A couple of NCAA Tournament hopefuls will be squaring off on Friday night when Georgia travels to Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers. For now, UGA is in the “First Four Out” category of ESPN’s Preseason Bracketology, while Clemson was no where to be found. Although, any bracket predictions being made before the season has tipped off should be taken lightly.
The strength of this Tiger team last year was its defense. A rangy bunch, Clemson ranked first in the ACC last season in blocked shots at 5.2 per game, and they were third in fewest points allowed at 64.5 per contest. Last year, UGA was plagued in numerous games by long stretches of offensive ineptitude, a weakness that Coach Mark Fox’s team must eliminate if they want to play into late March this year.
A year ago, the Dawgs manhandled the Tigers in Athens 71-48. UGA was led by seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who combined for 35 points to carry Georgia to the home win. In that game, UGA limited Clemson superstar Jaron Blossomgame to just 5 points, which was almost 13 under his average.
Fast forward to 2016. Georgia no longer has Gaines or Mann, and they once again will have to take on a Tiger team led by Jaron Blossomgame, a preseason First Team All-ACC selection. Blossomgame is currently projected by NBADraft.net to go #17 in their 2017 Mock NBA Draft. At this point, Georgia doesn’t have any players in that Mock.
This contest should present both a formidable challenge and an opportunity for UGA junior Yante Maten. In the exhibition game last week, Maten had his way against the inferior competition from Fort Valley, Georgia. Against Clemson, Maten will have his hands full dealing with a potential NBA first-round draft pick in Blossomgame. That being said, there should be an NBA scout or two inside Littlejohn on Friday; Yante will have a chance to show them what he can do while going head-to-head with a probable prospect.
Friday’s season opener at Clemson could definitely have selection implications in March. Coach Mark Fox’s team has the possibility of earning a quality win that could boost its NCAA resume, and we’re not even halfway through November.