Georgia opens up SEC play in Gainesville

The Georgia Bulldogs (6-7) will begin conference play on Wednesday as they head south to take on the #11 Florida Gators (10-2).

The Gators returned a solid core of players – Kenny Boynton, Patrick Young, Erik Murphy – this season from a team that was just a basket away from reaching the Final Four in last year’s NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Myron Metcalf likes Florida to win the SEC, citing senior forward/center Erik Murphy as a critical portion of that prediction. Murphy – Florida’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 ppg – is a big body to contend with inside at 6’10”, yet he possesses a surprisingly soft touch from the outside, hitting over 45% of his three-point attempts.

Unfortunately for Florida Coach Billy Donovan, Murphy is listed as “doubtful” for the game against Georgia, and he may miss up to two weeks with a rib injury.

The Gators will definitely miss Murphy’s offense on Wednesday night, and his absence is certainly a huge plus for a UGA team that could use any and every possible advantage available in their first SEC road game of 2013.

Coach Mark Fox’s defense must capitalize on the weakened Florida lineup by centering much of their defensive focus on shutting down senior guard Kenny Boynton. Boynton, a preseason First-Team All-SEC selection, leads the Gators with nearly 14 points per contest, and he is an extremely streaky shooter with the ability to change games quickly from the perimeter.

However, in each of Florida’s two losses this season – Arizona and Kansas State – Boynton struggled to score, managing just 16 total points on a combined 6 for 21 shooting performance from the floor. In both of the aforementioned games, Boynton shot woefully from beyond the arc, making only 2 of his 12 attempts.

The message for the Georgia backcourt: Stop Boynton and you might stop Florida.

If the Dawgs can contain Boynton and not let junior Patrick Young hurt them too much in the paint, they may find themselves hanging around late in the game – Vegas doesn’t think so though, slotting Georgia as an 18-point underdog in this one.

Young is monster in the frontcourt, standing 6’9″ and weighing nearly 250lbs (most of which appears to be solid muscle). He is chipping in over 10 points and almost 7 boards a night for Billy Donovan thus far.

Georgia is riding a four-game win streak into Gainesville, though I would like to note that the team they face on Wednesday night is going to look nothing like the squads UGA entertained in Athens in December. In addition, this game will be the first conference game of the year for the freshmen, meaning that “playtime” is over for Charles Mann and Brandon Morris – from here on out, the defenders are going to be bigger and quicker across the board.

Finally, Coach Fox must continue to get solid offensive production from sophomore big Nemanja Djurisic. The Montenegro Express has been scorching hot the past two games, averaging 19 points and 6 rebounds. The Dawgs have to be able to rely on Neme to help supplement some of the scoring in SEC play so that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope does not have to do it all himself.

Oh yeah – the last time Georgia won a game at the O’Connell Center was over a decade ago (2002).

Georgia gets #12 Florida in Athens today at 4:00PM

The Georgia Bulldogs (12-15; 3-10) relationship with the #12 Florida Gators on the hard court is beginning to become eerily similar to the connection that the Dawgs share with the Gators on the football field (in that Florida wins nearly every time).

The Bulldogs have dropped 15 of the last 17 basketball games to Florida, making this match-up particularly one-sided.

According to the odds makers in Las Vegas, who slotted the Gators as an 8-point favorite, this trend of Florida domination should continue today in Stegeman.

Coach Billy Donovan’s Gators have been an offensive juggernaut in SEC play this season, scoring over 70 points per contest.  Florida has been especially strong from beyond the arc, where they are connecting on 38.1% of their attempts and making a league-leading 9.2 three-pointers per game.

The Gators may have the most complete backcourt in the country, led by junior Kenny Boynton, freshman Bradley Beal and senior Erving Walker.  All three members of this guard trio are netting double-digits on a nightly basis in conference play, with Boynton and Beal leading the way with 15.4 ppg and 14.6 ppg, respectively.  Boynton, who is enjoying his best season yet as a Gator, has made over 40% of this three-point attempts in league games this year.

