Georgia visits South Florida in SEC/Big East Challenge

Georgia’s (2-4) basketball game at South Florida (4-2) this Friday night will likely go relatively unnoticed by most of the Bulldog Nation considering Saturday’s impending SEC football championship game.

However, this matchup with the Bulls should provide the Dawgs with a formidable challenge against a team that will likely be on the NCAA Tournament bubble late in the season.

South Florida is coming off its best year in the program’s history, winning 22 games as well as advancing two rounds in the 2012 Big Dance.  The catalyst from last season’s team – sophomore point guard Anthony Collins – returns to join a group of veterans that hope to make some noise once again in the postseason.

Collins, a consensus preseason Big East Second-Team selection, is netting 7.8 points to go along with 8.2 assists, ranking him 4th in the country in that category.  Despite his small stature, he is considered a lock-down defender who can wreak havoc upon opposing point guards.

The Bulls’ leading scorer this year has been Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, a senior big who is getting 13 points and nearly 7 boards per contest.  Fitzpatrick has a surprisingly soft touch from the outside, where he is knocking down over 40% of his three-point attempts.

Since the loss to Indiana, Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been doing a much better job of letting the game come to him offensively.  In both of the losses to IU and Southern Miss, KCP appeared to be pressing a bit, making only 9 of his 36 field goal attempts.

However, against UCLA and East Tennessee State, a relaxed Pope connected on 10 of his 22 attempts from the floor.  In addition, KCP took only 14 three-pointers in those two games (of which he made 6), almost half the number he shot in the previous two contests.

Last Friday, Georgia carved up ETSU’s zone, dishing out 21 team assists and hitting over 63% of their field goal attempts – easily the team’s best shooting performance of the season.  I am intrigued to see what kind of defense South Florida coach Stan Heath throws at the Dawgs now that they have proven that they can move the ball effectively inside a zone.

Junior big Donte Williams appears to have shaken of the early season cobwebs that plagued him the games against IU and UCLA, notching 12 points and 3 blocks in the matchup with ETSU.

This game will provide the Bulldogs with the opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time this season, and it will also be the first game this year in which the Dawgs have the full force of their starting five at the tip-off.