Archive for March 2010
The AJC’s Tim Tucker wrote a nice blog entry today following a conversation he had with Coach Mark Fox yesterday.
Fox didn’t reveal any inside information in regards to whether Trey Thompkins or Travis Leslie will be back for the 2010-2011 season, but he does go into some detail about the processes that they are currently going through in regards to the 2010 NBA Draft.
As far as Thompkins, I have been following his status on ESPN.com’s “NBA Draft” page since the start of the season. For a majority of the year, Trey’s draft projection for the 2010 NBA Draft had been listed as “late second round to undrafted“.
However, recently his projection changed to “Late first to early second“. Obviously, Trey caught the eyes of some NBA scouts this year with his All-SEC season.
April 25th is the NBA’s deadline for NCAA underclassmen to put their names into the draft, and then they have until May 8th (assuming that they do not hire an agent) to withdraw their names and retain college eligibilty.
The national signing day for high school seniors in the 2010 class is May 2nd. This means that Fox is having to recruit with several pretty big variables and unknowns.
I read that Dwayne Polee, Jr. of Westchester High School (California) is expected to make his decision on which school he will attend any day now. Polee is considering a handful of Pac-10 schools, UNLV and of course, Georgia.
Polee’s father, Dwayne Sr., played at UNLV during the 1981-1982 season under Jerry Tarkanian.
Demario Mayfield and Drazen Zlovaric have asked to be released from their scholarships and will be transferring out of Athens before next season.
I am sad to see Mayfield leave, as I thought he showed a lot of promise (especially in the win against Florida) as a 6’4″ slasher with nice hops and strength. I am only speculating, but I am guessing that he felt that he should have gotten more playing time this year like his fellow freshman teammate Abuka Anyaorah – Demario only averaged 6.5 minutes a game. The addition of Gerald Robinson, Jr. to next year’s roster did not bode well for Mayfield’s PT either.
As far as Drazen (7.2 minutes/game) is concerned, best of luck to him. I didn’t really see where he fit into Coach Fox’s system – he’s not a very good outside shooter (26.3% from the field) and turned the ball over a bit much – but hopefully for his sake he will move on to greener (more Mid-Majory) pastures.
The one positive to take away from Mayfield leaving is that I think that it could be an indicator that Travis Leslie will be coming back for his junior year. Neither Leslie nor Trey Thompkins has officially stated whether they will enter their names into the NBA Draft pool, but with Mayfield’s departure I am more confident that Leslie will be back since they play the same wing position.
I am not as confident in Thompkins returning for his junior season – right now I’d say it’s about 50/50 (and man do I hope that I am wrong!). I scoured a lot of NBA blogs the past couple of days, and there is a growing consensus that if Trey entered the 2010 NBA Draft he could work his way into a lottery pick.
ESPN now has him listed as “late first round to early second”.
The latest 2010 mock draft has Patrick Patterson of Kentucky going 8th. In my opinion, Trey has a lot more upside than Patterson, and should he decide to enter this draft I could see him moving ahead of Patterson on draft day.
At the very least I fully expect Thompkins to enter his name into the 2010 Draft pool, with the option to withdraw by May 8th as long as he hasn’t hired an agent.
Picture this starting lineup for the 2010-2011 season – PG Dustin Ware; SG – Gerald Robinson, Jr.; F – Travis Leslie; F – Chris Barnes; F – Jeremy Price.
Not an awful starting five by any means, but I don’t see a Thompkins-less Dawgs squad winning more than 5 SEC games next year.
On the recruiting front, Coach Fox has locked up an official visit from Donte Williams. Williams is a 6’9″ center from Miller Grove High School in Lithonia, GA. Scout.com has Williams listed as a two-star recruit, with offers from Georgia, Auburn, Georgia State and Virginia Commonwealth.
His Miller Grove team won back-to-back state AAAA championships his junior and senior years.
I actually saw this kid play in the AAAA Region-6 championship game against Chamblee High School. He is REALLY THIN – Williams is 6’9″, yet only weighs 200 lbs (and that could be generous). I think he is probably being looked at as a “project” by most schools, and should he decide to become a Bulldog then his first order of business should be to live at the dining hall for the first semester.
When the college football “Bowl Season” rolls around each year, I generally find myself pulling for the SEC teams to win their games. The SEC is pretty much regarded as the premiere football conference in the nation, and as a Georgia fan, I enjoy watching the other teams achieve success when they play outside of the league. If SEC teams perform well in the bowl games, then it makes us Georgia fans feel a sense of pride about our team since they compete in this conference.
