Dawgs At Home Against Arkansas State

Former Arkansas State player and movie star, Arthur Agee

The Georgia Bulldogs (6-2) take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves (3-6) this Saturday in Athens at 12:00PM.

Arkansas State…Arkansas State…where have I heard that name before?  Arthur Agee, one of the two stars from the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams“, played his final two years of college basketball for the Red Wolves.  If you have never  seen the movie, check it out – it’s a great sports flick.

Despite returning four starters from last year’s team and being predicted to finish 2nd in the Sun Belt’s West Division by Rivals.com, the Red Wolves have not gotten out to the best start.  Actually, their start to this season was terrible, losing their first five games of the season to Ole Miss, Missouri State, Belmont, Pacific and Pepperdine – not exactly Murder’s Row.

However, they have won three out of their last four games, with their lone loss coming in overtime to then-ranked #15 Memphis.  Arkansas State coach, John Brady (former coach of the LSU Tigers), credited his team’s zone defense for keeping the came close by taking Memphis out of its offensive rhythm.

Any chance that Brady may put his team in some zone sets to force Georgia to shoot it from outside?

The leaders of this Arkansas State team are 6th-year senior guard Donald “Don’t Call Me Daniel” Boone and junior power forward Martavius Adams.

Besides providing this ASU team with leadership and the wisdom that comes from being in college for six years, Boone is  also chipping in 10.2 ppg – 46.6% from the field and 34.1% from downtown – from the shooting guard position.  He’s probably their most consistent outside threat, and the Georgia guards will need to be aware of where he is at on the court.

Martavius Adams, a native of Irwinton, Georgia, was selected to the Sun Belt preseason All-League Second Team coming into the 2010-2011 season.  Adams has a Jeremy Price-like frame – 6’8″, 255lbs – and leads the Red Wolves in both scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 ppg).  He originally signed and played his freshman season with the Oklahoma State Cowboys before transferring to Arkansas State (reserve forward Malcoln Kirkland also came from Oklahoma State).

When previewing his team for this season, Coach Brady had this to say about his star player, “”I thought the last 12-14 games of the year that Martavius was as good, if not the best, post player in the league.  It took him a while to get going, but the last 12 or 14 games I thought he was as good as anybody in the Sun Belt. I anticipate him picking up where he left off, and then those other guys are going to make him better because of what they bring to practice.”

As a team, Arkansas State doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well – 40.6% FG and 29.7% 3PT.  Their main strengths seem to be their team defense and rebounding, hauling down 37 boards per game.

On paper, this looks like it should be a cake-walk for Mark Fox’s Bulldogs.  However, there are several abnormal circumstances at play that could make this an interesting game:

1. This is the first game that the Dawgs have played since their December 7th win in Atlanta over in-state rival Georgia Tech.  How rusty will their legs and jump-shots be after such a long lay-off?

2. School is officially out for the holidays, meaning that the crowd on Saturday could be somewhat sparse due to a lack of students in Athens, GA.  There are still tickets available for the game for just $5 (promo code is “HOLIDAYS”), and something tells me that a lot them will remain “available”.  The Red Wolves will not be entering a very “hostile” environment.

3. The game tips-off at an unusually early time – high noon (which will feel like 11am for the ASU players).  Can Coach Fox can get his guys ready to start fast despite the lunch-time tip?

Hopefully Dustin Ware and Sherrard Brantley can be zonebusters again on Saturday and hit some shots from beyond the arc.  The two combined for 10 three-pointers against Georgia Tech, which not only bolstered Georgia‘s scoring but also opened things up on the inside for Trey Thompkins to work.

Jeremy Price, who mustered just 2 points against the Yellow Jackets, has played phenomenal at home this season, averaging 17 points in games against Mississippi Valley State, Colorado and UAB.  Look for him to get back on track against the Red Wolves after being a no-show in the game at Georgia Tech.

