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The Georgia Bulldogs begin their SEC tournament tonight with a rematch against Mississippi.
Ole Miss utilized 42 combined points from guards Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson on Thursday night to power the Rebels past its in-state rival Mississippi State for a 78-66 tournament victory.
Last night’s win was by no means a cakewalk for Ole Miss as they trailed the Maroon Dogs 44-35 at the half.
The fact that Henderson and Summers tallied over half of the team’s points should not come as much of a surprise since this duo averaged 50% of the Rebels’ scoring in conference play this season.
UGA won the first meeting between these two teams in thrilling fashion in Athens when Charles Mann hit a free throw with just a second remaining to put his team up 61-60. In that game, the Dawgs’ Kenny Gaines notched 21 points and played pretty solid defense on Henderson, particularly in the game’s second half. In addition, Georgia completely dominated Ole Miss on the glass, out-rebounding the Rebels 49-34.
The Dawgs, in my opinion, come into this game at a slight disadvantage since they have yet to play a game in the Dome. The Rebels could be a little more comfortable shooting the ball to start this contest since they already have a game under their belt.
Consensus among college basketball media and just about everyone who reads this blog is that UGA needs to win two games in this tournament to be considered for the NCAA tourney.
Tonight marks Georgia’s first opportunity to make its case.
Out of Georgia’s potential opponents for Friday – Missy State, Vandy or Ole Miss – the Rebels seem to pose the scariest challenge, simply because Marshall Henderson can be so dangerous from just about anywhere across half court. The Dawgs edged out Ole Miss 61-60 in a tightly-contested game in Athens earlier this year.
In addition, the Rebels won this tournament last year, though I do not think that this year’s squad is quite as strong as last year’s with the departures of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner from the inside.
In regards to the possible “letdown” effect, I really don’t see how that might even be a factor with this Bulldog team.
If anything, I anticipate Georgia players stepping into the Georgia Dome with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. Despite finishing tied for second in the SEC with Kentucky, UGA is still getting snubbed from both ESPN and CBS Sports ‘s Bubble Watches.
In the pre-game broadcast for the tonight’s opening SEC tournament games, analyst Barry Booker described the bottom half of the bracket as “wide open”, noting that he could see either LSU, Alabama or Ole Miss making a run in this tournament.
Add Booker to the growing list of college basketball media personnel that are still not talking about Georgia.
7:43PM – I just saw on ESPN’s Bottom Line that network Bracketologist Joe Lunardi does in fact have Georgia on his “bubble”.
First things first – brace yourselves – John Cannon has decided to transfer. This news should not come as much of a surprise to Georgia basketball fans as Cannon has spent way more time on the bench than on the court this season. In his three years at UGA, Cannon never averaged more than 9 minutes a game, and he wasn’t even getting 5 minutes a night on the floor this season. In the junior’s public statement he cited that he would “consider other opportunities to play basketball and get my degree”, which I hope for his sake means that he will be heading to the small- to mid-major level.
Charles in charge
Kudos to UGA sophomore point guard Charles Mann for being named as a member of the Second Team All-SEC. Mann contributed in so many ways this year for Coach Mark Fox, netting 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists in conference play. If Georgia hopes to make a run in Atlanta this weekend for the SEC Tournament they will need Mann’s leadership and driving ability from the point guard position.
The Dawgs haven’t been on the court since their big win in Baton Rouge last Saturday, yet UGA’s RPI has already dropped from 70 to 75 (as of today).
The main thing that is killing Georgia’s RPI at this point is a lack of wins against the RPI (1-50), where UGA is an ugly 0-6. This shortcoming has to be the culprit responsible for the fact that LSU – a team that the Dawgs’ beat twice this year – is back ahead of Georgia with an RPI of 72. In addition to the season sweep of the Tigers, UGA also outranks them in strength of schedule, 68 (UGA) to 75 (LSU).
Georgia fans should start learning several Missouri and Arkansas cheers for the games later this week since both of these teams could help bolster UGA’s RPI with more wins. Mizzu’s RPI sits at 52 and the Hogs are at 57, meaning that if each of these teams could win a game or two they could possibly crack the RPI (1-50) and potentially give Georgia 3 wins versus that RPI grouping.
While wins by Mizzu and Arkansas would certainly help, UGA is most likely going to have to help themselves by winning a few in this tournament. Even after finishing tied for second in the final SEC standings, Georgia still remained unmentioned in the latests “Bubble Watches” from ESPN and CBS Sports.
