Georgia's rapid improvement in men's basketball under coach Mark Fox has been accompanied by a rapid increase in home attendance.
A fourth consecutive Stegeman Coliseum sellout is expected tonight when Florida visits. Georgia had two home sellouts in Fox's debut season a year ago and didn't have any in the 10,523-seat facility the two previous seasons.
"One of the things that I felt like was important here was that we re-establish an atmosphere in the building and create some sort of home-court advantage," Fox said Monday. "What our fans have done for us is really create the college basketball experience that is so prevalent in our game. When our team plays here and when recruits come here and when our fans come here, they get to participate in the experience that college basketball is all about.
"It does make me feel good, because you want people to appreciate what your team is doing."
Fox's Bulldogs are 14-4 overall and 3-2 in Southeastern Conference play, and they are tied for second in the East with Kentucky and South Carolina. Florida leads the division at 4-1.
The record for single-season sellouts at Stegeman is nine, which Jim Harrick's Bulldogs accomplished during the 2002-03 season against Pittsburgh and eight league foes. This season's team could get to eight if every SEC home game sells out, and Fox said he's benefiting from a good promotions team and by his visiting more than 20 fraternities and sororities before the season to drum up support.
"Any time you get a mass of young people together, they figure out how to have a good time," he said.
Bama's tough 'D'
Apparently Nick Saban isn't the only Alabama coach who preaches tough defense.
Anthony Grant's basketball Crimson Tide are off to a 4-1 start in conference play behind a swarming defense that allows 57.3 points per game, which ranks eighth in the country. Alabama is No. 2 nationally behind Florida State in field-goal-percentage defense, holding opponents to 36 percent shooting.
"They are so long and so athletic, and they're very, very aggressive," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "That always makes for an outstanding defense. They have such length and such versatility, and if they want to they can switch 1 through 5 and cause problems. They do a great job of keeping you in front and not gambling.
"At the end of the day, you try to get the ball close to the rim, and they challenge everything at the rim."
Cold, cold Clarke
Arkansas has lost three of four league games since opening SEC play with a 68-65 win over Tennessee. The skid, which includes last Saturday's 75-43 debacle at Florida, has coincided with the frigid play of junior guard Rotnei Clarke.
Clarke made 4-of-6 3-pointers in the Jan. 8 win over the Vols but is 4-of-19 from long range since.
Odds and ends
The latest NCAA tournament bracket projection by ESPN contains Kentucky (4 seed), Florida (5), Vanderbilt (9), Georgia (9) and Tennessee (9). ... John Calipari on his Wildcats: "I wish they were a little tougher, but they want to do well and they want to please me. There is no team in America that has more upside than this team."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...