34th McDonald’s All-American Game Tonight at 10pm

First off, I’d like to begin with a shout-out to Mazel Dawg, who reminded me that the McDonald’s All-American game would be airing tonight at 10pm on ESPN.

As most of you probably know, Georgia signee Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (this kid needs a nickname bad – KCP?) will be playing in the game.

It’s ironic that I almost forgot to post about the all-star game tonight, because I was literally watching Youtube videos of some of Kentavious’s highlights the last few days.  If you have time, check them out here and here.

To say that I was impressed by Caldwell-Pope would be an understatement – I was gushing.  I knew from what I had read that he was supposedly one of the best shooting prospects in the country, but what those reports failed to mention was that his range is out of this world.  In KCP’s highlights, he hits shots from five to six feet beyond the arc with consistency and relative ease.

He also appears to be a very good ball-handler, and he is not afraid to attack the rim.

At this point, nobody knows exactly what is going to happen with Trey Thompkins or Travis Leslie as far as whether they stay for their senior seasons or not.

But I am fairly confident that KCP will be a double-digit scorer in his freshman season.

Big East Bias, Travis Leslie and Recruiting

Big East Bias

After getting a record-setting eleven teams into this year’s NCAA tournament, only two remain from the Big East after the first weekend – Connecticut and Marquette.  Jay Bilas of ESPN, who has been a Big East cheerleader the entire season, now says that there wasn’t a “truly great team in the league“.

You know what other conference has two teams in the Sweet 16?  The SEC – and they only got five squads into the dance.  With Pittsburgh falling to Butler on Saturday night, the Florida Gators now have a very legitimate opportunity to reach the Final Four (assuming a win over The Jimmer and then the Butler/Wisconsin winner).

Hopefully next season the selection committee will remember that basketball is played competitively outside of the northeast region of the United States.

Travis Leslie

At this point, I don’t want to hold out hope that Trey Thompkins will return for his senior season.  He seemed so close to leaving after last year, that I can’t imagine that he returns for another one.  NBADraft.net currently has Thompkins listed as the 21st pick overall in their Mock 2011 Draft.  As much as I would love to see #33 back in Stegeman again next season, it seems like his game has developed about as far as it can at this level and he is ready to work in the NBA.

Travis Leslie, on the other hand, is a different story.  Leslie’s numbers this year were nearly identical to last season – 14.4 ppg/7.2 rpg in 2011 compared to 14.8 ppg/6.8 rpg in 2010.  However, there was a notable improvement in his jump shot, and he was not just a “dunker” this year.  Leslie made 13 three-point field goals this season, compared to only 6 the year before, and he shot a stellar 80.1% from the free throw line.

If Leslie could continue to work on his ball-handling in the off-season, I think he could have a serious offensive breakout season next year (and possibly bolster his stock into “lottery” status).

Leslie is not listed in the 2011 Mock Draft (first or second round), and on the website’s 2012 Mock Draft they have him going 31st.

He’ll obviously get tons more information regarding his stock over the next few weeks, but it could definitely be in his best interest to return to UGA for his senior season (and it would be a great lift for Coach Fox heading into the off-season).


Coach Mark Fox just picked up a verbal commitment from Nemanja Djurisic, a 6’8″/220lb power forward from South Kent High School in South Kent, Connecticut (by way of Podgorica, Montenegro).

ESPN’s “Bottom Line” on Djurisic:

Djurisic is solid in all aspects of his game and his biggest strength is his ability to do so many little things to help his team win games without having to score in high volume to make an impact. He projects as a solid role player at the high-major level or an impact player at the mid-major level.

Nothing to drool over, but as everyone knows, next year’s team definitely needs more big men – welcome to the Dawgs Mr. Djurisic!

Fox is targeting a couple other forwards to round out the 2011 class – Chris Bryant and Braeden Anderson.  Anderson, from Calgary, Alberta in Canada, is an intriguing prospect that stands 6’8″ and weighs 222 lbs.  He is apparently very gifted phsycially, but needs to work on his aggressiveness – he is considering Kansas, Arizona and Oklahoma (along with Georgia) so he must be fairly talented to garner such attention.

