One day, we may continue to dream, the Georgia-Georgia Tech basketball game will generate at least as much heat as a single intermission during Tuesday night’s gathering.
One day, maybe, this rivalry in its underwear will touch off the kind of widespread animosity of when it is dressed up in helmets and body armor.
The biggest cheer during this season’s basketball meeting at Tech’s McCamish Pavilion (another name for a gym) came with both teams nestled in their seats. At the first time-out of the second half, highlights of last month’s Tech football victory over Georgia played on the mid-court arena scoreboard. And on cue, members of the Yellow Jacket football team emerged to parade the trophy given each year to the winner of the interstate football blood-letting.
The Governor’s Cup they call it.
The winner of the basketball rivalry game doesn’t even get a Commissioner of Agriculture Cup.
So, it remains that by comparison to its football equivalent, the Georgia-Georgia Tech basketball rivalry is still a good, old-fashioned quilting bee.
Georgia had a 10-point lead at the time of the parade of football champions. It ended up winning by 17 (60-43). So take that Yellow Jackets.
“I didn’t even know it happened,” said Bulldogs coach Mark Fox. So much for him taking an incendiary report back to Kirby Smart.
This state has deserved forever a basketball rivalry with real teeth. A meeting of two teams with an abiding dislike for one another. Two teams head-to-head in the recruiting wars for the very best players in a talent-rich state. Two teams needing a high-gloss December victory that will still look good when the NCAA tournament bracket is made. It doesn’t have to be North Carolina-Duke or Kentucky-Louisville. Just something with a little consequence beyond an evening’s idle entertainment.
As entertaining as a game can be that featured a combined shooting percentage of .360 and a combined assist-to-turnover ratio of 21-to-29.
About the only lasting damage that Tuesday could have wrought would have been to Georgia’s ambitions for March. Losing to a rebuilding Tech would have been a large wart on the resume. Didn’t happen, thus the Bulldogs remain viable, very capable of making enough noise in the SEC to earn a NCAA bid. With the experienced inside-outside combination of Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier (neither of whom lit up Tech), nothing less should be palatable.
For Georgia Tech, the challenge for Josh Pastner: Can he better the dire predictions of the athletic director who hired him? Before leaving for Purdue Mike Bobinski reportedly told his new coach he might not win a game in the ACC. These Yellow Jackets are young and are not terribly adept at stimulating a scoreboard. Immediate expectations remain below sea level.
The symbol of where Tech is now: Freshman guard Josh Okogie, one of the bright spots for the future, attempting to fly along the baseline and author a highlight dunk. Only to wedge the ball between the bottom of the rim and the backboard. No, Tech is not anywhere near ready to soar just yet.
But fans will afford these Yellow Jackets leniency. Because a victory over Georgia around Thanksgiving time makes a loss in December so much more digestible.