ATHENS – Two weeks ago, an excited and hopeful J.J. Frazier spoke after Georgia’s senior night and cracked “hopefully this was my last game at Stegeman Coliseum.”
It wasn’t, and on Tuesday a more subdued Frazier was asked how he and his team could get up for another NIT trip.
“In life sometimes you fail at what you set. That doesn’t make you a failure,” Frazier said. “I know and my teammates know I play the same way regardless of the situation. For us it’s not going to be a letdown. We’re obviously disappointed but we’re going to play our tails off like we always do.”
Not only is Georgia in the NIT for the second straight year, but it’s playing the same opponent, Belmont. Last year the Bulldogs won by nine before bowing out in the second round.
So what motivation should Georgia fans have to come out to Stegeman on Wednesday night? Seeing Frazier, one of the more accomplished players in program history, is one. But there’s another novelty to the game: Rules changes.
This year’s NIT will serve as an experiment for using four quarters in men’s college basketball, which is the last level of the sport to not use quarters. Technically it won’t be quarters: The clock will still say 20:00 at the beginning of each half, and it’s just that team fouls will reset after the first 10 minutes of each “segment,” as they’re being called. But essentially it’s a test of using quarters.
Several other tweaks will occur:
– No more one-and-one free throws, instead the fifth foul in each quarter will result in two free throws for the other team.
– If there is a foul by the defense, with no free throws resulting, then the shot clock doesn’t automatically reset to 30. It will go to 20 seconds or, if there between 20-29 seconds left, it will stay there.
Georgia coach Mark Fox was on the NCAA rules committee that decided to experiment with that and several other rules changers during the NIT. He didn’t want to see the experiment first hand, but after a disappointing 19-14 season, here he is.
“If we’re ever going to go to quarters, the one thing that you lose is the one-and-one. Every shot is two shots. So essentially is what we’re doing with the free throw rule is experimenting what that will do with our game,” Fox said. “I’m not going to say I’m supportive of that yet, because I think the one-and-one has been a critical and fun part of our game, and I’m not sure it’s totally broken.”
The rules change won’t drastically change how the Bulldogs prepare for this game, other than the coaches need to keep an eye on the foul situation as the first and third quarters wind down, remembering the changes.
“All I know is the game is 40 minutes,” Frazier said. “I might get a little bit more rest, I guess. But other than that I don’t really care about the changes.”
The past two NIT trips – last year and in 2014 – actually saw decent home crowds at Stegeman Coliseum. This time around, however, the grumbling among the fan base has only increased, wanting more than just NIT trips.
“When people are disappointed, the great thing is that they care. We’re disappointed too,” Fox said. “But we do still get the chance to coach J.J. Frazier one more game, and he gets to play one more time – and maybe more.”
Frazier enters the game seventh on Georgia’s all-time scoring list, fourth in 3-pointers and free throws, and fifth in assists.
“This fan base has meant a lot to me,” Frazier said. “It’d be great for them to show up and support us. We’re going to give everything we’ve got. I think that in itself should have fans excited to see us.”