And who knows…maybe after the firing of Bruce Pearl the Dawgs might pick up a player from the Vols?

Georgia Falls Short Against Washington 68-65

Well, the drive up I-85 into the Queen City on Friday was a lot more fun than the drive home today.

The first half of the game against Washington seemed eerily similar to the first half of the game against Alabama in the second round of the conference tournament.  In both games, Georgia had an opponent struggling to find offense, yet the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize and create any significant separation on the scoreboard.

Last night, Washington went through a near nine-minute span in which they mustered just one field goal.  Georgia, however, was unable to step on the accelerator, and following a jumper by Scott Suggs the Huskies were only down 23-18 with 3:53 left before the half.

Washington started to figure out the Dawgs‘ zone defense near the end of the first half, and after a 12-5 Huskie run the teams went into intermission knotted-up at 28 apiece.

Coming out of the break, the Huskies looked like a completely different team than the one that played the first 20 minutes.  Washington’s pressure on their man defense was ferocious, forcing Georgia to start its offense from well beyond the perimeter – the Huskies nearly pressed the Dawgs into consecutive shot clock violations.  I honestly don’t recall the Dawgs facing a more intense half court defense all season.

Unfortunately for Georgia, Washington’s improved second-half defense was matched by some improved offense as well.  The Huskies knocked down 7 of their first 10 field goal attempts in the opening nine minutes after the break.  After shooting just 35.3% from the field in the first half, Washington connected on nearly 54% of their shots from the floor after intermission.

The Huskies star guard, Isiah Thomas, scored 17 of his 19 points in the game’s second half – he seemed unguardable at times.

This nine minute stretch that extended the Washington lead to 49-39 with only 11:15 left nearly closed the door on Georgia.

I say nearly because as many of you already know, this team has not quit when they have been down this season, and last night was no different.

The Bulldogs fought and clawed and were down by just 2 points with 7 seconds left following a Trey Thompkins three-pointer – Trey played great by the way, leading his team with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

After a missed free throw by Washington’s C.J. Wilcox, the Dawgs’ Travis Leslie launched a last-second three that would have sent the game into overtime – but fate had other plans as the shot came up short.

It’s funny, but I think my favorite moment of this entire season came just minutes after it ended.

Time Warner Arena was not nearly close to capacity for the Georgia-Washington game last night, but there were a good number of very-spirited Bulldog fans in attendance.

After the final horn had sounded and the teams began exiting the court, the entire UGA fan base, in an act of pure class, rose from their seats and gave this Georgia basketball team a standing ovation.  The Bulldog fans recognized that these 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids had poured everything they had into this season and into getting to this NCAA tournament game, and they rewarded them with applause.

Mark Fox and this group of players have transformed Georgia basketball from a perennial loser into a relevant SEC program – and in just two years!

The Bulldogs earned an at-large bid to the this year’s NCAA tournament, and proved last night that they belonged.

Georgia beat the SEC Tournament Champion Kentucky Wildcats earlier this year – a team that just advanced to the Sweet 16 of this tournament following their win over West Virginia earlier this afternoon.  The Dawgs took both the Big East regular season runner-up (Notre Dame) and the SEC regular season champion (Florida) to double-overtime.

Even though the Bulldogs came up just a little short last night against the Huskies, it was still extremely cool to see them participating in the NCAA’s, and I think we should all be proud of what these guys accomplished this season.

Georgia vs Washington: Last minute thoughts

I don’t have a lot more to write about concerning the game tonight – the AJC has pretty much exhausted the topic.

However, I did come across this article in yesterday’s Seattle Times – a piece about the Huskies approach to their tournament practice and the game with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Apparently the Huskies’ players showed up 15 minutes late for their scheduled press conference in Charlotte.

During their tournament practice time at Time Warner Arena, Washington (after a 40-minute workout) “thrilled the smattering of fans inside Time Warner Cable Arena with a half-court, buzzer-beating drill and an impromptu dunk contest.”

