Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’
Calling Georgia’s offense balanced on Tuesday night would be an understatement, considering that Mark Fox got double-digit scoring from five players against the Stoney Brook Seawolves in the opening game of the preseason NIT. Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines, Yante Maten, Neme Djurisic and Marcus Thornton all eclipsed the ten-point threshold, with Mann leading the way with a team-high 15 points. The Dawgs appeared to be in more of rhythm offensively, knocking down nearly 46% of their shots from the floor en route to an 80-70 win.
The Seawolves came out of the gates firing, though, building up a 16-8 lead in the game’s first four minutes ,with most of the damage being done by junior guard Carson Puriefoy. During the aforementioned stretch, Puriefoy scored 9 points, and he finished the half with 21.
Despite Puriefoy’s performance, Georgia managed to carry a 48-41 advantage into the intermission. But once Georgia was able to contain Puriefoy, the Dawgs began to open up more of a lead down the stretch. UGA held the game’s leading scorer to zero field goals after the break, and even though Puriefoy finished with 26 points, he was pretty much shut down in the second half.
After corralling Puriefoy, UGA pushed its lead beyond 20 points a couple of times; but, some late threes from Stoney Brook in mop-up time enabled the Seawolves to trim the score to just ten.
Yante Maten, who scored 11 points, made several nice drop-step post moves on the block.
Kenny Gaines did not start in this one, but he looks as though he is starting to regain his form, contributing 13 points, which included a pair of three-pointers; he also had an explosive dunk off of a fast break, showing that his legs seem to have recovered from his recent bout with mononucleosis.
The most improved player from a year ago, though, may be sophomore J.J. Frazier, who has developed an ability to penetrate and use excellent body control to finish around the rim (or at least get fouled). Frazier peppered the stat sheet tonight with 8 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds, and most importantly, no turnovers.
Overall, Georgia’s play was much improved this evening against an opponent picked by most to win the American East Conference in the preseason. Now that Georgia is off their radar, hopefully the Seawolves can string together a 20+ win season and secure the AEC title.
Not that I am insinuating that this was a resume-building win.
Charles Mitchell, who had spurned Georgia twice already on the recruiting front, torched the Dawgs in Atlanta on Friday night for 20 points and 9 rebounds en route to an 80-73 Georgia Tech victory. Mitchell was one of Fox’s targets coming out of Wheeler High School a few years ago, but the young man opted to go to Maryland. Last year, when Mitchell chose to leave Maryland to return to the state of Georgia so he could be closer to his grandmother, he again snubbed UGA, selecting Tech as his new basketball destination. Despite these choices, last evening he appeared to be playing possessed, with a chip on his shoulder, almost. And, Mitchell gives the Yellow Jackets something that the Dawgs desperately need: a post who can play with his back to the basket.
Much like in the exhibition game last week, Georgia’s offense looked clunky, making just 27% of its shots in the game’s opening half. The Dawgs ended the game hitting nearly 42% from the floor, but Mark Fox’s team appears to be lacking scoring options, especially when Charles Mann has a 3 for 11 shooting performance. While Fox’s offensive scheme involves a lot of motion and picks, without playmakers it simply does not work. This system still needs players who can slice their way into the lane from the wing position, and right now, I’m scratching my head wondering who on Georgia can fill that roll?
Despite starting poorly, UGA managed to hang around in this contest, cutting the lead as low as 4 points after a Marcus Thornton bucket with 14:39 left in the game and Georgia Tech up 50-46. However, back-to-back field goals by Charles Mitchell – one of them an awkward dunk off a break – pushed the Jackets lead back up to 8 points.
Whenever Georgia managed to get close, Tech would pull away. Quinton Stephens, who led all scorers with 22 points, was a menace for UGA all night, connecting on 6 of his eight shots from beyond the arc.
The Dawgs’ best performance was turned in by Djurisic, who finished with 18 points, helping to keep his team around before the intermission with some timely three-pointers.
Cameron Forte wins the award for the most efficient performance of the night, scoring 5 points and grabbing 3 rebounds to go along with a steal and a block, all in just 4 minutes of play. Forte’s lack of presence on the court as the game progressed was perplexing since he was giving his team a viable scoring option. Last season, Forte’s defense is what limited his playing time; whether that has improved or not, he needs to be in the lineup more because this team needs all the help it can get on the other side of the ball.