Jerry Palm, CBS’s Bracketologist, had this reply for a Dawgs’ fan last Sunday:
Win SEC RT @BulldawgBoy: Whats the chances of Georgia making to the Ncaa Tournament.?
— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 8, 2014
Personally, I believe if Georgia wins Friday and Saturday they will get an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Anything short of that, though, and it’s most likely NIT time for the Dawgs.
How will they replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s scoring? Where will the offense come from? Surely they cannot win as many games after losing the SEC Player of the Year to the NBA draft…
These concerns were the consensus question marks surrounding Coach Mark Fox’s team heading into the 2013-2014 season from just about every major media source that previews college basketball. This year’s team was picked to finish somewhere around 10th or 11th in the SEC before the season began.
Sophomores Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines had different ideas.
Georgia’s backcourt combined for 44 of UGA’s 69 points today in Baton Rouge, hoisting the Dawgs on their backs and carrying their team to a critical 69-61 road win against LSU.
The UGA duo played lights out on Saturday with Gaines scoring 20 points for the 4th time in the last 7 games. The sophomore was white hot in the first half, connecting on all four of his three-point attempts.
The entire Bulldog team was hitting shots before the intermission, making over 52% of their attempts from the floor. The problem wasn’t UGA’s shooting, though, it was their ball security. Georgia committed 13 first-half turnovers, yet they still managed to take 30-28 lead into the break due to some poor LSU shooting.
The Dawgs held a 21-18 advantage over the Tigers with 11:24 left before the half after a three from J.J. Frazier. Georgia remained stuck on 21 points for nearly 6 minutes until Kenny Gaines hit a three to reclaim a 24-22 lead. During that 6-minute drought, UGA committed 5 turnovers, and the only thing that kept them in the game was the fact that the Tigers could not find the rim.
In the second half, Charles Mann took over, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points and snagging 7 of his game-high 10 rebounds (yes, Mann secured his first double-double of the season in probably the most important game of the year). Mann basically did what he does best: he got the line, where he made an incredible 12 of 14 attempts.
Georgia held an 11-point lead with less than 8 minutes left, and they were barely challenged for the remainder of the game other than a very brief LSU spurt that saw the Tigers cut the UGA advantage to 65-59 after an Anthony Hickey three-pointer. Charles Mann immediately buried a pair of free throws that shot the lead back to 8 points, and Georgia notched its 12th conference win of the season.
As far as LSU’s offense is concerned, the Tigers were led by Andre Stringer’s 22 points.
LSU’s leading scorer – Johnny O’Bryant – was a non-factor, mustering only 5 points while committing 5 turnovers. Coach Fox had a masterful game plan for JOB, doubling down on him at almost every opportunity. O’Bryant appeared flustered with the UGA defense, which held him to a season-low in scoring in conference play.
For Georgia, this victory was absolutely enormous.
The Dawgs finish the year 18-12 overall and 12-6 in the SEC, giving them the 3-seed in next week’s conference tournament.
Georgia will get the winner of the Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt/Mississippi State game in the quarterfinals round on Friday night.
The NCAA selection committee may or may not have UGA on its radar, but after winning 8 of their last 10 games to close out the regular season the Bulldogs are making themselves harder and harder to ignore.
Another bubbly Saturday
No, a win today over LSU will not punch Georgia’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia’s RPI of 79 is not attractive enough yet for them to be considered tourney material (yet).
A victory this afternoon would certainly boost UGA’s RPI (as would wins by Davidson, Temple, Western Carolina, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia Washington, Chattanooga, Colorado and Woffford, according to CBS’s Bracketologist Jerry Palm).
The RPI ranking system is an amorphous mess, and it is completely out of Georgia’s control.
The only thing that Coach Mark Fox and his team can earn for certain today is the 3-seed to the SEC tournament next week, and to do that the Dawgs must complete a season sweep of the LSU Tigers.
A key factor in UGA’s 91-78 home win over LSU earlier in the year was that the Tigers’ leading scorer – Johnny O’Bryant III (JOB) – was in foul trouble the entire game. JOB played just 14 minutes in that game, which hampered LSU’s ability to score and defend inside.
When O’Bryant was in the game, however, he was extremely effective, scoring all 9 of his points in 10 minutes of the second half.
