Tough to put a finger on Georgia’s tourney status

The Georgia Bulldogs are getting mixed reviews from several of the larger sports media outlets concerning their position (or lack there of) in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Even ESPN’s two major tournament projectors seem to be split on the subject.

Joe Lunardi, creator of the network’s Bracketology, has Georgia (along with Alabama) as one of his “First Four Out” – he only has four SEC teams included in this year’s March Madness.  However, ESPN’s “Bubble Watch” seems to think that the Dawgs could earn an at-large berth into the NCAA’s with a win in the first round of their conference tournament.

CBS Sportsline’s Jerry Palm has Georgia as a 9-seed, and Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner likes the Dawgs as a 10-seed.

Let’s turn our attentions back to Joe Lunardi though, and his unfavorable impressions of Coach Mark Fox’s team.

Lunardi has become a regular on ESPN’s morning “Sportscenter” show recently, and when he has discussed Georgia’s resume he has continued to harp on the Dawgs’ 3-9 record against the RPI Top 50 and their lack of quality wins.  One thing that fails to come up in his analysis of the Bulldogs is the fact that Georgia has a higher RPI than seven teams that Lunardi currently has “in” – St. Mary’s, Clemson, Illinois, Colorado, Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech.

I have always been under the impression that a team’s RPI was a strong indicator of their worth in college basketball, but apparently Joey L. disagrees.

The fact that he has Colorado “in” over the Dawgs is inexplicable to me – Georgia has a better overall record, a better conference record, a much higher RPI (CU’s is 76) and the Dawgs bested the Buffs without the services of Trey Thompkins earlier this year in a head-to-head match-up in Athens.

Lunardi hosted a chat at 4:00pm yesterday on ESPN.com, and I actually submitted him this same question regarding the Buffs and Dawgs – shockingly, he didn’t choose my question as one of the eight he decided to respond to.

Moral Victories?

I hope that everyone got what they wanted for Christmas today (my present came early back in November at Historic Grant Field).

Ten games into the 2009-2010 basketball season and the Hoop Dawgs are sitting at an unassuming 6-4.  Their biggest win so far has to be the one over orange people from Illinois.  Hopefully Coach Fox has a few more big wins stored up his sleeve before they get into the SEC schedule…

I was looking at the 4 losses (Wofford, UAB, Virginia Tech, St. John’s) the other day, and I started taking comfort in the successes these teams have had thus far:

UAB (11-1) – The Blazers are riding a 10-game win streak that includes victories over Butler and Cincinnati

Virginia Tech (10-1) – The Hokies are winners of 7 straight games, and in the process have knocked off Iowa and Penn State.

St. John’s (10-2) – The Red Storm has beaten Siena and Temple (both teams that will most likely make the tourney), and they lost a close one at Duke.

Wofford (7-6) – The Terriers have the worst record of this bunch, but that’s only because they have played a brutal out-of-conference schedule with losses to Pitt, Illinois and Michigan State.  They upset South Carolina last week to make themselves 2-0 against the SEC.

This puts the combined record of Georgia’s opponents that they have lost to this season at a stunning 38-10.  I am (as I am sure all of you are as well) aware of the old adage “There’s no such thing as moral victories”.  I remember hearing it when I played, as I am sure many others have heard it as well.  In some regards it does hold true…but for a Georgia team that finished last season 12-19 (3-13 in SEC play) I think it’s ok to take a little pride in these four losses.

Georgia upsets Illinois 70-67

UGA entered into last night’s game an 8-point underdog according to Las Vegas…they left it a 3-point winner.

Albert Jackson and Trey Thompkins celebrating the big win

This was easily the best game that this team has played this year, and maybe the most complete game that they’ve played in a year and a half (ESPN”s Andy Katz put a bit of a damper on the win in his recap of the game about halfway down the page).  Thompkins and Leslie were scoring; Ware was dishing; Price and Jackson were rebounding…it was a total team effort.

Not to mention that it was done in front of a predominantly Illinios crowd.  I went to the game with a few friends, and we were amazed when we got to our seats and saw that we were in a sea of orange and blue (their cheer “ILL”…”INI” never got old).  That only made the win that much sweeter.

The Dawgs came to play from the start, opening up a 16-11 lead 7 minutes into the first half.  The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the half and the game was tied at 32 before going to the break.

