Will Wayne Chism Play?

According to a news report out of Knoxville, TN, Tennessee center Wayne Chism has not practiced the past week, while getting treatment for his injured ankle and hip.

He was a “game time” decision last Saturday in the Vols game at Kentucky.  He didn’t start the game, but Chism did play 30 minutes and finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds.

Another report from GoVols.com revealed that Pearl may be shuffling his lineup somewhat in anticipation for tonight’s game against the Dawgs.  More specifically, that Tennessee center/behemoth Brian Williams could play a lot more minutes tonight than he played in his first two games back from suspension.

Who knows if and how much Chism will play, but one thing’s for sure: The Dawgs have Bruce Pearl’s full attention.  The Vols remember getting dominated in Athens, and they are on the verge of the first 3-game losing streak of J.P. Prince’s career at UT.

With their backs against the wall, how will the Vols respond?

Nobody knows, but one thing is for sure – this should be a very intense game.

Georgia Visits Knoxville

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Will the Vols fans get to see any of Travis Leslie's high-flying dunks on Wednesday?

The Georgia Bulldogs basketball team heads to Knoxville, TN on Wednesday to take on Bruce Pearl’s #20 Tennessee Volunteers (18-6 overall; 6-4 SEC).

Georgia snapped a 10-game losing streak with their thrilling 78-63 blow-out win over the Vols in Athens back in January.

The game on Wednesday will be played at the Thompson-Boling Arena, a place where the Dawgs haven’t won since February 21, 2001.

The road as been anything but kind to Georgia this year, as they are now 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the SEC in true away games.  An outside observer would certainly not give the Dawgs much of a chance in this one.

Georgia, however, is coming off a 66-61 comeback victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks, and looking to build a little momentum.

Tennessee has lost two straight road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and surely this team will be excited about getting home in front of their own fans.

With the dismissal of All-SEC forward Tyler Smith back in early January, senior center Wayne Chism has done a marvelous job of leading this team.  In SEC play this season, Chism is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game.  He is the team’s best inside scorer and certainly the Vols’ “go to” guy in the clutch.

Senior wingman J.P. Prince has been a “do everything” sort of player for Tennessee.  In SEC games, he is averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.  Prince is also an excellent defender, who can make it very difficult on the opposing team’s perimeter players with his long body and athleticism.

On the perimeter, the Vols are led by sophomore Scotty Hopson and senior point guard Bobby Maze.  Hopson is averaging 11.8 points in conference games, and he has hit 39.2% of his three-point field goals on the season.  Maze is scoring 9.8 points a game in SEC play.

Off the bench, Bruce Pearl has gotten solid play from freshman forward Kenny Hall, who is scoring 5.1 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds in SEC play.  Junior guard Melvin Goins has scored 25 points over the last two games against Vandy and Kentucky.

Since the last meeting between these two teams, Pearl has reinstated junior center Brian Williams.  Williams has only played a total of 3 minutes in his first two games back, but the 6’10” 267lb Vol is a load inside and could see a significant increase in playing time against the Dawgs’ big frontcourt.

Here is how the Dawgs can pull off an upset in Knoxville on Wednesday: (and yes I understand Georgia hasn’t won a true road game this year)

Zone Defense

Tennessee does not shoot the ball well.  As a team, the Vols are knocking down 42.1% from the field, and only 29.7% from beyond the arc!  In the game in Athens, Fox used a packed-in 1-2-2 zone against Bruce Pearl’s Vols and it frustrated Tennessee into shooting 42.3% on field goals and 18.8% on three-pointers.  As long as the Dawgs’ defenders can contest shots by Hopson, and keep track of Chism when he slips out to the perimeter Georgia should be able to hold the Vols offense in check.

Who’s Got the Better Bench?

In the game in Athens, Georgia’s bench outscored Tennessee’s 16-13.  This was due in large part to the play from EA and Jeremy Price.  In 15 minutes of play, Anyaorah finished the game with 7 points and 4 assists.  Price gave Coach Fox 9 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes.  These two guys (along with Vincent Williams and Chris Barnes)  have got to be able to come into the game and contribute.

Outscoring the Vols bench this time around could be more difficult for the Dawgs.  Remember that in the last game Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were just being eased back into the rotation following their suspensions.  Add in the return of reserve center Brian Williams, and it is easy to see how the Vols bench could be up to the challenge on Wednesday.

Play Smart Trey

As evidenced by the Auburn game last week, Georgia becomes a much different team when Trey Thompkins is not on the court (that’s what happens when your leading scorer and rebounder and team-leader leaves the game).  I guarantee that Bruce Pearl’s staff took note of this, and I would be willingly to bet that Chism and the other Tennessee frontcourt players attack Trey in the paint on offense.  Albert Jackson and Jeremy Price need to give Thompkins help on the inside, and Trey needs to be careful not to pick up silly fouls because as he goes so go the Dawgs.

