Posts Tagged ‘NCAA tournament’
Four straight days last week – Thursday to Sunday – my eyes were glued to the television, specifically the following channels: CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. I completely devoured the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament as I spent what seemed like a solid 72 hours on my couch. As I watched game after game, I constantly found myself wondering how this year’s UGA team would fare against either of the schools playing. Was this season truly a failure for Coach Mark Fox’s team, or were they never really talented enough to begin with to even be considered for one of the 36 at-large bids?
One answer is that Georgia basketball came up short this year. With two First Team All-SEC players on the roster in J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, one would think that this team would have been announced on the NCAA’s selection show rather than the NIT’s. Throw in the fact that Frazier and Maten were both upperclassmen and it stings a little bit more. Frazier finished his career in 7th place on Georgia’s all-time scoring list, and if Maten scores over 500 points next season – which he’s done the past two years – he will crack the top 10 of the same list as well. That’s a lot of talent to waste on a quick exit from the NIT. And before anyone shouts out, “Wait! Maten got hurt”, consider that Georgia was 6-7 in the SEC before he went down.
Another reason, which is maybe even harder for Fox and die hard fans to swallow, is that the Dawgs never really had a chance to dance this season. The Belmont game exposed a talent deficit on the Georgia roster that reared its head quite a few times this year. The Dawgs got to spend several weeks this summer in Spain playing exhibition games, which means that the team got to hold practices in the off-season, a luxury that most coaches are not afforded. This veteran-led squad should have been rearing and ready to go at the start of the season, and yet they weren’t. Georgia laid a dud in the season opener at Clemson. They also lost to Kansas, Marquette and Oakland. Other than a road win at Georgia Tech, UGA really didn’t have much to speak of regarding non-conference wins as they headed into the SEC slate. Once again, Mark Fox’s team failed to capitalize on early season opportunities to notch quality wins. Hopefully the Dawgs learned that just being on the court with tough competition is not enough; they do, in fact, have to win a few of those games, too.
One area of the court where Georgia really struggled throughout the season was from beyond the arc. The Dawgs made just 175 three-pointers to their competition’s 246. UGA’s opponents got an extra 6 points a game from the perimeter, which is significant for a team that averaged less than 72 points a game. The game of basketball has changed significantly over the past decade, and the three-pointer is an integral part of any good offense. Yet, Georgia continues to be content with having only a few three-point threats on the roster at any given time. Unfortunately, the Dawgs lose one of their more effective outside shooters in Frazier, meaning the team will get three’s next season from Tyree Crump, Maten from the top of the key, and where else? Fox has yet to win an NCAA tournament game at Georgia, and unless he’s going to turn the Dawgs into an athletically supreme powerhouse like UCLA, Louisville or Kentucky, it would behoove him to add more outside shooters like nearly every team playing in the big dance.
Whether we compare the Dawgs roster this year to an NCAA tournament team or Belmont, it’s clear that they just don’t have enough players to be an upper echelon program. Other than Maten and Frazier, who on Georgia would start for one of these tourney teams? Maybe Derek Ogbeide? Mark Fox likes to play 10 to 11 guys a game, and sadly, his 4 through 11 players would struggle to take minutes away from any of the Belmont players I saw in that NIT game.
Ultimately, this season has to be viewed as a disappointment for UGA basketball no matter how it is spun. Another trip to the NIT felt like a step backwards. Looking ahead to next season, there is a lot that Georgia fans have to be concerned about. If it felt like Georgia was missing something on offense this year without Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, imagine what it’s going to look like next year without Frazier. Second, Yante Maten is not a lock to return to Athens. He is currently projected as the 48th pick in the 2018 Mock Draft on NBADraft.net, but that site’s owner said that should Maten leave early he would be a projected second-rounder this year as well:
— NBADraft.net (@nbadraftnet) March 16, 2017
After averaging nearly 20 points and 10 boards a game this season, what motivation does Yante have to come back? Statistically, the best he can do is match what he did this year, and that could be difficult with a less experienced backcourt. Should Maten bolt for the NBA, what does next season look like for this program?
