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Tate: Who'll Let The Dawgs Out?

After opening the season with a disappointing loss at home in Stegeman Coliseum, the UGA men's basketball team could have easily gotten discouraged and given up all hope on what could be of the season following up an NCAA Tournament appearance but they didn't. Now in mid-January and still trying to figure out exactly who the Dawgs are this season, DawgNation is feeling optimistic in large part due to the improvement of Head Coach Mark Fox and his coaching staff who has done a phenomenal job during his tenure in Athens.

What has left die-hards in GA scratching their heads is although you see plenty of potential on the hardwood, there is yet to have been a game put in place in front of them that gives a fair measurement or assessment as to what type of team they have. 3 of 5 total losses came by a combined 5 points which shows that they may be right there on the edge of the fence a tad as something as simple as just finishing should be their main goal and focus especially when traveling on the road . Georgia's 'best wins' are unarguably against the likes of a better-than-expected Clemson team by 23 points whom we just saw upset top-10 ranked Duke less than 24 hours ago.

Georgia will have much more work to do within conference play if they want to be known for more than just 'the team (UGA) that beat the team (CLEM) that beat a team (DUKE) that nobody figured they'd beat'. Whewww! I know that analogy may have been tough to understand but so has UGA this season, especially after not finishing strong on the road in Oxford where UGA had a comfy lead on Ole Miss deep into the 2nd half but let up off the gas and seemingly began playing 'not to lose' instead of playing to win.

Ultimately, the Rebels pulled that one out by a single point but like last night, Fox's club went back to the drawing board and regrouped by dropping Tennessee after trailing early and surging in the 2nd half. If Georgia wants to join the rest of the conference in making a strong push for SEC supremacy, it is there for the taking and what better year than the current? There's a saying that goes: There's no better time than the present. That has to be UGA's mentality moving forward. They've already dropped a very meaningful game (to say the least, just ask DawgNation) to arch-rival Florida by 14 in Gainesville during an expected 'down year' for the Gators. Though, look at things on the bright side... they'll have another shot at the reptiles later this season north of I-85 & Hwy. 316 on Tuesday, February 16th set for a prime-time 9pm EST match-up and did in fact demolish their in-state rival Georgia Tech earlier this year.

Where to start? Simple. Last night was a good spot as they battled Tennessee and earned another victory in the win column. Problem is, I'm just not sure how much weight that will hold in the eyes of the committee on Selection Sunday so needless to say... there's still plenty of work left to do. Furthermore, they'll have that chance this weekend vs. a very balanced and fairly unrecognized Texas A&M club that contains conference championship talent and chemistry. In order to pull off the feat vs. the Aggies and beyond, UGA will need to continue dominating games with their perimeter play. The trio of upperclassmen that includes seniors in Charles Mann & Kenny Gaines and  junior JJ Frazier who is undersized but confident in his deep shooting, make over half of their points scored per game but after losing  Nemanja Djurisic and Marcus Thornton, experience up front is thin and slim. Yante Maten has been superb and has exceeded expectations as far as I'm concerned and true freshman Derek Ogbeide has been a load on the inside considering his presence but is still quite the raw talent. As we get into the thick of things of the SEC, it goes unsaid that we will learn a lot about the University of Georgia in the coming weeks.

Tate's Take: Until the Dawgs show me something different, I am almost forced to believe that although they are yet to play any nationally ranked teams this season, it won't happen anytime soon and certainly not this week vs. whom I project will make an appearance in the conference championship game (TX A&M), though in Athens I expect them to keep it close. Wins @Mizzou before returning home vs. Arkansas will be what UGA will need to stay confident (which they will) going into LSU & an odd and very winnable non-conference game had it not been played @Baylor. 2-3 seems most realistic, unless the front-court surprises me.

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