And finally, it’s time for junior forward Travis Leslie to snap out of his current funk.  In the Dawgs‘ wins over UAB and Georgia Tech, Leslie scored a total of 8 points on just 3 of 13 shooting in 50 minutes of play.  He has to find a way to stay involved in the offense when the game is running at a slower tempo, especially against zone defenses.

As far as Gerald Robinson, Jr. is concerned, well, you can see how he prepares for games here.

On a personal note, I am stoked to be heading up to Athens for this game.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold and rainy winter day than watching Georgia play some hoops.

If you can’t make the trek to Athens, the game will be televised on CSS and available online at ESPN3.

And I know it’s early, but I noticed that Georgia is currently ranked #36 in CBS Sportsline’s RPI Ranking – this has to be the Dawgs highest RPI in years.

ESPN’s Andy Katz is plugging Georgia again with his recent article discussing how “Opportunity Knocks” for Mark Fox’s Bulldogs.

A Little “Pick Me Up” For UGA Fans

University of Georgia fans (myself included) everywhere are presumably feeling a tad bit down about the current state of Mark Richt’s football team.  After last Saturday’s showing in Starkville, how could they not be?

Hopefully everyone can continue to support the football team going forward, and maybe the return of A.J. Green can spark a mild winning streak – I am flying to Boulder, CO with some friends for the game and I pray that the Dawgs aren’t 1-4 when I return home on Monday afternoon.

But enough about football.

October is quickly approaching and that means that we are only one month away from the start of the 2010-2011 NCAA basketball season.  The Dawgs open things up at home against Mississippi Valley State on November 12th – no game time has been set yet.  You can bookmark the complete schedule from the Georgiadogs.com website.

This season Mark Fox will start the year with probably the best basketball team that UGA has had since the days of Jim Harrick and his legendary basketball tests.  ESPN college basketball analyst, Andy Katz, has Georgia in his preseason Top 25 (actually rounding out the list at #25).  When was the last time ESPN had a Georgia basketball team on any of it’s preseason material?

ESPN’s Dick Vitale put Trey Thompkins on his “Second Team Preseason All-Americans” list.  Thompkins should have an amazing supporting cast on the floor with him this year, starting with junior guard/forward Travis Leslie aka “The Elevator from Decatur”.  This summer Leslie supposedly added a three-point shot to his repertoire (that being putting big men on posters when he drives into the lane – see Demarcus Cousins).  Both of these guys are projected first-round draft picks in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Transfer Gerald Robinson should give Georgia a point guard that can penetrate and create off the dribble – something the Dawgs definitely lacked last season.  Robinson’s presence on the court will prevent teams from being able to double-team Thompkins, and his ability to slash should free up Dustin Ware and sharp-shooting transfer Sherrard Brantley for a lot of open looks from beyond the arc.

There are some interesting out-of-conference match-ups on this year’s schedule – Colorado, @ Saint Louis (ESPN’s Pat Forde likes them), The Old Spice Classic Tournament, UAB, @ Georgia Tech and then a big-time game in Athens with Xavier on February 8th (right in the middle of SEC play).

So don’t let the football team’s three-game losing streak get you down, because Mark Fox’s Dawgs should do a lot of winning this season.

Georgia Hosts Tennessee

The "Braveheart" Special: McPhee vs McBee

This Saturday, Georgia will be playing host to Bruce Pearl’s #8 Tennessee Volunteers in Athens at 5:00PM EST.

This will mark the Dawgs fourth-ranked opponent in their last five games.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two months, you are probably well aware of the drug/gun scandal that several Volunteer players were involved in.

The result of that incident: senior G/F Tyler Smith was kicked off the team and reserves C Brian Williams, G Melvin Goins and Lithonia, GA native G Cameron Tatum were suspended indefinitely (Goins and Tatum were actually re-instated onto the team earlier this week).  These four players represented 40% of this team’s offensive production through the first 12 games of the season (Smith was the team’s leading scorer last year and was averaging in double-figures again this year).

