Just like the season before, Georgia will be losing two key seniors from its roster as it heads into the offseason. With the departures of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, UGA will need to replace 23.7 points per night. In addition to the loss of offensive production, the Dawgs will also need someone to step up and assume the role of shutdown defender that Gaines has occupied for the past four years.
The good news, however, is that Coach Mark Fox’s team returns its two leading scorers, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, both of whom finished with over 16 points per game. Frazier and Maten were named to the postseason All-SEC second team this year, and surely they will each find a spot on the preseason All-SEC first team heading into next season. Georgia is fortunate to have bonafide stars at both the guard and forward positions.
The biggest concern offensively for the Dawgs next year at this point has to be perimeter shooting. Both Frazier and Gaines knocked down over 38% of their three-point tries this year, but Gaines is gone, leaving Georgia with only one legitimate outside threat. What happens when J.J. has to sit?
Georgia’s incoming freshman guards, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris, each connected on over 40% of their shots from beyond the arc in their senior seasons in high school. At least one of these guys will need to come in an establish himself as an outside scorer from the start. I also understand that Mark Fox is actively recruiting a graduate transfer for next year, so here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping that he gets one who can fill it up from the perimeter.
Joining Yante Maten in the paint will be sophomores Derek Ogbeide and Michael Edwards. Ogbeide proved himself to be a tenacious rebounder in his freshman campaign, averaging over 5 boards per contest in just 15 minutes a game. Next year he should see increased minutes, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the big fella ring up more than a few double-doubles.
Michael Edwards is an intriguing player who could either have a Travis Leslie-esque jump next year, or he could continue doing more of the same from what we saw this season. If you recall, Leslie appeared wild and uncoordinated in his first year of UGA basketball, netting just 6 points a game. However, Leslie burst onto the season in year number two, netting nearly 15 points and 7 rebounds a night. Much like Leslie, Edwards, who possesses an imposing 6’9″ frame, showed signs of that same sort of raw athleticism as a freshman. If Edwards can learn to improve his footwork and get better control of his body, Dawgs fans could see significant gains from the sophomore big.
ESPN released its “Way too early Top 25” and Joe Lunardi posted his initial “Bracketology” for the 2017 season; Georgia wasn’t included in either of them. Maybe its for the best, since the Dawgs were projected in the NCAA tournament field by Lunardi prior to this year and, well, we all know how that turned out.
But make no mistake: UGA SHOULD make the NCAA tournament next season with the personnel the Dawgs are returning. Whether that happens or not is on Coach Mark Fox. In the past five regular seasons, Georgia is now 4-34 against the RPI Top 50, a record that is truly atrocious. Playing good competition is not enough. At some point, UGA needs to break through and start winning some of these games. Another NIT appearance is unacceptable.