Georgia could have worked its way into this basketball season slowly, had a game to work in its freshman, experiment with lineups, that kind of thing. It chose to go the other way.
“It’s not that type of game,” freshman Tyree Crump said.
It’s also not supposed to be that type of season. So Georgia will find about itself right away – and have an NCAA tournament resume’ game right away.
Clemson is projected as an NCAA contender, has a possible NBA first-round pick, and is unveiling a renovated home arena. Into that goes Georgia, itself an NCAA contender, not waiting long for a challenge.
“You want to learn something about your team. And you don’t really learn a lot versus Cupcake U.,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “You want to play people. So this is a big challenge. We’re going to play a very good ACC team with a lot of experienced players, in essentially a brand new place. So we will find out a lot about our team on the first night.”
It wasn’t bad luck to have to open Clemson’s new arena: A few years ago Clemson head coach Brad Brownell called Fox and asked if they would be okay holding it as this season’s opener, and Fox signed off.
What Fox and his team are hoping is they have the type of team that doesn’t need any warm-up games.
J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten are back after being the two leading scorers on last year’s Georgia team, which won 20 games and made the NIT. A number of other key players are back, including small forward Juwan Parker, who took a medical redshirt last year.
The Bulldogs also had a summer trip to Spain, when they played four games against local teams, in order to work in their three new players, and figure out some roles. For what it’s worth, the product looked pretty good in last week’s exhibition rout of Fort Valley State.
“We’re ready. We still have a lot to work on though. We’re not perfect,” Frazier said. “But I think we’re as good as we’ve been in the past at this point of the season. So I’m pretty excited to get this season started.”
Fox agreed that he knows this team more as it begins this year relative to other years.
“I think we probably have a better feel for what pieces we have, and what they can do,” Fox said. “So I would say we probably know our group a bit more because of that.”
But Clemson will be a tough out. It went 17-14 last year and 10-8 in the ACC, and returns Jaron Blossomgame, a first-team All-ACC forward and the ACC’s third-leading scorer last year. Blossomgame returned for his senior season rather than remain in the NBA draft. (Fox opined that he would have been a first-round pick.) The Tigers return two other starters.
Georgia has opened the previous two seasons with a loss.
“I always like going on the road,” Frazier said. “Clemson’s going to have great energy and we’re going to have to match it.”