Any fans who happen to show up for the undercard game tonight between the Georgia Bulldogs (3-1) and the Notre Dame (4-1) Fighting Irish will be treated to a matchup of two teams coming off sound drubbings from Monday night’s opening round. The Bulldogs were smacked by Cal 70-46, while the Irish got run off the court 87-58 by the #21 Missouri Tigers.
The Dawgs actually played Notre Dame early last season in the Old Spice Classic, losing a heart-breaker in double overtime.
Since that game last year, UGA has lost its best two players to the NBA, while the Irish return preseason All-Big East Second Team power forward Tim Abromaitis. Abromaitis leads Notre Dame in scoring with 22 points per contest, and he’s bringing down 8 boards a game as well. The versatile 6’8″ big scored 25 points in last season’s win over the Dawgs, knocking down 4 of his 5 three-point attempts.
As a team, the Irish are very strong from beyond the perimeter, where they are hitting over 40% of their three-point shots. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has been getting extremely balanced scoring so far this year, with five players averaging in double-figures. The Irish play with a rather big lineup, starting four players that stand at 6’5″ or taller (two 6’8″ and one 6’9″).
All of Notre Dame’s strengths – shooting, rebounding, experience – have been major weaknesses for the Bulldogs so far this season. The Dawgs are hitting only 38.4% of their field goal attempts, and the picture doesn’t get any prettier for Georgia from the three-point line where they have made below 24% of their shots. The Bulldogs’ rebounding margin, which has been historically positive in the Mark Fox era, sits at -4.2 through four games this year.
Even though the back-up guard position at Georgia does not garner much attention nationally, I’d like to take a look at the current situation in regards to the Dawgs’ backcourt reserves. I realize that Sherrard Brantley transferred to UGA with the reputation of being a “sharp shooter”, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that the young man has completely lost his touch. Brantley is making less than 18% of his shots from beyond the arc so far this year, connecting on just 3 of 17 attempts – he has taken one less three-pointer than starter Dustin Ware, who is averaging more than 10 minutes per game than Brantley.
At this point, I’d much rather see Vincent Williams playing more minutes than Brantley in the reserve guard role. Williams isn’t a great shooter, knocking down only 20% of his field goals. But guess what? Neither is Brantley, who sports a field goal percentage that resides in the mid-teens. Williams at least gives Coach Mark Fox an intense defensive effort, and he’s averaging 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals in just 9.5 minutes of play.
Georgia is beginning to establish itself as a team that struggles from both the inside and outside, which leaves one to wonder how they might possibly beat a team from a major conference.
Prior to the Cal game, I let foolish UGA optimism lead me to predict that Georgia might actually be able to hang with the Bears for 40 minutes.
After last night shellacking, I am not as confident about Georgia’s chances against a bigger, more experienced Notre Dame team. Even though the Irish were handled by Missouri on Monday, something tells me that they have the personnel to correct their mistakes and respond with a much better performance tonight.