Posts Tagged ‘Bracketology’
The Georgia Bulldogs are getting mixed reviews from several of the larger sports media outlets concerning their position (or lack there of) in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Even ESPN’s two major tournament projectors seem to be split on the subject.
Joe Lunardi, creator of the network’s Bracketology, has Georgia (along with Alabama) as one of his “First Four Out” – he only has four SEC teams included in this year’s March Madness. However, ESPN’s “Bubble Watch” seems to think that the Dawgs could earn an at-large berth into the NCAA’s with a win in the first round of their conference tournament.
Let’s turn our attentions back to Joe Lunardi though, and his unfavorable impressions of Coach Mark Fox’s team.
Lunardi has become a regular on ESPN’s morning “Sportscenter” show recently, and when he has discussed Georgia’s resume he has continued to harp on the Dawgs’ 3-9 record against the RPI Top 50 and their lack of quality wins. One thing that fails to come up in his analysis of the Bulldogs is the fact that Georgia has a higher RPI than seven teams that Lunardi currently has “in” – St. Mary’s, Clemson, Illinois, Colorado, Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech.
I have always been under the impression that a team’s RPI was a strong indicator of their worth in college basketball, but apparently Joey L. disagrees.
The fact that he has Colorado “in” over the Dawgs is inexplicable to me – Georgia has a better overall record, a better conference record, a much higher RPI (CU’s is 76) and the Dawgs bested the Buffs without the services of Trey Thompkins earlier this year in a head-to-head match-up in Athens.
Lunardi hosted a chat at 4:00pm yesterday on ESPN.com, and I actually submitted him this same question regarding the Buffs and Dawgs – shockingly, he didn’t choose my question as one of the eight he decided to respond to.
Thanks to an exciting road win by the Kentucky Wildcats over the Tennessee Volunteers this afternoon, the Georgia Bulldogs (20-10; 9-7) finish the 2010-2011 season fourth in the SEC East.
The Dawgs will play Auburn (11-19; 4-12), the SEC West 5-seed, on Thursday in the Georgia Dome at 1:00PM this Thursday.
By getting the fourth seed, Georgia not only earned a chance to play a weaker first-round opponent in Auburn (as opposed to Arkansas), but the Dawgs also avoided a potential second-round match-up with the SEC regular season champion Florida Gators.
The winner of the Georgia-Auburn game will move on to play the Alabama Crimson Tide in round two of the conference tournament.
The bottom line however, is that if Georgia beats Auburn on Thursday and gets to 10 conference wins on the year, they should definitely be dancing in March.
If the Georgia Bulldogs (19-9; 8-6) can win in Athens on Wednesday night against the LSU Tigers, then they should be in good shape for the postseason, according to ESPN.com. Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology had Georgia playing in Tampa, Florida as an 11-seed versus 6-seed Villanova – personally, I’d prefer a different match-up.
Georgia is a better team than LSU, and the Dawgs should win tonight (Vegas has the Bulldogs as a whopping 15-point favorite).
Georgia has an RPI of 35, while LSU’s is a dismal 207. Georgia is the fourth-highest scoring team in the league at 70.5 ppg, while LSU is dead-last with 58.3 ppg. The Tigers are 10th in the conference in team defense, surrendering 70.6 ppg.
The numbers don’t get much prettier for LSU, as they rank in the bottom three of the conference in twelve statistical categories. They do not shoot the ball well at all, mustering just 38.7% from the field and 27.1% from beyond the arc.
You get the picture right? LSU hasn’t been very good this season.
But they did win at Auburn in early January, a team that took the Dawgs to overtime when they played in Athens. They also won at Missy State last Wednesday, and they took a 43-41 lead into the break against Vandy on Saturday before falling 90-69.
Georgia has nine losses this season, yet all of them were to opponents ranked in the RPI Top 50. The Dawgs record this year against the RPI Top 50 is an underwhelming 3-9, however, they do not have any “ugly” losses – which will definitely be taken into account by the NCAA selection committee. Georgia can ill-afford to slip up and drop a game that they should win at this point of the season.
