Georgia coach Tom Crean won’t have to look far to see where he wants his Bulldogs’ program to be on Saturday.
Bruce Pearl has built Auburn into a Final Four team and has the Tigers ranked No. 5 and sporting a 14-0 (2-0 SEC) record entering their clash with Georgia (10-4, 0-1) at noon on Saturday.
The game has been moved up to noon (TV: ESPNews) from 6 p.m. on account of the threat of severe weather.
Crean’s not worried about the game being moved up — the Bulldogs planned to bus to Auburn on Friday night, anyway.
But the head start Pearl has had building a basketball powerhouse at a football school — yeah, Crean said, that’s tough to catch up to.
“They’ve got a huge advantage, [Bruce Pearl] actually been there a lot longer than I’ve been here, so, do the math, he’s had a chance to really build it—the way that he wants to build it,” Crean said at Georgia’s media opportunity in Athens on Friday.
“I give him great credit for that. He’s an outstanding coach and a great leader. He’s built a fantastic team, that’s the way it is.”
Indeed, but Pearl said there’s more to the story where this game is concerned.
“Georgia is a much better team than they were a year ago,” Pearl told DawgNation matter-of-factly on Friday night.
“Obviously, Tom has re-energized that program. His expectations as a coach is national championships, so he coaches that way, and he recruits that way.”
No doubt, Crean has done a pretty impressive job at Georgia in a short amount of time.
The Bulldogs scored a historic victory last Saturday. Georgia beat then-No. 9 Memphis for just the second-ever program win over a Top 10 team on the road.
The task at Auburn could prove tougher, Crean explained.
“It’s a matter of just coming out and getting under control,” Crean said. “I tell the team, ‘ Who wakes up first, lot of times it’s going to have an edge in those early morning games, and we’ve got to do a really good job of coming out there prepared, ready to go, a lot of energy, and not give them a lot of live ball turnovers.’
“They feast on runs. They feast on them, and most teams do, but they really do. We’ve got to make sure that we’re not giving them those type of runs.”
Georgia will obviously look to freshman Anthony Edwards to lead the team.
The 6-foot-5 combo guard, a projected NBA lottery pick, is scoring 18.7 points per game, which ranks second in the nation among freshman.
“I love Anthony Edwards, I’ve known him a long time and him and Isaac Okoro battled for years,” Pearl said. “You’ve got two great kids, two incredibly hard workers.
“You know, some guys get in the position of Anthony Edwards, as the No. 1 player in high school, or as a Top five pick, and the success affects them.
“But Anthony hasn’t let the success or fame change him.”
Auburn won the last meeting between the teams, 78-75 at Georgia last February, its fourth-straight win in the series.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 76-66.