With the start to the 2013-2014 season less than three weeks away, Georgia Bulldog basketball fans are beginning to assess the possibilities and expectations for this year’s team. This Dawg team is comprised of a slew of sophomores and juniors (nine in all) – most of whom saw significant playing time last year – and one lone senior in Donte Williams. By today’s college basketball standards, Coach Fox has something of a “veteran” squad on his hands.
The outlooks provided by various media sources have been mixed for UGA: CBS’s Matt Norlander and Doug Gottlieb predict 7th and 8th place conference finishes for the Bulldogs, respectively. However, the more common estimation of how Georgia will fare in the SEC typically has the Dawgs ending up somewhere between 11th to 13th (thankfully Auburn seems to be a pretty consensus last-place pick).
Nationally, Georgia did secure one vote to be ranked in the first USA Today poll of the season, but as the AJC reported that vote came from none other than Coach Mark Fox, leaving us to wonder if his decision might have been at all biased.
Since the departure of Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price several years ago, UGA has severely lacked any sort of an inside presence. Heading into this season with the same cast of bigs as last year – Neme Djurisic, Donte Williams, Tim Dixon, John Cannon and Marcus Thornton – it is hard to imagine that much will change in the Dawgs’ ability (or inability, rather) to get consistent post scoring.
One factor that could certainly make points hard to come by in the paint is that UGA does not have any serious shooting threats, so teams may opt to sag off shooters and load down on the blocks. Remember, this Georgia team struggled mightily on offense last season, finishing 307th in the nation in scoring and 287th in field goal percentage. In addition, Coach Fox’s team will be looking to improve on these abysmal offensive numbers without the help of last year’s SEC Player of the Year – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – who is now a member of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
While Georgia fans should be excited about sophomore guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines – both of whom showed a lot of promise during their freshman campaigns – neither of these guys exactly lit up the nets last season, where the two converted less than 40% of their field goal attempts.
The Bulldogs will be relying more on Mann’s ability to get to the rim and draw fouls than his outside shot. However, Fox needs Gaines to be a consistent shooter in the two-guard position, and hopefully for Georgia’s sake Kenny is up for the challenge.
Both of these players benefited from having a superstar on the court with them last year in Pope – someone who drew a lot of attention from opposing defenses. This season Mann and Gaines may find it more difficult to score the basketball without the aide of KCP, yet Fox still needs them to step up and shoulder significant chunks of the scoring load.
In the words of Athlon Sports writer David Fox: “This could be a key year for Mark Fox.“
Interpret however you like.