This loss is going to sting (pun intended). Georgia Tech does not look like a very good team, and it seems likely that they will end up near the bottom of the ACC, just as was projected by numerous media sources. Whether this game will hurt UGA’s NCAA hopes later in the year probably shouldn’t be of much concern to Georgia fans because right now this Dawgs’ team does not have the looks of an NCAA tournament team.
What should worry Dawgs’ fans is that Mark Fox has now dropped four straight to the Jackets, which hasn’t happened since the 1960′s (back when Tech was in the SEC). Georgia gets a slew of cupcake games before taking on Gonzaga in New York on November 26th as part of the preseason NIT.
Georgia played an exhibition game at exhibition quality on Thursday night as they snuck by the Hurricanes of Georgia Southwestern, a powerhouse hailing from the mighty ranks of the NCAA’s Division II.
I realize that UGA was without Kenny Gaines, the team’s second-leading scorer from a year ago. And I realize that Coach Fox intended to play a lot of guys and try some different lineups, which he did. It was a glorified scrimmage; I get it.
However, Georgia looked awfully competitive with the Hurricanes tonight, especially when they headed to the locker rooms at the break trailing GSW by a score of 26-23.
For nearly 30 minutes Georgia looked out of sorts and stagnant on offense, misusing screens and struggling to feed the ball inside effectively. UGA shot under 35% from the floor in the first half, and they connected on just 2 of their 15 three-point attempts in this game. Finally – about midway through the second half, J.J. Frazier, who ended up with 9 points, was able to start penetrating the stout Hurricane defense, getting to the line and creating some offense.
Georgia ended up extending its lead into double-digits with several minutes remaining in the game, only to let GSW close the gap to four, giving UGA the 65-61 win. To be fair, the Dawgs had the bench cleared during this entire stretch.
While it was encouraging to see Kenny Gaines on the bench in street clothes – I guess he is not bedridden – it was quite clear that his absence will be difficult to replace if he cannot go next Friday night in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. Juwan Parker finished with 10 points on the night, but he shot the ball horribly from the outside, missing badly on all of his three-point attempts.
Yaten Maten recorded a double-double in his first appearance inside Stegeman, scoring 10 points to go along with 12 boards and 4 assists. He definitely has a nice build and he looks like he could develop into a nice player for Coach Fox, but the key word here is “develop”. Most of Maten’s points tonight were of the second-chance variety, which will be much more difficult to come by when he starts taking on opponents that are his size or bigger.
Not to beat a horse to death, but this game provided a small example of just how much Georgia could miss Brandon Morris this year, especially his length and ability to drive the ball to the basket off the dribble. Cameron Forte had a couple of nice takes tonight in the second half, but he doesn’t quite have that same explosiveness that Morris had when he got into the lane.
Whatever medication the UGA staff is administering to Kenny Gaines needs to be doubled ASAP. Georgia has to have him in the lineup when they start the season because without him they don’t have a lot of viable scoring options.
After a 20-win season and a third-place finish in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs were supposed to be entering the 2014-2015 season with realistic NCAA tournament expectations, building off of an impressive 2013-2014 campaign.
Instead, the Dawgs could be kicking off the year down two starters from last season’s squad. Granted, Mark Fox and his fan base have had several months to sulk about, deal with and get over the loss of Brandon Morris, the team’s third-leading scorer and arguably its best defender from a year ago.
But, today’s statement from CMF insinuating that Kenny Gaines may not be ready to suit up next Friday might be too much for the Bulldog Basketball Nation to bear. During a press conference today, Fox told the AJC that Gaines would definitely not play in tomorrow’s exhibition, and that he was “pessimistic” about the junior’s chances of suiting up in Atlanta in the season-opener at Georgia Tech:
“Kenny has been ill,” Fox said Wednesday. “He will not play Thursday. He has not practiced. And really no timetable for a return. We know he’ll return at some point this season. He’s been very sick. He is getting better but he’ll not play tomorrow night.”
