Just like the season before, Georgia will be losing two key seniors from its roster as it heads into the offseason. With the departures of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, UGA will need to replace 23.7 points per night. In addition to the loss of offensive production, the Dawgs will also need someone to step up and assume the role of shutdown defender that Gaines has occupied for the past four years.
The good news, however, is that Coach Mark Fox’s team returns its two leading scorers, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, both of whom finished with over 16 points per game. Frazier and Maten were named to the postseason All-SEC second team this year, and surely they will each find a spot on the preseason All-SEC first team heading into next season. Georgia is fortunate to have bonafide stars at both the guard and forward positions.
The biggest concern offensively for the Dawgs next year at this point has to be perimeter shooting. Both Frazier and Gaines knocked down over 38% of their three-point tries this year, but Gaines is gone, leaving Georgia with only one legitimate outside threat. What happens when J.J. has to sit?
Georgia’s incoming freshman guards, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris, each connected on over 40% of their shots from beyond the arc in their senior seasons in high school. At least one of these guys will need to come in an establish himself as an outside scorer from the start. I also understand that Mark Fox is actively recruiting a graduate transfer for next year, so here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping that he gets one who can fill it up from the perimeter.
Joining Yante Maten in the paint will be sophomores Derek Ogbeide and Michael Edwards. Ogbeide proved himself to be a tenacious rebounder in his freshman campaign, averaging over 5 boards per contest in just 15 minutes a game. Next year he should see increased minutes, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the big fella ring up more than a few double-doubles.
Michael Edwards is an intriguing player who could either have a Travis Leslie-esque jump next year, or he could continue doing more of the same from what we saw this season. If you recall, Leslie appeared wild and uncoordinated in his first year of UGA basketball, netting just 6 points a game. However, Leslie burst onto the season in year number two, netting nearly 15 points and 7 rebounds a night. Much like Leslie, Edwards, who possesses an imposing 6’9″ frame, showed signs of that same sort of raw athleticism as a freshman. If Edwards can learn to improve his footwork and get better control of his body, Dawgs fans could see significant gains from the sophomore big.
ESPN released its “Way too early Top 25” and Joe Lunardi posted his initial “Bracketology” for the 2017 season; Georgia wasn’t included in either of them. Maybe its for the best, since the Dawgs were projected in the NCAA tournament field by Lunardi prior to this year and, well, we all know how that turned out.
But make no mistake: UGA SHOULD make the NCAA tournament next season with the personnel the Dawgs are returning. Whether that happens or not is on Coach Mark Fox. In the past five regular seasons, Georgia is now 4-34 against the RPI Top 50, a record that is truly atrocious. Playing good competition is not enough. At some point, UGA needs to break through and start winning some of these games. Another NIT appearance is unacceptable.
Georgia followed up its best offensive output of the season – a 93-point effort in the win over Belmont – with one of its worst performances on Sunday night in Moraga, California. The Dawgs couldn’t finish on the inside, and their outside shooting was terrible, making just 4 of 17 three-point attempts. Saint Mary’s, on the other hand, didn’t have any trouble scoring the ball as they knocked down 50% of their field goal attempts en route to a relatively easy 77-65 win over UGA in the second round of the NIT Tournament.
The Dawgs offense looked inauspicious from the start. Yante Maten, coming off the best offensive performance of his career against Belmont, struggled mightily in half number one. Maten made just 3 of his 13 field goal attempts, with many of his misses coming on very makable shots. Things didn’t get any better for Yante in the second half either as he finished the game with 12 points on a 6 for 22 shooting effort.
As a team, UGA made under 30% of its shots prior to the intermission. Georgia endured one of its typical scoring droughts in the first half, this one lasting nearly 8 minutes. During this stretch, Georgia failed to convert a field goal, while Saint Mary’s went on a 15-3 run that bolstered its lead to 27-17. The Gaels would take a 36-23 advantage into the break.
Georgia’s defense was equally as frustrating as its offense. Coach Mark Fox moved his guys from a zone to man, and then back to zone. Regardless, the Dawgs were slow to close out on the Gaels all game. Saint Mary’s moved the ball quickly around the floor, and it seemed like the Georgia players were always a second late getting to the right spot. The Gaels made 9 shots from beyond the arc, knocking down almost 38% of their attempts. Saint Mary’s had four players finish in double-figures, with Emmett Naar leading the way with 15 points.
The Dawgs also had four starters end the game in double-digits. Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier led Bulldogs with 13 points apiece.
This loss ends Georgia’s season as the Dawgs finish up at 20-14 overall. Today’s game also marks the last for seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who both finished in the top twenty of UGA’s all-time scoring leaders.
The Dawgs had another chance today to notch an RPI Top 50 win (ESPN had the Gaels at 40), but alas it wasn’t meant to be, making Georgia 0 for 6 on the year against teams of this caliber.
Next year, UGA is going to have to win some of these games if they want to be playing on CBS, TBS, TNT or TRU TV this time of year, rather than ESPNU.
