Last Friday night, the University of Georgia Bulldogs 2009-2010 basketball season was ended by the Vanderbilt Commodores in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
The Bulldogs finished the year with a 5-11 record in SEC play, and 14-17 overall (with one SEC tournament win) while taking on the nation’s 16th most difficult schedule. This was an improvement from the Dawgs’ 2008-2009 campaign, in which they ended up 3-13 in SEC play and 12-20 overall.
There is a one statistic that highlights Georgia’s improvement more than any other – SEC scoring margin.
During the 2008-2009 season (Felton’s last), the Bulldogs SEC scoring margin was -12.6. That number drastically improved this year to -2.4, showing that the Dawgs were competitive in just about every SEC game they played.
In Coach Mark Fox’s first season as head coach, he certainly generated more interest around the state in Georgia basketball. The Dawgs won a slew of big games – Georgia Tech, Illinois, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida – and the average attendance at Stegeman Coliseum increased from 6,678 last year to 6,834 per game this season.
The Dawgs led the conference in team field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and assists per game.
If you are planning on watching this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, you will notice that there are six teams in the field that Georgia played this year – they beat three of them.
Observations from the 2009-2010 season
Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie.
I realize that the sentence above is missing a few verbs and objects, but I still feel like the idea was expressed clearly (and succinctly). Thompkins and Leslie emerged as leaders this year, and they have energized the Georgia fan base and given them plenty to be excited about for next season. Thompkins is still not listed on the NBA’s 2010 Mock Draft, and according to teammate Albert Jackson he is likely returning next season (fingers crossed). As his All-SEC awards already suggest, Trey has become and will continue to be a full-blown star in this league.
Travis Leslie’s improvement from last season to this one was absolutely remarkable. His scoring, rebounding and assists per game increased by 8.5, 2.9 and 1.9, respectively. He made routine appearances on ESPN’s segment of “Top Plays”, the portion of Sportscenter that shows viewers the ten best plays from the night before.
During the second round game against Vanderbilt, the announcers spent time discussing Mark Fox’s plan to work with Leslie more on his outside shooting and ball-handling during the off-season. They hinted that Fox is planning to convert Leslie into a true shooting guard (which means the Dawgs could have a huge lineup next season assuming Price and Barnes start alongside Trey). I can’t wait to see Leslie play next year after his first full summer in Athens under Coach Fox.
The Dawgs big frontcourt finished the season second in the conference to Kentucky in both rebounding margin (+5.6) and offensive rebounds (12.8 per game). Georgia’s advantage on the glass was definitely a major reason why they were able to stay competitive in so many SEC games this season.
Big Game Success
This year the Bulldogs knocked off three ranked opponents. Guess how many ranked teams they beat last year? How about the year before? If you guessed “zero” on both accounts, then you are correct! Until this year, Georgia had not won against a Top 25 opponent since the 2006-2007 campaign.
One thing that Georgia definitely lacked in the backcourt was the presence of a penetrating guard that could create off the dribble. Sophomore Dustin Ware was reliable with the ball in his hands this season, finishing with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.19 (second in the conference). His 37.2% three-point percentage gave Georgia a kick-out option on offense, and he was clearly the floor-general in the half-court set.
However, next year Georgia could needs a guard that can get into the lane, draw defenders and finish at the rim (Gerald Robinson, Jr. – subliminal message). Putting a penetrating guard in the backcourt with Ware will give the Dawgs a solid backcourt.
Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie, Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee all averaged 30+ minutes per game in SEC play. When two or more of these guys were not on the floor, the offense typically stalled (especially with Thompkins out) and the number of turnovers increased.
Next year, Mark Fox has got to be able to go to his bench with more confidence. Players like Vincent Williams, Demario Mayfield, Chris Barnes and Ebuka Anyaorah must transform into more reliable options for Fox.
Looking ahead to next year, there is a lot to be excited about. Thompkins (probably), Leslie, Ware, Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes will all be returning and should serve as a solid nucleus of upperclassmen.
Three guys that I am very excited about (other than Trey and TL) for next season are Gerald Robinson, Jr., Jeremy Price and Ebuka Anyaorah (EA).
If you haven’t heard much about Robinson, check out my blog entry on him from earlier in the year. He definitely has the potential to make an instant impact on this team.
Next season, Jeremy Price will be entering his last year as a Bulldog. Price has been somewhat of a mystery so far at Georgia – named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team in his first season, only to see his production drop his sophomore year. He has struggled to keep his weight down the last two summers, and his lack of conditioning probably attributed to his sophomore slump.
However, I thought Price had a much better junior season (especially the second half). He improved in both his scoring (7.2 per game) and rebounding (4.0 per game) from last year, and he scored in double-figures nine times. In the wins against South Carolina and Florida, price scored 16 and 13, respectively. In the loss to Kentucky, Price was the only Bulldog to challenge the Kentucky bigs and he finished with 19 points. He has gained a lot of confidence in his offensive game, especially when he receives the ball with his back to the basket. Coach Fox stated earlier this season that he can’t wait to have Price in Athens over the summer, and I think that he could definitely mold Jeremy into a nice frontcourt complement to Thompkins.
My “X Factor” player for next year is Ebuka Anyaorah aka “EA”. At 6’4″, he has good size for a shooting guard and he is ridiculously athletic. He has a nice stroke from the perimeter, knocking down 34.8% of his three-point attempts this season. If he can improve on his ball handling skills and defense, I could see EA becoming a consistent contributor off the bench next year. I’m not saying that he is going to make a “Travis Leslie”-esque jump, but I do think he has a lot of upside and that he can really help the team in the 2010-2011 campaign.
I have had a blast writing this blog, and I look forward to doing it again next year. I don’t plan on updating quite as frequently during the off-season, but I will post interesting (hopefully) UGA basketball news tidbits when possible.
It has been so refreshing for me to see that there is a UGA basketball fan base, and I appreciate all the comments and insights that everyone shared this season.
And I think that the future is definitely bright for the Dawgs basketball program!