Big RPI Opportunity For Georgia on Wednesday

The Georgia Bulldogs‘ (17-7; 6-4) game against the #18 Vanderbilt Commodores on Wednesday is another huge opportunity for the Dawgs.

A win would all but assure Georgia of a winning conference record (assuming home wins over SC and LSU).  Not to mention that it would give them another victory over a team with a very high RPI (#15 Vandy).  Beating Vanderbilt on Wednesday would put Georgia on track to earn an at-large berth into this year’s NCAA tournament.

If the Bulldogs were to – eh’hem – lose to Vandy however, dancing in March becomes quite a challenge.  A loss to Vanderbilt would mean another squandered opportunity at home against a nationally ranked opponent (in front of a national audience).  It would also mean that the Dawgs would then have to win another SEC road game to finish with a winning conference record.

Georgia has not beaten the Florida Gators in Gainesville in nine years, and they haven’t taken a game in Knoxville in over a decade.  The Alabama Crimson Tide is undefeated at home in SEC games this season.  These are the remaining road games on Georgia’s conference schedule.

Now I am not saying that the Dawgs can’t win in Gainesville, Knoxville or Tuscaloosa, but it sure would make life a lot easier on Georgia (and their fans) if the Dawgs could just take care of business Wednesday night.

Vanderbilt won the first match-up between these two teams 73-66 in Nashville back in January.  In that game, 6’11” junior center Festus Ezeli scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, his only double-double in an SEC game this season.  Ezeli’s 18 points matched his season-high in a conference game, with the big man from Nigeria absolutely dominating Georgia’s Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes on the inside.  In 23 minutes of play, Price and Barnes combined for 2 points, 3 rebounds and 9 personal fouls (with Jeremy fouling out).

Over the past four games, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins has really stepped up his interior defense, registering 10 shot blocks in that span (he ranks 7th in the SEC in blocked shots with 1.8 per game).  Maybe Coach Mark Fox needs to switch up the match-ups defensively and let Trey have a go at Ezeli?

Vandy’s other two big guns on offense are sophomore John Jenkins and junior Jeffrey Taylor.  Jenkins, who is a strong candidate for SEC player of the year, is leading the conference in scoring with 22.3 ppg as well as shooting over 46% from beyond the arc.  Defenders have to remain very close to this guy, because much like BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, he can get his shot off quickly and from just about anywhere inside the half court line.

The match-up between Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor and Georgia’s Travis Leslie will feature two of the best athletes (and dunkers) in the country.  Taylor is averaging 14.3 ppg in conference play (to Leslie’s 15.0 ppg) this season, and he contributed 15 points when the teams hooked up back in January.

Travis Leslie has played some of his best basketball against the ‘Dores, netting 23.5 ppg over the past two seasons in four games – including his career-high 34-point performance in the SEC tournament loss to Vandy last season.  Trey Thompkins is most likely to see a plethora of double-teams on Wednesday, and he will need to be able to find Leslie cutting and slashing down the lane.

The South Carolina game marked the 9th time this year that Georgia has finished a game with more turnovers than assists.  Astonishingly though, the Dawgs rank second in the conference with a 1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, and they are first in the SEC in assists at 16.0 per game.

Despite their high assist-to-turnover ratio, Georgia has become increasingly careless with the basketball.  Through the first five games of SEC play, the Dawgs were giving the ball away just 11.8 times per game.  In the last six contests however, Georgia has been turning it over 15 times a game.  The Bulldogs are now averaging the 4th highest number of turnovers in the conference at 13.8 per contest – Auburn, Ole Miss and South Carolina are all turning it over less.

Georgia also currently owns the dubious title of the worst turnover margin in the SEC at -3.6.  The Dawgs are about to embark on a very difficult chunk of their schedule – Vandy and then road trips to Tennessee and Florida.  Coach Fox’s team has to clean things up and protect the ball better if they want to compete and close out in these games.

Georgia has gone 0-3 in weeknight games in Athens thus far in 2011, with losses to Tennessee, Florida and Xavier.  What hurts more is that all three of these losses were televised nationally by ESPN or ESPNU (not too mention that they made for some agonizing trips back to Atlanta for yours truly).  Wednesday night’s showdown will be airing live on ESPNU as well, so once again, Georgia will have the attention of the entire basketball nation for a weeknight game.

Though the Dawgs don’t have any bad losses on their tournament resume, they don’t have too many quality wins either.  Their record against the RPI Top 50 is an unsightly 2-7, and Vanderbilt represents the last chance for them to get a quality win at home against a high-RPI team.  In the latest edition of ESPN’s “Bubble Watch“, the Dawgs are listed under “Work Left to Do” – meaning they are by no means a lock for an at-large berth.  When referring to the Vandy game, ESPN “Bubble Watch” author Eamonn Brennan simply stated, “A win is advised”.