With a little over 5 minutes remaining in the game and Georgia leading by just 2 points, Yante Maten picked up a ball booted by Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw, took it the length of the floor and finished with a thunderous dunk that electrified the UGA crowd. Belmont could have easily folded at this point, but instead the Bruins fought to stick around, trimming the Dawgs’ advantage back down to four points with 2:13 left. On the next possession, though, J.J. Frazier knocked down a three-pointer from just inside the construction site for the new indoor football practice facility, giving UGA 83-76 lead with under two minutes remaining. Belmont would not get any closer as the Dawgs earned a 93-84 win and the right to play St. Mary’s in the second round of the NIT.
Though Frazier may have delivered the dagger in this one, the story on the night was all about Yante Maten. Maten scored 20 of his career 33 points in the first half, including a 3 for 3 performance from the three-point line. Shockingly, Belmont opted not to double on Maten when he received the ball on the block, and the Bruins paid dearly for this decision as Yante was an astounding 14 for 17 from the floor. In addition to his prolific scoring, he also grabbed 10 rebounds to notch his 10th double-double of the season.
Almost overshadowed by Maten’s phenomenal performance was Charles Mann, who scored a season-high 23 points this evening. Surprisingly, the majority of Mann’s points came from beyond the arc, where he buried 4 of his 6 three-point attempts. I’m not sure what to make of Mann’s newfound outside shot, other than I wish it had showed up a bit earlier in his career.
J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines both struggled from the floor as each of them shot below 40% on the night. However, they finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
This game did not feature much defense as both teams got the ball up the court and into scoring opportunities with relative ease. Belmont shot over 47% from the field as a team, and they were right on their season average from the perimeter at a little bit above 37%. The Bruins had 5 players end the game in double-figures, with senior Craig Bradshaw leading the way with 19 points.
Tonight’s victory marked Georgia’s 20th of the season, making it three-straight years in which the Dawgs have eclipsed that mark. Seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann have been an integral part of this successful run, and hopefully this evening’s game will not be the last time we see these two play inside Stegeman Coliseum. However, should 1-seed Valpo knock off 4-seed FSU tomorrow night, Georgia would not get another home game even if the Dawgs manage to win on the road against St. Mary’s in the second round.
But for now, UGA can be satisfied knowing that its season will continue on to another game.
Mark Fox has done a pretty good job at Georgia over the past three seasons. The Dawgs were above .500 in the conference this year for the third straight time. Should Georgia hold serve tomorrow night in The Steg against Belmont, Coach Fox will enjoy his third straight 20-win season, certainly no small feat since it hasn’t been done since the streak between ’96-98.
The AJC and other local media outlets have written numerous articles lately highlighting these accomplishments. I get it: things are better now than they were before Fox got here.
And I’m not advocating that Georgia get rid of Fox – he has two 4-star guards coming in next year to join J.J. Frazier, Yante Maten and a crop of rising sophomores that for the most part got decent game experience in their freshman seasons.
However, when it comes to winning against stronger competition, Fox’s teams have failed. Since the departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, Georgia has won just 4 of its 38 games against the RPI Top 50. Additionally, the Dawgs are just 3-22 when playing ranked opponents during the same time span. And again, this inability to perform well against better teams has been over the course of the past 5 seasons when UGA has been playing with Fox’s guys on the court.
Georgia doesn’t need a “breakthrough moment” as Mark Bradley stated in his article the other day. They need many of them. Georgia is the flagship university of the state and Atlanta is a hotbed for high school basketball recruiting. This weekend, if you tune in to watch any of the NCAA tournament you will surely see plenty of rosters sporting players from the state of Georgia (1-seed Virginia has 3). UGA is in a Power 5 conference, yet its track record against the RPI Top 50 resembles that of a mid-major program.
At some point, Georgia needs to become a regular in the NCAA tournament. Can Fox get them there?
If Georgia was on the NCAA bubble heading into the Selection Sunday, they were on the very outer fringe of it. The Dawgs, who just fell short of knocking off the Kentucky Wildcats yesterday, ultimately didn’t have enough quality wins to convince the committee to include them in the field of 68.
However, when one door closes, another one opens. In this case, that other door is the NIT, where Georgia has been named a 3-seed, and they will play the sixth-seeded Belmont Bruins. As the higher seed, the Dawgs will take on the Bruins in Athens on Wednesday night.
Belmont won the regular season Ohio Valley Conference title, but the Bruins were knocked out of their league tournament, which shut the door on any aspirations that they might have held in regards to dancing. At quick glance, the main thing that jumps out off the Bruins’ stat sheet is their proclivity to knock down three’s – Belmont made over 36% of its attempts from beyond the arc this season.
Both teams share a common opponent – Murray State- whom they each beat on their respective home courts.
I am definitely curious as to what Georgia’s mindset will be heading into this game. Not making the NCAA Tournament has to be a tough pill for this UGA team to swallow, especially for the two seniors. What will UGA’s mentality be on Tuesday evening, just days removed from the loss in Nashville and the letdown this afternoon?
