Vanderbilt’s starting five features three players – John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor and Festus Ezeli – who are projected to be taken in the 2012 NBA draft. Georgia, shockingly, doesn’t have any players named on that list.
The Commodores have gotten out to a 2-0 conference start, mirroring the Dawgs 0-2 SEC record.
UGA hasn’t won at Memorial Gym in six years, and the Bulldogs sport an ugly 11-46 all-time record against the Dores in Nashville.
Needless to say there isn’t a lot of mojo moving in favor of the Dawgs heading into Saturday’s contest.
However, Vanderbilt’s season has not been without its mishaps – the Dores have dropped 4 games (though they’ve won 12), including losses to Cleveland State and Indiana State. Despite the fact that Las Vegas currently has Georgia slated as a 14-point underdog in this one there is an opportunity for Georgia to keep the game close.
The Bulldogs chances of staying competitive in Saturday’s game depend heavily on their ability to defend – more specifically, their ability to defend junior guard John Jenkins. Jenkins has been sensational so far this year, scoring just under 20 points per game and shooting a blistering 46.2% from beyond the arc. He has only hit below 30% from the three-point line in two games this season – Cleveland State and Indiana State. In both of those losses the opposing teams used a relentless defender to hound Jenkins for the entire game, limiting his open looks. Should Coach Mark Fox employ a similar strategy against Vandy I imagine that Kentavious-Caldwell Pope would be the player he deploys to guard Jenkins, since he similar in stature.
On the inside, Georgia will have to contend with supremely athletic wing Jeffery Taylor and powerful big man Festus Ezeli. Taylor is second on the team in scoring with 17 ppg to go along with 5.4 rpg.
Ezeli, who was suspended for the first 6 games of the season, brutalized the Georgia bigs last season, averaging 14 points and 11 boards in his two games against the Dawgs. Considering that Festus had his way with comparably sized opponents like Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes last year, I fear what he may do to this season’s crop of slim UGA forwards.
If Georgia hopes to contain some of Vandy’s firepower, then they are really going to have to clean up their defensive act fast. Through two conference games the Bulldogs are yielding 72 points per contest and they are allowing opposing teams to make nearly 53% of their field goal attempts, which is second-to-last in the SEC.
The only Georgia player who has been consistent in both of the conference games has been freshman Nemanja Djurisci. Nemi (or the Menace of Montenegro) is netting 12 points and hauling down 5.5 boards per SEC game, and he appears to be the only UGA big that is not afraid to take the ball to the basket against opposing defenders.
Will Georgia drop its 7th straight game in Nashville and fall to 0-3 in conference play? Or, will the Dawgs show up with some intensity, put up a fight and possibly shock Coach Kevin Stallings’ team?