I am not a fan of hyperbole, but for the sake of sounding melodramatic, tonight’s basketball game versus Florida is the biggest basketball game Georgia has had in almost 8 years.
This is a primetime game in front of a national audience on ESPN (not the U!). As Tim Tucker pointed out yesterday, this is the 4th consecutive sellout of the newly renovate Stegeman Coliseum. There is an air of excitement in Athens for the men’s hoops teams not felt since 2003.
And that takes us to the last time Georgia played a game of this magnitude.
The black cloud of the NCAA was looming. This was right after
Sal Pal Jeremy Schaap did a tabloid job hiding in the parking lot of Stegeman, but before “How many points are in a 3 point shot” became a national joke.
On March 4, 2003, the Georgia Bulldogs faced off against the hated Florida Gators, led by Billy “I have sweaty arm pits” Donovan. The Gators were ranked #3 in the country. I was a senior in high school, and I remember watching on TV and hanging onto every shot. When Jarvis Hayes banked it off the glass for the go ahead bucket, I nearly lost it. By this time I knew I was Athens bound that upcoming fall, and I could feel the excitement coming from the TV. I wanted to be a part of excitement surrounding the football and basketball team.
Well, I got to experience many good years of football, but some terrible basketball years. I never got my “Harrick’s Hounds” t-shirt I thought was so cool. I got Dennis Felton and Steve Newman.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been some nice victories for Georgia basketball over the last several years. The Dawgs upset both Florida and Kentucky my freshman year. The SEC Tournament run in 2008 was pretty spectacular, but that was a fluke. When that team got done, you knew it wasn’t the beginning of anything great. As wild as it was, winning 3 games in two days was the equivalent of catching lighting in a bottle.
For the first time in 8 years, Stegeman is sold out for several consecutive games. For the first time in 8 years, Georgia has a chance to make a (positive) statement on a national stage and, if only for a brief moment, take possession of first in the SEC East.
If for no other reason, the Dawgs need to win tonight with Saturday’s game in Lexington coming up. And next Tuesday night the Dawgs play Arkansas in Fayettville. Arkansas isn’t very good, but any time you play on the road in the SEC it is tough and Arkansas is undefeated at home.
If Georgia plays well on a national stage, beat an established program and our hated rival Florida, this is the type of game that gives a program some nice momentum going down the stretch run in SEC play.
This game tonight is HUGE. Go Dawgs and Beat the Gators!