Hoop Dawgs haven’t fared well recently against tough competition

Mark Fox has done a pretty good job at Georgia over the past three seasons.  The Dawgs were above .500 in the conference this year for the third straight time.  Should Georgia hold serve tomorrow night in The Steg against Belmont, Coach Fox will enjoy his third straight 20-win season, certainly no small feat since it hasn’t been done since the streak between ’96-98.

The AJC and other local media outlets have written numerous articles lately highlighting these accomplishments.  I get it: things are better now than they were before Fox got here.

And I’m not advocating that Georgia get rid of Fox – he has two 4-star guards coming in next year to join J.J. Frazier, Yante Maten and a crop of rising sophomores that for the most part got decent game experience in their freshman seasons.

However, when it comes to winning against stronger competition, Fox’s teams have failed.    Since the departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, Georgia has won just 4 of its 38 games against the RPI Top 50.  Additionally, the Dawgs are just 3-22 when playing ranked opponents during the same time span.  And again, this inability to perform well against better teams has been over the course of the past 5 seasons when UGA has been playing with Fox’s guys on the court.

Georgia doesn’t need a “breakthrough moment” as Mark Bradley stated in his article the other day.  They need many of them.  Georgia is the flagship university of the state and Atlanta is a hotbed for high school basketball recruiting.  This weekend, if you tune in to watch any of the NCAA tournament you will surely see plenty of rosters sporting players from the state of Georgia (1-seed Virginia has 3). UGA is in a Power 5 conference, yet its track record against the RPI Top 50 resembles that of a mid-major program.

At some point,  Georgia needs to become a regular in the NCAA tournament.  Can Fox get them there?

No NCAA’s for Georgia, but the Dawgs do get an NIT bid

If Georgia was on the NCAA bubble heading into the Selection Sunday, they were on the very outer fringe of it.  The Dawgs, who just fell short of knocking off the Kentucky Wildcats yesterday, ultimately didn’t have enough quality wins to convince the committee to include them in the field of 68.

However, when one door closes, another one opens.  In this case, that other door is the NIT, where Georgia has been named a 3-seed, and they will play the sixth-seeded Belmont Bruins.  As the higher seed, the Dawgs will take on the Bruins in Athens on Wednesday night.

Belmont won the regular season Ohio Valley Conference title, but the Bruins were knocked out of their league tournament, which shut the door on any aspirations that they might have held in regards to dancing.  At quick glance, the main thing that jumps out off the Bruins’ stat sheet is their proclivity to knock down three’s – Belmont made over 36% of its attempts from beyond the arc this season.

Both teams share a common opponent – Murray State- whom they each beat on their respective home courts.

I am definitely curious as to what Georgia’s mindset will be heading into this game.  Not making the NCAA Tournament has to be a tough pill for this UGA team to swallow, especially for the two seniors.  What will UGA’s mentality be on Tuesday evening, just days removed from the loss in Nashville and the letdown this afternoon?

 

Bulldogs defeat Carolina 65-64 for 5th SEC win in a row; advance to Semifinals

Decatur Dawg with my third game write-up, all wins!

The Bulldogs beat NCAA “lock” South Carolina for the third time this season and JJ Fraiser put himself on the map as a national star in a thrilling one point win late Friday night in Nashville.  Hoop Dawgs fans saw a rare outburst of celebration from Coach Fox at the end as he wiped out on the floor when JJ made the game winning steal with 2 seconds left.

Georgia spent most of the first half putting on an ugly performance of offense.  Early in the half the Dawgs had a hard time just getting off field goal attempts. There was little to no rhythm, JJ was out of control and Maten could not finish.  South Carolina came out playing very physical with us and had control of the game it seemed.  Georgia’s zone defense looked lazy and the Gamecocks, led by Thornwell with 13 points, made open jumpers.

Then, somehow, the Dawgs went to halftime down only 3 points. (It looked like KPG had scored a weird dunk at the buzzer to cut the lead to one but it was waived off).  Coach Martin looked like he was having a stroke during his halftime interview.