My question to everyone is – does this logic apply to the NCAA basketball tournament?
The Southeastern Conference only sent four teams to the Dance – Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida.
The Big East got eight teams in; the Big 12 sent seven; the ACC is being represented by six of its teams.
Even the Big Ten got five teams into the tournament, meaning that the tournament committee feels that their brand of basketball is better than the SEC’s – in head-to-head this year, Big Ten teams mustered a 3-5 record against the Southeastern conference.
Should the SEC feel slighted (Mississippi State probably does)?
Should Georgia Bulldogs fans be pulling for the ‘Cats, ‘Dores, Vols and Gators to play well as they represent our conference?
Personally, I am having a hard time finding the energy to cheer on several of Georgia’s conference foes.
Vanderbilt I am ok with. Woo hoo! Go Vandy!
As far as Tennessee goes, I guess I could cheer quietly for them to win their first round match-up with San Diego State (although I do love a good tournament upset). Bruce Pearl and his thuggish little boy, Steven, are not exactly the kind of personalities that will win over fans with their charm. However, I still feel some sympathy for Tennessee considering that they lost their leading scorer to crime (Tyler Smith) earlier in the season, yet they have been resilient (minus their last game against Kentucky in the SEC tournament).
The others, not so much.
Kentucky’s John Calipari is a rule-breaker (he left UMASS and Memphis just before impending NCAA sanctions) and I cannot root for his Wildcats to win this tournament. Coaching legend, Bob Knight, questioned Calipari’s “integrity” earlier in the season at a fundraiser in Indiana. Last Summer, DeMarcus Cousins had committed to play for Memphis. John Wall had all but signed his Letter-of-Intent to play there as well, until Coach Cal quietly scurried out of town. Both these players jumped ship and took off for Kentucky, using the university as a one-year stepping-stone into the 2010 NBA Draft. If you think either Cousins or Wall cares about Kentucky or the SEC (or has attended a class in the past 3 months), then you are a tad bit naive.
Pulling for Florida? No way. The Gators have enjoyed enough success in football and basketball over the past decade to last a lifetime as far as I am concerned. I’d much rather see BYU go on to play Kansas State in the second round than watch Billy Donovan’s squad advance.
Hopefully next year’s NCAA Tournament will include the Georgia Bulldogs, a team that we can all cheer for.
Last Friday night, the University of Georgia Bulldogs 2009-2010 basketball season was ended by the Vanderbilt Commodores in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
The Bulldogs finished the year with a 5-11 record in SEC play, and 14-17 overall (with one SEC tournament win) while taking on the nation’s 16th most difficult schedule. This was an improvement from the Dawgs’ 2008-2009 campaign, in which they ended up 3-13 in SEC play and 12-20 overall.
There is a one statistic that highlights Georgia’s improvement more than any other – SEC scoring margin.
During the 2008-2009 season (Felton’s last), the Bulldogs SEC scoring margin was -12.6. That number drastically improved this year to -2.4, showing that the Dawgs were competitive in just about every SEC game they played.
In Coach Mark Fox’s first season as head coach, he certainly generated more interest around the state in Georgia basketball. The Dawgs won a slew of big games – Georgia Tech, Illinois, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida – and the average attendance at Stegeman Coliseum increased from 6,678 last year to 6,834 per game this season.
The Dawgs led the conference in team field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and assists per game.
If you are planning on watching this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, you will notice that there are six teams in the field that Georgia played this year – they beat three of them.
Observations from the 2009-2010 season
Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie.
I realize that the sentence above is missing a few verbs and objects, but I still feel like the idea was expressed clearly (and succinctly). Thompkins and Leslie emerged as leaders this year, and they have energized the Georgia fan base and given them plenty to be excited about for next season. Thompkins is still not listed on the NBA’s 2010 Mock Draft, and according to teammate Albert Jackson he is likely returning next season (fingers crossed). As his All-SEC awards already suggest, Trey has become and will continue to be a full-blown star in this league.
Travis Leslie’s improvement from last season to this one was absolutely remarkable. His scoring, rebounding and assists per game increased by 8.5, 2.9 and 1.9, respectively. He made routine appearances on ESPN’s segment of “Top Plays”, the portion of Sportscenter that shows viewers the ten best plays from the night before.
During the second round game against Vanderbilt, the announcers spent time discussing Mark Fox’s plan to work with Leslie more on his outside shooting and ball-handling during the off-season. They hinted that Fox is planning to convert Leslie into a true shooting guard (which means the Dawgs could have a huge lineup next season assuming Price and Barnes start alongside Trey). I can’t wait to see Leslie play next year after his first full summer in Athens under Coach Fox.
