CHICAGO — One day after he was unable to practice due to flu symptoms, forward Steve Thomas took his spot in Georgia's starting lineup late Friday night.
Thanks to treatments from Dr. Ron Elliott, the team doctor who accompanied the team to Chicago, Thomas bounced back quickly after having a 103-degree temperature early Thursday. He also had an upset stomach Thursday but was able to eat Friday.
Thomas, especially valuable because he is the team's biggest player, was able to participate in Georgia's light shooting practice Friday morning. Thomas then had more time to rest before the late tipoff against Murray State and had no fever by Friday afternoon.
Homecoming: The trip to Chicago was particularly good news for one Georgia player and one Murray State player. Georgia's Mike Britton is a walk-on guard from nearby Rockford, Ill.
"You never know what can happen,'' said Georgia coach Jim Harrick. "Here's a high school kid from Chicago playing in high school gyms one year and he decides to walk on at Georgia and the next year he's in the United Center.''
Britton appeared in two games this year.
Murray State's James Singleton's nickname is "Chicago.'' He grew up in Chicago before attending Pearl River (Miss.) Junior College. Murray State made an earlier visit to Chicago in the regular season, beating DePaul on Dec. 11.
Let everybody play: Harrick says most coaches agree that conference tournaments are of no help to teams already in good position for an NCAA bid. In the case of Georgia this year, the Bulldogs landed a high No. 3 seed despite losing to Louisiana State in their Southeastern Conference tournament opener.
"It didn't mean anything,'' Harrick said.
Harrick has another plan for conference tournaments.
"Let's throw them out and bring in 256 teams and start last week and play a 256-team NCAA tournament,'' he said.
"You could probably make a lot more money and get the entire nation excited about it.''
Added Harrick: "I think it's time. I really think it's time.''
Elite field for coaches: Three coaches with teams at the United Center Friday have won national championships with other teams. Each of the three also share the experience of having to take a year off between coaching stints.
San Diego State's Steve Fisher, who won a national championship at Michigan, Texas Tech's Bob Knight, who won at Indiana, and Georgia's Harrick, who won at UCLA, each had a year off before moving to new jobs.
Harrick won the NCAA title in 1995 at UCLA, but he lasted only one more season at the school and sat out the 1996-97 season before spending two years at Rhode Island.
There are some who believe Knight is more mellow in his first year at Texas Tech, after spending last year away from the game, but he isn't so sure.
"I enjoyed the year off, I did things I liked,'' Knight said Thursday. "I don't know if it made any difference in the way I coach or not.''
If he was looking for a trend, the bad news for Harrick as he watched Friday's early games at the United Center was that both Fisher and Knight lost their first-round games. San Diego State fell to Illinois Friday afternoon, and Knight's Texas Tech team was upset by local favorite Southern Illinois Friday night.
Thumbs down: Knight was asked about the ESPN movie "A Season on the Brink,'' which is based on the book about the coach's 1986 season at Indiana.
Said Knight with a shrug: "I didn't see it. I don't pay attention to what I hear or much of what I read.''
Knight's players also didn't think much of the movie.
"I saw the first half and saw how bad of a movie it was and I didn't watch any more of it,'' said center Andy Ellis.
Added forward Kasib Powell: "The movie kind of made him out to be a bad guy, but we see the good side every day in practice.''
Charles can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com