The Dawgs open up their 2010-2011 campaign Friday night at 7:30pm with a home game against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (try to say that three times fast).
MVSU returns four starters from a team that went 9-23 last season and finished 7th in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
However, this year’s team is predicted to finish 3rd in the SWAC and could possibly contend for the conference title.
Senior PF Shannon Behling was named to the SWAC Preseason All-League First Team, along with being named the conference’s preseason Player of the Year. Last season, Behling averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds, and “has all the tools to become a serious threat in the paint”.
It sounds like Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes could have their hands full trying to contain this guy.
Joining Behling in the frontcourt is junior F/C Amos Sturdivant who was named to the SWAC preseason All-League Second Team. Sturdivant’s numbers last year weren’t that glamorous (6.3 points, 4.7 rebounds), but with Behling likely drawing a lot of double-teams Amos should find a lot of open space in the lane.
The Delta Devils offense is run by senior point guard Kevin Burwell, who averaged 3.6 assists per contest last season while knocking down nearly 36% of his three-point attempts.
The Dawgs will be taking on the Delta Devils without their leader Trey Thompkins (sidelined with an ankle injury). Mark Fox’s team will most likely come out with some inevitable “first game” jitters on Friday, and they are playing a team from a smaller conference coming to Athens looking to prove they can play with the big boys. This game has the potential to be very close and could turn into an interesting (and nerve-wracking) opener.
In my opinion, the biggest difference between this year’s Georgia team and last year’s is the quality of the depth on the roster. Realistically, Mark Fox has 10 guys he can run onto the court and count on for big minutes. Last season, Fox was forced to play a lot of zone looks on defense to compensate for the team’s lack of depth.
This year I expect to see the Dawgs get after teams in a man defense in the half court set.
Offensively, things are going to be a little bit trickier without Thompkins on the floor.
I think that Georgia should utilize its athleticism and look to push the ball at every opportunity, especially when Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Travis Leslie are both on the court. Fox is going to lean heavily on Robinson for the first few games without Trey, and hopefully the junior is ready to step up.
The Dawgs are also going to need Dustin Ware and Sherrard Brantley to provide some scoring from the perimeter. Both of these guys should find themselves with plenty of good looks since the Delta Devils will most likely be keying in on Robinson, Leslie and Price defensively.
I’m super excited that the season has finally arrived, and I can’t wait to see this year’s brand of Georgia basketball!