It’s about having a reason to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show after all. It’s about truly caring about your bracket again. It’s about a team that faced more adversity than any other team I can remember. It’s about a football school becoming a basketball school (well, at least for a weekend). It’s about “worst to first in four days,” four games in three days, two seniors finally getting their just reward, and one coach getting job security. It’s about tornadoes, grown men crying, hope, and numerous “is this really happening????” moments.
It’s about Dennis Felton’s job (which isn’t in jeopardy anymore). He had the daunting task of rebuilding a program from rubble 5 years ago. He had to withstand the best recruit he’s ever had (Louis Williams) forgoing his letter of intent and going straight to the NBA. He had to survive losing numerous commitments once the Harrick punishment was handed down from the NCAA. He had to survive kicking his two best players off his team on the eve of this season (Mike Mercer and Takais Brown). He had to survive having 8 scholarship players all season. He had to get through the death of one of his favorite players (Kevin Brophy). Yes, it’s about Dennis Felton, now confidently in the position of Georgia coach for the foreseeable future.
But it’s mostly about the seniors. Dave Bliss and Sundiata Gaines honored their commitments 4 years ago, when it was clear they had a tough road ahead of them and they could’ve gone elsewhere. Bliss came to Georgia as a clumsy, foul-prone oak tree with hands of stone. He will leave Georgia with two degrees and the praise and respect of every SEC team, coach, and fan. Gaines is the heart and soul of the team, literally and figuratively. Before you call that hyperbole, think about this: he has started every single game for all of his four years at point guard. This past season, he led the team in points, assists, steals, rebounds (he’s 6-1), and minutes played. Unbelievable.
Every Georgia fan wanted success for this team, if for nothing else than the seniors and the coach. Felton is trying to run a clean program and build things the right way, and that takes time. He would’ve lost his job if not for this weekend’s miracles. Bliss and Gaines have been through so much in their four years, doing something that should be nothing but fun and entertainment with a lot of hard work mixed in.
Now, they can all look back on these last four years and realize the fruits of their labors. They are in the NCAA Tournament. They will get to show their wares on a national stage. Their team name will be on 65 trillion brackets floating around offices and classrooms all over the country. The world will get to see what they’ve got.
And you know what? They’ll probably lose to Xavier. They’ll probably get killed. But the fact that we’re even talking about them playing Xavier right now, the fact that they’re in the field of 65? After all they’ve been through, that’s more than enough reward.