The Dawgs big frontcourt finished the season second in the conference to Kentucky in both rebounding margin (+5.6) and offensive rebounds (12.8 per game). Georgia’s advantage on the glass was definitely a major reason why they were able to stay competitive in so many SEC games this season.
Big Game Success
This year the Bulldogs knocked off three ranked opponents. Guess how many ranked teams they beat last year? How about the year before? If you guessed “zero” on both accounts, then you are correct! Until this year, Georgia had not won against a Top 25 opponent since the 2006-2007 campaign.
One thing that Georgia definitely lacked in the backcourt was the presence of a penetrating guard that could create off the dribble. Sophomore Dustin Ware was reliable with the ball in his hands this season, finishing with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.19 (second in the conference). His 37.2% three-point percentage gave Georgia a kick-out option on offense, and he was clearly the floor-general in the half-court set.
However, next year Georgia could needs a guard that can get into the lane, draw defenders and finish at the rim (Gerald Robinson, Jr. – subliminal message). Putting a penetrating guard in the backcourt with Ware will give the Dawgs a solid backcourt.
Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie, Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee all averaged 30+ minutes per game in SEC play. When two or more of these guys were not on the floor, the offense typically stalled (especially with Thompkins out) and the number of turnovers increased.
Next year, Mark Fox has got to be able to go to his bench with more confidence. Players like Vincent Williams, Demario Mayfield, Chris Barnes and Ebuka Anyaorah must transform into more reliable options for Fox.
Looking ahead to next year, there is a lot to be excited about. Thompkins (probably), Leslie, Ware, Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes will all be returning and should serve as a solid nucleus of upperclassmen.
Three guys that I am very excited about (other than Trey and TL) for next season are Gerald Robinson, Jr., Jeremy Price and Ebuka Anyaorah (EA).
If you haven’t heard much about Robinson, check out my blog entry on him from earlier in the year. He definitely has the potential to make an instant impact on this team.
Next season, Jeremy Price will be entering his last year as a Bulldog. Price has been somewhat of a mystery so far at Georgia – named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team in his first season, only to see his production drop his sophomore year. He has struggled to keep his weight down the last two summers, and his lack of conditioning probably attributed to his sophomore slump.
However, I thought Price had a much better junior season (especially the second half). He improved in both his scoring (7.2 per game) and rebounding (4.0 per game) from last year, and he scored in double-figures nine times. In the wins against South Carolina and Florida, price scored 16 and 13, respectively. In the loss to Kentucky, Price was the only Bulldog to challenge the Kentucky bigs and he finished with 19 points. He has gained a lot of confidence in his offensive game, especially when he receives the ball with his back to the basket. Coach Fox stated earlier this season that he can’t wait to have Price in Athens over the summer, and I think that he could definitely mold Jeremy into a nice frontcourt complement to Thompkins.
My “X Factor” player for next year is Ebuka Anyaorah aka “EA”. At 6’4″, he has good size for a shooting guard and he is ridiculously athletic. He has a nice stroke from the perimeter, knocking down 34.8% of his three-point attempts this season. If he can improve on his ball handling skills and defense, I could see EA becoming a consistent contributor off the bench next year. I’m not saying that he is going to make a “Travis Leslie”-esque jump, but I do think he has a lot of upside and that he can really help the team in the 2010-2011 campaign.
I have had a blast writing this blog, and I look forward to doing it again next year. I don’t plan on updating quite as frequently during the off-season, but I will post interesting (hopefully) UGA basketball news tidbits when possible.
It has been so refreshing for me to see that there is a UGA basketball fan base, and I appreciate all the comments and insights that everyone shared this season.
And I think that the future is definitely bright for the Dawgs basketball program!
Vanderbilt freshman John Jenkins (yes, only a freshman) did not want Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs to advance to the next round of this year’s SEC tournament.
Jenkins took over the second half of this game, hitting 4 three-pointers and scoring 22 of his 25 points. It didn’t matter what defense the Dawgs were in throughout the second half, the Vanderbilt freshman got plenty of nice looks from beyond the arc (and he certainly capitalized).
For most of the night, Georgia’s defense looked a bit sloppy. The Dawgs allowed the ‘Dores to connect on 9 of 18 three-point attempts, which essentially was the difference in the game.
It didn’t help that Georgia got out-rebounded 37 to 29, a statistic that the Dawgs have typically dominated in many games this season.
