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A little UGA basketball news for a slow week

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While the Georgia Men’s Basketball team navigates final exams in Athens, the rest of us are left to sit around and bide our time through an incredibly slow sports week.  In fact, UGA basketball fans will have to wait another week on top of this one before getting to see their team return to action.

However, here are a few things came across/thought about this afternoon:

1. Georgia’s 64-57 win over Colorado last Sunday did not just earn them praise locally.  Jay Bilas, who has sort of become the “Kirk Herbstreit” of college basketball, threw the Dawgs this little nugget following the game:

2. Speaking of Twitter, here is the latest update on Kenny Gaines’s injured shoulder, per Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph:

3. Thankfully for UGA and the rest of the teams in the SEC not named Kentucky, the AP and Coaches Poll rankings do not carry nearly the same amount of weight in college basketball as they do in football. This week, Kentucky was unanimously voted #1 in the AP, and they received all but two of the #1 votes in the Coaches Poll, with Duke and Arizona getting one apiece. However, the Cats are the lone representative from the Southeastern Conference in both of these polls. The Florida Gators began the season at #7, but after a rocky start that has them at 4-4, Billy Donovan’s team is currently on the outside looking in. The national media’s perception of SEC basketball remains weak my friends.

The good news, though, is that the league has 5 teams in the RPI Top 50, a poll that is much more indicative of a team’s NCAA Tournament chances. Currently, Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss all have RPI’s under 50. Georgia plays all of the aforementioned teams (Kentucky and Ole Miss twice), along with #26 Seton Hall, giving Mark Fox’s team plenty of chances to improve upon their 2-7 record against the RPI Top 50 from a year ago. The Dawgs RPI currently sits at 64, which kind of pleasantly surprised me considering the 5-3 record.

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December 12, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Mark Fox may be feeling the heat

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Coming into this season, I tried to avoid ramping up talks pertaining to the length of tenure that Coach Mark Fox may or may not have as the head basketball coach at the University of Georgia. I felt like such commentary might put a damper on a season that had yet to begin, even though some questioning of Fox’s ability to lead this UGA team certainly seemed deserving.

For starters, how did a team with the SEC Player of the Year in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope manage to finish with a sub-.500 record?

Or, why is it that Georgia has had just one winning season in Fox’s four years as head coach?

Under Fox, the Dawgs have reached the NCAA tournament once, though arguably that might have happened with or without him considering the talent he inherited in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie.

While I may have resisted to mention Fox’s vulnerability in regards to remaining the Dawgs’ skipper, other media outlets did not shy away from putting CMF on their preseason “Coaches on the Hot Seat” lists:

NBC Sports, Athlon Sports and Yahoo Sports all listed Fox as a candidate that could potentially be ushered out the door at season’s end.

After 11 games this year already it appears that Fox is going to need a major turnaround in conference play to salvage his job. Though Georgia is 6-5 on the season, the Dawgs have yet to beat a team from a power conference, losing games to Georgia Tech, Temple, Nebraska and Colorado – this does not bode well for SEC play.

In CBS Sportsline’s RPI rankings, UGA currently sits at #271 in the nation – the lowest ranked team from a power conference. The Dawgs schedule thus far has been far from daunting – #303 in the country according to the same poll – which makes their barely above .500 record even more troubling.

As recently as December 5th, Daniel Karpuc of RantSports.com wrote an article – Top 10 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat – identifying the coaches that were in the biggest trouble in terms of stability after the first month of the season.

Guess who Karpuc pinned down as the coach with the hottest seat? I will give you a hint: he spends a majority of his time inside Stegeman Coliseum.

Karpuc cited Fox’s amazing records at Nevada, but then he went on to say that since Fox came to Georgia “the success has faded” and he is now “on the clock”.

I will be the first to admit that I was fully onboard with Mark Fox’s hiring, and I was excited to see what he would bring to the program heading into the 2009-2010 season.

However, I am going to need to witness a major change in the direction of this year’s team before I can feel comfortable with CMF leading the Dawgs into the 2014-2015 season.

Written by hoopdawg

December 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm

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Georgia looks to make it five in a row at home against the Aggies

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After a pair of successful road wins at South Carolina and Tennessee over the past week, the Georgia Bulldogs (11-11, 5-4) will find themselves in unfamiliar territory on Saturday: home.

The Dawgs – one of the SEC hottest teams at the moment – will be playing host to the Texas A & M Aggies, the team that Georgia beat back on January 26th, marking the beginning of this four-game winning streak. In that game, UGA rode Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 22 points en route to a 59-52 victory. The Aggies’ star player, Elston Turner, managed 19 points, but it took a 5 for 14 shooting night from the floor to get to that total.