The Cocks came out aggressive again to start the second half and it was Coach Fox’s turn to freak out as Carolina went up by 11 early in the second half.  Georgia answered though with a 9-0 run and tied the game at 47 with JJ’s coast to coast drive with 9:00 left.  JJ continued to beat the Cocks down the court but the Dawgs could not get over the hump and take the lead.  Finally, with 3:00 left Mann’s free throws gave the Dawgs their first lead 60-59.

Carolina led by 2 in the last minute when JJ Fraiser took over the game to win it for the Dawgs.  First he split a double team and delivered a sweet teardrop floater over their center to tie the game with about 20 seconds left.  Thornwell then tried to take JJ off the dribble but JJ stole the ball from him and drew a foul with two seconds left.  Fraiser was super-confident and made the first free throw for his 20th point of the game before missing the second intentionally (a nice call by Fox).

The Dawgs only had the lead for a total of 42 seconds of game time but it was enough.  The team showed real toughness and commitment.  We now get 16 hours off before we tip off with Big Blue tomorrow afternoon.

 

Hoop Dawgs send Maroon Dogs Home

This is Decatur Dawg staying up late to blog a big win.

Georgia’s two All SEC (2nd team) members, JJ Frazier and Yante Maten, led the Hoop Dawgs to a 79-69 win over Missy St. in the first round of the SEC Tournament.  JJ finished with 28 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 8-8 free throws; while Maten posted 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.    .

The Dawgs came out playing aggressively on offense with Maten, Mann and Ogbeide taking it strong to the basket for buckets in the early minutes.  Maten executed a sweet spin move away from a double team for a left-handed hook that tied the game at 17 at the 11:00 mark.  JJ Frasier then got hot and Maten even made a 3 pointer before halftime as the Dawgs went to the break with a 42-34 lead.

JJ Frasier opened the second half on fire with two threes.  Then a JJ assist to Maten on a break that started with Maten’s block put Georgia up by 16, 57-41, with 15 minutes left.

From that point the Dawgs lost some focus and were flustered by the Maroon’s pressure defense.  Missy State slowly got back in the game as Georgia struggled through a 6 plus minute stretch without a field goal.  Georgia’s lead was down to 4, 72-68, at the 4 minute timeout.

Georgia effectively kept Maten out of foul trouble by playing zone defense for most of the game.  Down the stretch, the Dawgs switched to man defense and held State to just one point over the final 4 minutes while blocking several shots to hold on for the 10 point win.

The “good Dawgs” made a sustained appearance for about 20 minutes in the middle of the game.  Time to get some rest for South Carolina in tomorrow’s nightcap.  The Gamecocks will have plenty of motivation, but so will the Dawgs.

SEC Tournament Preview

This is Decatur Dawg pitching in while HoopDawg tries to avoid Apaches.

At times this season, the Hoop Dawgs have looked like a very dangerous team.  Yante Maten is clearly one of the best inside players in the conference and is capable of a double-double every night.  JJ Frasier is one of the best point guards in the SEC and, at times, a lights out shooter capable of scoring 30 points.  Kenny Gaines can get hot and play sweet music from 3.  In the final regular season game, young bigs Ogbeide and Edwards showed that they can contribute, pacing Georgia to a dominating performance on the glass against Alabama.  Georgia gives good defensive effort most every game and holds opponents to the lowest FG% in the SEC.

On the other hand, at times the Hoop Dawgs look abysmal.  The offense has been known to go scoreless for 10 minutes plus.  Against quick and athletic front lines, the Dawgs sometimes give up way too many offensive rebounds.  Free throw shooting and turnovers have been a constant struggle.

Georgia’s chances in this SEC Tournament depend on whether the “good Dawgs” or the “bad Dawgs” show up, and how often.  We are currently on a three game “good Dawg” stretch that gives me hope for a major run into this weekend.  On the other hand, Coach Fox has never mustered more than one win in a single SEC Tournament.  Still, if Georgia gets strong defense and shooting from senior Kenny Gaines, we should advance past Missy State and South Carolina – Georgia is 3-0 against these teams, with two road wins – and set up a huge semifinal game with Kentucky this weekend.

