Posts Tagged ‘UGA’
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?
After playing sparingly his rookie year for the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2011-2012 season, former UGA standout Trey Thompkins was waived from the Clips during his sophomore campaign as he was hampered by a debilitating bone bruise in his left knee which kept him off the court.
For more than a year Thompkins muddled in basketball obscurity, removed from a once promising basketball career. Until yesterday, I would have ventured to guess that his stateside basketball playing days were over, and that the next time Thompkins might suit up professionally would be in Europe or South America.
Low and behold, however, who did I see during Sportscenter’s evening segment on yesterday’s NBA Summer League action? Howard Thompkins III, in the flesh.
Trey is currently playing on the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team, and he doesn’t look half bad. In the Lakers overtime win over the Golden State Warriors yesterday, Thompkins finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds, including one bucket from beyond the arc.
Heading into the game against the Warriors, Trey had connected on 10 of his 14 field goal attempts. In 31 minutes of summer league action, Thompkins had already tallied a highly-productive 25 points, making all three of his three-point tries.
While it’s by far a forgone conclusion that Trey will make the Lakers’ roster – especially since they recently drafted and signed Julius Randle – if he continues to shoot the ball well from the outside there is a chance that LA keeps him on to deepen their bench at the power forward position.
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.
The AJC’s Michael Carvell reported late last night that Coach Mark Fox picked up a pair of commitments – a 3-star and an unranked prospect – that will make up Georgia’s 2014 freshmen class.
The 3-star recruit – Yante Maten – stands at 6’8″ and weighs 230 pounds. Maten, a Bloomfield, Michigan native, apparently received offers from both Michigan State and Indiana, but he was upset that both of those schools offered him late (and by “late”, I mean less than a week ago for each school).
The unranked prospect – Fred Iduwe – is a 6’11” recruit who currently hails from just outside of Milwaukee (via Nigeria). Iduwe reportedly chose Georgia over the likes of North Dakota and Wisconsin-Green Bay, which should provide some comfort to UGA fans that the Dawgs’ basketball program carries more prestige than those two aforementioned powerhouses.
Frankly speaking, it seems like Fox secured a potential contributor in Maten and a project in Iduwe. Any high school senior who has not been signed at this point in the year is most likely not going to provide an instant impact on the court next season.
The Dawgs return almost the entire team for the 2014-2015 season (minus Donte Williams), and they should be a contender for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
However, Fox only has two more seasons with his star backcourt duo of Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines.
Recruiting has been Fox’s achilles heel during his tenure in Athens, and these two signings are not going to settle the fan base.
If Fox cannot land several major talents in next year’s recruiting class, UGA’s upward trend of success – assuming next year is a success – will level off with the eventual departures of Mann and Gaines following the 2015-2016 season.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs looked primed and ready for the early tipoff in Athens this morning, while Georgia appeared hungover.
Tech’s pressure overwhelmed the Dawgs from the opening tip, forcing UGA into 4 turnovers before the game was 3 minutes old. In addition to the stingy defense, LA Tech was on fire from the outside, connecting on 7 of its first 8 three-pointers, allowing the other Bulldogs to open up a 39-13 advantage with 7:27 left before the intermission.
Georgia was completely overmatched to start the game, unable to slow down Louisiana Tech’s onslaught.
The Dawgs did manage to cut the lead to 19 points heading into the break, but the initial pummeling that Georgia took at the beginning of the game ended up being too much to overcome.
UGA was less careless with the basketball in the game’s final 20 minutes and LA Tech cooled off a bit, but the hole that Georgia dug for itself was just too deep.
The Dawgs gave the home crowd a glimmer of hope when they trimmed the LA Tech advantage to 62-54 with 6:06 remaining in the game after a three-pointer from Kenny Gaines. However, the other Bulldogs quickly quieted Stegeman Coliseum by going on a 7-2 run which was capped off by a Kenny Smith three, making it 69-56 with just 2:40 left.
LA Tech would go on to win 79-71, and the UGA season came to an abrupt end at about 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
Georgia’s 19 turnovers led to 17 points for Tech, and 16 of those came in the first half.
Charles Mann, who finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, unfortunately committed another 7 turnovers, matching his total from the first-round game against Vermont.
Freshman J.J. Frazier paced the Dawgs offensively, scoring a career-high 15 points, including a 4 for 7 performance from beyond the arc.
Today’s loss puts UGA’s record for the season at 20-14, which is certainly better than most anticipated coming into the 2013-2014 season.
While Georgia certainly overachieved this year, for whatever reason, this team did not appear to be that interested in being a part of the NIT. The Dawgs needed a late second-half comeback to beat a less talented Vermont team at home in the opening round. This morning, UGA turned in maybe its worst first half of the season.
Some teams use the postseason NIT as an opportunity to tack on some additional wins in the hopes that it builds momentum going into the next season.
That did not happen for Georgia.
Dawgs fans should feel optimistic about next year’s basketball season, but the sleepy performances that UGA provided in its two NIT games felt a little too similar to the games Georgia played back in November to start the season.
If the Dawgs hope to be closer to the NCAA bubble next March, they must find a way to avoid these lackadaisical games going forward.
Georgia appeared dead in the water after Sandro Carissimo – who led Vermont with 11 points – hit a jumper to put his Vermont team up 52-45 with just 6:30 left in the game.
The Dawgs had relinquished a 29-20 halftime advantage, and they looked as if they had no interest in defending the perimeter.
Charles Mann, however, had other plans, scoring 11 of his career-high 29 points in the game’s final minutes, helping his Bulldog team finish the game on an 18-4 run en route to the 63-56 victory.
Vermont could not handle Mann, allowing the sophomore to get to the rim at will.
Marcus Thornton chipped in 16 points, which gave him and Mann a combined 45 of the team’s 63 points on the night.
UGA’s biggest problem in this game was itself as the Dawgs committed 22 turnovers against the Catamounts. Charles Mann may have netted 29 points this evening, but he also carried the turnover load as well by giving the ball to Vermont a team-high 7 times.
Georgia escaped tonight’s game against Vermont by mostly relying on its athleticism.
Unfortunately for UGA, Georgia’s next opponent in the NIT – 3-seed Louisiana Tech – is far more athletic than Vermont and the other Bulldogs tend to play the game at a more uptempo pace.
The Dawgs will need to be less careless with the ball against LaTech of they hope to keep playing in this tournament.