Amazingly, this Tennessee team has won five games in a row with the help of only 6 scholarship players and a mix of walk-ons.  Two of those wins were against #3 Kansas and #22 Ole Miss…go figure?

This Vols squad is led in the backcourt by Scotty Hopson, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince (6’7″ brother of NBA player Tayshaun Prince).  In his sophomore season, Hopson is leading Tennessee in scoring (13.5) and 3-point shooting (40.6%).  His wiry 6’7″ frame allows him to shoot over defenders from the outside, but Hopson is not afraid to take the ball to the rim as well (he had a couple of very impressive dunks against Alabama).

Maze and Prince are chipping in 8.8  and 7.0 points/game, respectively, though neither of them is much of a shooting threat.  Both of these guys play great defense, and rarely turn the ball over.

In the frontcourt, the headline name for UT is senior C Wayne Chism.  If you have never seen Mr. Chism play, he’s easy to spot with his white headband that he sports about 3″ too high on his forehead.

Chism is the Vols leading rebounder at 6.5 per game to go along with 12.1 points.  He is also actually a pretty good outside shooter, knocking down 39% of this 3-point attempts.

In the last five games, these four leaders have stepped up their efforts to compensate for the loss of their four suspended teammates.  All of them are averaging more points per game than their season averages – Chism 15, Hopson 14, Maze 12, Prince 9.4.

Off the bench, Tennessee has gotten great play from sophomore F Renaldo Woolridge (6’8″, 208lbs) and freshman F Kenny Hall (6’8″, 220lbs).  Over the past five games, Woolridge is averaging 7.4 points/5.4 rebounds and Hall is giving the Vols 8.4 points/6.0 rebounds (both guys only average 4.8 points/game on the season).  Kenny Hall (from Stone Mountain, GA) is very active on the offensive glass, so the Dawgs better be aware of where he is on the court when shots go up and get a body on him.

I watched this team win at Alabama on Tuesday night, and it was interesting to see how their style of play has been affected by the loss of the suspended players.  Bruce Pearl’s past teams at Tennessee have thrived off running a full-court press for a majority of the game, dictating a fast tempo and forcing opponents into turnovers.  However, with less personnel at his disposal, Pearl’s team has been forced into playing a half-court game.

Bruce Pearl has never lost to the Dawgs since his arrival at Tennessee in 2005.  His Vols have won 10-straight against Georgia, and will be looking to make it 11 on Saturday.

Georgia’s Keys

Men vs Boys – Wayne Chism is the only UT player that weighs 240lbs or more (he’s listed at 246).  The Dawgs have 4 guys that tip the scales over that 240lb plateau – Chris Barnes – 240, Trey Thompkins – 247, Jeremy Price – 264 and Albert Jackson – 265.  Georgia needs to make the most of this size advantage and bang down low on the thinner Vols.  Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee should be looking to dump the ball down to the Georgia bigs early and often.  The Dawgs are third in the SEC in rebounding margin (+4.1), and in Saturday’s game UGA needs to continue its domination on the glass.

Kiddy Pool Depth – This “key”  is somewhat tied into the first one in that it is focused on Georgia getting the ball inside early.  Tennessee’s depth chart got axed by 33% after the scandal, which means that when a starter goes off a walk-on player enters.  The Dawgs need to look to draw fouls on offense so that they can get into the Vols’ bench.  This would give Georgia a rare talent-advantage over an opponent (usually its the Dawgs that are doing more with less).

From Downtown!!! – Guess where Georgia ranks in the SEC at 3-point field goals made per game?  If you guessed last, then “Yes! You are correct, Sir!”.  The Dawgs are shooting only 33.2% from behind the arc, and making merely four 3’s a game (and McPhee is making 2 of them per contest).  I’m not saying that I think that UGA should start chunking up 24 3-pointers a game like Mississippi State (Dawgs shoot 12/game), but it would be nice if they could take & make just a couple more.  Thompkins is second on the team in 3pt% at a solid 39.1%, yet he has only taken 23 shots from there on the year.  I wouldn’t mind if Trey started looking for a few more (like one or two) three-point shots a game…a couple more 3’s would remove some pressure on offense, and help open things up more in the paint.