Coach Mark Fox’s Bulldog team needs to defend the perimeter well this afternoon in an effort to limit Florida’s backcourt from lighting them up.  Fortunately, three-point defense has been somewhat of a strength for this Georgia team as they have held opposing SEC squads to under 33% on threes, ranking them 5th in the conference in that category.

Florida won the first contest between these two teams back in early January, burying Georgia 70-48 in the O’Connell Center.  In that game, the Dawgs held Florida to 7 of 21 shooting from beyond the arc and matched the Gators with 31 rebounds.  Just hearing those two statistics might leave Bulldog fans wondering how Georgia lost by so many points.

The big difference in that game came at the free throw line, where Georgia went an unsightly 1 for 9, while Florida canned 15 of 18 attempts.

One unfortunate symptom that has emerged this year, resulting from Georgia’s lack of an inside game, is that the Bulldogs are not getting to the charity stripe.  In the entire Division I of the NCAA there are only 23 teams out of 337 that are attempting less free throws than Georgia.

In SEC play, the Dawgs are only tossing up 14 free throws per game, pitting them at 11th in the conference (just above South Carolina).  To make matters worse, when Georgia does get to the line they are only making 68% of their attempts, which is 9th in the SEC.

I’m not sure if there is a cure for the Dawgs this season in regards to getting more free throw attempts, but hopefully it will be a major focal point for the UGA bigs in the off-season.

The recipe for a Georgia upset today lies in their ability to make three-pointers, which should come as no surprise to any UGA basketball fan.  The Dawgs have shot over 40% from beyond the arc just three times in league play this year – Tennessee, Arkansas, Missy State – and they won two of those games.

The perimeter game needs to start with freshman Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, who has been mired in a terrible slump over the past three games, averaging just 8.3 points while shooting 27% from the field and 15% on three-point attempts.

KCP has to find a way to put the ball in the basket because senior Gerald Robinson, Jr. cannot keep providing all the offense for Coach Fox’s team.  Georgia’s recent three-game skid has somewhat overshadowed the fact that GR2 has been playing his tail off, netting nearly 16 points to go along with 5.3 boards, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals during that same stretch.  Against both Vandy and South Carolina, Robinson was the only Bulldog to finish the game in double-figures.

If a couple of Bulldogs were to step up and provide some much-needed offensive support to Robinson, then it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the fans in Stegeman could be treated to an afternoon upset.

Gators complete season sweep of Dawgs

Coach Mark Fox had his Georgia Bulldogs (18-9; 7-6) come out in a zone defense last night against the Florida Gators, and by golly, they stuck with it.  For some reason or another, it was apparent that Coach Fox did not feel like his Bulldogs could match-up with the Gators in a man set.

Running a zone defense in college basketball is a bit of a gamble, especially against a good shooting team like Florida (45.0% FG and 35.0% 3PT).  Fox’s strategy worked in the first half, as the Gators struggled to make shots – finishing at 37% from the floor before the break (with only two three-pointers).

After intermission, however, Florida settled in and got a lot more comfortable on offense.  The key stretch of this game came with about 7:30 left and the Gators up 52-51.  Florida’s Kenny Boynton proceeded to bang down three-straight shots from beyond the arc, and following an Alex Tyus lay-up the Gators were all of a sudden leading 63-53 with only 5:10 remaining.  Georgia was never able to fully recover from this 11-2 run, and Chandler Parsons put the nail in the coffin when he snagged an offensive board and stuck it back in to put his team up 65-59 with two minutes left – the final score ended up being 71-62 in favor of the Gators.

Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 18 points, scoring 14 of them in the game’s second half.  He and Chandler Parsons combined for five three-pointers after the break, and Florida finished the game right at their SEC average of 35% from the perimeter.

Georgia had been off since last Saturday’s win at Tennessee, so fatigue should not have been a problem on Thursday.  It was painful to watch Florida swing the ball around the perimeter and bury open three after open three in the second half.  I kept waiting for Coach Fox to get out of the zone and put his team back into man-to-man (especially after Boynton had hit two in a row), but that never happened.