The Georgia Bulldogs took a more routine, almost business-like approach – shooting jump-shots and free throws.

Washington has been ranked for a majority of the year, while the Bulldogs were in the national rankings for just a week.  Georgia is basically irrelevant nationally when it comes to college basketball, and the SEC is still regarded as a lower-tier basketball conference.

I realize that Washington won the Pac-10, earning them an automatic bid to these year’s tournament – but they would have made it either way.  The Huskies expected to be included.

Georgia, on the other hand, was on the bubble for the past two or three weeks.  The Dawgs (from what I have read over the past week) seem to be grateful to have been included, and extremely excited about this opportunity.

I may be reading too much into Washington’s press conference tardiness and questionable practice routine, but it kind of seems as if this Washington team is not taking Georgia as seriously as they should.

Any thoughts?

Second Round Dawg Fight

Before I could finish my cup of coffee on Monday morning, I had already read more than a few sentences on the various sports media websites regarding the Washington Huskies’ (23-10; 11-7) star point guard Isiah Thomas – the fact that he had just hit a buzzer-beater to lift his team over Arizona in the Pac-10 championship Sunday didn’t hurt his public relations either.

ESPN’s Dana O’Neil listed Thomas as one of her “Five Players to Watch” in the East Region.  So did Eric Angevine of CBS Sports.  Stewart Mandell of Sports Illustrated.com likes Isiah Thomas’ Huskies as a “Bracketbuster“.

Thomas has definitely been deserving of all the praise, though, averaging 16.8 ppg and earning Pac-10 First Team honors this season (along with teammate Matthew Bryan-Amaning).  He can shoot it well from the perimeter, knocking down nearly 36% of this three-point attempts, as well as create off the dribble – Thomas led the conference with 6.0 assists per game.

Georgia‘s Gerald Robinson is a great defender though, and he undoubtedly will be looking forward to this defensive challenge.  In the first meeting between Georgia and Kentucky, Robinson held the Cats’ star guard Brandon Knight to just 10 points – his lowest output of the season.

Knight wasn’t the only SEC point guard that Robinson frustrated this year.  Ole Miss’s Chris Warren, a First Team All-SEC selection, mustered only 9 points against the Dawgs, which was his lone single-digit scoring effort of the season.

Bruce Ellington, South Carolina’s All-SEC Freshman Team’er, tallied just 9 points in 57 total minutes against the defense of GR2 this year.

Xavier’s Tu Holloway, who ended up 20th in the nation in scoring with 20.2 ppg, didn’t connect on a single field goal until the second half of the Musketeers game in Athens earlier this season.  Holloway did finish with 18 points, but if you remember, nearly all of those came from the free throw line at the end of the game when Georgia was forced to foul – he only hit 3 of his 13 field goal attempts.

The match-up between Thomas and Robinson will be one (of two) key match-ups in this game, with the winner of it putting his team in a great position to advance.

The other fantastic match-up in this contest will be in the paint, between Georgia’s Trey Thompkins and Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  Bryan-Amaning, a First Team All-Pac-10 selection, averaged 15.5 ppg and 8.1 rpg this year for the Huskies.  On top of having a 6’9″/240 pound frame, he also has a 7’4″ wingspan – making Bryan-Amaning very difficult to shoot over – and oh yeah, he’s also tremendously athletic.

Georgia desperately needs Trey to step up and lead in this post-season if they are going to find some success.  In the SEC tournament, Thompkins had a big game against Auburn, but in the closing minutes in the loss to Alabama he was nowhere to be found.

The Dawgs have squandered their fair share of leads late in games this season, and a large part of that has to do with a lack of leadership.  In Georgia’s first win over Kentucky in Athens, Thompkins demanded the ball during the games final five minutes – scoring baskets and knocking down clutch free throws.

In the Bama game though (like many others), Thompkins did not step up and settle everything down.  When the game is closing and things are getting tight, this Bulldog teams looks and leans on Trey for scoring and stability.

Trey Thompkins will have the national spotlight on him on Friday night when these teams tip-off approximately at 9:45pm in Charlotte, and hopefully (for Georgia’s sake) he is prepared to embrace it.