If the Dawgs defend well tonight in Stegeman, they will give themselves an excellent chance to come out victorious. Georgia is right in the middle of the pack of the SEC in scoring defense, allowing conference opponents 67.5 ppg. However, they are limiting teams to just 40.5% from the floor, ranking them third in league in that category. The Bulldogs have been a fairly sound defensive team throughout this season, but lately they have been plagued by second-half lapses. In the past five games, the Dawgs are surrendering nearly 20 more points to opponents after the break versus before it. For whatever reason, Georgia has not been stepping onto the floor ready to defend in the second half lately.
As mentioned early, the Tigers are one of the worst-defensive teams in the league this season (70.6 ppg). The magic scoreboard number for opponents this year has been 80 points – LSU has yielded 80 or more points 13 times this season, and they have gone 2-11 in those contests.
Last Saturday night against South Carolina, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins went for 20 points, his first time doing so since the Florida game on January 25th. It would be nice to see Trey get back into a rhythm on offense for this final stretch of games before heading into the SEC tournament next week (and potentially the NCAA’s).
This game will also mark the last home game for seniors Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes, who have platooned at the forward position this season for Coach Mark Fox. Neither of these seniors has ever been part of a 20-win team, and they will have a chance to reach that plateau this evening.
The Georgia Bulldogs (18-8; 7-5) head to Gainesville on Thursday night for a rematch with the #13 Florida Gators, who beat the Dawgs in Athens earlier this season 104-91. The first meeting between these two teams was one of the better college basketball games of the year, with Georgia coming from behind to send the game into overtime only to have Florida’s Erving Walker hit a three-pointer to force a second overtime. The Gators were the only team interested in playing in the second overtime as they outscored the Dawgs 19-6 en route a big SEC road victory.
Florida (21-5; 10-2) is undoubtedly the best team in the conference this year, and they are currently riding a five-game winning streak. The Gators, however, could be playing once again without their preseason All-SEC Second-Team forward Chandler Parsons. Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise in Florida’s win over Tennessee on February 12th, forcing him to sit out the second half of that game as well as the LSU game last Sunday – a game that the Gators won 68-61.
Florida coach Billy Donovan did not sound positive about whether or not his star forward would play during Monday’s press conference.
“Right now, I’m not personally, overly optimistic that he’ll play,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I think in his mind, he’d like to try to play. … The last time he did anything physically was this past Friday and he couldn’t do much at all. We’ll prepare for the game without him and if he plays, it’s a bonus.”
Georgia coach Mark Fox didn’t seem to be buying it though, saying that the Dawgs would “prepare like he is going to play”.
Whether Parsons plays or not remains to be seen, but either way this game is still a difficult road test for a Georgia team that has not won a game in Gainesville in nine years.
That being said, this year’s Bulldogs squad seems to prefer life on the road. Following the Dawgs’ huge win last Saturday in Knoxville over Tennessee, Georgia now holds an 7-2 record in true road games on the season, and they are 4-2 in SEC games played away from Athens.
In the first game between these teams, the Dawgs did not have an answer for Florida’s dynamic guard tandem of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. Walker and Boynton scored 24 points apiece, and they shot a combined 24 free throws (connecting on 20 of them). Both guards used a plethora of high screens to get themselves into the paint where they were able to create at will. Georgia’s bigs must do a better job of stopping penetration off the pick-and-roll, and making it more difficult for Walker and Boynton to get into the lane.
Florida center Vernon Macklin, who is a load inside at 6’10″ and 245 pounds, is having a solid senior season for Coach Donovan, averaging 12.7 ppg and shooting over 57% from the field in conference play. Macklin shot 10 of 15 from the floor and scored 23 points in the game in Athens, his highest scoring output in an SEC game this season. With the way Trey Thompkins has been defending lately – 15 blocks in his last six games – I would not be at all surprised to see Coach Fox put him on Florida’s big center (and move either Jeremy Price or Chris Barnes on to Alex Tyus).