Lets take a look at the bigger picture heading in to the SEC Tournament:

FAVORITES

Kentucky – The Cats tied for first in the SEC but get the #2 seed due to their loss at A&M.  Kentucky is the favorite as they have been in every SEC Tournament that I can remember other than the Florida championship years early this century.  This year’s Cats are once again a young group and once again loaded with talent.  They have the league’s best PG in Tyler Ulis and its best shooter in Jamal Murray.  However, this year’s Cats did not dominate inside as recent Kentucky teams have done.  Most troubling for Kentucky is that this event will not be held at Rupp Arena — Kentucky has lost 6 of their past 10 games away from home.

Texas A&M – The #1 seed Aggies are led by senior guards Jalen Jones and Danuel House.  A&M surged as high as #3 in the AP poll and looked like they would dominate the SEC before hitting a lull in early February in which they lost 4 straight.  They have since regained their form with 6 straight wins to finish the regular season.

CONTENDERS

Vanderbilt – The Commodores got off to a tough start, losing their first 3 SEC games.  Since then, they are one of the hottest teams in the league with wins over both Kentucky and Texas A&M.  Vandy is a very balanced team, with 5 players averaging over 9 points per game.  Don’t overlook the fact that this tournament is played in their hometown of Nashville.  Still, I would like Vandy’s chances better if they did not have to win 4 games in 4 days to take the title.  That extra game moved them out of “favorite” status into this second rung.

LSU – No one will argue that the #4 seed Tigers are not talented enough to win 3 in a row and take this Tournament.  Any team with Ben Simmons leading a very athletic starting 5 has the potential to beat any team they play.  However, LSU has had a horrible time on the defensive end and there are signs of in-fighting coming out of Baton Rouge.

South Carolina – The Gamecocks have had a very good season and own a huge win at Texas A&M.  Still, its hard to imagine this team winning 3 in a row away from home.  The ‘Cocks lack a consistent scoring punch.

DARK HORSES

Georgia – see above.  The Hoop Dawgs could not keep the games very close against Kentucky, A&M or Vanderbilt but we did get a pretty good draw in the bracket.  The Dawgs are likely to be favored vs Missy State and South Carolina and wins could set up a huge opportunity against a Kentucky team that might take us lightly if they are remembering back to their easy win at Rupp.

Ole Miss – Its not likely to be enough to win the Tournament, but Stefan Moody has the potential to get super hot and carry the Rebel Bears into the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia’s NCAA Prospects

This is Decatur Dawg continuing to fill in for Hoop Dawg.

Georgia enters the SEC Tournament as the #6 seed.  Four wins in four days would make us SEC Tournament Champs and automatic qualifiers for the NCAA.  Of course, we all know how hard it is to pull off that feat (barring a natural disaster) especially for a team like Georgia that lacks quality depth.  The question becomes: is it possible for Georgia to receive an NCAA at-large bid?

The Hoop Dawgs had a disastrous 0-3 stretch from Feb. 16 – 24 in which we lost to Vandy, Florida and Auburn.  After the Auburn loss (RPI 150+) the Dawgs were considered out of  NCAA consideration and hanging on by our fingernails for an NIT bid.

That Auburn loss remains a major blemish and the only truly bad loss on the Dawgs’ resume.  But three straight wins over top 100 RPI teams Ole Miss, South Carolina and Alabama have the Dawgs at least back in the NCAA conversation heading into the conference tournaments.  Georgia’s current RPI of 71 is not good enough, but there is still time for us to move up in to the 50s and get serious consideration. Our #26 strength of schedule and #3 non-conference SOS are major stats in our favor. Joe Lunardi lists us as one of the “second four out” on his Bracketology page.

My take is that Georgia has a very good chance of getting an at-large bid with 3 wins in the SEC Tourney — which would get us to 20 wins overall,  13 wins in SEC play and a 6-1 finish to our season.  I doubt that many Power 5 teams have missed the NCAA with 13 conference wins.  In this scenario, we would have 3 wins vs. S Carolina, a team considered to be in the NCAA. It would be hard for the selection committee to give them the nod and leave us out.  If we win just two games in the SEC Tournament, then say take a close loss to Kentucky, I would think we still have a long shot chance at being selected to the NCAA.

Teams to Root Against:

The NCAA at-large bids are a zero-sum game.  Losses by these teams in their conference tournaments are good news for the Dawgs:

Florida – it comes naturally to root against the Gators but we have extra incentive based on their beating us twice and the limited number of spaces for SEC teams in the NCAA. The reptiles have lost 4 of 5 games so a first round loss to Arkansas would seem to put them out of NCAA consideration and open up Georgia’s chances of being a potential 5th SEC team in the Big Dance.