Other than that one killer stretch, the Dawgs played a pretty good game in a rowdy O’Connell Center, with Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins leading the way with 20 and 16, respectively.  Georgia only turned the ball over 13 times (with 17 assists), and they out-rebounded the Gators 32-30.  The problem, however, was that Florida capitalized on nearly every Georgia turnover, resulting in 23 points (off turnovers).

It was a pretty tall order to ask this team to follow-up their road win at Tennessee with another road win against the SEC’s best team.  After dropping both games to the Gators this season, the UGA basketball team has now beaten Florida just twice in the past 16 games – making this rivalry about as lopsided as it is on the football field between these two schools.

The Dawgs are now embattled in a three-way tie with Kentucky and Tennessee for third place in the SEC East.

Georgia has a very quick turnaround, with the South Carolina Gamecocks coming into Athens for a prime time Saturday night tip-off.  The Dawgs don’t have time to sit around and lick their wounds from the loss in Gainesville, as the game against the Cocks is critical to Georgia finishing the season with a winning conference record.

Georgia at Florida in Prime Time on ESPN2

The Georgia Bulldogs (18-8; 7-5) head to Gainesville on Thursday night for a rematch with the #13 Florida Gators, who beat the Dawgs in Athens earlier this season 104-91.  The first meeting between these two teams was one of the better college basketball games of the year, with Georgia coming from behind to send the game into overtime only to have Florida’s Erving Walker hit a three-pointer to force a second overtime.  The Gators were the only team interested in playing in the second overtime as they outscored the Dawgs 19-6 en route a big SEC road victory.

Florida (21-5; 10-2) is undoubtedly the best team in the conference this year, and they are currently riding a five-game winning streak.  The Gators, however, could be playing once again without their preseason All-SEC Second-Team forward Chandler Parsons.  Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise in Florida’s win over Tennessee on February 12th, forcing him to sit out the second half of that game as well as the LSU game last Sunday – a game that the Gators won 68-61.

Florida coach Billy Donovan did not sound positive about whether or not his star forward would play during Monday’s press conference.

“Right now, I’m not personally, overly optimistic that he’ll play,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I think in his mind, he’d like to try to play. … The last time he did anything physically was this past Friday and he couldn’t do much at all.  We’ll prepare for the game without him and if he plays, it’s a bonus.”

Georgia coach Mark Fox didn’t seem to be buying it though, saying that the Dawgs would “prepare like he is going to play”.

Whether Parsons plays or not remains to be seen, but either way this game is still a difficult road test for a Georgia team that has not won a game in Gainesville in nine years.

That being said, this year’s Bulldogs squad seems to prefer life on the road.  Following the Dawgs’ huge win last Saturday in Knoxville over Tennessee, Georgia now holds an 7-2 record in true road games on the season, and they are 4-2 in SEC games played away from Athens.

In the first game between these teams, the Dawgs did not have an answer for Florida’s dynamic guard tandem of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton.  Walker and Boynton scored 24 points apiece, and they shot a combined 24 free throws (connecting on 20 of them).  Both guards used a plethora of high screens to get themselves into the paint where they were able to create at will.  Georgia’s bigs must do a better job of stopping penetration off the pick-and-roll, and making it more difficult for Walker and Boynton to get into the lane.

Florida center Vernon Macklin, who is a load inside at 6’10” and 245 pounds, is having a solid senior season for Coach Donovan, averaging 12.7 ppg and shooting over 57% from the field in conference play.  Macklin shot 10 of 15 from the floor and scored 23 points in the game in Athens, his highest scoring output in an SEC game this season.  With the way Trey Thompkins has been defending lately – 15 blocks in his last six games – I would not be at all surprised to see Coach Fox put him on Florida’s big center (and move either Jeremy Price or Chris Barnes on to Alex Tyus).

Though Trey has been playing some inspired defense lately, he has struggled to find offense since the first game against the Gators (the last time he went for 20 points or more).  In the seven games since the Florida one, Thompkins is shooting just 37.3% from the floor and averaging only 12.3 points.  Despite Trey’s offensive woes, the Dawgs have gone 4-3 in this same span of games.  Imagine how dangerous Georgia would be if Thompkins could get his shot going again?