Speaking honestly, JOB is probably the best legitimate big man in the SEC, averaging almost 17 points and 8 rebounds a night in conference play. If O’Bryant manages to avoid foul trouble this time around, UGA is going to have a much tougher Tiger team on their hands this afternoon.
Making matters even more challenging for the Dawgs is the fact that LSU is still in the hunt for an at-large bid themselves with an RPI rating of 64.
Today’s game should have a “playoff” feel to it.
Georgia’s three-point game
Throughout the season, broadcasters and journalists have type-casted this UGA basketball team as a hard-nosed bunch that likes to score the basketball close to the rim (which is fairly accurate), lacking in much of anything resembling a perimeter game.
Interestingly, though, with one game remaining in the season UGA currently sits at 3rd in the SEC in three-point shooting in conference games, knocking down nearly 36% of its shots from beyond the arc.
While the Dawgs only average a little over 5 threes a night in league play, I was surprised by the team’s successful shooting rate from the perimeter.
A big contributor to Georgia’s exterior offense has been sophomore Kenny Gaines, who is making almost 42% of his three-point attempts in SEC games, which is 4th in the conference.
The Georgia Bulldogs started slow in tonight’s regular season home finale against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, trailing 12-6 after over 8 minutes of play.
Coach Mark Fox called timeout with 11:50 left before the break and appeared to light into his team for their lack of effort.
Whatever Fox said certainly worked as UGA outscored Missy State 31-12 over the next 11 minutes, giving them a commanding 37-24 halftime lead.
During that stretch, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Marcus Thornton combined for 24 of the Dawgs’ first half points.
After the intermission, Georgia continued to open up its advantage over the other Bulldogs. With just under 8 minutes remaining, Kenny Paul Geno (KPG) buried a three from the corner that gave UGA a 61-37 lead.
The Dawgs coasted to the 66-45 victory, holding the Maroon Dogs to a season-low 45 points. Missy State has now lost 12 consecutive SEC games, and a large part of tonight’s loss can be attributed to the team’s atrocious shooting. MSU finished tonight’s contest connecting on only 34% of its field goal attempts, and the Maroonies shot an ugly 0 for 15 from beyond the arc.
Georgia was led offensively by the trio of Gaines, Thornton and Mann, who scored 14, 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Marcus Thornton’s point total tonight was bolstered from a pair of three’s, and the junior finished a perfect 2 for 2 from the perimeter. Thornton is now 5 for 9 on the season from beyond the arc, giving him the best three-point percentage on the team.
Tonight’s win puts UGA at 17-12 on the year and 11-6 in the SEC.
At this point, Georgia controls its own destiny in regards to the 3-seed in the SEC tournament. If UGA can win in Baton Rouge on Saturday then they will be the 3-seed regardless of what either the Vols or Hogs do this weekend.
However, should the Dawgs lose to LSU they could find themselves in either the 4- or 5-seed, where they would most likely face Florida (should they both win) in the semifinal round.
I know that I have harped on this point already, but Georgia looks like a team that could run to the finals of the conference tournament if it could avoid seeing Florida before that point. Kentucky appears extremely vulnerable right now, getting a sloppy home win over Alabama last night to end a two-game skid.
I believe UGA could still sneak into the NCAA tournament with a win at LSU and two SEC tournament wins. Tonight’s win should drop the Dawgs RPI into the high 70s, and a road win at LSU could get Georgia’s RPI very close to the upper 60s.
The lowest-rated teams to receive at-large bids to the NCAA tournament are as follows: #67 Southern Cal and #64 Marquette (2011), #63 N.C. State (2005) and #63 Stanford (2007).
If Georgia wins the next three games, I think they have a decent chance of sneaking into the recently expanded 68-team NCAA tournament this year.
In the first meeting between Arkansas and Georgia in Athens – a game which UGA won 67-61 – Michael Qualls scored just 3 points on a 1 for 10 shooting performance from the floor.
Unfortunately for the Dawgs, Qualls made amends for that game on Saturday inside Bud Walton Arena, where he scored 20 points to go along with 3 steals. Throughout much of the game, Qualls served as the catalyst in the Hogs’ full-court press, which gave Georgia fits for much of the afternoon.
Arkansas turned UGA over 16 times in Fayetteville with Brandon Morris and Charles Mann leading the way with 7 and 6, respectively. In Georgia’s press offense, Morris and Mann are usually the primary ball-handlers, so when they are coughing it up a combined 13 times to the other team things typically don’t pan out well for the Dawgs.