Since the loss to Georgia, the Aggies have been playing some inspired basketball as well, winning two of their last three games. One of those wins came on Thursday night in a 70-68 home upset of #21 Missouri. The lone loss during the Aggies’ recent three-game stretch came in overtime to the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday.

Tomorrow’s game in Athens has the potential to be an influential game in the conference, considering that these two teams are just a game apart in the SEC standings. With the added depth to the league, Saturday’s game provides Georgia with a chance to further separate itself from the middle of the pack; conversely, the Aggies will be looking to entrench themselves deeper into the center of the SEC standings.

Fans attending and watching the game in Stegeman tomorrow should be treated to a pretty good defensive display. In league play, Texas A & M and Georgia rank 3rd and 4th in the conference allowing just 60.7 and 63.2 points per game, respectively. The Aggies basically play a pressure man defense for 40 minutes, so UGA must be strong with the ball and not let their offense get pushed too far outside of the perimeter.

With the way Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been playing over the past five games, I would not be at all surprised to A & M shading help to KCP’s defender for much of the game.

Pope has been nothing short of spectacular over the Dawgs’ run, averaging nearly 22 points and 7 rebounds a contest during these past 4 games.

Georgia hasn’t won five SEC games in a row since 2001.

Twelve years later, Coach Mark Fox’s team has a chance to do it again.

Written by hoopdawg

February 8, 2013 at 9:56 pm

South Florida tops Georgia 64-53 in SEC/Big East Challenge game

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In his post game comments, Mark Fox lamented his team’s defense, saying that it “failed them” throughout the game tonight.

I think when Coach Fox watches the tape of his team’s 64-53 loss to South Florida tomorrow he is going to see that the offense was Georgia’s Achilles heel in this contest, especially down the stretch.

Donte Williams got a stick-back to tie the game at 50-apiece with 4:04 remaining, following an array of UGA offensive rebounds and flailing Bulls’ bodies.

After this basket, however, South Florida’s defense clamped down on the Dawgs, forcing Georgia into a slew of poor offensive possessions in which the ball circled the perimeter until a last-second shot was tossed up by a UGA player in an attempt to beat the shot clock.

The Bulls closed out the last 4 minutes of the game with a 14-3 run that crushed any hopes that Georgia might have had of stealing a game on the road in the newly constructed Sun Dome arena.

The South Florida offense was extremely balanced on Friday night with four players finishing in double-figures.  The Bulls were led by sophomore point guard Anthony Collins, who poured in 17 points to go along with 10 assists.

On the flip side, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only Georgia player to score in double-digits, netting 19 points while shooting 50% from the floor.  When the Bulls heightened their defensive focus on KCP late in the second half it really exposed just how one-dimensional this Georgia team can be offensively.

Donte Williams was a ghost for much of the night, scoring 2 points on just 4 field goal attempts, while Neme Djurisic couldn’t find the rim, hitting only 3 of his 13 shots from the floor.

John Cannon tied his season-high with 8 points to go along with 3 rebounds, yet he spent the final quarter of this game on the bench.  Cannon appears to be the most gifted offensive big man on this team, and I think it’s imperative that he is on the floor during key stretches of games to take some of the pressure off of Pope.

Lastly, the Dawgs must get more production from the point guard position.  Against the Bulls, Vincent Williams and Charles Mann combined for a total of 3 points and 4 assists in 40 minutes of play.  When Georgia sees zone defenses, it is up to these guys to penetrate and draw defenders so that the zone breaks down (like how Gerald Robinson, Jr. did the past two years).

Looks like the Bulldogs will have to wait a bit to start their first win streak of the season.

Written by hoopdawg

November 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm

ESPN tabs Georgia as 7th best coaching job in SEC

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ESPN.com is currently celebrating Coaches Week by going conference to conference, ranking the basketball coaching jobs in each of the major power conferences.

The ESPN panel tabbed UGA as the 7th best coaching job out of the newly expanded 14-team league, citing the following:

“The talent in the region has been there for years, but the competition for it has always been intense. Getting players to stay in Georgia is a tough sell with so many options. Basketball has had its moments in Athens, but it’s never going to be No. 1. The facilities aren’t top-notch in comparison to the rest of the league, either. Salaries are competitive, but never going to be in the upper echelon. UGA will have its moments of success, but expecting the Bulldogs to be an NCAA tournament team on a regular basis is unrealistic.”

Ouch – that last sentence can’t sit well with the expectations that Coach Mark Fox must have for his program.

Their point about the facilities – Stegeman – is pretty much spot-on.  The facelift that the gym received a few years ago was a nice cosmetic improvement for the exterior, but the inside of the Coliseum still desperately needs to be upgraded.  At the least, it should be altered so that Dominique Wilkins doesn’t find it just as he left it when he returns to Athens.