Fox’s vague description of Gaines’s condition will leave UGA fans speculating as to what the young man might be ailing from. Regardless, the Dawgs’ backcourt will need to reshuffle and regroup quickly, and sophomores J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker must find a way to make up for Gaines’s scoring.
Tomorrow night’s exhibition will give eager fans a small glimpse of some of what is to come from this year’s team, but for the players the game should serve as nothing more than a mild tune-up. In eight days the Dawgs will be playing in a hostile environment against a Georgia Tech team that I believe will finish the season much better than the media expects. CBS pegged the Jackets as the 13th best team out of the 15-team ACC, but with the addition of four transfers to go along with Marcus Georges-Hunt, I think that Tech could be a tough out.
Last year the Bulldogs’ NCAA hopes were plagued by early season out-of-conference losses, including one at home to Georgia Tech. This year, Georgia was hoping to return the favor to the Jackets, but now they might have to do it without their best perimeter player.
With the start to the 2014-2015 college basketball season a little less than three weeks away, Georgia is currently being projected to finish 5th in the Southeastern Conference by most major media networks. For a team that ended up 3rd in the SEC a year ago with a 12-6 league record, this prediction seems about right considering UGA lost a starter and major contributor in Brandon Morris this past offseason (Morris was dismissed for arrest involving marijuana possession). Losing Morris, who was the team’s third-leading scorer at 8.6 points per game, is definitely a tough blow to Mark Fox’s roster.
However, CMF does have one of the better backcourts in the conference at his disposal in juniors Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, who averaged 13.9 and 13.0 points a night, respectively. Georgia will rely heavily on these two for offense this year, and second-team preseason All-SEC point guard Charles Mann should be more than ready to deliver. Having a veteran point guard has typically been a good omen for prospective at-large NCAA tournament teams, and in Charles Mann, UGA has a player who can create his own scoring opportunities just about any time the ball is in his hands. Last year, Mann shot 278 free throws, which placed him 10th in the nation in that category.
Once again, though, Georgia’s biggest question mark will be in the paint, where they return seniors Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic. While both of these guys have made nice strides in their respective offensive games over the past few seasons, neither of them possesses the ability to receive the ball on the block – back to the basket – and score consistently. The buzz from preseason practices thus far is that freshman Yante Maten, who was last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year in Michigan, might be ready to provide those aforementioned post skills. Maten has a big frame at 6’8″ and 245 pounds, and at the SEC media days Fox suggested that the frosh would most likely be playing significant minutes this season for the Dawgs.
Ironically, the starting positions where UGA is the most skilled – guard – might also be where they have the most depth. Sophomores J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker should give Coach Fox quality minutes off the bench this year to spell Mann and Gaines. Frazier, who is rumored to have grown two inches in the offseason, came on particularly strong towards the end of last year, scoring in double-figures three times in the final ten games and finishing the season making almost 33% of his three-point attempts.
A trip to the NCAA tournament seems like a must for UGA this year if the Dawgs want to consider this season a step in the right direction. For that to happen though, Georgia needs to play as well before January as they do after it. Even though UGA won 20 games last year and nearly ended up 2nd in the conference, they weren’t even really in the NCAA Bubble discussion in March. Some of that could have to do with an SEC bias that exists in college basketball today, which may be based on the merits of the league’s teams, or simply the fact that people are tired of the SEC’s successes on the football field by the time basketball rolls around. The league placed three teams in the Big Dance last year and all three reached the Sweet Sixteen; Florida and Kentucky went on to the Final Four. However, most analysts declared the SEC “top-heavy”, reluctant to give credit to the conference’s other 11 teams.
The bottom line, though, is that the negative perceptions across the college basketball landscape regarding the quality of basketball being played in the SEC is not going to change any time soon. For Georgia to enter into that Bubble conversation, they cannot afford bad losses like they endured last year to the likes of Georgia Tech, Davidson and Temple. This season, UGA takes on Tech, Gonzaga, Colorado, Seton Hall and Kansas State before entering conference play. In my opinion, the Dawgs need to win three of those games if they hope to be taken seriously in late February.