Though Trey has been playing some inspired defense lately, he has struggled to find offense since the first game against the Gators (the last time he went for 20 points or more). In the seven games since the Florida one, Thompkins is shooting just 37.3% from the floor and averaging only 12.3 points. Despite Trey’s offensive woes, the Dawgs have gone 4-3 in this same span of games. Imagine how dangerous Georgia would be if Thompkins could get his shot going again?
Georgia has two home games left this year on their conference slate – South Carolina and LSU. If they win those (as they should), they’ll finish with a winning SEC record and will most likely earn an at-large berth into this year’s NCAA tournament.
That means, in a way, that the pressure is off for the game on Thursday (another perk from the win against the Vols). Mark Fox’s team should play as if they have nothing to lose, and treat this game as a bonus opportunity to upset a conference rival on their home court (and to possibly improve their NCAA seeding – last “Bracketology” had the Dawgs as a 10-seed).
The Gators are 12-3 this year in Gainesville, and again, they haven’t lost one to Georgia in the Oconnell Center in 9 years.
Georgia’s victory in Knoxville last Saturday was their first at Tennessee in over a decade.
It might be time for the Dawgs to end another streak.
When the Georgia Bulldogs (16-6; 5-4) square off against the Xavier Musketeers (16-6; 8-1) in Athens on Tuesday night, both teams will be sharing a common motivation: to bolster their respective NCAA tournament resumes.
Ultimately, that is what this game is all about (hence why it was added right in the midst of each team’s respective conference schedules).
Xavier boasts an RPI rating of 24, while the Dawgs are currently carrying a rating of 36. The Musketeers are 2-3 in games this season played against the RPI Top 50, while Georgia is just 2-6. It would be sufficient to say that both of these teams need this win to impress the NCAA Selection Committee (with Georgia needing it more).
Xavier coach Chris Mack doesn’t have a lot of depth in his lineup, but he does have a veteran starting five (two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore) that has been able to handle playing big minutes this season. The Musketeers are one of the more complete teams that Georgia will play all year, with the ability to score the basketball both inside and out – they have four starters scoring in double-figures regularly. If I were to liken the X-Men to an SEC team, I would probably choose the Florida Gators, who the Musketeers lost a 71-67 nail-biter to back in December of 2010.
Gerald Robinson, Jr. will have quite a challenge on Tuesday night, as he will most likely draw the undesirable task of defending Xavier’s Tu Holloway. Holloway, a preseason Atlantic 10 First-Team Selection, is leading the X-Men in scoring (20.8 ppg) and assists (5.0 apg). Matter of fact, he is one of just four Division I players in the country that is averaging both 20 points and 5 assists on the year. Tu Holloway is difficult to guard because he can score it in so many different ways: off the drive, on a pull-up jumper or by just setting up from beyond the arc (where he is connecting on nearly 35% of his attempts).
Joining Holloway in the backcourt is sophomore shooting guard Mark Lyons. Lyons is netting 13.8 ppg while knocking down nearly 39% of his three-point attempts, making him the perfect outside compliment to Holloway’s dribble penetration.
The Xavier frontcourt features 6’8″ senior Jamel McLean and 7’0″ junior Kenny Frease. McLean, the team’s leading rebounder at 8.8 rpg, is exceptionally athletic for his size. His athleticism allows him to be tenacious on the offensive glass (nearly 4 o-rebs per game), and he has already posted seven double-doubles this season.
Kenny Frease has a very soft touch around the rim, and he is contributing 11.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg for this Musketeer team. Georgia’s Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes will have a tough time matching up with Frease on the block, as both players will be yielding at least four inches in height. Price and Barnes have struggled this year when playing against bigger centers, surrendering 18 points to Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezili and 23 to Florida’s Vernon Macklin. Coach Mark Fox must get a better defensive effort from his two senior bigs on Tuesday.
