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Tom Crean's Bridge From Here to Tomorrow

January 15, 2019

ATHENS - Tonight provided further confirmation that Georgia isn’t a top-25 team. 

I’m pretty sure we already knew that coming into UGA’s matchup tonight with No. 12 Kentucky. Much will be made about former UGA commit and current Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans’ only game this year in Athens. 

Fine, but Hagans doesn’t and shouldn’t matter to UGA fans. He plays for another team. It is over. 

What we will see from here on out is how Georgia competes against teams in its universe. Tennessee, Auburn and Kentucky - the three best teams in the league - all beat these Dawgs by double digits. Those three games were not competitive going into the final TV timeout of the game. 

Now we are going to see what this team is made of. At 9-7 and 1-3 in the league, Georgia welcomes the Gators on Saturday before traveling to LSU midweek and then hosting Texas. LSU… Texas… flashbacks to nasty football trips from the 2018 season.

Fans are probably triggered right now. 

But this isn't football, and this basketball squad will have to play within themselves the rest of the way. Play solid, smart basketball. Getting to 17 wins or so should be the target. There are no more “certain” losses left on the schedule. All of the games remaining on the Dawgs’ slate are winnable - maybe not as favorites, but winnable for sure. 

Tennessee is out here killing people. The Vols look like a legit candidate to win the national title. Auburn seems like a threat to get to the Final Four. Kentucky doesn’t look as great as they have in the past, but they are also a threat to get to the final weekend of the season.

Of those three, Georgia only plays Auburn again... this time at home. 

The game with the Gators, who lost a heartbreaker at State Tuesday night, should be the reboot of the season for Georgia. This team is more than capable of winning a big game. At 1-3 in the SEC, the Gators are not a big game in the traditional sense of them being ranked or mattering in any way nationally, but it is a big game because it is the Gators. 

Georgia might not get noticeably better this season. If you are going to games expecting this team to beat top 15 teams… that is asking a lot. They are capable, and part of me thinks that State or Ole Miss had better watch it when they arrive in Athens, but this team isn’t what the future should be in Athens. 

Remember when Kirby and company slopped around with Nicholls, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia Tech in the fall of 2016? Me either, but it did happen... even if you have tried to wipe it from your memory.

That’s not the sort of jump you should expect into next winter, but you should expect a jump. 

And that, as always, comes down to recruiting. Hagans played for Kentucky tonight, and that’s great for him. That enough guys like him didn’t sign with Georgia was the reason the Bulldogs now have Tom Crean as head coach. 

It will be up to Crean to get high-level talent to Athens to play for Georgia. Development is a massive part of coaching, but recruiting in college basketball is paramount. You will know good things are on the way when you hear it along the recruiting trail. 

This winter is about building a bridge to that day - and it’s going to be a cold winter at times. 

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