chosen for first-team or second-team all-league honors.

Still, White believes the program had a positive enough season to help sell it to recruits.

“Heck, it probably just starts with the simplicity of we added some wins, something that we can sell in recruiting,” White said. “The fact that there’s some momentum, there’s some positivity. We took a step, simply, in the right direction.”

Player perspective

Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who nearly brought Georgia back from a 12-point halftime deficit with his timely scoring in the season-ending loss, said the program grew off the court.

“I think we just did a lot of stuff that doesn’t really have to do with basketball, but it kind of translates,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Holding each other accountable, kind of caring for one another, emphasizing the team versus one person. Just coming together as a team and being a close-knit group is something that the coaches emphasized.

“It starts from everybody, from the manager, to the oldest senior on the team. I think just everybody being a family. We say it all the time, family. I think we really embrace that.”

The “family” figures to have plenty of attrition with four seniors having played their last game at Georgia, including starting center Braelen Bridges, and a handful of others expected to transfer out.

“This group never got to a consistent level of defense that puts you in the top half of your league,” said White, who reached the NCAA tournament four of his seven years coaching at Florida before making the jump to Georgia. “It’s something that we’ll continue to preach and stress and drill.

“We’ve got to get better offensively, too, in this program. These coming weeks, I’m eager to get right back to it.”

SEC teams’ most recent NCAA tourney appearances

Arkansas 2022, Elite Eight loss to Duke

Auburn 2022, second-round loss to Miami, Fla.

Tennessee 2022, second-round loss to Michigan

Alabama 2022, first-round loss to Notre Dame

Kentucky 2022, first-round loss to Saint Peter’s

LSU 2022, first-round loss to Iowa State

Florida 2021, second-round loss to Oral Roberts

Missouri 2021, first-round loss to Oklahoma

Ole Miss 2019, first-round loss to Oklahoma

Mississippi State 2019, first-round loss to Washington

Texas A&M 2018, Sweet 16 loss to Michigan

Vanderbilt 2017, first-round loss to Northwestern

South Carolina 2017, Final Four loss to Gonzaga

Georgia 2015, first-round loss to Michigan State

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