Georgia shows up on some early Bracketology sites

On the eve of Georgia’s SEC home opener against the #23 Arkansas Razorbacks, Coach Mark Fox’s team landed in both ESPN and CBS’s initial Bracketology reports for 2015.  Coincidentally, the Dawgs showed up as a 10-seed in the Midwest Region of both brackets, though the two networks had them playing different 7-seed opponents.  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has UGA squaring off with St. John’s in a second round game in Columbus, Ohio.  CBS’s Jerry Palm placed the Dawgs in the second round as well, pairing them with the Iowa State Cyclones.

While Georgia failed to crack into either of this week’s AP or Coaches Polls (though they did receive 4 votes in the Coaches), the fact that Fox’s team appeared in both of these early bracket estimates certainly demonstrates that some members of the media are beginning to take note of this team’s non-conference accomplishments (primarily, a convincing win over surging Seton Hall).

Mark Fox discusses practicing, preparing for three different teams and avoiding a letdown (updated)

Out of Georgia’s potential opponents for Friday – Missy State, Vandy or Ole Miss – the Rebels seem to pose the scariest challenge, simply because Marshall Henderson can be so dangerous from just about anywhere across half court.  The Dawgs edged out Ole Miss 61-60 in a tightly-contested game in Athens earlier this year.

In addition, the Rebels won this tournament last year, though I do not think that this year’s squad is quite as strong as last year’s with the departures of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner from the inside.

In regards to the possible “letdown” effect, I really don’t see how that might even be a factor with this Bulldog team.

If anything, I anticipate Georgia players stepping into the Georgia Dome with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.  Despite finishing tied for second in the SEC with Kentucky, UGA is still getting snubbed from both ESPN and CBS Sports ‘s Bubble Watches.

In the pre-game broadcast for the tonight’s opening SEC tournament games, analyst Barry Booker described the bottom half of the bracket as “wide open”, noting that he could see either LSU, Alabama or Ole Miss making a run in this tournament.

Add Booker to the growing list of college basketball media personnel that are still not talking about Georgia.

(update)

7:43PM – I just saw on ESPN’s Bottom Line that network Bracketologist Joe Lunardi does in fact have Georgia on his “bubble”.

John Cannon transferring, Charles Mann honored and Georgia’s dwindling RPI

JC

First things first – brace yourselves – John Cannon has decided to transfer.  This news should not come as much of a surprise to Georgia basketball fans as Cannon has spent way more time on the bench than on the court this season.   In his three years at UGA, Cannon never averaged more than 9 minutes a game, and he wasn’t even getting 5 minutes a night on the floor this season.  In the junior’s public statement he cited that he would “consider other opportunities to play basketball and get my degree”, which I hope for his sake means that he will be heading to the small- to mid-major level.

Charles in charge

Kudos to UGA sophomore point guard Charles Mann for being named as a member of the Second Team All-SEC.  Mann contributed in so many ways this year for Coach Mark Fox, netting 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists in conference play.  If Georgia hopes to make a run in Atlanta this weekend for the SEC Tournament they will need Mann’s leadership and driving ability from the point guard position.

RPI woes

The Dawgs haven’t been on the court since their big win in Baton Rouge last Saturday, yet UGA’s RPI has already dropped from 70 to 75 (as of today).

The main thing that is killing Georgia’s RPI at this point is a lack of wins against the RPI (1-50), where UGA is an ugly 0-6.  This shortcoming has to be the culprit responsible for the fact that LSU – a team that the Dawgs’ beat twice this year – is back ahead of Georgia with an RPI of 72.  In addition to the season sweep of the Tigers, UGA also outranks them in strength of schedule, 68 (UGA) to 75 (LSU).

Georgia fans should start learning several Missouri and Arkansas cheers for the games later this week since both of these teams could help bolster UGA’s RPI with more wins.  Mizzu’s RPI sits at 52 and the Hogs are at 57, meaning that if each of these teams could win a game or two they could possibly crack the RPI (1-50) and potentially give Georgia 3 wins versus that RPI grouping.