On offense, the Dawgs leading scorer and All-SEC performer, Trey Thompkins, did not convert a basket until one minute into the second half. Thompkins struggled most of the night on the block, shooting only 6 of 15 from the floor and finishing with 13 points. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had his bigs doubling on Thompkins in the paint at the beginning of the game, and this seemed to take Trey out of his rhythm. Unfortunately for Georgia, he never really found it either.
Vanderbilt had two key runs in this game that seemed to seal Georgia’s fate. The first came with 5:03 remaining before the break, when the Commodores went on a 12-2 run to go into halftime up 35-27. During this five-minute span, the Dawgs went 0 for 9 from the field and looked pretty disorganized on offense.
The second big run for Vandy came in the second half with 11:12 left to play and Georgia trailing 50-44. Using a barrage of Jenkins’ three’s, the Commodores were able to go on a 19-7 run that put them up 69-51 with only 5:31 left in the game (but for all intensive purposes, the game was already over).
Georgia’s Travis Leslie had the best game of his young career, scoring 34 points on 12 of 23 shooting from the floor. He also brought down 6 rebounds (5 offensive) and tallied up 4 steals. He almost single-handedly kept the Dawgs in the game for the first 30 minutes.
The Dawgs best opportunity to overtake Vanderbilt came in the second half with 15:24 remaining in the game. Vanderbilt’s A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor were both on the bench with 3 fouls apiece. The Dawgs were only down 42-38, yet they were not able to capitalize with the Vandy bigs on the bench in foul trouble. The lead would never be as low as four points again in the game.
Honestly, the Dawgs looked pretty tired in the second half. Most of the Georgia starters have played 30+ minutes a game for a majority of the season, and considering that this was their second game in as many days it might have taken a toll on their legs (except for Leslie’s) and their team defense.
Mark Fox’s first Georgia basketball team finishes the season at 14-17 overall.
Coming into tonight’s game, Rotnei Clarke was averaging 12.1 points, shooting 37.5% from beyond the arc and knocking down over 3 three-pointers a game in SEC play.
Clarke has only had two games this season in which he didn’t make a three-point field goal, and both of those games came against Georgia. He finished with only 4 points and shot 0-4 on three-point attempts against Georgia on Thursday night.
Clarke’s offensive woes can be attributed to the Dawgs defense (especially McPhee), which was tenacious for most of the game. Georgia limited Arkansas star guard Courtney Fortson to only 16 points (2 below his SEC average).
Marshawn Powell, selected to the SEC All-Freshman team, scored his only 2 points (he finished with 10) of the second half on a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left in the game (he averages over 15 in SEC play).
The only Razorback player that Georgia didn’t have an answer for was senior center Michael Washington, who finished the game with 20 points.
Coach Mark Fox showed Arkansas a mixture of man and 1-2-2 zone defense, and his Bulldogs held the Hogs to only 38.8% shooting from the floor.
The Dawgs overall effort was not just limited to their defense, they were tenacious on the boards as well. Georgia out-rebounded Arkansas 41 to 25, and the Dawgs brought down an astounding 16 offensive rebounds!
Other than a few careless turnovers, Georgia played a pretty solid game. Fox did seemed concerned about the turnovers after the game, referring to them in his post-game interview as “some careless turnovers, some ‘November’ turnovers; guys getting their pockets picked.”
On offense, the Bulldogs shot the ball really well – 46.6% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. The Dawgs had four players reach double-figures in scoring.
Trey Thompkins led the way with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. He scored 11 of his points in the games final 10 minutes.
Travis Leslie scored 14 points in the first half, and finished the game with 21. He also pulled down 6 rebounds.
Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee each poured in 10 points. Three of McPhee’s points came on a last-second NBA-range three to close out the half and give the Dawgs a 40-32 advantage.
And most importantly, Georgia closed out a game outside of Athens and got the win! With 3:51 remaining and the Dawgs leading 67-61, Ricky McPhee got the ball taken away by a Razorback defender who took the ball to the other end of the court and got fouled.
Georgia fans everywhere had to be thinking, “Here we go again”.
But the Arkansas player missed both free throws, and Georgia scored on 6 of its last 8 possessions to seal the victory 77-64.
The Dawgs remain alive in the SEC tournament, and will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday night at 9:45PM.
Personally, I have an 8-hour car ride ahead of me tomorrow (en route to Port Charlotte, FL) so I am going to write a bit about Vanderbilt now.
