Miller’s Grove’s Tony Parker delaying decision until April 11th

Last evening, Miller Grove big man Tony Parker was supposed to “shock the world” (his words) at the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game with his decision as to where he will be playing college ball next season.  His options – UCLA, Duke, Memphis, Ohio State, Kansas, Georgetown and Georgia – could not be any more prestigious (this kid cut #1 Kentucky from his list last month).

Five of those seven aforementioned teams participated in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and two of them – Ohio State and Kansas – will square off in the Final Four this weekend.  Parker will surely be watching that game with candid interest, and one has to feel as though both the Jayhawks and Buckeyes hold a slight recruiting advantage over the other schools at this point.

Last weekend, ESPN released a wonderful story in which they sat in on a family conference with the Parker’s – if you have time, check it out.  The article gives the reader an inside look into some of the young man’s opinions regarding his college choices.

A concern that Parker airs about Georgia is “the lack of fanfare at home games and the fact that it may be too close to home.”

Georgia has always been a football school first, and major college recruits recognize this fact.  Coach Mark Fox will have to find a way to make basketball at UGA more attractive if he hopes to lure the premier bigs from within the state.

If Parker still truly intends to “shock the world”, then the only way he could possibly accomplish that feat would be by selecting Georgia over all those other storied programs.

However, at this point, I’m just not that confident that he will be playing in Athens next year.

SEC’s four teams represent conference well through Round 1 of NCAA’s

Many college sports enthusiasts and media personnel are tired of the SEC by the time basketball season rolls around, most likely due to the fact that the conference has produced the last 6 BCS National Champions.

The SEC’s dominant hold on the world of college football has created somewhat of a media/fan bias against the conference when it comes to basketball.  How else can you explain the blatant slap to the league’s face by awarding them just 4 teams to this season’s Big Dance?

Tennessee, who finished second in the conference this year with 10-6 record, was snubbed from the tournament, despite recording a big out-of-conference victory over then-ranked #11 UConn in Janurary.  The SEC was the only conference in the country – including the Big 12, Pac-12, Big East, ACC, Atlantic 10, Conference USA and the Big Ten – that didn’t send its regular season second-place team to the Tourney.

Here is a look at how the power conferences performed through the first-round games on Thursday and Friday (ranked by winning percentage):

1) Big 10: 5-1

2) SEC: 3-1

3) Big 12: 4-2

4) ACC: 3-2

5) Big East: 5-4

Kentucky, Florida and Vandy all won easily, with Alabama being the only team to not hold its weight.

Did the SEC deserve a fifth representative in this year’s NCAA Tournament?

Georgia’s challenging 2011-2012 schedule

An event that I look forward to every season – the NCAA Tournament Selection Show – aired last Sunday evening, giving college basketball fans their first glance at this season’s “Big Dance”.

Watching the show, I expected to see a number of the Dawgs‘ opponents from this year in the field, especially considering that the Georgia Bulldogs finished the season with the 17th hardest schedule in the country on ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI).

I did not, however, anticipate 10 teams – Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Colorado, California, Xavier, Notre Dame, South Dakota State and Cincinnatti – from UGA’s schedule to show up in the bracket.  Had the Dawgs not bounced Mississippi State out of the first round of the SEC tournament, then that number could have easily been eleven.

That’s a pretty difficult slate for a team replacing its entire frontcourt.

Coach Mark Fox’s young team was thrown into the fire this year, and hopefully these experiences prove valuable for the Bulldogs heading into next season.


Vanderbilt pounds Georgia in second half, advances with 63-41 victory

The Georgia Bulldogs (15-17) underwent a personality shift during the halftime break of last night’s game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The Georgia Bulldogs team that upended Mississippi State the previous night, and the same team that held a 25-24 lead on Vandy going into the intermission changed into a version of themselves from earlier in the season.

The ‘Dores came out of the break smoking, opening up a 36-27 advantage after going on a 12-2 run to start the second half.  During this run Georgia looked dazed on offense, making just 1 of 6 field goal attempts.

This slump was only the beginning of UGA’s offense woes during the second portion of this game.  Senior Dustin Ware hit a three-pointer to cut the Vandy lead to 36-32 with 14:39 left.  Unfortunately, the Bulldogs would go nearly 9 minutes before connecting on another field goal, which happened to be another jumper by Ware with 6:16 remaining.

At this point the game was all but over with Vandy holding a double-digit lead at 50-37.  During the Dawgs‘ aforementioned scoring drought (and then some), the Commodores went on a brutal 23-5 run that abruptly ended Georgia’s SEC tournament, allowing Vandy to walk away with a 63-41 second-round victory.

The two halves of last night’s game could not have been more different.

Georgia started the game spotting Vandy an 11-3 lead, only to respond with a run of their own that saw the Dawgs’ claim a 19-18 advantage following a John Florveous lay-in.