Interestingly enough, Price and Barnes are the only players on the Dawgs’ roster that played in their team’s 73-61 loss to Xavier back in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament (following Georgia’s miraculous “Tornado”-induced SEC Tournament Championship). In that game, Jeremy Price contributed 10 points and 5 rebounds – a similar effort on Tuesday night would be nice.
As aforementioned, Coach Mark Fox will require a solid defensive effort from Gerald Robinson in this game. I’m sure that Coach Fox would like to see some of Robinson’s offense return as well. In the first five SEC games of the season, Gerald averaged 18.0 ppg and looked much more assertive on offense, regularly attacking the basket off the dribble. Over the past four games, Robinson has appeared timid to strike, scoring just 10.0 ppg. He has also become noticeably more careless with the basketball, averaging 4 turnovers per contest during that same stretch.
The X-Men are 3-4 in true road games this season, while Georgia is 10-2 in games played at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia currently has four wins on their schedule that the NCAA Selection Committee would deem “quality wins” – Colorado, UAB, Kentucky and at Ole Miss (who now sports an RPI of 57 following their upset of Kentucky last week). Quality wins can carry a team to an NCAA at-large berth, and the Dawgs could use at least two more before the regular season draws to a close.
On Tuesday night, both Xavier and Georgia will be fighting to add another “quality win” to their respective tournament resumes. Both teams moved up in ESPN’s latest Bracketology, and the winner of tomorrow night’s game should see an improvement in their projected seeding.
As the college basketball season progresses, the stakes continue to get higher each week. Wins and losses start to become even more critical, as a team’s “body of work” starts to really take shape.
Tuesday nights in Athens have been unkind to Georgia so far in 2011, with devastating losses to both Tennessee and Florida.
Will the Dawgs be able to snap their “Tuesday losing streak” tomorrow night?
Tickets – check; wallet – check; gas in car – check…only thing left to do is before I head out to the game is to talk about it.
I wonder how much time Mark Fox spent previewing this year’s out-of-conference schedule before he accepted the job as head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs Men’s basketball team? Did he realize that before his first UGA team even enters into SEC play that he would take on Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Illinois, Missouri and Georgia Tech? For all those Joe Lunardi Bracketology fans out there, the Illini, Red Storm and Yellow Jackets are all currently listed as IN the projected field for this year’s tourney (and in my opinion the Hokies will make it too when it’s all said and done).
But what’s done is done, and the schedule is set…time to take on the Illini.
And without further ado, here are the Hoopdawg’s “Keys to the Game”:
1. Defense (clap, clap), Defense (clap, clap), Defense (clap, clap) – Most of the preseason attention (which was minimal & local) circling this year’s team focused around new head coach Mark Fox’s Triangle Offense. While I am excited to see more of this offense and how it operates, I can’t ignore what has been the strong point of this UGA team so far this season – the defense. The Dawgs are holding opponents to a mere 63.6 points per contest which ranks 84th out of the 347 Division I teams (or better than 76% of the country). And don’t look now, but Georgia is beginning to resemble something of “SWAT Team” on the defensive end, averaging 5.6 blocks/game (ranking 28th in the country!). As I mentioned in my last post, Illinois shot terribly in both of their two losses this season. If Georgia can maintain the same defensive intensity it’s shown through the first 8 games, I truly believe this one will go down to the wire.
2. Thompkins, Leslie and Ware – Oh My! (pretty cheesy “Wizard of Oz” reference) – The Bulldogs haven’t had one game this year in which Thompkins, Leslie and Ware have all had good shooting/scoring nights (check the box scores if you don’t believe me). For the most part, it’s been Leslie and Thompkins that have been consistent…but the couple of games that Ware was scoring, one or both of these other two guys were off. Tonight’s game against Illinois would be a great time for this trio to all post good offensive efforts.
3. Home Court Advantage – Winning college basketball games on the road is hard…very hard. The fans are physically located very close to the court, and I believe that basketball players can feel the crowd’s energy and feed off of it. Now I realize that this game isn’t in Athens, but it is only 41 miles away and should have the same feel as a game being played at “The Steg”. Hopefully a good number of Georgia fans turn out for the game tonight to help this team seize the momentum early…
A few people commented earlier in the week that they had tickets…anybody else going?