Dawgs @ Vanderbilt
The fact that the #20 Vanderbilt Commodores lost their last SEC home game to the South Carolina Gamecocks has me thinking that they are probably going to be pretty focused for the game on Friday. Not to mention that they lost to Georgia 72-58 in Athens, and needed overtime to beat the Dawgs 96-94 in Nashville.
Add to all this that the ‘Dores need an SEC tournament run to solidify a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and it’s not hard to see just how much this game means to this Vandy team.
The guy that gets Vandy going on offense is senior point guard Jermaine Beal. Against the Dawgs, Beal is averaging 24.5 points per game this season, and he pretty much single-handedly willed his team past Georgia in the game in Nashville. During the SEC Tournament Preview Show on the SEC Network, Beal was one of the candidates selected as a potential SEC Tournament MVP going into this weekend.
For the most part, the Dawgs have held Vandy big man A.J. Ogilvy in check this season. Ogilivy has hit only 5 of 18 field goal attempts against Georgia, totaling a mere 22 points in two games. The only thing that Georgia hasn’t been able to control regarding Ogilvy is his hair, which no doubt should be freshly-dyed for this tournament.
The other three big offensive threats for the ‘Dores are sophomore forwards Jeffrey Taylor and Andre Walker, and freshman sharp-shooter John Jenkins.
In the Dawgs’ win in Athens, they held Taylor, Walker and Jenkins to a combined total of only 9 points. However, this trio tallied up a total of 42 points in Vandy’s win during the rematch in Nashville.
If you remember in my preview of the second game against Vanderbilt, I labeled freshman guard John Jenkins as somewhat of an “X-Factor” for the ‘Dores (stating that they were 5-1 in the SEC when he scored over 10 points, and 2-2 when he went for under 10).
This trend of Jenkins scoring 10 points and its relation to Vandy’s success has definitely continued. The ‘Dores finished the season 8-1 in games in which Jenkins put in more than his 10.0 scoring average, and 2-3 in games when he did not.
Mark Fox has got to employ a similar defensive strategy on the perimeter as he did, in say, last night’s game against Arkansas’s Rotnei Clarke.
Jenkins has been red-hot lately, knocking down 14 of 23 from beyond the arc over the past four games.
Vanderbilt forward Jeffrey Taylor is having an amazing sophomore season, averaging 13.9 points and 5.1 rebounds a game in conference games. This native of Sweden may be one of the most underrated players in the league, and has scored in double-figures in 7 of his last 8 games.
The Bulldogs need to get some rest and relax tomorrow.
I think that Vanderbilt is a very good match-up for Georgia, especially on the inside. And if you don’t believe me, check out this article I found on The Tennessean newspaper. Apparently the Vandy players aren’t too crazy about playing Georgia either.
Watching Georgia close out and win against Arkansas makes me feel a lot better about the Dawgs chances against the ‘Dores.
What’s everyone else think? I can’t wait to read the comments when I get to into Florida, and I am excited to see how Mark Fox’s team plays tomorrow night!
Georgia has lost two straight games, and Arkansas is in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
But guess what? Nobody cares!
The beauty of the conference tournament is that everybody gets a clean slate, a chance to start over and try to make something special happen over a long weekend.
Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs should be very excited about the opportunity that they have to give a little payback to this Arkansas Razorback team. Back in February, the Hogs overcame a 15-point halftime deficit in Athens to hand Georgia a 72-68 loss at Stegeman.
The second half of that game was painful to watch. The Hogs pressure defense frustrated Georgia’s offense, forcing 11 UGA turnovers and limiting the Dawgs to only 40.9% from the field. Arkansas, on the other hand, shot a blistering 64% from the floor and were led by Courtney Fortson’s 19 second-half points (he finished the game with 27).
Sophomore guard Courtney Fortson is the man on this Razorback team. He is similar to South Carolina’s Devan Downey, minus the three-point shot. He is very fast with the basketball in his hands, and he can past defenders to the rim.
Fortson’s numbers in SEC games this season were pretty impressive – 18.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists (first in the SEC). The only knock on him is his field goal percentage, which sits at 35.5% on the season. In the first meeting between these two teams, Georgia did not have an answer on how to stop this guy.
His complement in the backcourt is sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke. Clarke is the shooter on this team, hitting 37.5% from beyond the arc and netting 12.1 points per game in SEC play this season. The Dawgs did a great job of being aware of where Clarke was on the court in the game in Athens, limiting him to only 2 points.