Bonus Note:

Saturday’s game will give fans a rare chance to see a match-up between two walk-ons, both presumably of Scottish decent.  If you haven’t guessed, I am referring to the Dawgs senior guard Ricky McPhee and Tennessee’s freshman guard Skylar McBee.

McBee made headlines when he hit a 3-point field goal with time winding down on the shot clock to all but seal the Vols upset victory over the then #1 Kansas Jayhawks.  He received offers to play at East Carolina, Marshall, Santa Clara and Winthrop, but elected to stay close to home and walk-on at UT.  This was probably a wise decision since he has been playing 15.5 minutes per game, contributing 4.8 points.

The elder McPhee (also known as the Pride of Lawrenceville) transferred to Georgia after two seasons at Gardner Webb University.  This season, McPhee has started every game for the Dawgs and is averaging 9.8 points in 30.4 minutes.  He has also established himself as Coach Fox’s best perimeter defender (and is certainly a crowd/blog favorite).

It will be interesting to see if these two players defend each other at all on Saturday.  Both of them continue to serve as inspirations to future walk-ons and Scotts everywhere.

– I will be heading up to Athens with a few buddies for this one…  If you can’t make the trip, the game will be televised on the Fox Sports Network and 750AM radio.

Any other thoughts on what Dawgs need to do to win this one?

Wreck Tech

Will the Dawgs have the "Eye of the Tiger" on Tuesday night?

In 1976, Sylvester Stallone created an iconic boxing figure in his film directorial debut, Rocky.  Rocky Balboa  glorified the heart of the underdog and achieved success against all odds.

Why the 1976 reference?

Because this was the last time that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won a Men’s basketball game in Athens, GA.  Seems unbelievable doesn’t it with all of the talented players and teams that Tech has had over the years (Mark Price, Danny Manning, Tom Hammonds, Duane Ferrell, Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson, Matt Harpring, Stephon Marbury)?

For the Bulldogs to keep their home winning streak alive Tuesday night against the Jackets, I think they are going to need a “Rocky Balboa “-esque performance because this GT team is very talented.

The Jackets come into this game 11-2 and ranked in both polls – #20 in AP; #17 in USA Today.  Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology edition has Tech entering the NCAA tournament as a 7-seed.

Georgia Tech had one  of the top recruiting classes coming into this season, and those talented freshman are producing early:

  • F Derrick Favors – 12.4 pts, 8.8 rebounds
  • PG Mfon Udofia – 11.2 pts, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists
  • G/F Brian Oliver – 7.2 pts, 41.4% from 3pt

The Wramblin’ Wreck’s front court features junior Gani Lawal and senior Zachery Peacock, who are averaging 14.8 and 9.5 points, respectively.

This team shoots the ball well (47.2% FG), plays great defense (only allowing 60.5/game) and they are big inside which allows them to control the glass and bring down 42.8 rebounds a game.

The good news for the Dawgs is that this Tech team hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent all season (not that UGA has either) – CBS Sportsline has the Jackets strength of schedule at 179; UGA’s is 130…so there is a slight possibility that this Tech squad has built up its 11-2 record against weaker opponents.

Another bonus for the Dawgs is Tech’s next opponent – the Jackets play host to #5 Duke on Saturday and could get caught looking ahead…

Keys to the Game

“Under Pressure” – the Queen and David Bowie hit song should be the Dawgs’ mantra Tuesday night.  This Jackets team has struggled with turnovers so far this year, averaging nearly 17 a game and ranking them 51st in the country in basketball’s ugliest statistical category.  Mark Fox should consider utilizing the full-court zone trap press that features Travis Leslie up front and on the ball…this could create some easy buckets for the Dawgs and get Tech out of their half-court offense.

