Dominating Tech is about the only thing Bulldogs basketball has had to hang their hat on lately. And, almost desperately, they’d like to keep it hanging.
“It’s obviously been a school rivalry forever in every sport, and basketball certainly is one of the top ones in that,” Crean said Thursday. “But, to me, the more time I think about the rivalry, the (more) you get away from how important it is and how good they are. Our guys will figure that out, and the fans will help with that with the attendance tomorrow night. But they’re a really good team.”
As for this year’s matchup, which team might have the upper hand is anybody’s guess. Both squads enter with 2-1 records of little distinction. Tech for the first time this season will be playing away from McCamish Pavilion, where it defeated Lamar (75-66) and Stetson (77-52) but lost to Miami of Ohio (72-69).
Georgia counters with a ledger that includes wins over Florida International (58-51) and South Carolina State (76-60) and a road loss to Cincinnati (73-68). Both teams played Morehouse as an exhibition opponent, with the Yellow Jackets winning 89-52 in Atlanta and Georgia prevailing less impressively in Athens, 64-49.
Tech definitely has an edge this season in continuity. The Jackets feature only four newcomers, compared with Georgia’s 10. They’re led by returnees Michael Devoe (18 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Jordan Usher (13.7, 9.0) and Top 100 freshman signee Dallan “Deebo” Coleman from Memphis (11/7 ppg).
Tech leads the all-time series 105-91 in basketball, but to say that Tech is desperate to get back on the winning side of the ledger might not be overly dramatic.
“Good golly, it’d be nice for us to get a win against Georgia. Goodness gracious, they’ve gotten us every time,” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “But I keep it all in perspective, and I know how important it is for the fan base. I get that, so I really want to win for the fan base and for our young men. But I also know that we have a lot of big-time games on our schedule. So, we’ve got to play really well. It’s going to be a great atmosphere on Friday night.”
Georgia’s leaders are all first-year transfers, including point guard Aaron Cook (14 ppg, 8.1 apg), wing Kario Oguendo (8.7, 3.7 rpg) and power forward Braelen Bridges (16, 8 rpg). But they’ve been briefed on the meaningfulness of Friday’s game.
Friday’s 9 p.m. tip will seem late to everybody but the students, who are expected to turn out in the thousands. But that’s one of the benefits of the game being played in November this year. Students haven’t left yet for holiday break.
One potential complication is the noon kickoff Saturday for Georgia’s No. 1-ranked football team. But Crean doesn’t believe that should be an issue.
“It shouldn’t,” he said. “If you look at how packed this town is on a Friday night before noon (football) games, it shouldn’t make a difference. And hopefully people will see it as a great part of their weekend.”
Georgia fans will if the Bulldogs win it. Tech leads the Clean Old-Fashioned Hate series for this academic year 1-0, having already claimed the head-to-head in volleyball last month. A certain football game awaits the Saturday of Thanksgiving week.
But this one will be watched intently.
Said Georgia’s Bridges: “I know this rivalry means a lot to everybody, whether it’s basketball or football or any sport, so I know winning it means a lot.”