Georgia Heads to Vanderbilt

The Georgia Bulldogs (12-2; 1-0) travel to Nashville on Wednesday for their first SEC road game this season.  Last year, the Dawgs were winless in conference games played away from Athens, and Georgia has lost their last four games at Vanderbilt (11-3; 0-1).

The Bulldogs and the Commodores had extremely different experiences last weekend – Georgia upset #10 Kentucky while Vandy dropped its conference opener at South Carolina in overtime 83-75.

Vanderbilt was ranked #24 last week, now they are unranked.

Georgia was unranked last week, now they are #24 in the AP Poll.

The focus of Georgia’s defense on Wednesday will center around shutting down 6’4″ sophomore guard John Jenkins and 6’7″ junior forward Jeffrey Taylor.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jenkins, let me refresh your memory.  In the second round of last year’s SEC tournament, Jenkins torched Georgia with 22 second-half points as his team won 79-70.

Jenkins is a pure shooter, knocking down 40% of his three-point attempts and leading this Vandy team in scoring at 18.5 ppg.  He is not just a catch-and-shoot kind of guard though, meaning he will take the ball to the basket off the dribble.  Travis Leslie should have his hands full with this guy on Wednesday night.  He’ll need to keep as little space between the two of them as possible to avoid giving Jenkins too many good looks at the rim.

The other big threat on offense for Vandy is Jeffery Taylor, a preseason All-SEC Second Team selection.  Taylor, like Jenkins, is hitting 40% of his three-point attempts while averaging 14.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg.  He is a tough match-up for opposing bigs not only because of his outside shot, but because he is also a phenomenal athlete that can attack the rim from the wing position.

As a team, the Dores are similar to Kentucky in that they score a lot of points (79.0 ppg) and shoot the ball well fromt he field (46.7%).  From beyond the arc, Vandy is connecting on 37.7% of their shots, and they are making an SEC-leading 8.1 three’s per contest.  Vanderbilt also rebounds the ball very well, averaging just over 40 rpg, which ranks third in the conference (Georgia is 8th with 37.3 rpg).

If there is one statistic that really jumps off the page for this match-up, it is Vanderbilt’s strong perimeter defense pitted against Georgia’s not-so-great perimeter offense.  Vandy leads the conference in three-point percentage defense, holding opponents to just 29.2% from beyond the arc.  Georgia, on the other hand, has struggled to find consistency from the outside, converting on just 31% of their three-point attempts (last in the SEC).

This game will be quite the challenge for Mark Fox’s Dawgs for a number of reasons.  The Georgia players have undoubtedly been reading some of the flattering praise that they have received via ESPN since their big win over Kentucky on Saturday.  Will this team be able to put the Kentucky game behind them and prepare for another tough conference game against a Vanderbilt team that should end up in the NCAA tournament?

Another factor working against the Dawgs is the fact that Vandy is now 0-1 in conference play following their loss to South Carolina last weekend.  No way does Kevin Stallings’ team want to drop another SEC game before hitting the road to play at Tennessee this Saturday.  Georgia will definitely get Vanderbilt’s best effort on Wednesday night, so Mark Fox’s team better be prepared to match the Dores’ intensity.

Finally, the Commodores (like Georgia) are undefeated at home this season (8-0).  It’s never easy winning conference games on the road (just ask Georgia, they didn’t do it once last year), and it’s especially hard to win at Vanderbilt, playing on their unique, yet oddly elevated floor.

All that being said, this Georgia basketball team is not the same as team’s past.  After going 0-11 in true road games last year, the Dawgs have won all three of their true road games this season against Saint Louis, Georgia Tech and Mercer.  A large part of this early road success can be attributed to Georgia’s mature starting five.

The game tips off at 8:00PM EST and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

What does everyone think about this game?  Can the Dawgs follow-up their upset of Kentucky with a win on the road in Nashville?