“Jackson, Barnes & Price, LLC” – Albert Jackson, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price have got to give Georgia quality minutes against the Jackets.  I always feel confident that Trey Thompkins will get his rebounds, but sometimes the other forwards make me a bit nervous…UGA needs them to step up and work hard on the glass to help limit Tech’s second-chance opportunities.

Marquee Matchup – Last year Trey Thompkins scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in an ugly game in which the Jackets won 67-62 in Atlanta.  Gani Lawal scored 15 points and added 14 rebounds.  It’s safe to say that they ended in a draw (though Lawal’s team won the game).

This year, I anticipate Trey winning this matchup.  He has improved more both physically and statistically since last year’s rookie campaign, while Lawal’s numbers have remained almost identical.

The crowd for this one should be primarily red and black since the Georgia Tech football team plays Iowa at 8:15pm in the Orange Bowl.  Hopefully the UGA faithful can bring a lot of energy and get the Dawgs nice and fired up.

I think that on paper the Georgia Tech team is more talented (vegas has them at a 6-point favorite), but I remember a situation back in November 2009 where a Georgia Tech football team was also considered “better on paper”.

This game will be televised on CSS beginning at 7:00PM EST.

What’s everyone thinking about this one?  Will Travis Leslie come onto the court with “I Run This State” on his eye black or arms?

Hoop Dawgs First Post

We all know that the University of Georgia is a football school, and will always be a football school.  However, UGA also participates in a number of other collegiate athletics and this blog is going to be dedicated to one of them – Men’s Basketball.

I know, I know…why would anyone (even a UGA grad or fan) give two thoughts to the UGA Men’s basketball team?  Besides a miraculous SEC Tournament Championship two years ago (which can be mostly attributed to the tornado that ripped through Atlanta, GA and rendered the Georgia Dome unsuitable for the remainder of the tournament – the final 2 rounds of the tournament were played in Georgia Tech’s gym with only family & friends present), the state of affairs of the basketball team has been in meddling in mediocrity since the Jim Harrick meltdown.

I am a University of Georgia graduate (2001) and a HUGE sports fan.  I love UGA football (by “love” I mean I wake up on Gameday Saturdays with the same nerves that I remember having before high school basketball games), but I am also part of a rare breed of Dawgs fans that actually cares/follows the basketball team as well.   That is why I started this blog – hopefully I can help build interest and support (or the “brand” as UGA Athletics Director Damon Evans likes to say) amongst my fellow Dawgs fans for the UGA basketball team.

With this blog I hope to try to talk about the team, analyze some aspects of the games and the opponents and maybe make a few more people turn on Comcast Channel number 7 every now and then to watch the Hoop Dawgs on Peachtree TV.   I was a decent high school basketball player (good shooter, bad dribbler) that only gained minimal interest from a handful of D-II & D-III schools, so I am by no means the Jay Bilas of the basketball media…but I do think that I understood the game pretty well when I played, and that I still understand most of it now – except for the shift away from the black ankle socks made popular by Michigan’s Fab Five…I loved those!

Here is a link to the Dawgs schedule this year – I suggest you memorize it (or at least print it out?).

Here are some things I like about this years team:

  • Mark Fox – the Dawgs desperately needed a breath of fresh air at coach and I think Fox will be just that.  In five years at Nevada, he took his team to the NCAA tournament three times.   He is used to succeeding without too much depth, which is exactly what he has inherited in this year’s team
  • Trey Thompkins – great shooter that now has an inside game after a summer of hitting the weights and bulking up…look for him to be one of the premier forwards in the SEC.
  • Chris Barnes – this guy is going to be one of the bigger bruisers in the conference.  I anticipate that Barnes averages 8 rebounds a game and maybe even 8 or 9 points as well.

There is a game Tuesday night in Athens, GA  at “The Steg” against the Saint Louis Billikens…check back tomorrow for the unveiling of the definition of the word “Billiken”.