A Little Bit of Mojo

Everyone knows that Georgia is 0-8 in true road games this season, and on paper they really don’t have much of a shot to pull off the upset at Tennessee (last I checked UGA was an 11.5 point underdog in this one).  However, for some reason this team thrives against stout competition, as evidenced by the Dawgs 3-2 record against ranked opponents this year.  A lot of Georgia basketball fans thought the Dawgs had a chance of getting their first road win at South Carolina (didn’t happen), and even more thought that Georgia would certainly nab one at Auburn (didn’t come close to happening).  Maybe Wednesday night the Dawgs will steal a game that no one expects them to?  Before dismissing this possibility, please think back to this season’s SEC opener at Kentucky in which Georgia came very close to shocking the then ranked #3 Wildcats on their own court…

The game tips off at 8PM EST and will be televised on Peachtree TV – channel 7 for Comcast and 802 for Comcast HD.

Anyone else giving Georgia  a chance in this game?

Bulldogs in 2011 NBA Draft

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Not since Jarvis Hayes was the the 10th pick overall in the 2003 NBA Draft has Georgia had a player leave early for the NBA

This morning I found myself perusing the NBA Draft website, which allows users to look at the NBA’s “Mock” drafts for 2010 and 2011 (basically how they anticipate the draft going based on the information that the NBA draft experts have right now).

What I saw on the link for the 2011 Mock NBA Draft was amazing!  The site currently lists Travis Leslie as being the 12th pick in the draft, and Howard “Trey” Thompkins going 19th.

This is great news for these two young players, but to Georgia basketball fans it could mean that these guys will only be with the Dawgs for one more year.

With the addition of junior guard Gerald Robinson, Jr next season, and the added maturity that Thompkins, Leslie, Dustin Ware and Jeremy Price will gain over the summer, it is safe to say that the Dawgs should be contenders in the SEC next year (and quite possibly potential dancers in next year’s NCAA Tourney).

Hopefully Coach Mark Fox will be able to take advantage of his talented roster next year, because he could lose a couple of juniors to the NBA after the season…something that hasn’t been an issue for a UGA basketball coach in quite some time.

Dawgs Top Gamecocks 66-61

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Jeremy Price was the Big Man on Campus in Athens today

The University of Georgia student section is fostering an atmosphere of eccentricity, with one student seemingly trying to out-do the next.

First, there was the “Rocky” fan (who is now the most normal of them all) – he usually does a run up the stairs during a timeout in the second half with music and clips from the heralded “Rocky” movie playing in the background.

Today, there was a very jumpy young man who had his entire body painted in what looked like a red and black business suit (I have my suspicions that this could have been the infamous “Peanut Butter Man” but I would need the Athens Clarke-County forensics team’s help to prove it).

Finally, a new character has entered this kooky arena – Swimmer Man.  This student dons nothing but a USA Speedo and a swimmers cap.  He sits behind the basket, and when the opposing team shoots free throws, everyone makes way so that he can jump up and down and present his Speedo through a series of pelvic thrusts to the player at the line.

Whatever these crazy fans are doing, the Georgia basketball team likes it as they are now 11-3 at home.

The Dawgs went on a 21-7 run in the game’s final 6 minutes to pull out the 66-61 win over the Gamecocks.

With 5:49 left, Devan Downey knocked down a shot that put Carolina up 54-45…Georgia was in a tough spot.

But a couple of Dustin Ware three-pointers, and some big buckets from Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price and the Dawgs prevailed.  Thompkins was a leader through and through, scoring 9 of his 21 points in the game’s final 5 minutes and snaring a game-high 10 rebounds.

Defensively, the Dawgs played a lot of a 1-2-2 and 1-3-1 zone for most of the contest (I would have liked to have seen some man but I guess it all worked out), and seemingly held Devan Downey in check.  Downey ended up with 18 points on 6-22 shooting from the field.

As a team, South Carolina only hit 36.9% from the field and 28.1% from three-point range (they hoisted up 32 shots from beyond the arc!).

Jeremy Price played maybe his  best game ever as a Bulldog.  Price finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds, and was a big part of the offense in the game’s final minutes (he had 5 points in the last 2 minutes).  He gave the Dawgs a great inside presence, and I loved the way he was attacking the basket and drawing fouls.

Travis Leslie had a nice line – 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  Leslie’s passing game is getting better and better, and he is doing a great job of opening up his teammates for good looks when he attacks the rim.  Coming into this game, Leslie was actually averaging 3.56 assists a game in SEC Play (9th in the conference).

Georgia is now 3-7 in the SEC this season.  It was great to see the team enjoy this win on the court after the game – Price and Thompkins were clearly happy as they celebrated with a barrage of chest-bumps.