First off, a huge thank you to my friend Decatur Dawg for keeping the updates going over the past week as I completed a 108-mile section of the Continental Divide Trail in southern New Mexico. I managed to catch the first two games via WatchESPN on my phone, and I even got to see today’s game in a sports bar in Silver City, NM, but without access to a computer I could have not written a single word about what transpired in Nashville, so I most certainly appreciate all his efforts.
This afternoon, the Dawgs put together their best half of the season en route to a 49-44 halftime lead. Everything that could have possibly been clicking for Georgia was clicking: Kenny Gaines had 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting, Yante Maten was making every hook shot he could get up, and even seldomly used Turtle Jackson chipped in a pair of three’s.
But alas, UGA couldn’t sustain its 61% field goal shooting for ever. The Dawgs cooled off after the the intermission, connecting on just 34% of their shots from the floor, while Kentucky warmed up, making over 55% of their tries from the field.
Oh yea, and Georgia’s star player, J.J. Frazier, went down a little over 4 minutes into the second half with a painful-looking ankle injury that resulted from him landing ackwardly on the foot of a Kentucky big on a drive to the basket. Frazier headed to the lockerroom for treatment, and he did gut it out and return, but J.J. was not the same, moving gingerly around the court as he tried his best to play through the injury.
Kentucky capitalized while Frazier was sidelined, erasing a 62-54 UGA lead over the next five minutes. Isaiah Briscoe, who finished with 12 points, made a layup with 8:16 remaining to give his Wildcats a 68-67 advantage. Briscoe hit a jumper with 6 minutes left to send the Wildcat lead to 74-69, capping off a 20-7 Kentucky run. At this point, Big Blue Nation was on its feet and as loud as ever as their beloved Cats ran away with the game down the stretch on its way to 93-80 semifinal victory.
Kentucky’s Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulises lived up to their All-SEC billings, scoring 26 and 25 points, respectively. Coach Calipari’s team was extremely protective of the ball, turning it over just 5 times on Saturday; UGA had only 12 turnovers themselves, but the Cats were opportunistic and converted them into 20 points.
Credit Coach Mark Fox and his staff for putting up such a valiant effort, especially considering his team was coming off back-to-back late night tips. Fox employed a wholesale substitution strategy throughout the first half in an effort to keep his guys fresh, and while it seemed unorthodox, for the most part it worked. Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier led the Dawgs with 20 and 19 points, respectively. Gaines chipped in 16 points, though he failed to convert a field goal following the halftime break.
Moving forward, it seems most likely that Georgia will be hosting an NIT game next week. The Dawgs’ RPI should hover around 60 even with today’s loss, and they could possibly receive a small boost from Seton Hall’s Big East conference championship. By no means is Georgia completely out of the picture regarding the Big Dance: the committee has selected teams with RPI’s in the 60s before, Georgia has a highly-respected non-conference schedule and I’m just certain that the SEC will get at least 3 teams (2 would be a complete slap to the league’s face as a Power 5 conference).
For now, UGA fans should be proud of their team and hopeful that the selection committee liked what they saw in Nashville this week.
Decatur Dawg with my third game write-up, all wins!
The Bulldogs beat NCAA “lock” South Carolina for the third time this season and JJ Fraiser put himself on the map as a national star in a thrilling one point win late Friday night in Nashville. Hoop Dawgs fans saw a rare outburst of celebration from Coach Fox at the end as he wiped out on the floor when JJ made the game winning steal with 2 seconds left.
Georgia spent most of the first half putting on an ugly performance of offense. Early in the half the Dawgs had a hard time just getting off field goal attempts. There was little to no rhythm, JJ was out of control and Maten could not finish. South Carolina came out playing very physical with us and had control of the game it seemed. Georgia’s zone defense looked lazy and the Gamecocks, led by Thornwell with 13 points, made open jumpers.
Then, somehow, the Dawgs went to halftime down only 3 points. (It looked like KPG had scored a weird dunk at the buzzer to cut the lead to one but it was waived off). Coach Martin looked like he was having a stroke during his halftime interview.
The Cocks came out aggressive again to start the second half and it was Coach Fox’s turn to freak out as Carolina went up by 11 early in the second half. Georgia answered though with a 9-0 run and tied the game at 47 with JJ’s coast to coast drive with 9:00 left. JJ continued to beat the Cocks down the court but the Dawgs could not get over the hump and take the lead. Finally, with 3:00 left Mann’s free throws gave the Dawgs their first lead 60-59.
Carolina led by 2 in the last minute when JJ Fraiser took over the game to win it for the Dawgs. First he split a double team and delivered a sweet teardrop floater over their center to tie the game with about 20 seconds left. Thornwell then tried to take JJ off the dribble but JJ stole the ball from him and drew a foul with two seconds left. Fraiser was super-confident and made the first free throw for his 20th point of the game before missing the second intentionally (a nice call by Fox).
The Dawgs only had the lead for a total of 42 seconds of game time but it was enough. The team showed real toughness and commitment. We now get 16 hours off before we tip off with Big Blue tomorrow afternoon.