1. As evidenced by Michigan State advancing to the East regional semifinals out of Charlotte, Georgia got a tough draw in the NCAA Tournament. Mark Fox maintained that the Spartans were under-seeded at No. 7 and the they proved the Georgia coach right. After beating the Bulldogs 70-63 on Friday, MSU defeated No. 2 seed Virginia 60-54 on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 in Syracuse.
According to MSU coach Tom Izzo, it just as easily could have been the Bulldogs moving on. The Spartans’ legendary coach lavished praise on Georgia and felt fortunate to have gotten out of Time Warner Cable Arena with the round-of-64 victory.
“I’ll tell you something, (Georgia) is a very good team,” he said. “I’m proud of them, not because my nephew (Matt Bucklin) is there. I’m proud of them because I’ve seen Mark (Fox) go through some of the same things I went through, where people are questioning this, that and the other thing.
“We played a lot of good teams this year, that’s as good a team as we played. They got in a little foul trouble, too.”
Izzo was particularly impressed with Georgia’s Kenny Gaines and felt MSU got a break in not having to face the Bulldogs with athletic shooting guard at full strength.
“The injury to Gaines was big,” Izzo said. “I watched him warm up and he was limping on that thing and he still got 12 or 14 points (actually 15). That kid’s a hell of a player. I think that hurt (UGA). I thought we did a decent job on their two bigs. We couldn’t rebound with them, which is disappointing. … But that is a good basketball team. Tough, runs a lot of good stuff.”
In the end, Izzo thought the Spartans’ getting run-outs off Georgia turnovers and missed shots was the difference.
“I just thought our fast break was the difference in the game the first half and then in the second half the same thing,” he said. “Once they cut the lead we got a couple quick buckets off the break and that was the difference.
2. Georgia’s football practice on Saturday – its third of the spring – was closed to media and general spectator viewing. But there were a number of special guests in attendance.
Coach Mark Richt invited all the lettermen back to watch, and more than 150 responded to the invitation.
“It was good to have our lettermen here,” Richt said after the workout on Woodruff Practice Fields. “It was great to host them today. We caught great weather for that.”
The competition is starting to heat up in spring ball as the Bulldogs donned shoulder pads for the first time on Saturday and will go in full pads when practice resumes on Tuesday. The coaches are looking for players who can make an impact this fall.
“We’re repping a lot of guys,” Richt said. “There are a lot of good things, a lot of bad things too. There’s a lot of opportunity right now but guys have to take care of business if they expect to get some playing time. They have to earn their position.”
It’s a busy week for the Bulldogs. They’ll practice four times, including Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They’re allotted 15 spring practices by the NCAA, including the April 11 G-Day intrasquad game.
3. Georgia’s Lady Dogs didn’t win a third straight NCAA swimming and diving championship, but they put a bit of a scare in top-ranked and eventual national champion California. UGA rolled up 452 points to the Bears’ 513, blowing past Stanford (363), Texas A&M (231) and Virginia (229) in the process. SEC sisters Florida and Tennessee also finished in the Top 10.
Over the last 17 years, Georgia has finished first or second at the national meet 14 times.
“I am really proud of this team, especially our seniors,” Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. “They laid it all on the line every day and never quit battling. We’re not able to walk out with the first-place trophy again, but we are walking out with our heads held high. We have a program that’s relevant year in and year out, and we were in the hunt again. As a coach, you can’t ask for more.”
4. The same can’t be said of Georgia’s gymnastics team. The once proud program – which owns 10 national championships – continued its descent within the SEC ranks as the Gymdogs finished fifth at the SEC championships in Duluth.
UGA, which owns a league-best 16 SEC championships, hasn’t finished better than third in the conference meet since 2010 and has now logged two fourths and a fifth under third-year coach Danna Durante.
“There were a lot of lessons learned sitting in the stands, but I think they will pay dividends in the next four weeks as well as in the future,” Durante said. “It’s back to work. Our focus is that we are not done. We’re going to keep working. We’re going to keep getting better.”
The Gymdogs, who entered the SECs ranked ninth, will find out where they will be placed in the regionals during the NCAA selection show tonight.
5. The Georgia baseball team is hopeful it changed its fortunes with an SEC road sweep this past weekend at Tennessee. The 10-4 win over the hapless Vols (9-11, 1-5 SEC) on Sunday gave the Diamond Dogs (15-9, 3-3) their first SEC road sweep since 2009 at Kentucky and first SEC sweep of any kind since taking three from Auburn in Athens in 2012. Georgia now has won the series over Tennessee for the past five years.
That’s all good, but the Bulldogs have considerable work to do in their quest to return to NCAA play this season. Thus far, Georgia has played a weak non-conference schedule and has not performed well against it. The Bulldogs’ resume includes three losses to Georgia Southern, a loss to Longwood University and a 12-run loss to Mercer.
Georgia will look for payback against the Bears Tuesday night at Foley Field and host Kennesaw on Wednesday before resuming SEC play at South Carolina this weekend. Suffice it to say, the Bulldogs can ill afford many more midweek blemishes