Georgia has two home games left this year on their conference slate – South Carolina and LSU.  If they win those (as they should), they’ll finish with a winning SEC record and will most likely earn an at-large berth into this year’s NCAA tournament.

That means, in a way, that the pressure is off for the game on Thursday (another perk from the win against the Vols).  Mark Fox’s team should play as if they have nothing to lose, and treat this game as a bonus opportunity to upset a conference rival on their home court (and to possibly improve their NCAA seeding – last “Bracketology” had the Dawgs as a 10-seed).

The Gators are 12-3 this year in Gainesville, and again, they haven’t lost one to Georgia in the Oconnell Center in 9 years.

Georgia’s victory in Knoxville last Saturday was their first at Tennessee in over a decade.

It might be time for the Dawgs to end another streak.

Georgia Hosts Auburn at 1:30PM this Saturday

In the Georgia Bulldogs (15-6; 4-4) loss at Kentucky last week, Trey Thompkins played just 11 first-half minutes.  In the Arkansas game on Wednesday, Trey logged merely 4 minutes of playing time in the game’s first half.

Thompkins has now missed significant playing time in consecutive games due to foul trouble, and as expected, the Dawgs offense has suffered, scoring only 60 points in each of the last two contests.  Georgia is leading the SEC in scoring in conference games at 74.4 ppg, but without Trey on the floor, that number becomes unattainable.

On Saturday, Georgia hosts the Auburn Tigers, the worst team in the league.  The Tigers have won just 1 of their first 8 conference games, and they only have 8 wins on the season (also the lowest in the SEC).  Other than a fluke 65-60 win over Florida State back on January 3rd, this season has been a total disaster for Auburn with losses to UNC-Asheville, Samford, Campbell, Rutgers, Presbyterian and LSU (to name a few) – not exactly the nation’s elite programs.

Offensively, the Tigers have been – “challenged”.  Through the first half of the SEC season, Auburn is averaging 59.4 ppg, which is second to last in the league.  The Tigers are either playing with a lid on the rim, or they are just plain bad at shooting.  As a team, Auburn is hitting a frigid 36.1% from the field and under 30% from beyond the arc (they are also dead-last in the SEC from the line – 62.5%).

According to Rivals.com, the Tigers are just living up to their preseason expectations.

Georgia will definitely be the better team on the court on Saturday, and they should be heavily favored.  However, last year it felt like the Dawgs had the more talented squad, yet they were blown out on The Plaines 82-63.  In that game, Trey Thompkins battled with foul trouble the entire night, finishing with just 6 points and 4 boards before finally fouling out.

The toughest opponent that the Dawgs will face this weekend is themselves.  Georgia can ill-afford to have Thompkins get into foul trouble once again, as it will level the playing field for the Tigers.

The Dawgs also need to resist the temptation of looking ahead to their big-time, out-of-conference clash with Xavier next Tuesday.  As exciting as that game should be, in the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s SEC game with Auburn is more important.

With all the faults that exist within the Auburn offense, they do have one area of the game that they do exceptionally well – rebound.  The Tigers hit the glass hard, hauling down 15.1 offensive boards a game, ranking them second in the conference in that category.

Georgia has been very strong on the defensive glass in conference games this season, bringing down nearly 28 per game (1st in the SEC).  However, nearly 7 of those defensive boards are coming from Trey Thompkins.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again – Trey cannot get into foul trouble in this game.

I’m not sure where Travis Leslie has been the last two games, but I bet that Coach Mark Fox would love to have him back.  In the first six conference games this year, Leslie was playing like a preseason All-SEC team member, averaging 17.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg.  In his last two contests, he is netting just 6.0 ppg and bringing down only 4.0 rpg.  The Dawgs are going to need him to snap out of his offensive slump as they head into the second half of the conference slate.

What more can be said?  It’s hard to get too excited about playing a team that sports a 1-7 SEC record, with a 1-4 road record to boot.