On the inside, the Hogs are led by freshman Marshawn Powell and senior Michael Washington. Were it not for the “Diaper Dandies” on Kentucky (Wall, Cousins), Powell would probably be in line for this year’s SEC “Freshman of the Year” award. In conference play, he is scoring 15.1 points and grabbing 6.9 boards a night, while shooting 50.5 % from the field. Washington is pouring in 11.3 points and nabbing a team-leading 7.0 rebounds a game in SEC play.
The Arkansas bigs gave the Dawgs post players fits in the second half in Athens. Washington scored 13 of his 15 after the break, and Powell got all 11 of his points in the second. The Dawgs were unable to stop either of these guys once they got the ball in their hands on the block.
Keys to the Game
Attack the Zone
Over the past one and a half games, Georgia’s offense has looked inept. This is the same offense that led the SEC in team field goal percentage (47%), three-point percentage (39.6%) and assists (15.0/game).
Both Kentucky (in the second half) and LSU showed the Dawgs a lot of zone defense, emphasizing pressure on the perimeter. Georgia’s guards could not get the ball inside or penetrate, and Travis Leslie (especially) was uncharacteristically ineffective – over the past two games, Leslie has scored a total of 15 points and shot 7 of 22 from the floor.
When teams show the Dawgs man defense, the UGA offense works like a well-oiled machine – backdoor cuts, great interior passing and a plethora of Leslie dunks.
But the Dawgs have to be more effective when they see zone. Ware has got to be more of a penetration threat from the point guard position. Ricky McPhee and Travis Leslie cannot merely swing the ball back to the top of the key – they must do a better job of getting the ball into Trey Thompkins (and the other UGA bigs), and they have to be able to create (at least some) off the dribble. If Leslie can dribble the ball into the zone and draw defenders, it will open up so much inside for the Georgia bigs.
Slow Down Courtney
In the first meeting between these two teams, Courtney Fortson scored 27 points and got to the free throw line 16 times (he made 12 of them). Mark Fox must adjust his defense (zone?) to make it more difficult for Fortson to get into the paint.
This is tricky since you can’t give too much help on Fortson or he will be able to find Clarke for wide open three-point shots.
I am interested to see how Fox chooses to play the Arkansas star.
In Thompkins We Trust
Trey Thompkins finished the season second in the SEC in scoring this at 18.9 points per game. He came in fourth place in the conference in rebounding this year with 8.4 per contest. He is a great emotional leader on the floor, and he has openly expressed how much he loves Georgia and how he wants to be a part of turning this program around (he is definitely one of my favorite Dawgs’ basketball players ever).
It’s hard to ask more of this young man considering how much he already does for this team, but Coach Fox needs Trey’s defense more than ever against Arkansas. Georgia cannot afford to have Powell and Washington pour in points in the paint, and it is going to be on Trey’s shoulders to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The game is scheduled to tip-off Thursday night at 8:45PM Central Time, 9:45PM Eastern. Since it’s the fourth and final game of the day, there is a very good chance that it won’t get started until 10:00PM or later.
Go ahead and email/call your boss and let him or her know that you might be in a bit late on Friday, because this one is going to go into the wee hours of the night!
Beep, beep, beep, beep.
That’s the sound of the Georgia Bulldogs basketball team reversing into the SEC Tournament.
The Dawgs offense picked up right were it left off in the second half against Kentucky…stumbling.
Georgia got its first field goal against LSU on a Jeremy Price dunk with 14:52 remaining in the first half to put them up 4-2. After falling behind to the Tigers 2-0, Georgia was able to (slowly) go on a 9-2 run to put them up by 7 points with 12:52 left in the half.
Then LSU coach Trent Johnson switched his team into a zone defense that completely took the Dawgs out of their offense. The Tigers went on a 12-5 run of their own and tied the game at 14 apiece with 8:17 remaining.
The first half showcased some pretty horrendous shooting by both teams. Georgia finished the half hitting only 36.4% from the field, but LSU wouldn’t be outdone, knocking down a mere 26.9% from the floor.
The teams went into the break locked up at 20-20.
The second half featured more poor shooting, and Georgia continued to struggle with LSU’s zone defense. With 7:37 remaining in the game, Travis Leslie had scored only 1 point. Leslie (along with the other Georgia guards) was struggling to penetrate the Tiger zone and draw defenders off the dribble.
Coach Fox made a nice adjustment with Leslie, moving him down low to the baseline so he could follow the ball – Leslie scored 6 points in the second half (he finished with 7).