Coach Mark Fox had to play musical chairs with his lineup after starters Marcus Thornton, Donte Williams and Kentavious-Caldwell Pope picked up 2 first-half fouls.  The UGA bench – led by freshman John Cannon’s 6 points – played inspired basketball, pouring in a combined 17 points before the intermission and helping Georgia take a 25-24 lead into the half.

However, Georgia’s 45% shooting from the floor prior to the break was ruined by a second-half performance that saw the Dawgs make only 22% of their field goal attempts.  Conversely, the Vandy offense warmed up after the break, knocking down nearly 52% of their shots from the floor.

The Dawgs could not have been worse from the arc, connecting on just 2 of their 17 perimeter shots.

Senior Dustin Ware was the only Bulldog to reach double-figures at 10 points, but it took a 2 for 9 effort from three-point range for him to get to that total.

Georgia’s Gerald Robinson and KCP combined for just 5 points on 2 of 12 shooting from the floor, proving that this UGA team cannot be very competitive when its two leading scorers are completely shut down.

Vandy had four starters – John Jenkins, Brad Tinsley, Festus Ezeli and Lance Goulbourne – reach double-digit scoring, with Jenkins leading the way with a game-high 15 points.

Vanderbilt’s win was their third of the season over the Dawgs as well as their seventh-straight victory against UGA.  This group of Vandy seniors has clearly had Georgia’s number for some time now, and they really imposed their will in the second half of last night’s contest, outscoring the Dawgs by a tally of 39-16.

Dawgs knock Missy State off NCAA bubble, advance to the second round

Following Jalen Steele’s fourth three-pointer, Georgia’s lead, which had once been 13 points, had evaporated to just a 60-57 advantage with 3:50 remaining in the game.

On the ensuing possession, Donte Williams shot missed, but thankfully for Georgia, Nemanja Djurisic was in position to secure his fifth offensive rebound and finish the stick-back.

Nemi then got fouled by Mississippi State after forcing a steal, and he calmly stepped up to the free throw line and knocked down both shots, putting his team up 64-57 with only 1:38 left.

Georgia was able to secure the victory from this point, walking away from the first round of the SEC tournament with a 71-61 win over Mississippi State (their second of the season).

Neme, who recorded his second 10+ rebounding effort in as many days, finished the game with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

He was one of five Bulldogs to end the game in double-figures with Gerald Robinson, Jr. leading the charge with 23 points.  Robinson once again played like an All-SEC guard, despite not receiving any post-season conference accolades.

Georgia found themselves in a bit of a hole in the first half after allowing State to go on an 18-8 run that put them up 23-15 with 7:06 remaining before intermission.

However, the Dawgs responded with a 16-6 run of their own, enabling them to take a 31-29 advantage into the break.

The game was knotted up pretty tight to start the second half until senior Dustin Ware, who was held scoreless in the first half, decided to start contributing in a big-time manner.  Ware caught fire from the outside, canning 3 threes and scoring 11 points in less than five minutes, stretching his team’s lead to 49-36 at the 11:53 mark.  The senior guard ended up with 13 points on the night.

Defensively, Georgia was able to once again lock Missy State down, limiting them to under 39% from the floor and just 29% from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs‘ interior defense was particularly strong, holding Arnette Moultrie and Renardo Sidney to a combined 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting from the floor.

MSU senior guard Dee Bost, who wound up with only 10 points, shot a frigid 2 of 9 from beyond the arc (which marks the 4th game this year his team has lost when he has tossed up 8 or more three-point attempts).

Congratulations to Coach Mark Fox and the Georgia basketball team for putting forth an excellent effort in tonight’s game as well as getting themselves into the second round of the SEC tournament, where they will meet the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Vandy swept the Bulldogs this year for the second consecutive season, largely in part due to the performance of junior All-SEC guard John Jenkins.  Jenkins has been somewhat of a Dawg-killer throughout his career, averaging nearly 21 points in games against UGA and enabling Vandy to rack up six-straight wins over Georgia.

If Coach Mark Fox’s team wants to keep the momentum rolling into the weekend then they must find a way to contain the Vandy guard.

Georgia takes on Mississippi State in Thursday’s night cap (10pm)

On February 10th of this year, Mississippi State was ranked #23 in the country and boasted a record of 19-5.

One day later the Maroon Dogs would be upset in overtime by the Georgia Bulldogs (14-16; 5-11), a loss that sent MSU on a five-game losing streak that nearly knocked them off the NCAA Tournament Bubble.  Luckily for Coach Rick Stansbury his team was able to somewhat right the ship, securing much-needed victories over South Carolina and Arkansas to wrap up their conference schedule.

According to ESPN College Basketball “Bubble Watch” blogger Eamonn Brennan, “a first-round loss to Georgia on Thursday could spell trouble”.  Motivation anybody?

