There is a lot more than bragging rights on the line for the winner and loser of the Georgia and Georgia Tech basketball game. While former high school teammates like Tech's Lance Storrs and Georgia's Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price will sure not let the loser forget who wins, there is after all much more serious implications. How about the future of the two programs?
Georgia is often viewed as a program on the rise since the arrival of Mark Fox in Athens. Some pundits are even picking Georgia as a viable candidate to win the SEC East as soon as this season. Conversely the Yellow Jacket program is often thought of as a program that is in decline. Decline could be a harsh word but perhaps inconsistent is the better choice. Coach Paul Hewitt has seen his share of ups and downs while in Atlanta and his critics are mounting. As the AJC's Jeff Schultz writes a loss to Georgia tonight would do nothing but turn up the heat on Hewitt. When Schultz asked about the Tech program regressing it led to this awkward exchange between the writer and Tech's head coach:
When I asked Hewitt Monday if he agreed with that perception, he bristled.
"How do you want me to answer that?’ he said.
Any way you want.
"I’ll leave that up to other people. We went to the tournament last year."
Yet that was last year and gone are Derek Favors and Gani Lawal from the Tech program.
Still on the Georgia side, the game has huge recruiting implications for the Dawgs. Despite the optimism surrounding Georgia's program it was Hewitt's Yellow Jackets that won out for the services of Milton High's Julian Royal this fall. Fox and the Bulldogs were also in the running for South Atlanta's Nick Jacobs and Royal's Milton High teammate Dai-Jon Parker. Jacobs elected to play at Alabama while Parker chose Vanderbilt instead of UGA. Recruiting the Atlanta area is vital to the success of both Georgia and Georgia Tech and was one of the biggest criticisms of Fox's predecessor in Athens Dennis Felton.
So when the Dawgs and the Jackets tip off tonight there is much more at stake than just a basketball game. We are talking about the futures of the largest two programs in the state and the men that lead those programs. Then of course there is always those bragging rights also.