Despite the poor offensive play by Georgia, they still had the ball with the game tied 48-48 with under a minute to play. Dustin Ware brought the ball up the court, and then attempted to make a lob pass to Jeremy Price from well outside the three-point line…the ball sailed out-of-bounds.
LSU junior guard Bo Spencer knocked down a jumper on the next possession to put his Tigers up 50-48 with only 19 seconds left in the game.
The Dawgs moved the ball across half court and then called timeout to set up a play with 11 ticks on the clock.
Georgia in-bounded the ball and got it into Leslie’s hands on the right wing. It looked like Fox had instructed Leslie to get the ball to Thompkins on the block, but he couldn’t make the entry pass. Instead, Leslie dumped it to Jeremy Price in the middle of the floor and Price took a turnaround jumper from just inside the three-point line that clanked off the rim.
And the Dawgs dropped another game on the road, making them 0-11 overall and 0-8 in the SEC in games played away from the Steg.
Tasmin Mitchell led the Tigers with 20 points and pulled down 6 rebounds, ending his career at home as a winner.
Georgia finished the game shooting 36.5% from the field, and turned it over 16 times (Travis Leslie led the team with 6).
Trey Thompkins led Georgia with 19 points and 16 rebounds, yet he made only 7 of 23 from the floor. However, despite Trey’s poor shooting, he was the only Bulldog who looked comfortable with the ball in his hands and taking it to the basket.
For the second straight game Leslie looked a bit out of it on offense, and Ware and McPhee were pretty much non-factors (although to McPhee’s credit he did grab 6 rebounds and dished out 5 assists).
The Dawgs finished the season 5-11 in the SEC and 13-16 overall. The NIT looks like it is now out of reach.
This was LSU’s second SEC conference win of the season.
The loss to the Tigers leaves Georgia with a lot of questions as they head into their opening round game against Arkansas next Thursday:
With an 0-11 road record, can the Dawgs realistically hope to close out a conference tournament game in Nashville?
Which Travis Leslie will be traveling to the tournament? Over the past two games, Leslie has made 7 of 22 field goals and scored a total of 15 points. Georgia cannot expect to go far in the tournament without Leslie’s offense.
What will the team’s confidence level be like riding a two-game losing streak?
Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs (5-10 SEC, 13-15 overall) will be going into Baton Rouge on Saturday with one last opportunity to snag a true road win before the regular season comes to an end.
Getting a win at LSU would also give the Dawgs 6 SEC wins on the season, doubling their total from a year ago.
Not to mention that it’s always more fun going into your conference tournament off of a victory, right?
LSU’s 1-14 conference record (10-19 overall) is anything but stellar. However, the Tigers are a much better team at home in the confines of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where they have earned all 10 of their wins on the season (including one conference win).
In SEC games this year, LSU’s scoring margin per game is -12.1. At home, though, that number drops to -8.9 a game. Their one SEC victory came in the form of a 65-54 win over Arkansas (something the Dawgs couldn’t accomplish), and they have lost a number of close games against good competition – lost by 5 to Tennessee, lost at Vandy by 8 and lost to Mississippi by 1 at home.
Add in the fact that it will be Senior Night for the Tigers leading scorer Tasmin Mitchell (who will go down as one of the better players in LSU history), and it is easy to see how this will be another tough road test for Fox’s Dawgs.
Last season, LSU hammered Georgia 80-62 in the game in Athens, with Mitchell scoring 27 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.
The Tigers team statistics in conference play are more like eyesores for Coach Trent Johnson than anything else. His LSU team is last in the SEC in scoring offense at 57.9 points per game, field goal percentage (38.3%), three-point percentage (28.5%) and three-point field goals made per game (4.6).
However, over the past six games the Tigers have been shooting the ball pretty well from the perimeter, knocking down nearly 37% of their three-point attempts.
In the backcourt, the Tigers leader is junior guard Bo Spencer. In 35.4 SEC minutes per game, Spencer is netting 14.2 points and tossing up over 7 three-point attempts. There are not many shots that Mr. Spencer does not like.
The LSU frontcourt features senior Tasmin Mitchell and sophomore Storm Warren (a member of the SEC’s “All Name Team”).
In conference play, Mitchell is scoring 16.3 points and grabbing 9.7 rebounds in nearly 37 minutes a game – he pretty much never leaves the floor for Coach Johnson.
When asked about this being the last home game for Mitchell, Johnson stated, “I’ve been in this league for two years, but it’s hard for me to imagine anybody who’s won two SEC championships and has been to the Final Four and has been all-conference two years in a row. He’s played for three different coaches. He’s got passion, and he’s committed to his teammates and to his school. My biggest concern against Georgia is making sure I do everything I can so he has a good game.”
