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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.
Some nights you have it, and some nights you don’t.
Last night, the Georgia Bulldogs (14-11; 8-5) certainly did not have it in Knoxville, where they fell 67-48 to the Tennessee Volunteers.
The Dawgs – a team that came into this game leading the SEC in rebounding – could not match the Vols’ physicality on the blocks. Tennessee won the battle on the boards by a count of 37-30, and they scored over half of their points (34) in the paint.
The main culprit of all of this inside dominance was Jarnell Stokes, who abused Georgia for 20 points and 11 rebounds.
After trailing Tennessee 34-28 at the half, Georgia managed to hang around for the most part to begin the second half of play. The Dawgs cut the Vols’ lead to 45-38 following a free throw from Nemanja Djurisic with 12:18 remaining.
Tennessee responded, however, with a 12-5 run that sent their advantage to 57-43 with only 8:00 minutes left in the game. This spurt was enough to put UGA away, giving the Vols their 7th conference win of the season.
Offensively, Georgia was led by Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier, who finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Frazier netted 10 of his 12 in the first half, providing Coach Mark Fox a much-needed spark off the bench in a game where Charles Mann was a non-factor.
Mann, who had been averaging nearly 17 points a night in the previous six SEC contests, was held to just 5 points in this one.
The Dawgs entered last night’s game shooting almost 30 free throws a night, but against the Vols Georgia took just 11 shots from the charity stripe, converting 8 of them.
The loss snaps UGA’s four-game winning streak, but the Dawgs still have a hold on 3rd place in the conference, thanks to a road win at Ole Miss by the Kentucky Wildcats.
Georgia hits the road again this weekend to take on South Carolina, a team that has been playing better as of late. The Gamecocks have won their past 2 home games, and they have been winners of 3 or their last 4 in Columbia.
Charles Mann is undoubtedly the center point of Georgia’s offense, and he is a major factor as to why his Bulldogs are averaging 7 more points per game in conference play this year as compared to last, despite losing SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Mann is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink – look no further than his second free throw attempt – which he buried – that secured a thrilling home victory last Saturday in a crucial showdown with the Ole Miss Rebels.
It was fitting that Mann won the game from the line, since he tends to spend so much time there.
Currently, Charles is 16th in the nation in free throw attempts with 202 on the season, and he is taking nearly 9 shots a night from the charity stripe.
Mann’s ability to get to the basket and draw contact from the point guard position is a coveted skill in the world of college basketball. His aggressiveness can put defenses on their heels. He can also use his driving ability to get his team back into games – much like he did last week when Georgia trailed early to both Missy State and Ole Miss.
When the Dawgs were struggling to convert baskets in the first half in each of the aforementioned games, Mann took the ball to the rack, got fouled and converted points from the line – he cut the Missy St lead to under ten, and he got his team to within three against Mississippi, all from the free throw line.
Over the past six SEC games, Mann’s free throw percentage has been slightly above 76%, which is a dramatic improvement when compared to the fact that he was converting only 60% of his attempts from the line through the first six league contests.
Mann has been so prolific in his capacity to generate free throw attempts that he is already halfway (372) to the all-time record of 744 held by former Georgia-great Laterial Green. Considering that Charles is in the midst of just his sophomore year, I would say that he has an excellent chance of surpassing Green’s mark, should he remain at UGA for all four years.
Charles Mann was not named to either of the preseason All-SEC teams, but something tells me he may be listed on one of them when the season ends.
With the game knotted up at 60-60 and just 1.5 seconds left on the clock, Mann put his team and Stegeman Coliseum on his back as he stepped to the free throw line after drawing a foul on Mississippi’s Dwight Coleby.
Charles missed the first, giving the Rebels a glimmer of hope that the game might extend to overtime.
Mann made the second shot though and UGA secured the 61-60 victory after a desperation pass by Ole Miss sailed out of bounds.
Charles Mann attacked the basket relentlessly on Saturday, netting 12 of his 17 points from the free throw line. In addition to the scoring, he also grabbed 8 rebounds to go along with 4 assists.
Marshall Henderson may have owned the first half, but Kenny Gaines ruled the second.
