It's been more than four months since Kentucky beat Kansas for the 2012 men's national championship. In that time I've found myself watching horse racing, golf, women's tennis, and even (god forbid) the NBA. But this weekend the Georgia basketball team arrived in Italy. The Bulldogs will be there for ten days, and play three times against European squads.
To put this kind of experience into perspective, freshman guard Charles Mann (from Alpharetta, GA) said that the longest trip he'd ever been on previously was to Wisconsin.
Georgia wasn't a good basketball team last season. They finished 5-11 in the SEC. But they bring in a solid recruiting class to go with a young core of players including former consensus top-25 recruit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who will now be a sophomore. Another freshman from last season - Nemanja Djurisic - played half the team's minutes and gained valuable experience. And their new class includes three players who were ranked (by ESPN) as the No. 11, 13 and 14 players from the state of Georgia. It's not the type of talent that you build championship teams around, but it's a start. What this team needs is for Caldwell-Pope to realize his vast expectations, and for the rest of the roster to provide the support he needs.
Which makes this the perfect time for an overseas trip.
Every college can take one once every four seasons. And for Georgia the timing couldn't be better. Caldwell-Pope is making the all important freshman to sophomore leap, and the roster features eight scholarship players who are freshmen or sophomores.
Georgia won't win the SEC, but if they have a solid year then look back to this trip. Already, they've been allowed 10 extra practices prior to departure, and now - in addition to site seeing and being tourists - they get more days of practice and scrimmages.
Their first game is Monday.
Other teams which began their foreign trips this weekend: VCU and Tennessee (Italy), Kansas (France), NC State (Spain), Charleston Southern (Dominican Republic), Colorado State (Bahamas), Wyoming (Canada), Utah (Brazil), Washington State and Nicholls State (Australia)