Think Tasmin Mitchell is going to want to get a win in his last home game as an LSU Tiger?
Fellow forward Storm Warren is chipping in 9.5 points and pulling down 4.7 rebounds per contest in SEC games.
Spencer, Mitchell and Warren combine for an average of 40 points of offense a game for the Tigers (or 70% of their scoring!).
The main asset that Coach Johnson has at his disposal off the bench is freshman Dennis Harris (a native of Georgia). At 6’10″, Harris can alter a lot of shots in the paint (he only weighs 195lbs though, so larger bigs tend to muscle him around). Harris’s play has picked up over the past five games as he is averaging 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds.
The Tigers lost at Ole Miss 72-59 on Thursday night, so they will be entering Saturday night’s game off only one days rest.
When I was thinking about this game and trying to come up with things that Georgia needs to do to win, one point just kept showing up in my mind:
Poor second half play has been an underlying theme for the Georgia Bulldogs in SEC road games this season (they are a young team though so we’ll give them a pass). Other than the games at Florida and Auburn, for the most part this Georgia team has not appeared intimidated when playing in opposing team’s gyms. Matter of fact, the Dawgs have held leads late into the second half of four conference games that they eventually lost:
@Kentucky – UGA led by 2 with 8:06 left in the game
@Miss St – UGA led by 10 with 4:08 left in the game
@South Carolina – UGA led by 6 with 5:29 left in the game
@ Vanderbilt – UGA led by 5 with 33 seconds left in the game
For Georgia to win on Saturday, this young team has to learn how to close out a game on the road. This means that they must keep up the defensive intensity for the full 40 minutes. On offense, Ware and Thompkins need to be floor leaders and orchestrate smart possessions (especially in the game’s final 10 minutes).
Staying under their SEC average of 15.9 turnovers a game might help as well.
A loss at LSU on Saturday would send the Dawgs backing into SEC Tournament, and undoubtedly would do some damage to this team’s confidence.
I found a website that projects the field for this year’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT) – who knew such a thing existed? Anyhow, as of March 2 (pre-Kentucky loss) this website had Georgia on the NIT bubble.
The game tips off at 5:00PM EST and will be televised on the Fox Sports Network.
The South Carolina Gamecocks could not defend their home turf last night, losing to Alabama 79-70 in Columbia, SC.
This means that the Georgia Bulldogs remain in 5th place in the SEC East since they have 4 SEC East wins to South Carolina’s 3 (which is the tie-breaker used by the SEC since both teams have 5-10 conference records).
If the SEC tournament were to start today, Georgia would have the E5 seed and would play Auburn (W4 seed). The winner of this game would then get a date with what looks most likely to be Kentucky (E1 seed) in the second round.
South Carolina would have the E6 seed and would play Ole Miss (W3 seed) in round one, and then the winner of that game would most likely play Vanderbilt (E2 seed) in the second round.
This Saturday, the Gamecocks and Bulldogs both wrap up their seasons on the road. Carolina goes to Vandy, and the Dawgs head to Baton Rouge to take on LSU.
Here are the possible seed scenarios that could unravel following these two games:
Georgia beats LSU; South Carolina beats Vandy —> Georgia’s seed is E6; SC’s seed is E5
Georgia beats LSU; South Carolina loses to Vandy —> Georgia’s seed is E5; SC’s seed is E6
Georgia loses to LSU; South Carolina loses to Vandy —-> Georgia’s seed is E5; SC’s seed is E6
Georgia loses to LSU; South Carolina beats Vandy —-> Georgia’s seed is E6; SC’s seed is E5
In my opinion, the best scenario for Georgia would be to beat LSU and then take on the SEC West 4th seed. If the Dawgs could win these two games, it would put them at 15-15 before another rematch with Kentucky. Even if the Dawgs were to lose another close one (meaning the first game was close, not last night’s) to the ‘Cats, the NIT committee may extend an invite to Georgia since ESPN is in love with Travis Leslie and his high-flying acrobatics.
However, if Carolina were to pull off the upset in Nashville, then the Dawgs would get the SEC East 6th seed and would play either Ole Miss or Arkansas in the first round of the tournament. With Vanderbilt waiting in the second round, and Kentucky all the way on the other side of the bracket, this scenario gives Georgia the best chance at reaching the finals of the SEC tournament (and once you get to that point all bets are off).
So what is everyone rooting for?