Others on the bubble:  Syracuse, St. Bonaventure, UConn, Oregon St., Tulsa, Gonzaga, Michigan, George Washington and Ohio State are all teams we are competing with for one of the last NCAA spots.

Teams to Root For

The RPI formula makes for strange bedfellows:

Georgia Tech (RPI 69): Currently our third best win based on RPI, a win or two by the Jackets in the ACC Tournament could raise Georgia’s RPI and maybe even get us a top 50 win.

Small Conference Leaders: St. Mary’s, Akron, S. Dakota St., Valporaiso, San Diego St., Monmouth, Arkansas Little Rock and Chattanooga are all #1 seeds in their respective conferences and ranked ahead of Georgia in the RPI.  We want every one of these teams to win their conference tournaments because otherwise they may take an at-large bid off the board.

What about the NIT?

At this point the Hoop Dawgs look good for an NIT bid.  A loss to Missy State in the first game would leave us to sweat out the NIT selection and assure a road trip for the first game if we are selected.  With two wins in the SEC Tournament, I like our chances of hosting an NIT game or two.

Georgia Overpowers Alabama in the Paint to Win 70-63

This is Decatur Dawg guest blogging through the SEC tournament while Hoop Dawg is wandering the Mexican desert.  I will do my best to fill his large shoes during this critical part of the season.

Georgia owned the paint on Senior Night against a big Alabama front line and won an entertaining game 70-63.  The Dawgs dominated the glass, posting a huge 48-26 rebounding advantage and scoring almost all of our 70 points inside or from the foul line.

After a nice ceremony for seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann pregame, the Dawgs came out shooting cold, missing 8 of our first 9 shots while the Tide staked a 10-4 lead over the first five minutes of play.  Coach Fox presumably directed the ball inside during the first timeout and Yante Maten promptly scored 7 straight points – including a nice three point play off an alert interior pass from Derek Ogbeide – to give the Dawgs an 11-10 lead.

The Dawgs led most of the way from that point but the Tide did make a quick 7-0 run to grab the lead 40-38 with a transition bucket off a block of Kessler’s shot.  Georgia was not going to lose this game though, and the Dawgs got the crowd on its feet when JJ Fraiser fed Maten in transition for a monster dunk that put the Dawgs up for good with 7 minutes left.  JJ then made 10 of 10 free throws down the stretch to ice the game.

Maten was Georgia’s player of the game with 19 points and 5 rebounds and converted three old fashioned three point plays along the way.  Freshmen Ogbeide and Mike Edwards also played probably their best games as Bulldogs as well, combining for 12 points and 9 rebounds in 37 combined minutes.  Ogbeide was particularly effective in the first half with 8 points and 5 rebounds but mysteriously spent a lot of time on the bench in the second half.  This was clearly the best game of the season for the Bulldogs’ young front line and showed much promise for the future.

Gaines and Mann had solid, if unspectacular games in what was likely their last game at the Steg.  Mann in particular played great defense and contributed 7 rebounds.

Alabama was led by a surprising 25 point night from Shannon Hale off the bench.  His ability to shoot from outside seemed to create a bad defensive matchup for Maten in the second half.

WIth this win, Georgia ended the regular season on a three game winning streak and heads to Nashville with strong momentum for the SEC Tournament.  Georgia also finished the SEC schedule with a winning record for a third straight season and that makes four straight SEC campaigns of .500 or better — the first such streak in Georgia history and a major accomplishment for Coach Fox.

Georgia loses a heartbreaker in Oxford

With 3.8 seconds remaining in the game, Georgia got the ball into Charles Mann’s hands near half court, providing the Dawgs with a chance at a  reasonable last second shot.  Mann’s pass to Kenny Gaines was deflected, though, forcing Gaines to take an off-balanced three-pointer that careened off the rim, giving Mississippi the 72-71 home win.

UGA yielded 29 points to Stefan Moody, though none were bigger than the two he hit to send his team up by one with less than 4 seconds remaining (even though it appeared as though he needed three steps to get that basket).

