The Georgia Bulldogs’ RPI received a small jolt on Sunday, moving from 21 to 18 in ESPN’s latest update, following Stony Brook’s upset of #13 Washington in Seattle. The Dawgs coasted by Stony Brook 80-70 back on November 18th in Athens. As the nonconference schedule winds down this week, UGA fans need to dust off their pom poms and start cheering for some of Georgia’s previous competition – even, ahem, Georgia Tech, who is currently 8-3 and boasting an RPI of 38. The Dawgs’ RPI is being bolstered by their strong strength of schedule, which at the moment is listed as the 9th most difficult in the country, thanks in part to the two impending games that Georgia has coming up with #1 Kentucky. While Georgia obviously needs to keep winning more than it loses if they hope to be in the NCAA tournament discussion, UGA can also benefit from solid seasons by teams like Gonzaga, Colorado, Minnesota and Seton Hall.
Another factor that is supporting Georgia’s RPI position is the fact that they do not have any “bad losses” – yet. Had UGA not succeeded in getting by Mercer last week in three overtimes, Coach Mark Fox’s team would be lamenting a loss to the Bears, who are all the way down to 268 on the RPI scale. This week, the Dawgs have games against Kansas State and Norfolk State, who have RPI’s of 168 and 183, respectively. Going into Manhattan on Wednesday will be a tough test for the Dawgs, and it almost seems unfair to UGA that they would be penalized for a road loss at KSU – but, such might be the case in the fickle world of college basketball should the Dawgs drop Wednesday’s contest. Even though K-State is a Big 12 team, losing to an opponent with an RPI over 150 might be difficult for the NCAA selection committee to stomach come March.
One of Georgia’s biggest unknowns coming into this season was freshman Yante Maten, who Coach Fox inserted into the lineup immediately this season with the hopes that he might provide some scoring in the frontcourt. However, Maten’s biggest contribution thus far has been on the defensive side of the ball, where he is blocking 2.2 shots per game, which is tied for 47th in the country. The freshman has already tallied 4 or more blocks in three games this year, coming against Stoney Brook, Chattanooga and Seton Hall.
Georgia, though, has been getting it done as a team defensively this season as well. The Dawgs are blocking nearly 6 shots per contest as a team, which is 18th best in the nation. On the boards, Georgia is hauling in 41 rebounds a night, which is 21st in the country; and more importantly, the Dawgs are controlling the defensive glass, where they are grabbing a over 29 boards per game, putting them at 6th in the country in that category.
Oh, and Georgia got 2 votes in this week’s Coaches Poll.