The Georgia Bulldogs (12-13; 3-8) still have a shot at getting into this year’s NIT Tournament, but after Wednesday night’s loss to South Carolina they certainly have their work cut out for them.
For Georgia to have a realistic chance of getting selected by the NIT committee, they would be best served by bolstering their overall record to .500 before season’s end. In other words, the Dawgs probably need to win 3 of the 5 remaining games. One of those games is on the road in Lexington against Kentucky, meaning that Georgia should set its sights on winning 3 of the other games against Vanderbilt, Florida, South Carolina or at LSU.
If Coach Mark Fox’s team could take 3 more games they would finish somewhere just below the midsection of the SEC standings, giving them a potentially very winnable first-round conference tournament match-up.
The point I’m trying to make is that the Dawgs still have goals to shoot for this season, and accomplishing them starts with beating Vanderbilt (18-8; 7-4) on Sunday.
Georgia played the Commodores tough in Nashville back in January, hanging around until the very end when Vandy was able to pull away and secure a 77-66 home victory.
Vanderbilt’s starting five features three players – John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor and Festus Ezeli – who are all slated to be drafted to the NBA in 2012 according to nbadraft.net. Taylor and Jenkins are averaging 18.6 ppg and 18.3 ppg respectively, which ranks them first and second in the conference in that category in SEC games this season. Both of these players are deadly from beyond the arc, where Taylor is connecting on 60% of his shots to Jenkins’ 46.1%.
Ezeli, who was starting to work himself back into the lineup the last time Georgia faced Vandy, has stepped up his game over the past five outings, netting 14.4 ppg during that stretch. He is a tough match-up for a Bulldog team that lacks anyone with his size, strength or athleticism. I expect to see more of the same match-up zone on Sunday that UGA utilized against Mississippi State in an attempt to provide help to the undersized bigs with Ezeli.
In the first game between these teams in Nashville, Coach Fox kept the game played at a halfcourt tempo which seemed to work fairly well for the Dawgs. However, prior to the debacle in Columbia last Wednesday, Georgia had been enjoying a lot of offensive success in their wins over both Arkansas and Mississippi State when they pushed the pace of the game with their speedy backcourt. I am definitely interested how exactly Fox plans on attacking this Commodore defense on Sunday.
With Vanderbilt’s 18-8 record (7-4 SEC) and RPI rating of 26, they are probably locked into this year’s NCAA Tournament. However, the ‘Dores have a brutal stretch of games to round out their conference schedule – at #1 Kentucky, #12 Florida at home and then at Tennessee. If Vandy were to slip up and drop a game to either Georgia or South Carolina, they could run the risk of finishing 8-8 in the conference and needing an SEC Tournament win to feel safe about their postseason security. I anticipate that Coach Kevin Stallings’ team will arrive in Athens on Sunday hungry to notch their fourth conference road victory of the year.
The Dawgs didn’t respond to well to success last week against Carolina. I wonder how well they will handle a little adversity following a loss?