Georgia came out strong in the second half and built a 44-36 lead with 15:35 remaining in the game.  Coach Mark Fox gave some of his starters a quick blow (namely Leslie, Ware & Thompkins), and Illinois closed the lead to 45-40 before Fox had to call timeout and get the essentials (namely Leslie, Ware & Thompkins) back in.

With 4:57 left in the game, Travis Leslie made an acrobatic lay-up and was fouled and the lead sat at 64-55 Georgia.  Before the free throw attempt by Leslie, Illinois called timeout to regroup.  During the timeout, Fox again took out Ware and Thompkins (and Leslie after he shot the free throw) and once again Illinois cut the lead to 64-60 following a Billy Cole 3-pointer right in front of the Illini bench.

Fox called timeout and put the starters back in, but this time it was for the rest of the game (thank goodness).  But Demetri McCamey made an amazing basket and the foul with 35 seconds left to tie the game at 66-66.  He knocked in the ensuing free throw and Illinois was up by a point with 35 ticks left.

Ware took the ball down the court and gave it to Thompkins, who took it right to the bucket and was fouled shooting.  Trey coolly stepped up to the line and knocked down both free throws to put Georgia up 68-67 with 22 seconds remaining.

Georgia then played great defense, forcing McCamey to take a tough shot that barely glanced the rim before Thompkins (again) brought down the rebound.  The Illini were forced to foul, which forced Trey to knock down two more free throws and seal the game at 70-67.

A few quick hitters:

  • Thompkins was a beast inside offensively and really owned the offensive blocks dropping 21 points/7 rebounds
  • Leslie was sensational and scoring big bucket after big bucket to end up with 17 points
  • In my opinion, this might have been Albert Jackson’s best game of his career.  He had 8 rebounds (including 3 offensive) and played really strong inside
  • The team effort on the boards was relentless.  Georgia out rebounded Illinois 35-26, and it seemed like the Illini were limited to only one shot attempt per possession all night
  • The “UGA Block Party” was in full-force last night as the Dawgs swatted 6 shots
  • Former UGA coach Dennis Felton was at the game with his son (he was sitting one aisle over from me).  He appeared to be writing on a pad the entire game, and then he left the arena with the game tied at 66-66 and 35 seconds left (bizarre).

What a game!  Anybody else got any more thoughts?  Did I leave anything or anybody off that deserves credit?

Georgia falls to St. John’s 66-56

First off, I want to say that this team plays hard and doesn’t quit.  I know that there aren’t “moral victories”, but it was encouraging to see this team fight all the way until the end against St. John’s Tuesday night.

Georgia started out down 9-3 early in the first half before going on a 9-3 run of their own to tie the game at 12-12 with 11:11 left in the first half.  The Dawgs were playing great defense and limiting St. John’s to only one shot – their leading scorer, DJ Kennedy, only scored 2 points in the first half.  Trey Thompkins came out of the gates on fire and finished the first half with 11 points…Ricky McPhee even had a massive block (meaning he blocked the shot) which may or may not have been the first of his life.  At the break, Georgia trailed the Red Storm 28-25.

At the start of the second half, St. John’s started playing with a lot more intensity and Georgia couldn’t match it.  The Red Storm really extended their man defense and started challenging the ball with a lot of tenacity.  Georgia’s offense got pushed away from the bucket, and this resulted in several bad possessions.  UGA’s defense (match-up zone) was somewhat sloppy, and St. John’s was able to knock down some big 3 pointers to build up a 10 point gap that the Dawgs were unable to close.

A couple of key statistics:

  • St. John’s shot 48.1% from the field while Georgia shot an icy 37.5%.
  • The Johnnies shot 81.8% FT; UGA only 66.7%

Trey Thompkins played a very good game offensively scoring 19 points and grabbing 6 rebounds…he looked unstoppable when he was able to get in one-on-one situations.

Travis Leslie had another solid outing with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  He continued to play very aggressively on the offensive end, and also finished an amazing alley-oop in the second half (it looked like his head might hit the rim) that may show up on ESPN’s “Top Ten” highlights tomorrow.

Dustin Ware had a tough night, shooting 1 for 5 from the field while scoring only 6 points.  He also committed 4 turnovers with only 1 assist to match.  The Dawgs must get more consistent play from Dustin going forward to be successful offensively.

The team is off for exams next week and won’t play again until December 19 when they take on Illinois in Duluth, GA.

Anybody have any other thoughts/comments from the game against St. John’s?