And yet only 5,165 fans showed up to see the final home basketball game of the year.
Final home game; 3rd place in the SEC; Dawgs have won seven of nine – and Stegeman is only half full.
Great question – I don't know if I have the answer, but I know that I have seen Stegeman rocking in the past… so I know fans will come out.
After ten years lost in the desert with only two trips and no wins in the NCAA Tournament you will forgive the masses if they are not eager to get out in the nasty weather to watch Georgia face rake Mississippi State once more.
Mark Fox's Bulldogs are better than they were at the start of the season. But they are not over the hump of selling to the masses. If winning puts butts in seats then there must be something more to this.
Is it the fact that Georgia isn't even in the discussion for an at-large NCAA bid according to ESPN, CBS and USA Today? Is it that Georgia has been horrible at pre-conference play the last two years – taking away any momentum it had before it started? Is it that recruiting has been a struggle for Fox and company over this half decade? Or after losses of 22, 25, 12 and 19 to Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee do fans think Georgia doesn't stack up against the better teams in the SEC? (Side question – is it really fair for Georgia to play every "good" team in the SEC on the road and only have one of them visit Athens? No.)
Or is it that Georgia fans want to see it before they believe it?
That's what I think it is.
Georgia fans love Georgia… that we know. They have been wondering – for a decade – just what is needed to really win at basketball. Not sort of win – like going to the NCAAs due to Sundiata Gaines' tornado-interrupted dash in 2008, or Trey and Travis' opening round loss in 2011.
The trips to the promise land shouldn't be so rare. Things shouldn't be this difficult. On a night where we saw just how bad the SEC can be in basketball – State is horrible – we are reminded of two things related to the other Bulldogs.
1. Their hated rivals, Ole Miss, were in this situation a year ago – needing to win the SEC Tournament to get to the NCAAs after finishing tied for second in the league. The Rebels did just that.
2. Mississippi State proved that anyone can have a consistently good basketball program in the SEC. Yes. Mississippi State – the most school most limited in terms of money, facilities and fan population besides, arguably, Vanderbilt – has put it together more than Georgia and many other schools in the league over the last decade. State has gone to the NCAAs four times and into post-season play seven times since the 2003-04 season.
Fox doesn't have win the SEC Tournament in Atlanta to save his job – no, his job is certainly saved at this stage – but the pressure is mounting to get to the NCAAs. If the Dawgs don't win it all in Atlanta to get to the Big Dance Fox will have only been to the NCAAs once in five seasons with Georgia – and, historically, that's not where you want to be as a coach.
5,165 watched Georgia get to more conference victories than it has in almost a decade… somehow that seems like not enough.