Subtext: Georgia needs to win this game to get on the right side of the tournament bubble.

Mark Fox has now coached Georgia through 55 games, but Wednesday night’s against the Commodores will be his most important one yet.

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18 thoughts on “Big RPI Opportunity For Georgia on Wednesday

  1. Correct, Hoop… this is the most important game of the season. As CMF stated, “It’s great to be in a position to matter going down the stretch.” But, a loss will damper the momentum the Dawgs enjoy off of 3 straight victories (regardless of style). It’s not unreasonable to expect a 4th win in a row, but may be considering their last 3 mid-week games. If they play the way the did in the 1st half on Sat., they’ll win. Looking for Trey to play stifling D, Travis to hit his average, Ware for a few treys and Mr. HS Basketball to continue his pace (his confidence is soaring). Go Dawgs! Git’er done!

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  2. Huge game, hope Steg is rocking. A win here will be mammoth for our tourney resume. If we pull it out I’d guess the RPI will be around 36.

    FYI, we are favored by the guys in the desert by 2.5 points.

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    1. Metro Athens people and students have GOT to show up! That’s what attendance is about for midweek games.

      Local fans showed up for Tubby and Harrick; they’ve got to start coming back out again for Fox.

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      1. Agreed….the Steg only seats 10,523. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be full for all of the conference games. The turnout versus Xavier–both alumni and students–was sad. I’ll be there from SC…hope the Athenians come out, too.

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  3. I’ll be there. Probably get there right around 5. Pretty much always come and am ALWAYS loud…even if I’m watching it at home.

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    1. Luckily, I have season tickets (for 30+ years now), and haven’t missed a game this year. I even scheduled a cruise this year around home games!

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  4. This was the nail in the coffin for me, this team should not be in the still maturing age at the end of the game. We went the last 10 minutes of the game with a field goal with 5 players who are all 3 year starters for the most part. Inexcusable and we got killed on the glass- total lack of effort.

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    1. That was a total horseshit game! Take nothing away from Vandy but the run they had at the end of the game was aided by the men in stripes. I mean how man 3’s can you hit after offensive rebounds. Rebounds where Festis just mauls people and knocks it out front? Its a joke I don’t know why the NCAA puts up with the officials that they have on the court.

      We are the anti-Duke! We get no calls once so ever. We go to Vandy and get called for 30 fouls and we play tonight its like were back in Memorial Gym!

      I wish Fox would just let them have it in postgame! I hope he says we will not play if they put Anthony Jordan on the court again! Thats at least 3/4 time we have him on the court.

      This sucks!

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  5. I agree there were some over the backs,but if you put somebodys tail in the second row they will back off. I also noticed several times that all 5 UGA players were not on the defensive glass. The bottom line was their big players nailed shots late and ours did not.

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  6. I have come close to pulling the trigger on this comment all year and now I will. These guys are not tough in the face of adversity. Harrick’s teams had that quality–this one does not. Yes, we were victimized again by the fools in stripes–it has been years since I remember this bad of officiating in the SEC. But if we were tougher, we would have been in the game to the end. I totally understand macdaddy’s sentiment. Not hitting a field goal (at home, no less) in the last 9+ minutes is inexcusable. I hope for Trey and Travis’s sake that there were no NBA scouts watching tonight, because neither of them did themselves any good this game (or the last several for that matter). I’ll be out of the country for the Tennessee game. I wish my dawgs luck but will not be holding my breath.

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    1. I’m starting to wonder about Trey leaving for the NBA. I think we all just assumed he’d be a shoe-in after this year, but I have been really disappointed in his ability to “man-up” and dominate the floor like a guy of his size should. When Vandy needed the points, Jenkins took the ball and drained the threes, but Trey doesn’t seem to want to be that man for Georgia. He is going to have to learn how to create shots for himself instead of relying so much on defensive lapses. I hope he decides to stay another year to develop a little more – next year could be amazing if our starting five is Ware, Robinson/Caldwell-Pope, Leslie, Thornton, and Thompkins.

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      1. Trey has most definitely NOT played like an NBA lottery pick, not even close. His jumper seems to have disapeared, he can’t handle the double-team down low, and he just is not getting it done in crunch time when the team needs him most.

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  7. I’ve actually begun to wonder about both Travis and Trey’s draft stock. Especially here recently, they haven’t really played to their first round potential. Trey has struggled dealing with the double-team and Travis is still trying to find consistency with his shot and hasn’t been able to create a shot off the dribble.

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