March 17, 2011

Dealing with the hype

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Following Sunday night's announcement that Georgia had been selected as the 10th seed in the East Regional, head coach Mark Fox admitted getting his players over the euphoria of getting into the NCAA Tournament was likely to be his toughest challenge.

During Thursday's press conference at Time Warner Cable Arena, Fox was asked the question again.

"Can I tell you four minutes into the game tomorrow?" Fox smiled prior to his team taking the court for its shoot-around in preparation for Friday night's game against No. 7 seed Washington. "No, I think one of the things that's probably helped us is that we're on spring break and they've had some time just to be by themselves and get grounded again, so I think we've had solid preparation. Hopefully, we'll be able to avoid an issue with that - being overly excited as the game begins."

Fox has already taken steps to try and help his team relax in order to be at their best for Friday's contest, which will be televised live on CBS.

With almost an entire day to spend before having to be at the Arena for Friday's 6 p.m. mandatory press conference and subsequent walk-through, Fox basically demanded his players go out and try to have a little fun.

"(Thursday) has been a day where we forced them to leave the hotel and walk around downtown Charlotte for an hour and enjoy the atmosphere and try and get comfortable and get some of the jitteriness of being in the tournament behind us," Fox said. "I want them to enjoy the experience. The game is (Friday) and the preparation continues (Thursday night). But earlier (Thursday) we let them enjoy their trip for a few hours."

Thursday wasn't all fun and games.

After their open walkthrough which was open to the public, the Bulldogs went through one final workout at an undisclosed location to put in their final preparations.

Junior Trey Thompkins said the Bulldogs (21-11) are ready to get back down to business against the Pac-10 tournament champion Huskies (23-10).

"I feel like our team is mature enough and we've handled the fact that we're in the tournament very well," Thompkins said. "Coach Fox has done a great job keeping us focused and worried about the task at hand and worrying about Washington, not looking forward and not looking back."

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said his team won't be taking the Bulldogs lightly.

When asked if he was surprised that the Bulldogs made the 68-team field, Romar was almost incredulous with his response.

"I definitely don't see a team that shouldn't be here. They're physical," Romar said. "In the paint they're more than capable of playing well and competing against any team. They're well-coached. They have a system that you can see that they're disciplined in.

"They have great quickness, and they really do a good job over-defending. When you have those types of ingredients in your team, you have a chance to win ball games. So we know we have a tough opponent; that's for sure."

The Bulldogs have their work cut out as well.

Washington enters Friday's contest averaging just over 83 points per game, led by guard Isaiah Thomas who is scoring at a clip of 16.8 points per game.

"They have a terrific offensive team. Because they have so many weapons, they can play a style and a tempo that allows a lot of possessions and for them to score," Fox said. "Certainly, we have to find a way to slow that a little bit. But we've always tried to play as fast as we can and we'll have to find that balance (Friday) that really works in a way that we can be successful and somewhat efficient."

If Georgia does attempt to slow the game down, Romar says his team will be ready.

"We have four teams in our league that play a similar style to Georgia," Romar said. "USC, although I think Georgia tries to push the ball a little more than they do; UCLA plays more of a deliberate style. So, we've played against that in our league for sure."

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