I’m about to head out to dinner in the Classic City and enjoy it myself!

Dawgs Host Gamecocks

The South Carolina Gamecocks (14-9 overall, 5-4 SEC) roll into Athens Saturday afternoon looking to complete their second straight season sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs Men’s Basketball team.

The ‘Cocks are coming off a 77-71 win over the Florida Gators, and are listed as a potential “bubble team” for NCAA tournament.  They still have games left against Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, so needless to say, they are really going to want to get this one against the Dawgs.

Carolina won the first match-up between these two teams in Columbia 78-77.  It was a game in which Georgia held the lead for the majority of the night (the Dawgs actually had the lead for nearly 14 minutes in the second half), but Devon Downey took over in the game’s final minutes and finished up with 33 points.

Since the win over the Dawgs, Carolina has lost at Tennessee and won at home against the Gators (as mentioned above).  Their offense still pretty much revolves around Downey, who is averaging 30.1 points per game in SEC play.

However, Downey has gotten more support on the scoring front  from fellow guard Brandis Raley-Ross and forward Sam Muldrow.  Over the past two games, Ross and Muldrow are averaging 16.0 and 11.0 points, respectively.

During the Gamecocks’ last two games, this trio has taken nearly 70% of the team’s field goal attempts.  Ross has knocked down 7 of 20 three-point attempts over the last two games (his season average is 40.4%).  Teams can sometimes lose track of where he is on the court because they get overly concerned with keeping track of Devan Downey.

Carolina is only 1-6 on the road this season, that lone win coming in their SEC opener at Auburn.

Keys to the Game

Man Up

In the first half of the season Coach Mark Fox had his Bulldogs running an aggressive 1-2-2 zone with Travis Leslie up top, and I loved it.  However, I am not as big of a fan of the version I have seen lately (like in the Auburn game).  I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or tired legs, but the Dawgs zone defense has broken down in the half court set and is giving teams way too many wide open looks.

The Dawgs need to come out and play hard-nosed man-to-man defense against the Gamecocks on Saturday.  Carolina does not have better athletes than Georgia, so matching up with them should not be a problem.  Georgia needs someone (Travis Leslie or EA?) to hound Downey and follow him everywhere he goes on the court.

Maybe mix in some of the zone periodically just to keep the ‘Cocks off-balanced.

The Big Payback

Trey Thompkins is 0-3 against South Carolina so far in his young career.  In the last meeting, Thompkins only scored one field goal in the games final 8 minutes (and he missed a reverse lay-up that could have put Georgia ahead).  Furthermore, Trey is coming off his worst performance of the year against Auburn, a game in which he fouled out while playing only 13 minutes.

The Dawgs need an All-SEC performance out of Thompkins on Saturday, and they especially need him on the court and scoring in the games closing minutes.

Notes

-If Travis Leslie puts up some good numbers against the ‘Cocks, he will probably be the leading candidate for this week’s “SEC Player of the Week” award (considering he already has 19 points & 17 rebounds to his name).  Last game against USC, Leslie had 5 dunks…what’s the over/under on how many flushes Leslie gets on Saturday?

-Georgia is 10-3 this season in games played in Athens, GA.

-I’ll be heading up to Athens tomorrow for this one.   Tip-off is at 4:00PM, and it would be great to see a packed-out Stegeman Colesium to welcome the team back.

-If you can’t make it, the game will be televised on Peachtree TV (channel 7 for all Comcast customers).

Auburn Smacks Georgia 82-63

The Georgia Bulldogs basketball team didn’t take the lead once in last night’s game against Auburn…they were barely even in it.

With 8:22 left in the first half, the Dawgs pulled within one point on a Dustin Ware three-pointer to make the score 23-22 Auburn.  However, this was the closest Georgia came to catching the Tigers, and they essentially spent the entire second half down by more than 10 points.

The Dawgs shot poorly from the field (36.5%), committed 19 turnovers (only 9 assists) and played lackluster defense.

Auburn’s senior forward Lucas Hargrove, who came into the game averaging 13 points a game, was unstoppable all night and matched his season-high of 24 points…The Dawgs bigs made Hargrove look like Lebron James or Kobe Bryant.

Trey Thompkins played only 13 minutes due to foul trouble.  He finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 6 turnovers before fouling out with 8:33 left in the second half.

The lone bright spot for Georgia was the play of Travis Leslie, who finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Dustin Ware played decently, chipping in 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting (and he didn’t commit any turnovers).

The Georgia Bulldogs are now 10-12 overall and 2-7 in the SEC.  Last night’s game solidified the fact that Georgia is an extremely mediocre team away from the confines of the Classic City (0-8 in true road games).

The Dawgs hopes of making the NIT took a big hit last night, as they now need to win 5 out of their next 7 to finish with a winning record overall.