Gaines took over at a point in the game when Georgia was struggling to find offense against the Rebel’s zone. The sophomore spent most of the first half on the bench dealing with two fouls, and he only managed 2 points going into the intermission.
After the break though, Gaines lit up Stegeman, connecting on 5 three-pointers and finishing with a team-high 21 points. He tied the game twice on clutch shots from beyond the arc in the second half before sinking a monster three from the corner while being fouled – Gaines completed the four-point play and UGA had a 41-40 lead with 11:41 left in the game.
Of all of Gaines’s threes, none may have been bigger than the one he hit from the wing with only 47 seconds on the clock that put the Dawgs up 60-57.
Credit Georgia for its effort in this game – the Dawgs trailed 26-15 with only 4:18 remaining before the intermission following a three from Derrick Millinghaus. At this point in the game UGA looked lost on offense and defense, where they had already yielded 4 three-pointers to Henderson.
Georgia came back though, and the Bulldogs actually enjoyed a brief 11-point lead of their own following a pair of free throws from Charles Mann that bolstered the Georgia advantage to 53-42 with 6:01 left.
Even when that lead evaporated and Ole Miss was on top 57-55 with less than 2 minutes remaining, Georgia never stopped fighting.
UGA owned the glass today, out-rebounding the Rebels by a count of 49-34. Georgia brought down 18 offensive boards, none of which was bigger than the one Marcus Thornton snagged before kicking the ball out to Kenny Gaines for his late lead-changing three. Thornton led all UGA players with 11 rebounds to go along with his 7 points and 3 blocks.
This win gives Georgia sole possession of third place in the SEC at 8-4, and the Dawgs are now 14-10 overall.
Coach Mark Fox’s team has now won four conference games in a row as they prepare to travel to Knoxville for a showdown with Tennessee on Tuesday night.
If the SEC tournament started today, UGA would enjoy a bye all the way to the quarterfinal round of the bracket.
That seed is Georgia’s to lose at this point.
The Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 7-4) are at a critical juncture in the season where opportunity is both literally and figuratively knocking at their door.
On Saturday, UGA will host the Ole Miss Rebels with third place in the conference at stake. A win this weekend would bolster the Dawgs’ SEC record to 8-4, and it would move them a step closer to bypassing the first two rounds of the conference tournament by way of finishing in the top four in the league standings.
Earlier this week, ESPN released its first Bubble Watch of the year – a weekly segment that analyzes the chances that teams have of earning at-large bids to the NCAA tournament in March. At the moment, ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan has the SEC down for two NCAA Tournament “locks” (meaning they are in) – Florida and Kentucky (no surprises there).
However, I found it incredibly interesting that of the five teams that Brennan lists from the conference with “Work left to do” – Tennessee, Missouri, Ole Miss, LSU and Arkansas – all of them are on Georgia’s remaining schedule of SEC games.
UGA actually has the chance to put itself into consideration for at at-large bid to this year’s NCAA tournament over the next three weeks based upon their remaining opponents.
Now, whether Georgia can embrace and rise to those challenges is a different story. The Dawgs most likely would need to be very successful in a majority of those aforementioned games because they just can’t seem to shake off the stigma of being a mediocre program.
Brennan mentioned Georgia twice in his SEC segment of the Bubble Watch, but unfortunately both plugs were just to highlight the fact that Missouri and LSU had suffered “bad losses” to the Bulldogs (a team that is currently tied for 3rd in the league standings).
If Georgia wants respect they are going to have to earn it.
This key stretch of games starts Saturday with the Ole Miss Rebels, a team that is led offensively by a crazy person – Marshall Henderson. The Rebels’ backcourt has been shouldering half of the team’s scoring load in conference play with Henderson netting 20 ppg and junior guard Jarvis Summers contributing another 16.2 ppg.
The Dawgs’ perimeter defense has been steadily improving, and it will need to be on point this weekend as Ole Miss comes into Athens making more three-pointers (over 8) per game than any other SEC team in league games.
After a 1-4 start to the season that had most Georgia fans cringing at the thought of conference play, UGA has put itself in position to challenge for a top spot in the league with a very meaningful SEC game on the horizon this weekend in Athens.