Mark Fox on SEC tournament: 'I'm sick of hearing about Cat-lanta'

semerson@macon.comMarch 12, 2014 

ATHENS - Normally there should be an inherent advantage to having the conference tournament in your home state, little over an hour from campus.

But this is Atlanta hosting the SEC men's basketball tournament. And that almost always means a sea of Kentucky blue.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox, whose team finished tied with Kentucky for second place, is hoping there will be more red and black in the arena. And not just from the empty seats that will be painted those colors, as the Georgia Dome is home to the Atlanta Falcons.

"I'm sick of hearing about Cat-lanta," Fox said. "And it is the Georgia Dome. So I hope that we'll have representation at that."

Kentucky's game on Friday is immediately prior to Georgia's. It was pointed out to Fox that saying he was sick of hearing about "Cat-lanta" might cause the Wildcat fans to root against him.

"I could care less," Fox said, smiling. "They've got a great fan base. They really do. But I want our fans to be for us, and that's all we need."

The regular season attendance figures aren't very hopeful for Fox: Georgia finished third-worst in the SEC, averaging 6,429 fans per home game. (Though that was a 4 percent increase over last year's home attendance for the Bulldogs.) Kentucky, as usual, led the way in the SEC, averaging more than 22,000 per game.

Gentle lobbying

Fox continues to lay the groundwork for an argument that his team should be an at-large NCAA tournament - while acknowledging that if his team doesn't make it to the SEC championship game, the point is moot.

"Sure. If we went to the finals of the (SEC) tournament, for instance, and we finished second place in the regular season and second place in the tournament - if we lost the championship game - you're telling me the second place team in this league doesn't belong in the NCAA tournament? I think that would be a realistic argument for us. But if you get to the championship game you might as well win it. And we're not ready to talk about that. We've got work to do on Friday."

Fox jumped on a chance to rip into the numbers - which currently have Georgia 74 in the RPI, and without a win over a top-50 RPI team.

"It's ridiculous. You can skew statistics in any way that you want," he said. "I realize that in November Georgia was not an at-large team. But the Georgia team right now is pretty damn good. We've got more work to do before we can realistically argue that. But if you just rely on numbers you can make any case that you want."

Fox repeated a case he's made before, that his team didn't get a chance to face any major opponents at home: Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee beat Georgia on those team's home court.

Of course it goes both ways: Georgia did lose at home to Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.

The Bulldogs were without key players in each of those games, and several others: Starting guard Kenny Gaines, the team's second-leading scorer and best perimeter threat, missed the Vanderbilt game, as well as the loss at Kentucky, and his first game back was the loss at Auburn. Starting forward Brandon Morris was also suspended the first three games of the season, including losses to Georgia Tech and Davidson.

Fox said he hoped the SEC would communicate that information to the NCAA committee.

"Since the new year, when we've been whole, we've been a pretty good team," Fox said.

Recruiting update

Not surprisingly, Fox did not delve more into the abrupt departure of junior center John Cannon, who it was announced Tuesday will transfer and not be with the team the rest of this season.

"The timing's never good," Fox said. "But hopefully our team will be playing for awhile. He made his decision to go."

The upshot for Georgia is that it now has two scholarships available for this year's recruiting class. The team has no current commitments, though Norense Odiase, a big man at a Florida prep school, said Wednesday he would decide this week between Georgia and Texas Tech.

Fox cannot comment on specific recruits. But he did say "there's a great chance" they will use both scholarships this year. And at least one appears headed for a forward or center.

"We certainly would like to sign one post player," Fox said. "We're gonna have Nemi (Djurisic) back, and Marcus (Thornton) back, and Tim (Dixon) back, and Houston Kessler back. So we've got some frontline players. But we return basically our entire team that's played major minutes except Donte'."

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