Georgia set to challenge #1 Indiana in Brooklyn

The Georgia Bulldogs (1-2) are in the midst of a bit of an early season slump, dropping consecutive games at home to Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi.  If the Dawgs want to get the bad taste out of their mouths from those two defeats, unfortunately, they are going to have to do it against the top team in the country – the Indiana Hoosiers.

The Hoosiers, who came into the season ranked #1, have come roaring out of the gates, posting a Division I-best 94.3 points per game.  Indiana is making over 53% of their field goal attempts, including a near 40% mark from beyond the arc.  This Hoosier team currently has five players scoring in double-digits on a nightly basis, led by their sensational sophomore Cody Zeller.

Zeller, who showed up on every preseason All-American First-Team and National Player of the Year list, is pacing Indiana with 17.7 points and 8.7 boards.  He likes to play with a lot of physicality inside, so the Georgia bigs must be prepared to match his toughness or they will likely be feasted upon.

Zeller is joined in the paint by fellow big man Christian Watson, who is chipping in over 14 points and 8 rebounds per game himself.  The senior from Birmingham is a nice complement to Indiana’s all-everything center, and he also plays very strong on the block.

The NBA and its coaches use a statistic called player efficiency to help them evaluate a player’s performance.  Efficiency is calculated by totaling a players points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, and then subtracting from that number the player’s total number of field goal misses, free throw misses and turnovers.  This result can then be calculated on a per minute basis, and then stretched out over the length of an entire game to compensate for guys that don’t get as many minutes.

Last year, the NBA’s top five most efficient players – 1) Lebron James 2) Kevin Love 3) Kevin Durant 4) Dwight Howard 5) Chris Paul.  In other words, this statistic seems to accurately reflect whom fans may guess would be the most productive players in the league.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to calculate the player efficiencies for the Bulldog roster through the first three games, since there has been a decent amount of grumblings amongst the UGA basketball fan base about some of the lineups Fox has been utilizing (or not utilizing).

Georgia’s top five most efficient players thus far (using a per minute efficiency calculation and then stretching that number out to 40 minutes to compensate for lack of playing time, etc.):

John Cannon – 25.3, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 23.7, Brandon Morris – 18.9, Tim Dixon – 18.7 and Nemanja Djurisic – 9.5

It should be noted that Neme’s efficiency of 9.5, though high for the Bulldogs, is a pretty mediocre number when compared to players across the country.

I think that the main takeaway from this brief mathematical endeavor for UGA fans should be that John Cannon needs to be playing more for this team because he is producing consistently when he is on the floor for Coach Mark Fox.  Cannon has legitimate center size and the ability to score the basketball inside when he receives it with his back to the basket.  Fox could use a player like Cannon on Monday night to match some of Zeller’s toughness in the paint.

At this point the Dawgs’ confidence has to have been shaken considering what transpired in Athens over the last week.  Will Georgia step onto the floor of the Barclays Center wide-eyed and shell-shocked at the prospect of taking on the nation’s best team?  Or, will the Dawgs play loose with a “nothing to lose” mentality?

Considering what Georgia has already experienced in the initial stages of the Legends Classic, I believe it is fairly safe to say that things cannot get much worse.  Anyone tuning in to this game will expect the Dawgs to lie down so that Indiana can take them out behind the woodshed.

Although, maybe a game away from Athens is just what the doctor ordered for Coach Fox’s bunch.