Despite all of the turnovers, Arkansas could not put Georgia away in the second half, seemingly leaving the door open for a UGA comeback. After shooting nearly 60% from the floor before the break, Arky went cold in the second half, making just 40% of its field goal attempts and connecting on only 1 of 9 shots from beyond the arc.
The problem, though, was that UGA shot the ball worse, hitting less than 30% of its field goals following the intermission. Aside from Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton, Georgia did not have much going on on the offensive end of the floor. Gaines, who connected on 6 of 9 threes, scored a game-high 25 points, and Thornton chipped in 13 points to go along with 6 boards.
Charles Mann, who had as many turnovers as points, only scored 2 points in the second half, and he sat on the bench for the final stretch of the game after Coach Fox appeared tired of watching Mann’s carelessness.
Georgia did cut the Arkansas advantage to as low as 5 points after Kenny Gaines hit a pair of free throws to make it 65-60 with just 4:43 remaining. But the Hogs responded immediately and in less than a minute the score was 70-60 after Rashad Madden connected on the team’s only three-pointer of the half.
UGA didn’t have another run in them, and the Hogs cruised to the 87-75 victory.
A disconcerting by-product of yesterday’s loss is that Georgia’s hold on third place in the SEC is now a lot less secure. Both Arkansas and Tennessee are just one game behind the Dawgs in the standings with two games remaining on the conference slate, and these two teams would win any kind of two-way or three-way tie-breakers that might exist with UGA should their conference records end up the same.
Georgia has a winnable home game against Missy State on Tuesday, but then the Dawgs have to hit the road again for a difficult regular-season finale in Baton Rouge versus the LSU Tigers.
Arkansas and Tennessee’s final two games seem less daunting than Georgia’s since each team has a much easier road game this week. The Hogs get Ole Miss at home before heading to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama (6-10). The Vols travel to Auburn (5-11) before ending the season at home against Missouri.
Obviously anything is possible and there is still week of basketball to be played, but Georgia’s chances of reaching the finals of the SEC basketball tournament seem much more favorable as the 3-seed. At the 3-seed, UGA could avoid Florida – the only team that truly seems unbeatable in this conference.
At the 3-seed, Georgia could potentially play in a winnable semifinal game against Kentucky, a team that is currently in the midst of a two-game losing streak and reeling from Saturday’s loss to SEC bottom-dweller South Carolina (4-12).
Georgia has two games left on the schedule, and the only way to ensure a 3-seed in the conference tournament is to win both of them.
The Georgia Bulldogs sit alone at third in the SEC standings with a conference record of 10-5 on the season.
If the Dawgs hope to mosey into the NCAA tournament conversation though, it won’t be their SEC record that is the problem. Currently, Georgia’s RPI – which is 82, according to ESPN – is being weighted down by basketball games that occurred last year, specifically in November.
Yes, UGA’s 2013-2014 schedule contains two glaring eyesores – Temple and Georgia Tech – that are not helping Georgia’s case for a postseason at-large bid.
Temple, who beat the Dawgs 83-81 in the Charleston Classic on November 22nd, has gone on to have a train wreck of a season. The Owls are 7-19 overall and just 2-12 in American Athletic Conference, earning them an RPI of 165. If you remember that game, UGA actually had the ball down two with a few seconds on the clock, but Georgia’s in-bounds play was botched – by that, I mean Donte Williams took a deep three – and the Dawgs lost a heartbreaker.
The loss to Temple is pretty hard to justify, especially considering how terrible they have been since. Early in the year, Georgia’s defense had not yet developed into the stalwart that it is today, which was probably a major reason for the defeat.
The loss to Georgia Tech, however, is more haunting for UGA. The Jackets are 13-14 overall and 4-10 in the ACC, and they carry a lowly RPI of just 160.
But, Georgia Tech has dealt with a slew of personnel issues this season. Robert Carter, who averages nearly a double-double each night, missed the first 10 ACC games. Tech lost reserve/sometimes starter Kevin Morris to injury, along with freshman point guard Travis Jorgensen. In addition, coach Brian Gregory had to dismiss sophomore guard Solomon Poole, who was scoring over 6 points per game.
The point of all this lamenting over the Jackets’ decimated roster is that all of these aforementioned players were on the court in Stegeman when Tech beat Georgia 80-71 on November 15th. This fact seems lost amongst bracketologists though, and what appears to the casual observer glancing at UGA’s “body of work” is that they lost to a team with an RPI over 150.