While wins by Mizzu and Arkansas would certainly help, UGA is most likely going to have to help themselves by winning a few in this tournament.  Even after finishing tied for second in the final SEC standings, Georgia still remained unmentioned in the latests “Bubble Watches” from ESPN and CBS Sports.

Jerry Palm, CBS’s Bracketologist, had this reply for a Dawgs’ fan last Sunday:

Personally, I believe if Georgia wins Friday and Saturday they will get an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Anything short of that, though, and it’s most likely NIT time for the Dawgs.

UGA (4-3) at St. John’s (6-1) in the DirectTV SEC/Big East Invitational in New York, NY at 7:00PM EST on ESPN2

The Dawgs have got their work cut out for them tonight.  Vegas has the Red Storm favored by 11.5 which basically means that they don’t think UGA has a chance.  St. John’s is receiving votes in both the AP & Coaches polls, and they are currently ranked 4th in CBS Sportsline’s RPI.

Unfortunately for Georgia  the site that was chosen for the game (Madison Square GardenSEC/Big East Invitational) is actually where St. John’s plays HALF of their regular season home games (the other half are played on their campus at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, NY)…and call me crazy, but I don’t see many UGA fans making the trip to “The Big Apple” to watch this one.  I am going to go out on a limb and guess that a majority of the people in the stands will be cheering for the Red Storm.

This experienced St. John’s team (they return all five starters from last year’s squad) has been tested early in the season, and for the most part they have been successful.    They have already beaten Temple and Siena (who won the MAAC the last two years and should contend to win it again); the Red Storm travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium and lost to Duke 80-71 in a competitive game.   This game is going to be treated with extreme importance to the Johnnies…they know that they need to accumulate as many non-conference wins as possible before getting into their Big East schedule if they want to be considered for the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season (and they do have a real shot of making the tournament).

Who on the Red Storm should worry you if you are a Dawgs fan?

Jr. Guard/Forward DJ Kennedy is a superb athlete who can score inside and out.  He is currently averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting a robust 44.8% from beyond the arc.

Junior Guard Dwight Hardy can also fill it up from three-point land, shooting a solid 37.5%.  Hardy is a native of Bronx, NY, and during high school he built quite a reputation as an amazing street ball player in the Harlem Summer Leagues….point being, he isn’t just a shooter.  He likes to take it to the rim and score off the dribble as well.

Junior Forward Sean Evans is a big body (6’8″, 255lbs) and probably St. John’s best inside player.  He averages  10.0 points/7 rebounds a game, and prides himself on being a very versatile defender.  He will most likely be matched up on Thompkins and will be looking to frustrate him early and often.

Ok, Ok…Enough about St. John’s.  Let’s turn the focus over to Georgia, and what needs to be done for them to win the game.

UGA’s “Keys to the Game

  • Trey All Day (and Night): “Big time players make big time plays in big time games” – one of the oldest clichés in sports.  However, for young Trey Thompkins this couldn’t be a better motto going into tonight’s game.  He will be playing in one of the most famed venues in all of basketball in Madison Square Garden against a storied St. John’s program.   He is being handed a wonderful opportunity to show the country his talents on ESPN2’s prime time slot.  He cannot have another 0 for 6 performance like he did against Virginia Tech last Sunday.  Georgia is 1-3 this season in games when Trey scores under 15.
  • Slow it Down: This certainly will not be the case in a lot of games this season for the Dawgs, but I really feel like they should do their best to keep this a half-court game.  St. John’s will want to turn it into a track meet so that they can free up Kennedy & Hardy in the open court and allow them to operate in space.  UGA has a slight size advantage and can possibly win the battle on the boards with Thompkins, Jackson, Price, Barnes & Leslie crashing.
  • Ware & McPhee for 3!!!: The Dawgs really need these two to come out of the gates knocking down some buckets from outside the arc.  The better they shoot, the more the Red Storm defense will have to shade its guards towards the perimeter – leaving Thompkins with more chances to play one-on-one in the paint.

I expect to see Mark Fox’s team play with more fire than they have yet this season.  This UGA basketball team lives in anonymity even on its own campus because of the prestigious juggernaut that is Georgia Football.   Tonight’s game will give them a rare “spotlight”, and hopefully they can seize the opportunity!