One of Edwards’ 3-pointers — he made seven in the second half — was hoisted in front of Georgia’s bench. An ESPN camera caught Tom Crean’s reaction. The coach who signed the Edwards out of Holy Spirit Prep tried to remain stoic. He failed. He let a smile cross his face. Said Bill Walton, in vintage Maui form: “He’s thinking, ‘We’re going to win a lot of games.’ ”
It’s unclear how good Georgia is. The Bulldogs were no match for Dayton’s precision — there are no one-and-dones among Anthony Grant’s Flyers, but there are tough-minded sophomores and juniors, guard Rodney Chatman of Lithonia among them — and Georgia’s first-half defense against Michigan State was shambolic. Its second-half defense against Tech had been, too. That’s a function of youth. It’s also a function of this “position-less” team.
Georgia lists everyone as a “B”, as opposed to a “G” or an “F.” The “B” stands for “basketball player.” That’s fine in theory, but sometimes it helps to have a shot-blocking “C.” Georgia doesn’t. Tech’s Michael Devoe and Moses Wright took advantage, and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston called every first-half tune. Izzo had apologized for the loss to Virginia Tech, and his team did as you figured: It took out its coach’s wrath on the Bulldogs, who surely didn’t think they’d be seeing the Spartans in the losers’ bracket.
After 13-1/2 minutes, Michigan State led by 20. Barely three minutes into the second half, the margin was 28. With 16:02 remaining, Edwards had totaled 10 points in Maui. He managed twice that many over the next 6:05.
Ordinarily I’m not a huge fan of comebacks that fall short and high-scoring efforts that end in a team loss — neither is Walton, who asked, “What was Edwards doing the first half?” — but this seemed an exception. Edwards has played six collegiate games, and he’d never seen anything like Michigan State. By the second half, it was unclear whether Winston or even Izzo had seen anything like Edwards.
We say yet again: He won’t be a Bulldog beyond March. He won’t score 33 points in every half. (If he does, he’ll break records set by Pete Maravich.) And a 33-point surge that begins when the opponent is way ahead isn’t the same as facing a defense that’s playing every possession as if a national championship is on the line. But Edwards is no way overrated. He’s the biggest talent Georgia has had since Dominique Wilkins, and Dominique Wilkins is in the Hall of Fame.
After the Tech game, Crean said of Edwards: “We haven’t begun to scratch the surface.” The scratching commenced in the second half in the Hawaiian Islands two days before Thanksgiving. Over 16 astonishing minutes, the Ant Man made maybe the greatest collegian ever — Walton, duh — ask his national audience, “Why isn’t Edwards taking every shot?”
Sitting five time zones away, a guy thought to himself, “You know, that’s a fair question.”