The Dawgs just need to take care of business and defend their home court, something that hasn’t been easy for them thus far in conference games.  Georgia is 2-2 in SEC games played at Stegeman Coliseum, and if they hope to extend their season into late March the Dawgs need to win the remaining five games in Athens (plus the one against Xavier, so technically six).

The Dawgs were able to sneak back into Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology this week, following their road win at Arkansas last Wednesday.  They are still listed with “Work Left to Do” in the latest “Bubble Watch“, but with an RPI of 35, I’d say Georgia is moving over to the favorable side of the bubble.

There are a couple other SEC East games of interest being played on Saturday – South Carolina at #24 Vanderbilt and #11 Kentucky at #23 Florida (ESPN’s “College Gameday” game).

If Georgia does what they’re supposed to do on Saturday and beats Auburn, there is a good chance they could move up to 3rd place in their half of the conference by Sunday.

Dawgs Basketball Tickets Available Online

The 2010-2011 University of Georgia basketball tickets are now available for purchase online at Georgiadogs.com.

If you go to this link for tickets and enter the Promo Code “BULLDOGS” you will be taken to a page where you can buy tickets online for the upcoming Dawgs basketball season.

This year they have added a wonderful “Flex Package” which allows you to select any five home games (while quantities last) for the economical price of $60.00.  My recommended “Flex Package” would be: Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Xavier and Vanderbilt.

But that’s just me.

The beautiful thing about the “Flex Package” is that you can pick any five home games you want, even if those five include Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas State, High Point, Charleston Southern and Eastern Kentucky.  This may not be the most popular “Flex Package” (and may leave the folks at the ticket office scratching their heads) but for a mere $60.00 you can make it a reality!

SEC in the “Big Dance”

When the college football “Bowl Season” rolls around each year, I generally find myself pulling for the SEC teams to win their games.  The SEC is pretty much regarded as the premiere football conference in the nation, and as a Georgia fan, I enjoy watching the other teams achieve success when they play outside of the league.  If SEC teams perform well in the bowl games, then it makes us Georgia fans feel a sense of pride about our team since they compete in this conference.

My question to everyone is – does this logic apply to the NCAA basketball tournament?

The Southeastern Conference only sent four teams to the Dance – Kentucky, Vanderbilt,  Tennessee and Florida.

The Big East got eight teams in; the Big 12 sent seven; the ACC is being represented by six of its teams.

Even the Big Ten got five teams into the tournament, meaning that the tournament committee feels that their brand of basketball is better than the SEC’s – in head-to-head this year, Big Ten teams mustered a 3-5 record against the Southeastern conference.

Should the SEC feel slighted (Mississippi State probably does)?

Should Georgia Bulldogs fans be pulling for the ‘Cats, ‘Dores, Vols and Gators to play well as they represent our conference?

Personally, I am having a hard time finding the energy to cheer on several of Georgia’s conference foes.

Vanderbilt I am ok with.  Woo hoo!  Go Vandy!

As far as Tennessee goes, I guess I could cheer quietly for them to win their first round match-up with San Diego State (although I do love a good tournament upset).  Bruce Pearl and his thuggish little boy, Steven, are not exactly the kind of personalities that will win over fans with their charm.  However, I still feel some sympathy for Tennessee considering that they lost their leading scorer to crime (Tyler Smith) earlier in the season, yet they have been resilient (minus their last game against Kentucky in the SEC tournament).

The others, not so much.

Kentucky’s John Calipari is a rule-breaker (he left UMASS and Memphis just before impending NCAA sanctions) and I cannot root for his Wildcats to win this tournament.  Coaching legend, Bob Knight, questioned Calipari’s “integrity” earlier in the season at a fundraiser in Indiana.   Last Summer, DeMarcus Cousins had committed to play for Memphis.  John Wall had all but signed his Letter-of-Intent to play there as well, until Coach Cal quietly scurried out of town.  Both these players jumped ship and took off for Kentucky, using the university as a one-year stepping-stone into the 2010 NBA Draft.  If you think either Cousins or Wall cares about Kentucky or the SEC (or has attended a class in the past 3 months), then you are a tad bit naive.