The Dawgs put up a gutty effor on the road, falling just short in Oxford on Saturday night.  Georgia played the final stretch of this one without its star player, Yante Maten, who fouled out with 3:36 remaining in the game; Maten left with a team-high 20 points and 9 rebounds, his team clinging to a 64-62 lead.

Neither team shot the ball well in Oxford on Saturday, with both squads hitting just 36% from the floor.  Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines were the only other Bulldogs to finish in double-figures for Coach Mark Fox, scoring 15 and 14, respectively.  Gaines’s points, however, came at the expense of a 3 for 14 shooting performance.

Georgia looked like it was going to get run out of the gym early, falling behind 19-11 with 12:50 left before the break after a layup by Rashad Brooks.

The Dawgs didn’t flinch, though. Rather, UGA responded with an impressive 16-2 run, capped off by a pair of free throws from Charles Mann that gave Georgia a 27-21 advantage. The Dawgs would go on to take a 44-35 lead into the intermission.

But Georgia went ice cold in the second half, hitting just 7 of its 24 field goal attempts.  Slowly but surely, Ole Miss cut into the UGA lead until it had been whittled down to nothing.

The biggest bright spot off the Georgia bench had to be Derek Ogbeide, who scored 9 points to go along with his 10 boards, falling just a basket shy of his first career double-double.  The Rebels opted not to guard starter Houston Kessler from the outside, which leaves one wondering just how long he will continue to see more minutes than Ogbeide, who seems far more productive than the senior at this point in the season.

This loss leaves UGA at 1-2 in conference, and it’s going to sting for a bit.  The Dawgs appeared to be on their way to their first SEC road win of the season before Moody knifed his way to the basket and put his team on top.

Georgia will need to get over this loss quickly, though,  as they have two difficult home games on the horizon next week against Tennessee and #21 Texas A&M.

Dawgs tame Tigers, improve to 1-1 in conference play

The Georgia Bulldogs (8-4) rebounded nicely from their loss last Saturday to the Florida Gators, blasting the Missouri Tigers (7-7) at home in Athens on Tuesday night.  The Dawgs didn’t waste any time either, jumping out to a 10-0 lead following a Yante Maten basket before even 3 minutes had the chance to expire.

Mizzou managed to trim he UGA lead to 24-18 with 7:30 left before the break after a pair of three’s from Wes Clark. However, this mini-run came at a time when Coach Fox had all but one starter on the floor.  He immediately sent in his starting five and 3 minutes later the Dawgs lead had blossomed to 33-20.

Georgia played great offensively tonight, though some of that was due to the Tigers’ soft defense.  Mizzou looked as if it was moving in slow motion compared to the Gators’ hectic defensive style of play.

However, the Dawgs do deserve some credit for their productivity.  Georgia shot a robust 55% from the floor and an even better 58% from three-point land.  In addition, UGA shared the ball incredibly well, dishing out 19 team assists.

Georgia had four of its starters finish in double-figures, with J.J. Frazier leading the way with 16 points.

Yante Maten, who had 15 points and 6 boards on the night, scored 13 of those in the first half.  Maten was unstoppable from the start, and with about 12 minutes left before the intermission he was outscoring the Tigers 11-10 on his own.   Had Georgia not been coasting so much in the second half, Maten could have easily gone for 20+ in this one.

Senior Charles Mann had a nice comeback game, scoring 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists.  Mann hit 2 of his 3 three-point attempts against Mizzou, and he is now making over 45% of his three’s on the season – although, he’s only shot 11 of them.

Ultimately though, Missouri didn’t have an answer for anything UGA was doing.  They couldn’t even begin to wrap their minds around how to deal with Maten, and on top of that, Georgia was stroking the ball extremely well from beyond the arc.

Not to take away from Coach Fox’s team, but this Missouri team is very young and they don’t shoot very well, hitting just 35% from the floor and less than 16% from the perimeter in tonight’s contest.  The Dawgs played pretty well defensively, but the Tigers weren’t much of a threat, missing a number of close shots around the rim.

This 77-59 home win evens Georgia’s SEC record at 1-1, with a road matchup against Ole Miss on the horizon.  While this game is going to be taking place outside Athens, the Rebels play Bama at home on Thursday evening, meaning that they will be dealing with a quick turnaround in order to prepare for the Dawgs.