The Georgia Bulldogs Are Dancing!!!

After a week of speculation and slew of different scenarios, the Georgia Bulldogs basketball team was selected for this year’s NCAA tournament field.

The Dawgs are a 10-seed in the East Regional, taking on the 7-seed Washington Huskies.

For Georgia fans, this CBS Selection Show couldn’t have gone any better – the Dawgs get a 10-seed and they got their name called almost before the program began.  Not to mention that they will play their first-round game in Charlotte, North Carolina, a mere 240-something miles from Atlanta.

Congratulations to Coach Mark Fox and this Georgia Bulldog team.  Making the tournament is a great accomplishment, and this team is doing what needs to be done to turn this basketball program around.

Now I just have to labor through the first half of this week before I hit the road to Charlotte!



Are the Dawgs in or out?

A day and a half after the loss to Alabama, and I am starting to feel optimistic about Georgia‘s chances of being invited to this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Joe Lunardi doesn’t think so.

However, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated and the ESPN authors of “Bubble Watch” all like the Dawgs in the Big Dance.

The AJC”s Mark Bradley wrote a nice piece this morning that contained some inside information from SEC Commissioner Mike Slive regarding what the Selection Committee actually considers (and Slive should know, he served on that committee for five years).

The bottom line is – if you look at Georgia’s “body of work”, as the committee claims that it does, the Dawgs should be in.  The Dawgs have an impressive overall record (21-11), a winning conference record (9-7), a strong RPI (43), a winning road record (7-4) – their only knock is a 3-9 record against the RPI Top 50.

However, maybe a team’s record versus the RPI Top 50 isn’t that big of deal?  After all, Clemson is 0-6 in games against the RPI Top 50 and Lundardi has them as one of the last four in.

The media created a buzz around the SEC Tournament game between Alabama and Georgia as an NCAA play-in game.  But in reality, this is not how the committee makes its decisions regarding the Field of 68.

This isn’t college football, with the “What have you done for me lately?” mantra.

It’s college basketball, where a team spends the entire season building its NCAA resume.  Villanova, for example, is listed as a 10-seed in the latest Bracketology, yet they have lost 5 straight games and 10 of their last 15.  Nova is going to be dancing though, because they finished the season 21-11 overall and 9-9 in the Big East.

Back to the Georgia-Alabama game(s) – as painful as it was to see the Dawgs lose two times in a week to the Tide, according to Bradley’s notes from his conversation with Slive, the committee isn’t as concerned with head-to-head match-ups as we might presume (or be as fans).

Joe Lunardi has included Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Southern Cal and Michigan State in his most recent bracket.  All of these teams have head-to-head blemishes on their resumes, though.

Kansas State lost to Colorado all three times this season (twice in the regular season and then in the conference tournament as well) – Kansas State is a lock for the tournament, while Colorado will be on pins and needles this afternoon to see if they are invited.

Virginia Tech, one of the last four in, dropped both its games against Boston College this year – a team that Joe has as one of the first four out (along with UGA).

Southern Cal lost twice to lowly Oregon this year, a team that finished 16-17 overall and 7-11 in the Pac-10.

Michigan swept in-state rival Michigan State in their two match-ups this season, yet it’s very possible that State could get in and Michigan might not.

In less than twelve hours, all of the dust will settle and we’ll know if this year’s Georgia Bulldogs basketball team did enough to earn an at-large bid.

What does everyone think?  Are the Dawgs in or out?

Debacle in the Dome

How does a team that shot over 75.0% from the free throw line this season – 3rd in the SEC – miss the front end of consecutive one-and-one’s?

What causes a star player (#33) to commit back-to-back turnovers with his team up 49-42 and under four minutes remaining in the game?

Why would a coach not elect to use a timeout when his point guard is clearly out of control on the game’s most critical possession?

