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!

Will History Repeat Itself?

1983 UGA Men's Final Four Team

The year was 1983…

A great year for movies…Ralphie shot his eye out in “A Christmas Story“, Al Pacino became a gangster icon in “Scarface” & Tom Cruise dazzled us in his tighty-whities in “Risky Business“.

The music released that year was unbelievable, with hit songs like “Come On Eileen“, “Little Red Corvette“, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” & “Mr. Roboto“.

Many people were still just getting used to their stone-washed jeans, big hair, ray-ban sunglasses and a nightlife that didn’t include disco.

The University of Georgia’s basketball team, however, was en route to the best finish in school history, finishing the season 24-10 and reaching the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  The Dawgs were led by All-American guard Vern Fleming, All-SEC Center Terry Fair  and coached by UGA icon Hugh Durham.

In the Sweet Sixteen round of the tournament, Georgia was slated to play St. John’s University (a basketball powerhouse at the time).  St. John’s was the #1 seed in the East Region and a heavy favorite to win the tournament.  The Johnnies  were led by Big East Player of the Year & NBA Hall of Famer, Chris Mullin.

Terry Fair put on a sensational performance scoring 27 points and nabbing 9 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes of the game, leading the Dawgs to a 70-67 upset of the Red Storm.  UGA went on to win two more games before losing a heart-breaker to NC State in the Final Four round of the tournament.

Tomorrow night the 2009 versions of the Bulldogs and Red Storm will meet again in Madison Square Garden as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.  The game be shown on ESPN2 in the 7PM Prime Time slot.

Hopefully history repeats itself…

Was anyone reading the blog at the UGA/St. John’s game in 1983? Or watching on TV?  I was only 3+ years old at the time so I didn’t get to watch it myself, but I would love to hear any comments about the game from someone who saw it live.