Coach Mark Fox’s team drew probably the worst-possible opponent of the SEC teams that will be playing on Thursday in Mississippi State.  The Maroon Dogs have a serious size advantage on Georgia, they need a win to put themselves in a position to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance, and they will surely be out to avenge the loss from earlier in the season.

These aforementioned reasons probably account for why “Losing to Missy State” was the most popular reader-response (over 44%) to a poll I posed earlier in the week asking – “How far do you see the Georgia Bulldogs going in this week’s SEC Tournament?”.

The odds-makers in Las Vegas agree, setting UGA as a 5-point underdog.

In the first meeting  between these two teams, Coach Mark Fox’s squad utilized a match-up zone to limit 6’11” Arnett Moultrie’s looks at the basket.  This strategy worked to perfection as Georgia held the junior to 12 points – 4 below his season average – and just 6 field goal attempts.  Moultrie, who led the conference in rebounding at 10.2 per SEC contest, found his groove over the past two games though, averaging 17.5 points and 11 boards in the wins over USC and Arky.

MSU is led in the backcourt by senior guard Dee Bost, who put together another excellent SEC season, netting 15.8 points and a league-leading 6.1 assists in conference games (and he knocked down 37% of his three-point attempts).

In the loss to UGA, Bost got 21 points, but he tossed up 10 three-pointers (of which he hit only 3) en route to that total.  Mississippi State lost all three SEC games this year in which Bost hoisted up 8 or more threes.

If Georgia can again limit Moultrie’s touches inside, they may entice Bost into a few extra perimeter shots (again) that he might not normally take.

Missy State finished 5th in SEC games in offensive production at nearly 69 points per game.  However, the Maroon Dogs were only 3-6 in conference games in which they failed to eclipse 70 points (they only scored 68 in OT against Georgia).

Defensively, Georgia yielded just 64.4 points per contest, ranking them 6th in the league in that category.  Again, if Coach Mark Fox’s team can get after MSU on defense they will certainly have an opportunity to hang around in this game.

The play I remember most from the February 11 game between these two teams was the step-back three-pointer that freshman Kentavious-Caldwell Pope made with only 68 seconds remaining that put Georgia back on top 68-66 after they had just relinquished the lead to MSU on a three.  This shot by KCP was absolutely huge, and it enabled the Dawgs to close out the game and secure the victory.

The Bulldogs were 3-3 (which is pretty darn good for a team that finished 5-11 in conference) in SEC games this season when KCP scored 18 points or more.

I know Gerald Robinson, Jr. is going to play well tomorrow night because for the most part he has played superb all season.

Even though Thursday will be young KCP’s first SEC Tournament game, his performance in it will be the difference in whether Georgia’s season ends tomorrow night, or if the Dawgs will play into the weekend.

2012 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament is set

Kentucky dropped Florida 74-59 in Gainesville today, and with that win the Wildcats finish the SEC season undefeated at 16-0.

Now that the conference regular season has officially ended, fans can turn their attentions to the SEC Tournament, which begins this Thursday in New Orleans.

Georgia, slated as the 11-seed, wound up drawing 6-seeded Mississippi State in the 9:00PM CT night-cap of the Thursday session (which will be 10:00PM locally).

Of the six SEC teams in the bottom half of the conference, I’d say that the #10 Auburn Tigers probably have the best path to the semifinals, facing Ole Miss in round one (and potentially Tennessee in round two and avoiding Kentucky altogether through the first two rounds).

I’ll have a write-up on the Missy State game later in the week, but I wanted to gauge everybody’s feelings about UGA’s chances in this year’s tournament using the poll below.



Georgia ends season on a high note, beats South Carolina in Athens

Gerald Robinson, Jr. showed up and (once again) played his heart out for the Georgia Bulldogs (14-16; 5-11) on “Senior Day”, scoring a game-high 23 points, marking the fifth time this season he has eclipsed 20 points in a game.

The Dawgs were able to even up the season series with South Carolina, winning 67-55 this afternoon in Athens.

Georgia began its second-straight game down 7-0 to an opponent, and they actually allowed the Gamecocks to open up a 10-0 advantage with 13:33 remaining before the intermission.  The Bulldogs‘ inauspicious offensive start might have had something to do with the fact that due to the Senior Day traditions, Coach Mark Fox had Matt Bucklin and Conner Nolte starting in place of Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and Marcus Thornton.  Whatever the reason, the Dawgs missed their first 8 field goal attempts and were held scoreless until Gerald Robinson, Jr. broke the drought with a fast break lay-up after nearly 8 minutes of play.

Robinson ignited the Georgia offense, scoring 13 points prior to picking up his second personal foul with 3:31 left before the break.  GR2 banged down 3 three-pointers in the half, the third of which gave UGA its first lead of the afternoon at 22-21.