Even though Mark Fox’s squad has to play Kentucky twice this year (potentially three times if they were to meet in the conference tournament), I expect them to post another winning record in SEC play based upon the fact that they return four starters in an expanded league that no longer has UGA playing the likes of Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky twice in a season.
I have no idea what to anticipate on November 14th, though, when the Dawgs take on in-state rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Will the same sluggish bunch that began the year last season come to play? Or, will it be the tough, hard-nosed team that won 8 of their final regular season games a year ago?
In case you missed it, Brandon Morris was arrested over the weekend on a felony marijuana charge. Coach Mark Fox declined to comment on the situation, and Morris will face disciplinary actions from UGA’s Athletic Association Comprehensive Action committee, most likely sooner rather than later.
The best case scenario for Morris and the UGA basketball program is that this is the young man’s first marijuana offense, potentially resulting in a suspension of 10% of next season’s competition, or roughly 3 games. The first game listed on the schedule – which is still a work in progress – for next year is Georgia Tech on November 14th in Atlanta. The Dawgs played without Morris last season against the Jackets in Athens in a game that Georgia dropped 80-71, marking the team’s third straight loss to Tech.
The fact that Morris missed the first three games of last season, which equals exactly 10% of the 30 games that the team played, makes me somewhat suspicious that his transgression last year was marijuana-related as well. If that turns out to be the case, then Morris will be suspended for 30% of next season’s schedule, or about 9 games. I call this possible outcome the “second-best but still not so great” scenario.
Missing 9 games would force Georgia to begin the season without one of its starters from a year ago, meaning that the Dawgs would take on the Jackets, the preseason NIT and potentially both Colorado and Seton Hall, all without Morris’s services.
Georgia basketball enjoyed a major turnaround last year, winning 20 games and finishing 12-6 in the Southeastern Conference, and Brandon Morris was a big part of the team’s success. His height and length make him a tough defender, and he has a knack for slashing and getting the ball to the rim. Morris was the third-leading scorer for Coach Fox last season at 8.6 points per game, doubling his offensive production from his freshman campaign.
Losing Morris for nearly a third of the season would be a major blow to this team’s NCAA tournament aspirations, which were dampened this past season by a weak RPI (76) that was weighed down by some early season losses to Tech, Davidson and Temple. If Mark Fox’s team hopes to dance in 2015, they must avoid the out of conference letdowns that plagued them a year ago.
Of course another possible outcome for the Morris is that he is kicked off the team, leaving UGA with his shoes to fill for the entire season.
Right now, everything regarding Brandon’s situation is pure speculation, and until a judgment comes out from the aforementioned committee Morris’s fate will remain up in the air. One thing is certain though, and that is that he will miss some games next year, meaning that Fox will have a shallower bench at his disposal.
Without Morris, Georgia could look to Cameron Forte, who showed flashes of scoring ability in his first year in Athens. However, Forte’s defense was a major liability that kept him off the court for significant chunks of time last season, and if he cannot guard better this year Fox will have to get creative with his lineup by playing a smaller group that includes J.J. Frazier, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann.
The Dawgs will definitely be dealing with some sort of setback from this incident when they kick off next year, but hopefully it won’t be enough to change the outcome of the season.
Charles Mitchell – a standout from Wheeler High School – is leaving Maryland after two seasons to move closer to home to be near his grandmother who has recently fallen ill.
The 6’8″ 260lb Mitchell provided solid contributions for the Terps last year, averaging 6.5 points and 6.3 boards in less than 19 minutes per game. In fact, he gave Maryland such a spark off the bench that he eventually was inserted into the starting lineup for the final third of the season.
For those of you who do not remember Mitchell, he was one of Georgia’s targets in early 2012 when Coach Mark Fox was heavily involved in the Tony Parker sweepstakes.
Rivals.com is reporting that Mitchell is also receiving looks from Auburn, Clemson and College of Charleston, but one would have to assume that Georgia Tech and UGA are the frontrunners for Charles’s services considering the whole proximity thing regarding his grandmother and family. Mitchell is scheduled to be on Tech’s campus today, and he will be up in Athens on Thursday.
With the departure of Donte Williams to graduation, Mitchell would obviously fit nicely into a Georgia starting lineup loaded with upperclassmen.