Pulling for Florida?  No way.  The Gators have enjoyed enough success in football and basketball over the past decade to last a lifetime as far as I am concerned.  I’d much rather see BYU go on to play Kansas State in the second round than watch Billy Donovan’s squad advance.

Hopefully next year’s NCAA Tournament will include the Georgia Bulldogs, a team that we can all cheer for.

Gators Handle Dawgs 87-71

In the post-game wrap-up after the game, Coach Mark Fox proclaimed “We have to play defense better if we want to win on the road.  We have to rebound better if we want to win on the road.”

That about sums up Wednesday night’s  loss in Gainesville at the O’Connell Center.

The Dawgs didn’t defensive rebound well, turned the ball over too many times and looked totally lost on defense when Florida reversed the ball.  The Gators scored an astounding 50 points off turnovers and second-chance points!

Georgia had 19 turnovers to Florida’s 10, and UGA was out-rebounded 27-23 (which is shocking since Georgia came into this game with a +4.5 rebounding margin).  The Gators were ferocious on the offensive glass, hauling in 13 offensive boards.

The Dawgs, however, only brought down 7 offensive rebounds – they came into the game averaging 12.5 on the season.

Georgia did shoot the ball very well, knocking down 59.6% from the field and 57.1% from beyond the arc (problem was they only took 47 shots due to excessive turnovers).

Trey Thompkins and Ricky McPhee combined for 63% of the Dawgs offense.  Thompkins was on fire, connecting on 10 of 12 shots including 2 for 2 on 3-pointers.  McPhee knocked down five 3’s and finished the night 8 of 11 from the field.  Travis Leslie was the only other Georgia player in double-figures, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-leading 8 rebounds…he also had two more alley-oop dunks and may show up on ESPN again tonight.

Florida’s dynamic guard duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker proved too much for Georgia to handle.  Walker burned the Dawgs for 21 points on four 3’s (which all were from FAR outside the line) and dished out 10 assists.  Boynton hit three 3’s himself and ended up with 21 points.

Forward Alex Tyus was unstoppable all night, hitting 10-14 on field goals and leading the Gators in scoring with 23 points.

Georgia is not 0-6 in true road games (not counting the Illinois game), and 0-3 in SEC away games.

The Dawgs have to shake this one off, though, and get ready for another difficult SEC road game this Saturday night as they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, SC.

In case you missed it Tuesday night, the Gamecocks just knocked off the #1 Kentucky Wildcats.

Dawgs Head to Florida

jarvis hayes
On January 19, 2002, Jarvis Hayes scored 23 points and the Dawgs won at Florida 84-79...this was the last time Georgia won at the O'Connell Center

The Georgia Bulldogs basketball team (9-8) rolls into Gainesville on Wednesday night to take on a hot Florida Gators team that is coming off a thrilling buzzer-beater win over South Carolina last Saturday.

The Gators have been somewhat of an anomaly this year.  Florida has recorded wins over Michigan State, NC State and Florida State, yet they lost at home to South Alabama and Richmond.

Billy Donovan’s squad started out conference play with back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but have since won three straight games to put them at 3-2 in the SEC.

On Wednesday, Mark Fox’s Dawgs will be trying to do something that hasn’t been done since the 2001-2002 season…win in Gainesville.  Last year in the game at Florida, the Gators lit up the Bulldogs with eleven 3-pointers in an 83-57 rout (and basically put the nail in Dennis Felton’s coaching coffin).

The SEC road has not been kind to the Dawgs over the years, as they have tallied up just 4 wins in the past 3 seasons coming into the 2009-2010 campaign (they are 0-2 this year away from The Steg in SEC play).

And to top it all off, the Florida Gators have now won 35 of their last 43 SEC home games.

