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It appears that the Georgia Bulldogs (19-13) basketball season will continue as the Dawgs were selected to play in this year’s National Invitational Tournament (N.I.T.).
UGA received the 2-seed and the Dawgs should host (since they are the higher seed) Wednesday’s game against the Vermont Catamounts, a team that finished the year 22-10 overall and 15-1 in the American East Conference. Vermont was the top seed in its conference tournament, but the Catamounts were ousted in the semifinals by Albany.
Other than Donte Williams and Marcus Thornton, Wednesday’s game will be the first postseason experience for this young Georgia team.
Sometimes talent triumphs grittiness and effort.
At least that was the lesson the Georgia Bulldogs learned yesterday in its 70-58 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals round of the SEC tournament.
The Cats are a physically impressive bunch, especially when viewed in person.
If you think having a 6’4″ point guard like Charles Mann is nice, guess what? Kentucky has two of them – each of the Harrison twins is 6’6″ and they both handle the ball well.
Julius Randle is 6’10” of pure muscle, and he too can move with the athleticism of a guard or wing.
The fact that UGA hung around and managed to make it a game at all is a testament to Coach Mark Fox’s system and his players’ belief in that system.
Just as in the Ole Miss game, Georgia had to play much of the first half with four starters – Mann, Kenny Gaines, Brandon Morris and Donte Williams – on the bench with two fouls each.
Once again, UGA’s reserves stepped up – JuWan Parker scored 7 points and J.J. Frazier contributed another 5 (to go along with 3 rebounds). Neme Djurisic and Cameron Forte scored 4 points apiece, and the Dawgs went into the intermission trailing Kentucky 36-32.
These aforementioned UGA players were all two-star recruits coming out of high school, and yet they managed to keep the Dawgs competitive in a game against a team that has McDonald’s All-Americans on its bench.
In the second half, though, UK’s talent took over.
Kentucky tightened up its defense, making it very difficult for Georgia to get good looks near the basket. The Cats are so long and athletic that it felt like there were six or seven of them on defense each possession.
For the majority of the afternoon, Georgia had the game played at the pace it wanted – slow and deliberate. The speed of the game definitely slowed down the Kentucky offense, but unfortunately for UGA, Kentucky turned in one of its better shooting performances of the season.
The Wildcats, who ranked near the bottom of the SEC in three-point percentage at just 32% in league games, knocked down an impressive 9 of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc. These three-pointers were devastating for the Dawgs, and they enabled UK to secure the 70-58 victory and earn a chance to play the Florida Gators on Sunday.
Georgia got as close as 3 points after a free throw from Neme to make it 46-43 with 13 minutes remaining, but the Dawgs were unable to wipe out the deficit completely.
UGA was led offensively by Kenny Gaines, who scored all 13 of his points in the game’s second half. Charles Mann was the only other Bulldog to finish in double-digits, contributing 12 points.
This loss pretty much assures that Georgia will not be playing in the NCAA tournament this season, but with an RPI of 76 the Dawgs look like a lock for the NIT.
Yesterday’s game embodied the kind of overachievement that the Dawgs have produced for much of this season as Georgia played toe-to-toe with a team that began the year ranked #1 in the country.
After a 6-6 start in the non-conference portion of the schedule, Georgia looked like a program that was about to go off the rails once conference play started. In addition to this mediocrity, Coach Mark Fox was being listed on just about every “Hot Seat” compilation being generated amongst college basketball media sources.
Somehow, CMF and his team altered the course of the season. For Georgia to finish the year 19-13 overall and tied for second in the conference is living proof to the amount of heart and perseverance this team possesses.
The Dawgs won 9 of their last 12 games, arguably making them one of the hotter teams in the country.
The knock against Fox has always been his inability to bring in more big-time recruits from the metro Atlanta area, which may be true.
But the guy definitely develops players (see J.J. Frazier, Neme Djurisic, Marcus Thornton, Kenny Gaines), and he finds a way to squeeze every ounce of effort out of his team.
The Dawgs are set to lose just one player from this team -senior Donte Williams – and they should enter next season as one of the favorites to finish near the top of the conference.
Coach Fox seems to have the program going in the right direction.
Mississippi’s Marshall Henderson does just about everything he can to draw attention to himself at all times.
Ironically, Georgia put together its best overall team effort of the season en route to an exciting 75-73 win that went late into the evening on Friday in the Georgia Dome.
After Charles Mann gave UGA the go ahead layup to make it 74-73 with 16 seconds remaining, Andy Kennedy called timeout to get his team ready for its final possession.
Georgia fans nervously suffered through this endless 30 seconds, waiting to see if Coach Mark Fox’s team had one last defense stand in them.
Fortunately, they did.
As soon as the ball touched Henderson’s hands he launched an off-balance three from the wing that glanced the side of the rim before falling into Marcus Thornton’s hands.
Thornton got one of the two free throws, giving UGA a 75-73 advantage.
The Rebels’ Jarvis Summers – who was unstoppable, scoring a game-high 26 points on the night – couldn’t connect on his last-second attempt from the corner and the Dawgs earned a chance to play Kentucky today in the semifinal round of the SEC tournament.
Charles Mann led UGA with 16 points, but credit the Georgia reserves and role players for stepping up big and keeping the Dawgs in the game in the first half.
Mann, Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton all picked up two fouls before the break, causing them to miss a ton of time in the first half.
With Ole Miss leading 18-7 and nearly 13 minutes remaining before the intermission, things were looking bleak for the Dawgs as their star point guard had to take a seat after picking up his second foul.
Freshman J.J. Frazier came to the rescue though, connecting on a pair of threes and a floater in the lane, scoring 8 of his 11 points in the game’s first half. Frazier’s spark off the bench was instrumental in the UGA comeback, and his scoring helped the Dawgs go into the half down by only a basket.
Brandon Morris did miss a couple close shots down the stretch, but he finished with 12 points on an array of drives from the wing.
In just 23 minutes, Marcus Thornton nearly notched another double-double, netting 9 points to go along with a team-high 11 rebounds. Thornton was aggressive when he received the ball in the paint, enabling him to shoot 10 free throws on the night. Thankfully for Georgia, Thornton made 7 of those attempts, several of them coming at critical moments down the stretch.
Marshall Henderson did manage to score 19 points, but I think it is safe to say that he may have shot his team out of the game. UGA’s Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker tirelessly chased Henderson all over the court, frustrating the Ole Miss senior into a 2 for 16 performance from beyond the arc.
Now, I’ve never been to Rupp Arena, but I have a decent idea of what it might be like after sitting through the Kentucky-LSU game last night. Mark Fox was quoted earlier in the week as saying that he is tired of hearing about “Catlanta”, but his complaints had no effect no the Big Blue nation’s travel plans.
The Dawgs will be playing just an hour from Athens today in the Georgia Dome, but that arena is going to seem pretty hostile to Coach Mark Fox’s team.
If Georgia can weather the initial storm and get the game played at a half court pace, they could frustrate this young Wildcat team into forcing it a bit.
When these two teams met earlier this year in Lexington, Kentucky routed the Dawgs 79-54 – however, Georgia was playing without its second-leading scorer (Gaines), and the Dawgs were within 8 points with 12 minutes left in the contest.
If UGA wants into this year’s NCAA tourney, then they need to get into tomorrow’s SEC championship game.
Actually, CBS’s Jerry Palm thinks Georgia needs more:
Must win Sunday. Have to beat UK to have that chance. @ugadawg16: any chance for UGA to go to the NCAAs if they beat Kentucky tomorrow?
— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 15, 2014
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.