Archive for March 2011
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
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?