Before I preview the Illinois team that Georgia will take on this Saturday night, I thought I would mention that Michael Jordan‘s (remember him?) son, Jeffrey, is a member of the Fighting Illini squad. In fact, young Jeffrey made a statement earlier in the year that he would not be returning to the team for his junior season so that he could focus on his studies…I guess he didn’t have to focus too hard because he is now back on the team and playing the role of backup point guard. He doesn’t fill up the stat column quite like his father did (Jeff is averaging 2.4pts/2.4rbd/2.8ast), but his coach Bruce Weber likes to use him to spell starting point guard and leading scorer, Demetri McCamey. If you never got to see MJ play in person, you can at least see his eldest son JJ play Saturday night at the Gwinnett Arena (if that’s any consolation).
Illinois overachieved last season by making the NCAA’s. This year, expectations are sky-high. The Illini started the season ranked in the Top 25 in both polls. Joe Lunardi of ESPN had them listed as a 3 Seed in his first Bracketology of the season (I think he had them as a 9 Seed in his December 15 update). Illinois is currently 8-2 and receiving votes in both the AP & Coaches poll. They have won 4 games in a row, with two of those wins coming at #19 Clemson and against #24 Vanderbilt. In the Clemson win, the Fighting Illini came back from a 23-point second half deficit to win 76-74.
Illinois brings back 3 starters from last year’s team that pounded Georgia 76-42 in Champaign. Point guard Demetri McCamey scored 19 points (13 in the first 8 minutes) and forward Mike Davis along with 7’1″ center Mike Tisdale each added 14 in a game that was close for only one half (UGA trailed 30-23 after one; lost the second half battle 46-19). These 3 juniors along with two freshman sharp-shooters (DJ Richarson & Brandon Paul) round out the starting five.
All five of the aforementioned players are scoring in double figures on a nightly basis. They have a very deep bench that is spotlighted by versatile senior forward Dominique Keller – a solid defender and great 3pt shooter at 50% on the year. Juniors Jeff Jordan (18.4 min/game), Bill Cole (15 min/game) and Alex Legion (11.2 min/game) all see significant time on the court.
This is very good shooting team: they rank 20th (out of 347 teams) in the country in field goal percentage at 49.5% and 55th from beyond the arc at 39.1%. They like to get McCamey, Richardson and Paul going from beyond the arc, which opens up the paint for Davis and Tisdale (if you missed it earlier, he is 7’1″ tall) to operate. Mike Davis is a smooth scorer around the bucket and a monster on the glass (9.9 rebounds/game). Tisdale actually has a pretty nice touch from about 15-18′, which is certainly unusual for most 7-footers (minus Dirk Nowitzki).
Coach Bruce Weber is known for having teams that play strong defensively, and this one is no different as they are currently holding opposing teams to an ugly 38.9% from the field. The Illini are also doing a good job rebounding defensively and limiting teams to just one shot opportunity per possession.
In their only two losses this season to Utah and Bradley, Illinois shot atrociously from the field at 39% and 39.7%, respectively. They also were limited to 11.1% from three-point land against Utah, and only a managed a slightly better 3pt% against Bradley at 22.2%.
Illinois and Georgia share one common opponent so far this season – those pesky Wofford Terriers (for those of you who might not remember, the Terriers beat the Dawgs in Athens earlier this year 60-57). The Terriers were actually tied with Illinois 50-50 until Bill Cole made a layup with 12:34 left in the second half to put Illinois up by a bucket. The Illini went on to win the game 78-64 in front of a home crowd of nearly 13,000 .
One last side note:
Before taking the coaching job at Illinois in 2003, Bruce Weber was the head coach of the Southern Illinois Salukies from 1998-2003. In the 2002 NCAA Tournament, Weber’s 11th-seeded Salukies upset 3-seeded Georgia in the second round to go on to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Connecticut.