Sorry for the long post, but sports wise, this is my favorite time of year, and the contrast between the teams I am watching now compared to the one I watched inside Stegeman this season could not be more stark.
Just five days after being invited to the dance, Georgia was abruptly forced to leave. March Madness can be cruel in that way. A five-month long season can come to an end in the span of a couple of hours.
Such was the case for the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday in Charlotte.
Everything started off so well. The Dawgs made 3 of their first 6 shots from the floor, and after a pair of free throws from Marcus Thornton, UGA led 11-5 with 14:23 to go in the first half.
Unfortunately, this lead was the biggest and only one that Coach Mark Fox’s team would own on the afternoon.
From that point, everything began to fall apart for UGA. The Dawgs turned in their worst defensive performance of the season, in my opinion. Georgia looked mystified in defending Michigan State screens, unable to decide how they wanted to attempt to stop it.
The result: State either scored easy dunks when the post player slipped the screen, or one of the MSU guards was left wide open for a three, a shot that the Spartans did not struggle with on Friday, hitting 7 of 18 from beyond the arc.
In addition to their ineffective half court defense, Georgia refused to get back on misses and turnovers, which led to 19 fast break points for the Spartans (UGA had just 8).
Speaking of turnovers, the Dawgs had 10 at the break to go along with a team field goal percentage of just 28% – all of which enabled Michigan State to take a commanding 35-22 advantage into the intermission.
However, despite the Dawgs’ sloppy play, they still had their chances in the second half. Twice Georgia possessed the ball down 39-37 with under 14 minutes to play and a chance to tie or take the lead, but all the Dawgs could muster were three misses and a turnover. MSU then put together an 8-2 run that boosted the score up to 47-39, in favor of the Spartans.
But credit Mark Fox’s team for fighting till the very last second, as they have all season. Even though UGA trailed by 12 points with less than 90 seconds remaining, the Dawgs continued to attack the basket and draw fouls. Georgia cut the Spartan lead to as low as 66-63 with only 21 seconds left, but Tom Izzo’s team stepped up and connected on its free throws, earning the 70-63 victory.
In its biggest game of the season, UGA failed to convert, hitting only 33% of its field goals and just 28% from beyond the arc. Charles Mann played strong, leading the team with 19 points, and Kenny Gaines chipped in 15 points in just 20 minutes of play.
Marcus Thornton finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 boards, but he did not have his best game. Offensively, Thornton looked similar to a version of himself from his sophomore year, unable to finish near the bucket, where he made only 2 of 8 shots. He also struggled to defend State’s Brandon Dawson, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half.
Neme Djurisic and J.J. Frazier had tough games as well. Neme hit just 2 of his 9 attempts from the floor for 7 points, and J.J. failed to knock down a single field goal, turning in a goose egg in the stat sheet. In the last several games, Frazier has begun attempting more shots from inside the lane, which haven’t led to many buckets, possibly due to his small stature.
UGA ends the season 21-12 after the second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.
I found it shocking when they flashed on the screen that this year was Michigan State’s 18th consecutive tournament appearance, a feat that seems unimaginable to a UGA basketball fan, pure fantasy. Playing in the NCAA Tournament is something that happens for Georgia every five or six years, but for Tom Izzo’s teams, it’s an expectation.
Coach Mark Fox and his staff I’m sure would love to create similar expectations in Athens.
The 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge released the match-ups for the upcoming season and it appears that the Georgia Bulldogs drew a trip to the Sunshine State to take on the South Florida Bulls.
The Bulls advanced to the third round of this year’s NCAA Tournament before being knocked off by Ohio, completing their most successful March run in program history.
The game will be played on Friday November 30th, and it represents an excellent opportunity for each team to earn an out-of-conference win against a team from a major conference.
