The Georgia Bulldogs are 3-0 and sitting atop of the conference standings, and if they continue to play at this level they have a real shot at earning an automatic bid to this year’s NCAA tournament.
If only the Dawgs played in the Big South Conference then everything in my opening statement would be true. Georgia has played three teams from the Big South this year – UNC-Asheville, Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern – and they trashed all of them. Sure, the Garder-Webb game was close at the half (UGA held a 3 point lead), but the Dawgs ended up coasting to a 77-59 win. Georgia easily bested UNC-Asheville, who is currently in first place in the league with an 11-2 record. Who’s to say that UGA couldn’t amass a similar or even better record if they were playing a Big South slate of games?
All of this is obviously parody, or maybe fantasy? The reality is Georgia is stuck in the SEC where they are 4-7 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak in conference games. Even though the Dawgs play in a Power 5 conference, they look a lot more like a mid-major, which is kind of sad considering they have two preseason All-SEC players on the roster.
But other than Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, this Georgia team doesn’t have the type of talent you expect from a Power 5 school. Juwan Parker would be a solid 6th man on a lot of quality teams, but the third scoring option? Parker, who at 6’3″ is grossly undersized for the wing position, is shooting less than 38% from the floor and below 18% from beyond the arc, yet he has taken the third most shots on the team.
I love Derek Ogbeide’s effort on defense. He is a committed rebounder and a shot-blocking threat. But his offensive game is not where it needs to be at this point. Ogbeide has essentially one move that he does nearly every time he gets a touch on the block: turn left, hook shot. And SEC teams have begun to take notice. Several times against Florida on Tuesday, the Gator defender overplayed Ogbeide so much to the left that it appeared that he was gifting him the right side of the basket, but Derek didn’t bite and still went left.
It’s too early to make assumptions on Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump. As highly-touted recruits, both players are capable of making tremendous jumps between their freshman and sophomore years, especially Harris since he actually gets regular court time.
But what about the rest of UGA’s cast? Guys like Turtle Jackson, Mike Edwards, Houston Kessler, Kenny Paul Geno, E’Torrion Wilridge. How successful would those guys be in the Big South? All of them get regular minutes on Coach Fox’s team, but none of them is the least bit dangerous with the ball in their hands, which gives opposing defenses an incredible advantage over Georgia, especially when more than one of them is on the court at once. At times this year, J.J. Frazier has appeared to be pushing it a bit and maybe taking some shots that he shouldn’t. But when Maten is on the bench, can you really blame him?
I’m not trying to slam any of these guys. I realize that they are just college kids that were offered an opportunity to play for UGA and they took it. The fact that they might be in over their heads is not their fault; it’s Mark Fox’s.
In year eight of his ten-year plan, this is the team that Fox has assembled. They turn the ball over a lot (more than 14 a game) and they do not shoot well from the outside (281st in the nation in 3PT%). Apparently, both of these aforementioned reasons have Fox indicating that it’s time to slow things down. I guess I need to pop over to Jittery Joe’s before the game today because seeing this team play any slower is going to potentially put me into nap mode.
Going slow is definitely an option that a coach has when his team has a talent deficit compared to their opponent, which has been the case for Georgia in most SEC games this year. But he also has the choice to speed things up a bit. Turtle, Edwards and Wilridge might not put the fear of God into too many defenders, but they are all long players that are highly athletic. When Maten is out of the game, why not utilize their main collective strength and put them in a full-court trap press, similar to the one that Texas A&M ran. Sorry, too soon?
Anyhow, imagine Edwards guarding the ball and then trapping with either Turtle or Wilridge (or Parker or Geno for that matter), depending on which side the ball goes. Presses can create offensive opportunities for stagnant offenses, yet Georgia barely ever does it.
The Dawgs have one and a half outside shooting threats and only two guys who can create their own shot. But they do have some athletes, and athletes can put pressure on ball handlers in the open court.