Georgia @ Auburn Wednesday 9:00PM EST

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Jeremy Price is averaging 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds over his last two games.

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-11, 2-6 SEC) head to The Plains on Wednesday to take on the Auburn Tigers (11-12, 2-6 SEC).   The loser of this contest will earn sole possession of the SEC’s second-worst record.

The Auburn Tigers are 8-5 while playing at home this season, but their SEC home record sits at an abysmal 1-3 (the only win over 3-6 Alabama).

However, if there is one team in this conference that you can get healthy against on your home court it’s the Georgia Bulldogs.  The Dawgs are win-less in seven true road games, including 0-4 in SEC away match-ups.

The Tigers style of play is best described as chaotic.  They look to press teams, run the court and shoot threes.  And when I say “shoot threes”, I mean like no other team in the conference.  Auburn is hoisting up 25 three-pointers a game in SEC play, accounting for nearly 43% of their overall field goal attempts!

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they are only making 32.5% as a team from beyond the arc.  However, they are leading the SEC with 8.13 three-pointers made a game (mostly due to the sheer number of shots that they take).

Auburn’s backcourt features seniors DeWayne Reed and Tay Waller (a native of Manchester, GA), along with sophomore Frankie Sullivan.  The tallest of this bunch is Waller, who stands at a mere 6’2″.  This might explain their fondness for the long ball.

DeWayne Reed leads the Tigers in both scoring and assists, averaging 16.0 and 4.4 a game, respectively.  Sullivan is the most accurate shooter on the team, knocking down 39.7% from three-point range and scoring 13.4 a game.  Waller shoots 37.6% from beyond the arc, and is averaging 12.9 points.

Seniors Lucas Hargrove and Johnnie Lett round out Auburn’s starting frontcourt.  Hargrove (6’6″) is the team’s leading rebounder with 7.1 a game to go along with 13.3 points.  Lett is the taller of the two, standing at 6’8″ and weighing 210 pounds – he only nets 2.3 points a night.  Lett starts most games, but he actually yields a lot of playing time to reserve 6’10” senior center Brendan Knox.  Knox is averaging 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds in only 20 minutes of play.

Auburn plays a lot of guys off the bench, but none of them average more than 3.5 points per game and thus seem unworthy of being mentioned.

Keys to the Game

Winning After A Win

Georgia followed up their win over Georgia Tech with a loss at Kentucky (forgivable).  The Dawgs followed up their win over Tennessee by getting blown out in Gainesville (not as forgivable).  Georgia is coming off its third win of the season over a ranked opponent (Vandy), and now the team heads back on the road…seeing the pattern here?  Hopefully Fox has everyone on the team focused on the upcoming task at hand, as opposed to rejoicing in last Saturday’s upset of then #18 ranked Vanderbilt.  It seems unlikely that Georgia could take Auburn lightly, especially since UGA has yet to win a game away from Athens this season.  But these are 18 and 19-year old kids, so anything is possible.

Tempo, Tempo

As I mentioned, Auburn likes to apply full-court pressure and play at a fast pace.  The Tigers are tied for second in the conference with 7.38 steals per game.  Georgia is last in the SEC in turnover margin at -5.5, and the Dawgs are giving the ball away 17.3 times a game.  If Georgia’s guards are careless with the ball (see Missouri, Kentucky, Miss St or Florida games) and can’t handle the press this game could get ugly.

However, if UGA breaks the press and turns this thing into a half-court  game, I don’t see how Auburn can compete.  The Tigers are last in the conference in scoring defense, surrendering 77.2 a game in SEC play.    The Georgia bigs will have a distinct size advantage inside and should look to exploit it all night.  Auburn’s SEC rebounding margin is -1.5 per game, which is to be expected considering their small lineup.

Coach Mark Fox will want his guys to play half-court ball and totally dominate the paint.

Mix It Up

The last two games, Georgia has played primarily man-to-man defense the entire game (which I love).  However, due to Auburn’s preference for shots from outside the three-point line, it might be beneficial to the Dawgs to mix in some of their 1-2-2 zone as well.  Offenses can struggle when they face multiple defensive sets, and the 1-2-2 zone will still allow Georgia to contest three-point attempts (the 1-2-2 zone worked very well against MSU earlier in the year – another team that likes to chuck it)

Bonus Note

Several of this blog’s regular commentors have mentioned the marked improvement in Georgia’s passing game since the arrival of Coach Fox.  As of February 6th, 2010, the Dawgs are leading the SEC with 15.0 assists per game!

Not to fluff Coach Fox’s feathers too much, but his UGA squad is also leading the conference in field goal and three-point percentage at 49.2% and 42.7%, respectively.

Thank you Triangle Offense!

Don’t forget to vote for Travis Leslie as the Best Dunker in the SEC