And why would that same coach call a timeout out with less than one second remaining with the hope of “drawing something up”?  (Personally, I would have called the timeout with 4.1 seconds left when my team was in-bounding the ball)

There probably are not answers to these questions; they are more like a blue print for the novel “How To Blow a 14-point Lead in Under Seven Minutes” – which is exactly what Georgia did on Friday against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

After defending the Tide marvelously for 33 minutes, and handling their full-court press with relative ease – the wheels totally came off at the end of yesterday’s game.

Travis Leslie soared for an alley-oop dunk that put the Dawgs up 48-34 with only 6:58 left in the game.  This was when the game was supposed to be over.  Instead however, the Bulldog team and coaching staff collapsed and withered right in front of everyone at the Georgia Dome.

Instead of punching their NCAA ticket on Friday, Georgia will be punching the clicker of their remote on Sunday night as they sit around and pray that the NCAA committee has mercy on them.

Georgia Sends Auburn Packing, Looks Ahead to Alabama

The Georgia Bulldogs (21-10; 10-7) did not allow the Auburn Tigers any grand delusions of a second overtime game between the two teams.

Instead, the Dawgs used the Tigers as a first-round tune-up and ended their season by 3:00PM (Eastern Standard Time), winning 69-51.

Auburn came into the game averaging nearly 13 offensive rebounds per SEC game this season, yet the Bulldogs gave them a taste of their own medicine this afternoon.  Georgia hit the offensive glass like a team possessed, pulling down 16 o-rebs and winning the battle of the boards by a tally of 36-22.

Georgia’s two-headed monster of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both finished with double-doubles, combining for 34 points and 10 rebounds.  Leslie also did a phenomenal job of limiting Auburn’s leading scorer Ernest Ross, holding him to just 4 points on 1 of 10 shooting from the floor.  In the first game between these two teams, Ross lit the Dawgs up for 30 points – Leslie was having none of that today, though.

The Dawgs jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back (or relinquished the lead).  My favorite part of this game came right after the halftime break, with Georgia holding a 34-23 advantage.  Anyone who has watched this Georgia team over the past year or so knows that one of their Achilles heals has been the first five minutes after intermission.

On Thursday however, the Dawgs entered the second half with the same intensity as the first.  A healthy Thompkins hit two three’s before the first TV timeout, and Georgia was up 45-27 with 15:42 remaining in the half.  It was so refreshing to see the Bulldogs come out of the break and put their foot on the accelerator (and to keep it on it).

The Dawgs now advance to a highly anticipated second-round match-up with the SEC West regular season champion Alabama Crimson Tide.  A lot of analysts around the country are labeling this as an NCAA Tournament “Bubble Game”, with the winner earning an at-large berth and the loser – eh, who knows?  Left wondering come Sunday?

Tomorrow’s game will mark the second game between these two teams in a week, with Alabama winning the first one in Tuscaloosa last Saturday 65-57.  In that game, Bama out-rebounded and out-hustled the Dawgs, as well as forcing them into 16 turnovers.

In Georgia’s win today over Auburn, the Bulldogs were ferocious on the glass, and they turned the ball over just 7 times.

That’s Auburn though.

Alabama plays a different brand of defense, pressuring teams in the open court and limiting opponents to one shot – probably why they lead the SEC in team defense, holding teams to merely 60.9 points per contest.

Georgia did not handle the Tide’s pressure well in Tuscaloosa, and they must protect the ball better in the Georgia Dome if they want to advance to Saturday’s third-round game.

All-SEC First-Team selection Trey Thompkins carried his team through the first round of the conference tournament, scoring 22 points and hauling in 10 rebounds.  He’ll match-up with a fellow First-Team’er on Friday in JaMychal Green, in what should be a battle in the paint.

Personally, I am beyond tired of hearing about all of the different “bubble scenarios”, “bracketology’s” and “play-in scenarios” on ESPN.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that Georgia is at a point as a basketball program where they are being mentioned in such conversations.

But I am ready to see this game played.

I think at this point, Georgia could survive a loss tomorrow and still get into the NCAA’s, yet probably as one of the teams that would play on either Tuesday or Wednesday in the new “first round”.

Coach Mark Fox’s team could take a lot of the guesswork out of the “Bubble” picture with a win on Friday.