This Gator squad’s strength is its backcourt, which may be one of the best in the country.  Freshman Kenny Boynton and sophomore Erving Walker account for 38% of Florida’s offense, combining for 27.4 points per game.  The Gators as a team hoist up twenty 3-pointers a game, and their starting guards are a big reason for that.  These two players have taken a total of 465 field goal attempts this year, and 256 of them were from 3-point range (that’s 55%!).  Walker is the better shooter of this tandem(38.2% 3PT), and he is also very good at creating his own shot off the dribble.

The Florida frontcourt is tall (yet thin) and features juniors Alex Tyus 6’8″, Chandler Parsons 6’9″, Vernon Macklin 6’10” and senior Dan Werner at 6’8″.  Tyus can score inside with his back to the rim, yet he also has a surprisingly soft touch from 15′-18′.  He is averaging 11.9 points a game, and is the Gators leading rebounder at 7.1 per contest.

Chandler Parsons (he hit the 3pt shot that beat SC) is averaging 10.7 points/6.6 boards, and he often looks to pop out for 3’s (shooting 35%).  Reserve Dan Werner is another guy that will shoot it from beyond the arc, yet so far this season he connecting only 30.2% of the time.

You may be noticing trend in Florida’s shot selection on offense – they like to jack it up from downtown.

The Gators are second in the conference in team defense, surrendering only 62.8 points per game.  However, they are second to last in blocks per game with only 2.95 per outing.  They do a good job of guarding the perimeter, but their bigs do not give them much support on the inside (Tyus and Parsons are awfully thin and struggle against wider opponents).

Keys to the Game

Handle the Pressure – Coach Fox’s team should expect to see a lot of full-court pressure from the Gators on Wednesday.  In last Saturday’s win over Tennessee, Georgia only saw token pressure from the Vols when bringing it up the court.  I expect Billy Donovan’s team to run a more aggressive full-court trap press, trying to force Georgia into turnovers.  The Gators prefer to play up-tempo, and will want to make this game somewhat chaotic and fast-paced.  Dustin Ware, Ricky McPhee, Vincent Williams and EA (Ebuka Anyaorah) need to play strong with the ball.  Trey Thompkins, Jeremy Price and Albert Jackson must be careful with their ball-reversal passes when taking on the press (can’t have a repeat of what happened at the end of the Mississippi State game).

Get in the (1-2-2) Zone! – Against Mississippi State and Tennessee, the Dawgs played in a 1-2-2 zone defense for the majority of both games (with Travis Leslie out on top).  This defensive set limits the number of quality looks for opponents from 3-point range.  Georgia held MSU and UT to 25.8% and 18.8% from beyond the arc, respectively.  Hopefully Fox will have his team in the same defense on Wednesday, ready to challenge and contest all Gator 3-point field goal attempts.  With Georgia’s size inside I don’t see the Gators getting too many second chances.

OutFox Them – Last Saturday was a good day for both of these programs.  Georgia ended a 10-game losing streak with their upset of the #8 Vols, and Florida won their 3rd straight SEC game on a thrilling last-second shot by Chandler Parsons.  How will these teams handle their recent successes?  Luckily for Coach Donovan, his Gator team is playing at home and will have a rowdy crowd backing them up.  Mark Fox has a greater challenge ahead of him – not only does he have to get his players focused on THIS game (and put the UT game in the past), but he also has to get them ready for another SEC road trip.  Hopefully Fox can keep his guys level-headed, and ready to dictate a slower tempo in this game.

The game tips off at 7PM EST and will be televised on CSS.  On the radio, you can listen to the first half on 750AM, and the second half on 97.1FM.

Side notes:

-Pat Forde of ESPN gave Mark Fox his “Coach who earned his comp car this week” award in his this week’s “Forde Minutes”.  He also proceeded to mention what none of us Georgia fans dare say at this point for fear that it won’t come true…the Dawgs have an outside shot at finishing .500 in the SEC.

-Congratulations again to Travis Leslie for nabbing the SEC Player of the Week award.  His dunks are becoming a regular part of ESPN’s Sportscenter highlights.

-During the Kentucky-South Carolina game on Tuesday night, ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes (who was calling the game for ESPN) mentioned that he was looking forward to the Georgia-Florida matchup on Wednesday night.  Dykes went on to proclaim the Dawgs as the best team in the country to be ranked last in a conference, citing wins over Georgia Tech, Illinois and Tennessee.