What does everyone else think? Do these rankings seem fair?

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June 7, 2012 at 6:58 am

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Georgia basketball adding some games

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The Georgia Bulldogs Men’s basketball team will open up the 2012-2013 season against the Jacksonville University Dolphins on Friday November 9th in Athens.  The Dolphins, who hail from the Atlantic Sun conference, finished last year with an 8-22 record.

Looking ahead to 2014, it appears that the Dawgs will play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Season Tip-Off, a 16-team tournament that was won last season by Syracuse.

The game with Jacksonville should serve as a nice warm-up for Georgia before they begin play in the 2012 Legends Classic.  The Dawgs will serve as one of the regional hosts for this prestigious tournament along with Georgetown, Indiana and UCLA.  The championship double-headers will be played on November 19-20 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Coach Mark Fox’s team could see Tony Parker very early in the season – in a UCLA uniform.

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April 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

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Kentucky smothers Georgia 57-44 in Athens

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Let me begin by stating that work in Atlanta sure does come early on Wednesday after attending a 9:00PM EST tip-off in Athens on Tuesday – I think my preference is for the 8:00PM start, though the ESPN coverage is nice publicity for the Georgia (10-10; 1-5) program.

The game last night was entertaining for the first 15 minutes when Georgia was going toe-to-toe with the best team in the country.  Freshman Nemanja Djurisic rang up 10 points with almost 9 minutes remaining in the first half on a pair of three’s and some inside buckets.  Nemi finished the game with those 10 though, joining senior Dustin Ware as the only other Bulldog to score in double-digits (Ware led the team with 12 points).

With all the firepower on Kentucky, I never would have guessed that senior reserve Darius Miller would have been the player to torch UGA last night.  Miller led all scorers with 19 points, including a 4 for 4 performance from beyond the arc on what were mostly uncontested three-point attempts.

Coach Mark Fox kept his team in a zone defense for the entire first half, enabling Miller and his teammates to enjoy a plethora of wide open looks from the wing position.  Kentucky responded by connecting on 6 of 10 threes before the break to open up a 38-26 halftime lead.

Fox finally moved his guys into a man defense for most of the second half and the Dawgs limited Kentucky to only 19 points on just 7 of 23 shooting from the floor.

The problem, however, was that the only thing worse than Kentucky’s offense after the break was Georgia’s – the Dawgs tallied up merely 18 points on 8 of 25 shooting on field goal attempts.

Give Kentucky some credit – they defended well last night.

But give Georgia some credit too – they put on one of the worst offensive displays I have seen this season in college basketball.  The Bulldogs shot a dismal 34.5% from the floor which certainly will not get it done against a team of Kentucky’s calibre.

Georgia’s two leading scorers – Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Kentavious-Caldwell Pope – combined for just 13 total points and shot 24% on field goal attempts.  Again, offensive production like that from your team’s two best players will not work when the opposing team is Kentucky.

The entire second half was pretty much a sleeper due to extreme levels of futility from both school’s offenses.  The difference, however, was that the Kentucky players appeared to have mentally “checked out” of the game for the final 10 minutes while Georgia’s guys were still attempting to put the ball in the basket (though unsuccessfully).

The Dawgs have now lost all three of their “big” games at Stegeman this year against Cincinnati, Alabama and Kentucky.  In all three of those games Coach Fox almost stubbornly kept his team in a zone defense, enabling opposing team’s to burn Georgia from beyond the arc.  Against the Bulldogs, Cincy, Bama and the Cats all hit more three’s than they were averaging per game on the season.

I understand Georgia briefly using a zone to confuse opposing teams, but I do not understand abandoning the man defense altogether.  Good teams (Cincy, Bama, Kentucky, etc.) with good point guards ultimately start to break down zones to find wide open shooters on the wings and in the corners.

Another negative of playing primarily zone defense is that it makes it awfully hard for your team to find their block-out assignments and rebound.  The Dawgs are near the bottom of the SEC barrel in rebounding so the last thing that they need is to make the task of securing boards more challenging.

The Dawgs do not have a lot of team strengths to brag of this season, but I do feel like they play pretty good man-to-man.  Robinson has the athleticism to stick with just about any point guard, and KCP’s length and quick hands allow him to frustrate wing players.

The Bulldogs’ bigs are generally pretty useless on offense, but I think that they could hold their own in a man – at least Fox has 5 or 6 to sub in so they could afford to dish out some fouls.

Sorry for the soap box rant, but I’m getting tired of seeing our team put a position (permanent zone) against good teams where they are ultimately destined to fail.

Written by hoopdawg

January 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm