On several occasions, Georgia Southern coach Charlton Young has compared his team to "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
"It drives me nuts being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Young said after GSU defeated Southern Conference powerhouse Davidson, 70-57 a week ago, "not knowing which team is going to show up."
This is an accurate description of the Eagles, who last Thursday beat Charleston, a team with wins over Baylor and Boston College.
The Eagles followed that win with a stinker, getting dismantled at home on Saturday by The Citadel, which may or may not be the worst Division I team in the country (on Monday, the Jeff Sagarin NCAA basketball ratings had The Citadel ranked No. 338 out of 347 Division I programs).
When Young refers to GSU as being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he’s basically emphasizing another point he’s often made — "We feel like we can beat anybody in this league on any given night, but if we don’t play well, we can be beat on any given night."
In Robert Louis Steveson’s novella, "The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Henry Jekyll creates a potion that separates his good side from his bad, impulsive side, and basically becomes two different people entirely — Jekyll and Hyde.
Long story short, eventually Jekyll loses control, Hyde takes over, and by the time Jekyll chooses his "good" side over his "bad" side, it’s too late.
The Georgia Southern Eagles are in the middle of the story right now.
They’ve proven to themselves that they can be good. They’ve also proven that they can be pretty bad.
The problem with basketball, and every other competitive sport, is that losing is easy. Anybody can do it. On the flip side, of course, is that winning is hard. Not anybody can do it. Winning takes talent. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
The Eagles have talent. They’re good at just about everything they need to be good at in order to win a championship.
The execution doesn’t always look perfect, but it doesn’t always have to be perfect. Talent can take you a long way.
But it’s not enough.
The GSU football team learned that lesson early in the 2012 season against The Citadel, and then put together another run to the national semifinals.
Hopefully, Young’s basketball Eagles will learn the same lesson.
Everybody — from The Citadels, Grambling States and Binghamtons of the college basketball world all the way up to the No. 1 team in the nation — can lose a game.
But winning is a choice. It’s a habit.
Young also talks frequently about "championship residue," in programs like Wofford, North Carolina A&T and, of course, Davidson.
The Georgia Southern Eagles don’t have that. They have residue left over from six-plus years of adversity including academic fraud and ineligibility, season-ending injuries and lots and lots of losing.
Young was hired in 2009 to change all of that. He inherited a program on NCAA probation. A program that has never won a Southern Conference championship. A program that was on the verge of extinction.
He’s brought in plenty of top talent. He’s brought in "championship people." He brought passion and excitement back to the team, the student body and the fan base. He brought back championship expectations.
Now, he has a team — and a fan base — that knows Georgia Southern is capable of winning a championship.
But having potential and living up to it are two totally different things. Being "good" is a lot harder than being "bad."
Henry Jekyll came to that realization too late.
The Eagles have 12 regular-season games before the 2013 SoCon tournament. That’s 12 chances to reach what they already know they’re capable of doing.
In other words, it’s not too late for them.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.