Bonus side note from Hoop Dawg:

This is my first year with this blog, and I just wanted to say that I am loving all the comments!  Keep them coming…

It’s great to know that there are so many other fans of UGA basketball out there, and I love having a place like this where we can discuss the team, coaches, players, opponents, etc.

Anybody smell a Gator upset?

Owls @ Dawgs Wednesday Night at 7:00PM

“I expected to get pounded, and I got pounded.”

This was the answer that Florida Atlantic Owls coach Mike Jarvis (former coach of both St. John’s and George Washington) gave the Miami Herald when asked if he expected to take some lumps entering last season (a season in which the Owls finished 6-26, his first as their head coach).

ESPN’s Andy Katz listed the Owls as a program primed to jump within their conference entering this season, even though they finished last year 2-16 in the Sun Belt Conference.   On top of that stellar record,  Florida Atlantic lost seniors Paul Graham III and Carlos Monroe who last year accounted for 46% of the offense.  The Owls record thus far through 10 games is 5-5 (compared to 4-6 last year), so I can see the marked improvement that Mr. Katz was referring too.

Mike Jarvis began this season with a very young team (the Miami-Herald did comment that his first recruiting class was “highly touted”) that is led by freshman guards Raymond Taylor and Greg Gantt.  Raymond Taylor a.k.a. “Spud Webb, Jr.” (he stands at a mere 5’6″) has gotten off to an extremely fast start and is averaging 18.2 points per game.  His teammate Greg Gantt is pouring in an additional 13.9 for an FAU team that is averaging 76.4 ppg (up from 65.0 ppg last year).

They do share a common opponent with the Dawgs, the New Orleans Privateers, whom FAU dismantled 66-48 on the road.  If you forgot, Georgia also beat the Privateers 67-59 in the season-opener in Athens…this one could get interesting if Georgia isn’t ready to play (UGA is a 10-point favorite so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s close).

Hoop Dawg’s “Keys to the Game”

1. Great Win…Now Get Over It!

This is a game that the Dawgs should definitely win (in my humble opinion)…but that doesn’t mean that they will.  Beating Illinois was a great accomplishment and a big step in the right direction for the program.  Now the question is: will they take another step forward, or two steps back?  Last year’s Georgia squad only had 3 SEC wins, but they were all against very good teams – Florida, Vanderbilt & Kentucky.  And guess what happened after each of those wins in the following game?  That’s right, the Dawgs lost!

I think that this game is going to be a real test of Coach Mark Fox’s ability to keep his team focused and intense.  Not only are they coming off of an emotional victory, but the Christmas holiday is only two days away (and these are college kids so I’m guessing Xmas still excites them).  If the same UGA team from last Saturday night comes to play (“one and done” defense, attacking the offensive glass) I see no reason why Georgia shouldn’t get the win.

However, if the Dawgs come out flat, don’t take FAU seriously or are still riding high from the Illinois win then things could really derail for this team.

2. Unbalanced Scoring

As I mentioned earlier in the article, FAU gets 32.1 ppg from it’s guard tandem of Taylor & Gantt (or 42% of the team’s offensive output).  I am sure that many NCAA teams would love to get that kind of production out of their guards.  The problem for the Owls this season has been when it’s only been those two doing the scoring:  In their 5 losses they have had more than 3 players reach double-figures only once; in their 5 wins they have had more than 3 players hit double-digits 4 times.

Conclusion:  if the Dawgs can keep the Owls stat sheet unbalanced (on the scoring end) they will significantly increase their chances of winning.

If you are planning on going to the game their is a $5.00 ticket promotion – click here.

It isn’t being televised so if you aren’t heading up to Athens you’ll have to follow along on 750AM.

Any more thoughts on this contest?

***I didn’t do the “Hoop Dawg Player of the Week” because Trey Thompkins was named the SEC Player of the Week for his performance against Illinois.  Congratulations to Trey for winning this slightly more prestigious award.