A Review of the 2009-2010 Season

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.

Board Control

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.

En Guard!

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.

Depth

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.

Next Season

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!

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10 thoughts on “A Review of the 2009-2010 Season

  1. Thank you hoopdawg for a great GA basketball column and insightful previews of upcoming opponents. I’ve enjoyed exchanging ideas with you this season and look forward to doing so in the future. It is nice to see a blog where the vast majority of contributors know something at least about the hoops game and is not dominated by Tech-leaning adolescents or others who would turn it into a football blog or a p***ing contest.
    It was good (from my perspective) to hear that MF was out in LA recruiting right after the SEC tournament.

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  2. I totally agree with you on the “turning it into a football blog” thing. I love UGA football as much as the next guy, but when the topic is UGA basketball I don’t really see how the comments can digress into a trash talk war between UGA and Tech fans about whose got the better football team, etc. (pretty much what every AJC blog turns into).

    Thanks again for following along and providing insightful comments.

    I look forward to next season as well.

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  3. Agree — great job all year.

    I would think the “Travis to the 2” project depends on a couple of things. Him greatly improving his ballhandling and decision-making, certainly. But also signing one of the two wings we are recruiting, either Langford or Pollee, and then that guy being ready to play significant minutes as a bigger wing.

    I think we could see a lot of different combinations with the smalls next year. Ware, Robinson and Leslie would be the small, quick, shooting-oriented combo. That might be the base set, as that may well be putting the three best on the floor. Ebuka mixed in, certainly, and also the new wing. I’m hoping Williams can give five quality — as opposed to this year’s shaky — minutes per half as well.

    The bigger line-up you propose might get used, too, depending on match ups, although it strikes me as being somewhat shooting and ballhandling challenged. It sure would be big, though. More like a small NBA team than a big college team.

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    1. Man, if Fox could sign that kid out of LA that would be awesome.

      If Fox starts Trey, Price and Barnes, the UGA student section may have to produce some sort of “McDonald’s”-themed shirts that say something like “All Beef Combo”, cause that would certainly be a lot of weight in the paint for the Dawgs.

      I am very curious to see how the Ware/Robinson thing plays out. If Leslie moves to 2, does that mean that Robinson starts and Ware sits? That would be a pretty big blow to Ware, but I don’t think Robinson transferred to UGA to sit on the bench.

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  4. I think I agree with Stick that playing TT, Barnes and Price at the same time hurts our shooting , ball handling, and potentially places us at a second half disadvantage, as both Barnes and Price are foul – prone. If Robinson is a shooter, he might play the 2 position, but if he can penetrate, let Ware rotate at the 2 with EA and maybe even Mayfield (who can play this game if MF can convince him that he belongs). I think for one more year at least, we might leave Leslie at the 3 position, giving Poulee (or whomever we recruit as a 3) a year to play a reserve role and learn the system. I sure wish we could get MF to comment on our “grand plans” to get some sense of reality check on our ravings. But it is fun to play amateur coach and to speculate about what may work.

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  5. Big ups to Hoopdawg and his inaugural blog season. I’m looking forward to a few offseason updates and any thoughts or comments about next year’s hardwood crew out of Athens.

    I can’t wait to see what Fox does with Travis “The Elevator from Decatur” Leslie next year. He definitely needs to add more guard elements to his game if he has NBA dreams, but I’m not worried about where he fits in the lineup. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of him at both the guard and forward spots depending on the lineup.

    Hopefully next year Fox has the confidence to unleash the power of the triangle and some legit man D. GO DAWGS

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