Dawgs look for five in a row over Carolina

ATHENS – Dave Odom is 123-96 in his seventh year at South Carolina. Dennis Felton is 69-69 in his fifth year at Georgia.

Odom already has resigned amid heavy pressure from his fan base. Felton, naturally, thinks that's ridiculous.

"I do think it speaks to where our game is from the standpoint of perspective," Felton said. "The unrelenting speculation on everyone's job status just doesn't make much sense from the standpoint of no one gets to just be where they're at. Everyone wants to gossip or speculate about whether someone wants to leave some place, or everyone manufactures gossip and speculation about whether someone should be allowed to stay at one place."

There has been little, if any, speculation about Felton's job status. His Bulldogs are 11-6 overall and 2-2 in the SEC heading into a 7 p.m. game today against Odom and the Gamecocks in Columbia. Georgia, and its coach, still receives vocal support at home games.

That was not the case for Odom. Fans, particularly students, in the palatial new Columbia Center had turned on their 65-year-old coach. That's why, Odom said, he announced his decision to retire 11 days ago, with two months left in the season. He will coach the Gamecocks (9-10, 1-4) through the remainder of this season.

"I think our fans have relaxed a little bit as it relates to my status and have turned their attention, at least in the one game we've had at home (since then), to totally supporting our team," he said. "Certainly, that has changed. Hopefully, (tonight) that will take even another step forward as we play Georgia."

Other things have changed for Odom, who is 401-270 all-time and has made nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

"I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that as I go through certain times, through certain experiences, like going to Rupp Arena last weekend, I'm human, my mind drifts and I'll allow myself to think, ‘This is my last trip to Rupp as a head coach in the SEC, and I really want to enjoy that experience and I want to give it my best effort,'" he said. "You do begin kind of a countdown in your mind."

Like most every other coach in the SEC has, Felton heaped praise on Odom. He and Odom have roots going back years to the ACC, when Felton was an assistant coach at Clemson and Odom was making his name as the head coach at Wake Forest.

"He's a great coach, great teacher, great leader and great man," Felton said. "Anyone should consider themselves very, very fortunate to have their program in the hands of a man like Coach Odom. You can't really do any better than that."

Most Gamecocks fans don't agree with that sentiment. South Carolina has qualified for one NCAA Tournament under Odom (although it did win back-to-back NIT titles). Georgia still is searching for its first invitation of the Felton era. Neither team has finished in the top two of the SEC East since their current coach's arrival. Combined in that span, they have finished in the top three just once (a third-place tie by the Gamecocks in 2003-2004), and in the last two years, they have swapped fifth and sixth place.

One area where Felton has a considerable advantage over Odom is in head-to-head matchup. The Bulldogs have won four straight in this series and their average margin of victory in last year's two wins was 22 points.

"They've got our number," Odom said. "They've had our number. Hopefully, we can do some things that will change that, but once again they have an awfully good basketball team."

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