Georgia and Auburn Open Up 2011 SEC Tournament

Las Vegas has given the Georgia Bulldogs a 10-to-1 shot to win this year’s SEC Tournament.

The Dawgs don’t have to win the whole thing though (as nice as that would be) to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament; they just have to win one or two games – depending on which sports media website you have bookmarked on your internet browser.

Georgia will play the Auburn Tigers in the first game of the conference tournament at 1:00PM in the Georgia Dome.  This game will be the second meeting between these two teams within the state of Georgia this year, with the first coming earlier this season in Athens.

Jeremy Price scored 22 points in that game and the Dawgs beat the Tigers 81-72, but it took them an extra five minutes to do it.  Auburn’s Ernest Ross scored a season-high 30 points in the game, and his Tigers connected on 9 three-pointers (also a season-high) en route to a very close road loss.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Bulldogs are an astounding 13-1 when Price – “The Refrigerator from Decatur” – scores in double-figures – make what you will with that statistic.

To Georgia’s credit, Trey Thompkins and a few other UGA players were dealing with a flu bug due to some bad chili from the road trip to Arkansas – but the Dawgs team effort against Auburn that day did leave a lot to be desired.

Ross ended up putting together a nice sophomore season for the fighting War Eagles, averaging 14.3 ppg as well as 6.4 rpg in SEC play.  He was also the team’s most consistent outside threat, connecting on nearly 39% of his shot attempts from beyond the arc.

If the Bulldogs show up hungry and ready to play defense on Thursday, this game won’t even be close.  In conference games this season, Auburn made only 31.0% of their three-point attempts and just four three’s per contest (which was next to last in the conference).  The fact that Georgia let this Tiger team drop nine three’s on them in Athens is inexcusable.  The Dawgs really improved their three-point percentage defense over the course of the year though, limiting SEC opponents to just 31.4% from beyond the arc (which ranked third in the conference).  If Georgia can do a good job of closing out and contesting Auburn’s perimeter shots, they should put themselves in a great position to win.

Another area where this game could be won or lost will be on the boards, where both of these teams have found success this season.  Auburn averages 12.9 offensive rebounds per league game, which is third in the SEC.  Georgia, conversely, is second in the conference with 27.0 defensive rebounds per game.  Which team will play with more energy on Thursday and win the battle of the boards?

This is a much improved Auburn team that Georgia will be playing in the Dome.  Since the loss to UGA, Auburn has gone 3-4 in SEC games, and two of those losses were by just two points each (Alabama and Arkansas).

The main thing that concerns me heading into this game is the difference in mindsets for both of these teams.  Auburn finished the season 11-19 overall and 4-12 in the conference – it’s safe to say that barring a miraculous four-game run, they will not be playing any basketball after this week.

That being said, the Tigers should enter this game with nothing to lose, which could translate into a loose and relaxed Auburn team.

Georgia, on the other hand, has a bit more added pressure with a potential NCAA at-large berth on the line, and thus they run the risk of playing tight.  If the Dawgs were to slip up and drop this game to the Tigers, UGA would certainly be on the first bus to the NIT.

On top of that, a couple of well-known ESPN college basketball analysts have hinted that the Bulldogs may need to win two games to get themselves off the “bubble” (meaning wins over both Auburn and Alabama).

Hopefully Coach Mark Fox has his starting five keyed-in and ready to take care of the task at hand (Auburn), because none of the bubble watches, bracketologies or “potential play-in games” matter if Georgia doesn’t win this first tournament game.

The Georgia Bulldogs definitely have a team that is capable of winning this SEC Tournament, and the bracket couldn’t have worked out any better in their favor, with both Florida and Vanderbilt on the opposite side.

If the Bulldogs are going to go on a run here in Atlanta this weekend though, they will have to have the support of the Georgia fan base.  It would be awesome to see the UGA fan base come out to the Dome on Thursday and turn it into Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia fans have the shortest commute by far of any other SEC team.  Whether you have to take a late lunch, a half day or miss class, I personally think it would be well worth it to head on down to the Georgia Dome to pick up some tickets and support this UGA basketball team.