The Dawgs closed out the half on a 13-2 run, taking a 30-23 advantage into the intermission.

After the break, Malik Cooke hit a jumper at the 15:10 mark that completed an 8-2 Carolina run, cutting the Georgia lead to just two points at 35-33.

However, the Dawgs immediately responded with a 14-2 run of their own, and 7 minutes later UGA was up 49-35 following a pair of Donte Williams free throws.

The game wasn’t quite in hand at this point, though, as the Gamecocks had one more mini-run in them.  Cooke buried a three-pointer that actually brought the score to 53-47, but on the next play Bruce Ellington committed a flagrant foul on Dustin Ware, who made both of the free throw attempts.  Two plays later GR2 took the ball the length of the floor and scored, pushing the UGA advantage back out to double-digits.

The Dawgs were essentially able to salt away the remainder of the game at this point, ending the season with a victory.

Aside from Robinson, no other Bulldog reached double-figures in the scoring column, yet five Georgia players netted 6 points or more in this somewhat balanced offensive attack.

Nemanja Djurisic was one of those 6-point scorers, and he also led all rebounders with a career-best 10 boards.

Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, who only scored 8 points on 3 of 7 shooting from the floor, found other ways to contribute for his team by securing 7 rebounds and creating 3 steals.

Georgia finishes the SEC slate at 5-11, which is fairly respectable considering the Dawgs were 1-7 through the first half of the conference schedule.  Coach Mark Fox’s team was able to improve throughout the season, winning 4 of their final 8 SEC contests.

The Dawgs, who will be an 11-seed in the SEC Tournament, could get either Mississippi State, Ole Miss or Arkansas in the first round  next week, depending on how those teams’ games shake out this afternoon.

I, for one, can honestly admit that I did not believe that this UGA team would reach 5 SEC victories after starting out 1-7 in league games.  I am proud of how this team finished out the season, and I hope that we can all get to see Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Dustin Ware play well into next weekend.

Georgia wraps up SEC season at home against South Carolina

During the 2009-2010 season – Mark Fox’s first year as the Dawgs’ coach – Georgia (13-16; 4-11) won five conference games, reinvigorating a UGA basketball fan base that had seen the previous team win three SEC games the year before (and just four the year before that).  Georgia’s future looked awful bright with the superstar sophomore duo of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie returning for their junior seasons.

The 2010-2011 season put Georgia basketball back on the college map as the Dawgs went 9-7 in the SEC and earned at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

This season – Coach Fox’s third as head coach – has been slightly more tumultuous, with Georgia sporting a 4-11 conference record, just one spot above Saturday’s opponent – South Carolina – in the conference standings.

However, should the Dawgs hold serve and win this game in Stegeman, Georgia would once again finish with five conference wins, equaling the number from two years ago.

How in the world has this season’s UGA team managed to put themselves in a position to win as many SEC contests as a team that featured Thompkins, Leslie, Jeremy Price, Chris Barnes and Albert Jackson?

The answer, my Bulldog basketball friends, is senior Gerald Robinson, Jr.

GR2 was the missing piece from the 2009-2010 season that enabled Georgia to get over the hump and into the NCAA tournament last year.  If the Dawgs did not have the explosive Tennesse native running the show throughout the 2010-2011 campaign, then they most certainly would have played in the NIT.

This season Robinson has hoisted this Bulldog team on his back and willed them to victories over Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Florida, and he has kept them in a number of games that they would have been blown out in without him.

In conference games this year, GR2 is netting 14.1 points, 4.1 assists and nearly 5 rebounds a night.  He has more than lived up to his Preseason All-SEC Second-Team hype, and he is certainly deserving of some end-of-season SEC accolades.

On Saturday, Georgia will ask GR2 to do what he has done in all three previous match-ups with South Carolina – shut down point guard Bruce Ellington.

Ellington is enjoying another successful SEC season, scoring 11.9 points and dishing out 3.6 assists in league games.  However, if there is one guy in this league that has had his number the last two seasons it has been Gerald Robinson.  In three games against the Bulldogs’ senior point guard, Ellington has accumulated a total of just 16 points on 6 of 32 shooting from the floor.

Another similar defensive performance on Ellington by Robinson on Saturday and Georgia should be in good shape, assuming the team that shows up tomorrow has a bit more energy than the one that lost 57-56 in Columbia last month.

Despite the fact that the Dawgs are coming off of a sound whipping in Lexington, and they will be playing on just thirty-something hours of rest, I expect to see a resilient effort out of Coach Mark Fox’s team tomorrow as they pursue their fifth SEC victory.

Georgia needs a win tomorrow in the worst way so that they can avoid being swept by 2-win South Carolina, earn their 5th conference win, shake off Thursday night’s debacle and finally, give themselves a bit of positive momentum heading into next week’s conference tournament.