The bottom line is that Georgia is not going to get much love from the Bubble Watchers because of their RPI, and the only way UGA can work their way into the discussion is by continuing to win.
I believe that if Georgia can win 1 out of the next 3 games as well as 2 in the conference tournament, they might have a chance of sneaking into the Big Dance.
I also feel that if UGA can take this upcoming game from Arkansas the bracketologists may just have to put Georgia on the bubble, since they will have knocked everyone else from the SEC off it.
(These late tip-offs make it difficult to put together a full-length post, so here are just some quick thoughts on this game)
Tonight’s win marks the first time a Georgia Bulldog Men’s basketball team has notched 10 conference wins since the 2002-2003 season.
It’s no secret that UGA’s defense was what won this game tonight. Missouri entered this contest averaging almost 74 points a night in league games, and they were third in field goal percentage (44%) and second in three-pointe percentage (37%).
The Tigers ran into a brick wall this evening in Athens, though, where the Dawgs held Mizzu to a season-low 56 points on just 32% shooting from the floor. The Tigers made only 3 of their 18 attempts from beyond the arc.
Mizzu’s big trio of scorers – Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross – came into tonight’s game netting more than 55 points per contest in SEC play. However, Georgia’s defenders held these guys to just a combined 38 points, which was a big reason why the Tigers appeared so stagnant on offense.
Nice bounce back game by Charles Mann:
Charles Mann scored a total of 12 points in his games against Tennessee and South Carolina last week. Tonight, however, Charles was in charge, dropping 19 points to go along with a team-high 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Great production from the bench for Coach Fox:
UGA’s bench combined for 17 points on 46% shooting from the floor, and they hauled in 13 rebounds. Mizzu’s backups tallied a total of just 4 points. Fox got some nice minutes from Neme Djurisic, who hit two big three-pointers to give Georgia a 31-22 lead at the half. Those three’s were Neme’s only points of the game, but he did grab 6 boards.
This victory puts UGA at 16-11 overall and 10-5 in the conference. While Georgia has yet to be listed officially on any NCAA bubbles, the Dawgs continue to burst the bubble dreams of their SEC counterparts. UGA’s sweep of Mizzu this season has to have the Tigers feeling pretty uneasy about their NCAA chances.
Georgia hits the road to take on Arkansas this Saturday in another game that could be bubbly.
Apparently, South Carolina was not made aware that there would be an additional 20 minutes of play following the intermission.
Or at least, so it seemed.
After a close first half that saw the Dawgs and Gamecocks knotted up at 34-apiece, Georgia capitalized on poor shooting from Frank Martin’s team to open up a big lead coming out of the break. UGA started out the half with a 9-1 run, giving them a 43-35 advantage following a Marcus Thornton jumper with 14:40 left in the game.
Carolina did not even convert a field goal until nearly ten minutes had elapsed, when Sindarious Thornwell knocked down a shot to make it 50-37, Georgia.
The Gamecocks connected on just 5 of their 31 second half field goal attempts in an offensive display that can only be described as pitiful.
UGA rode sophomore Kenny Gaines – who scored a career high 27 points – to the 73-56 victory.
Charles Mann followed up a disappointing 5-point effort at Tennessee earlier in the week with another dud of a performance in Columbia on Saturday. Mann finished with just 7 points on 1 for 10 shooting from the floor, and his lone field goal did not come until less than 4 minutes remained in the game.
Fortunately, Mann’s teammates were more than capable of picking up the slack and shouldering some of the scoring load. In addition to Gaines’s excellent play, Coach Mark Fox got 12 points apiece from Marcus Thornton and Brandon Morris. Thornton grabbed 10 rebounds as well, giving him his third double-double of the season.
Today’s win brings Georgia a step closer to securing one of the top four spots in the conference, which would mean a bye to the third round of the SEC tournament.
UGA now has three conference road wins on the year, and this victory bolsters the Dawgs to 15-11 overall and 9-5 in the SEC.
Georgia received a little help earlier in the day from the Florida Gators as they knocked off Ole Miss, sending the Rebels to 7-7 in the conference.
The Dawgs could really benefit from more assistance from around the SEC today as any losses for LSU, Tennessee or Missouri would add more cushioning to Georgia’s third place spot.
UGA plays again on Tuesday night in Athens against Missouri in a huge game that should have SEC tournament seedings on the line.