If someone had told me at halftime of Saturday’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs (17-7; 6-4) and the South Carolina Gamecocks that the Cocks would have the ball and a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds, I would have suggested that they get their crystal ball checked for defects.
But such was the case, as Carolina came out of a timeout with 11.7 seconds left, trailing 59-56.
The Cocks tried to run a screen play for freshman Bruce Ellington, but Georgia‘s Trey Thompkins did a beautiful job of switching off the pick and blocking Ellington’s three-point attempt. Gerald Robinson, Jr. secured the loose ball, got fouled and made a crucial free throw that put to rest a furious South Carolina comeback.
Saturday’s game was truly a tale of two halves, with Georgia owning the first, and South Carolina dominating the second.
In the first half, Georgia held South Carolina to just 9 points, a school record for lowest points in a half in SEC play. Carolina shot horrendously in the first half – 14.3% from the floor and 0 for 12 on all of their three-point attempts. However, the Dawgs deserve some credit for their defense, as well as their defensive rebounding (Georgia had a +14 rebounding margin over the Cocks in the before the break).
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina’s leading scorer, was 0 for 9 in the first half and finished the game with just 2 points – his lowest scoring output of the season. Gerald Robinson turned in another superb defensive effort Saturday, and he has now shut down two of the best point guards in the conference (the other being Kentucky’s Brandon Knight).
After the break, Georgia extended the lead to 47-24 following a Trey Thompkins three-pointer with 11:11 remaining. At this point, the game appeared to be over.
In the game’s final 10 minutes however, Georgia committed 6 turnovers and allowed the Gamecocks to clean-up on 6 second-chance points. Georgia shot the ball better from the field (55%) and three-point line (66.7%) in the second half compared to the first (40% FG and 16.7% 3PT in first). Had the Dawgs not been so careless with the ball in the closing quarter of the game, Bruce Ellington would have never been in position to tie it up.
Georgia finished the game with 17 turnovers to just 16 assists, marking the 9th time this season their turnovers have outnumbered their assists (a scary statistic).
Trey Thompkins led the Dawgs with 16 points and 9 rebounds, with 12 of his points coming after intermission. It was nice to see Trey hit a three-pointer, his first since the Arkansas game two weeks ago.
Travis Leslie was the only other Bulldog to score in double-digits, finishing the game with 13 points (9 of which came in the first half).
And how about the play of freshman Marcus Thornton? Marcus had his most productive game as a Bulldog yet, netting 7 points and 6 boards in just 12 minutes of play. Thornton played aggressive on Saturday, particularly on the glass, where he snagged 5 offensive rebounds.
It was definitely a strange game, with Georgia cruising into the half with a 28-9 lead, only to let Carolina out score them 47-32 after the break. But after all the dust settled in the Colonial Life Center, Georgia came out on top with the 60-56 win.
The victory over the Gamecocks marks the Dawgs’ third SEC road win of the season, and they are now 6-2 in true road games this year. With only three away games remaining before season’s end, Georgia has now assured itself of a winning road record for the 2010-2011 season. This shows a great level of maturity for Mark Fox’s team, and a winning road record is a wonderful “bullet” on any NCAA resume.
Georgia has now matched its SEC win total from last season, with six games left to play.
The AJC was a tad negative about Georgia’s win in Columbia on Saturday, stating that the Dawgs don’t look “NCAA Tournament-worthy”.
I tend to disagree. Georgia is literally a Brian Williams (Tennessee) over-the-back call and an Erving Walker (Florida) missed three-pointer from being 8-2 in the SEC.
There are no style points in college basketball – winning is all that matters…which is what this UGA team is doing.
It was another crazy Saturday in the SEC East, with Vanderbilt upending Kentucky and Florida topping Tennessee. Georgia now boasts a 6-4 conference record, putting them in a tie with the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Vandy comes into Athens on Wednesday night for a big time showdown, with the winner securing sole possession of second place in the East.
With six conference game remaining, the Dawgs now have a legitimate chance of earning a bye in the first round of this year’s SEC Tournament.