Georgia has come a long way since Jim Harrick took the program over from Ron Jirsa two seasons ago. This season's great start, along with last season's trip to the NCAAs shows what Harrick and company can do in a small amount of time. But Georgia does not need to settle for placing second in the SEC. This season the Dawgs have a chance to win the conference. They should take advantage of it. But in order for that to happen, the Dawgs will need to focus.
With wins over Vandy, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Georgia has positioned itself to make a run in during the SEC schedule. Last season, the Dawgs did the same thing, ending it with a climatic win over Tennessee in Athens. After the win over Tennessee the Dawgs went to sleep on the court for a few games and slipped right out the conference running. That should not happen this season.
Georgia was very young last season and depended on DA Layne too much. When Layne did not play well the Dawgs lost. There was little depth.
This season, the Dawgs can spread the focus of the offense around to Jarvis Hayes, Ezra Williams, and others. Teams are no longer able to focus on only one star. This opens up the offense more than one can really appreciate without seeing the struggles the season before.
Several players have stepped up in big games to secure wins. Georgia uses all five players on the floor to scramble and struggle for offensive rebounds, making the other team work much harder on defense than they normally have to. Rashard Wright has become a menous on defense; hounding opposing guards in the backcourt. Jarvis Hayes is one of the better players in the SEC. Ezra Williams, while sometimes streaky, is dependable in the clutch (see the Tennessee win and numerous games where he made free throws down the stretch), and the two big men have been getting the job done against much bigger and more talented opponents like Slay from Tennessee and Prince from Kentucky.
But the focus of this team should be to worry about winning every home SEC game (one by one), and stealing road games against weak opponents. Weak SEC opponent is kind of an oxymoron because no matter a team's record or national ranking, winning on the road against any opponent in basketball, particularly a conference as difficult as the SEC is this season, is key to winning conference titles. And at the same time defending your home floor is mandatory.
There are no easy games in the SEC. The West is already in a logjam, and its only two weeks into the season. The East has two undefeated teams in Georgia and Florida, and one scary 1-2 team in Kentucky.
The point is that no one team in the conference, save Florida, has the talent to run the table in the conference. That means that every game is winnable. And that in turn means that each game is very important.
The way to win the SEC in basketball is to focus only on the team that you are playing. If you start thinking beyond that, or if you are depending on teams to lose in order for you to be helped, you and your team are in trouble.
For Georgia there focus should be on a very good Alabama team, and I think that it is.