Dawgs First Road Game

Goofiest-looking mascot?

The Saint Louis Billikens were a trendy pick this off-season to win the Atlantic 10 conference this year – they were coming off a 23-win season which included an 11-5 conference record, and the whole team was returning.

Things have gone downhill since the off-season for Saint Louis.

The team’s two leading scorers from last year – PG Kwamain Mitchell and PF Willie Reed – have been suspended from the team amid sexual assault allegations.  Mitchell and Reed averaged a combine 28.3 points per game last year, or 45% of the Billikens offense.  Needless to say, these were key losses for Saint Louis.

Expectations have lowered a bit for Saint Louis, as Coach Rick Majerus is now working with a team composed of 11 freshman and sophomores.  The good news for the remaining Billikens is that everyone is getting to play – through the first two games, Majerus has nine guys that are averaging 16.5 minutes or more.

Junior guard Kyle Cassidy is leading the Billikens in both scoring (16.5 points) and assists (3.5)

The Saint Louis frontcourt features an Australian and a New Zealander – hard to believe the two can co-exist!

Aussie native Cody Ellis, a 6’8″ sophomore, is averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 boards, and Kiwi freshman Rob Loe is netting 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a contest (while standing at 6’11”).

As tempting as it might be to feel confident about the Dawgs chances in this game, I feel compelled to remind everyone of the Dawgs‘ 0-11 record in true road games last season.  Things were anything but cozy for Georgia away from the Steg, and Saturday night will give the Dawgs an opportunity to get Coach Mark Fox his first road win at UGA.

And yes, they will have to win it without leading scorer and rebounder Trey Thompkins.

Through the first two games of the season, Gerald Robinson, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price are averaging a combined 56.0 points per game – an astounding 72% of the Dawgs‘ offense (with GR2 leading the way at 20.0).  These three have really stepped up their games in Trey’s absence and picked up the slack on the offensive side of the court.

On Saturday night I am looking for more of the same from GR2 – push the ball on every possession, get into the lane and score or get to the line.  He has been putting relentless pressure on opposing teams defenses and hopefully Saturday night will be no different.

Georgia upperclassmen Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes weigh a combined 504lbs, and I want to see them use that size to assert themselves on the offensive and defensive glass against this young Saint Louis team.  As I already mentioned, Price has been great through the first two games – averaging 18.5 points.  Against Colorado, Barnes stepped up big for Coach Fox off the bench, grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 9 points.  Georgia is going to need Barnes to be a regular contributor this season, so hopefully Tuesday night’s performance was a start.

This will be the first road game for freshman Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams, and on top of that it will be at 8PM on Saturday night in front of a likely sold-out Chaifetz Arena.  We’ll see how the frosh handle the atmosphere of their first hostile collegiate environment.

If this Georgia team wants to be taken seriously by the NCAA Selection Committee come March, then they have to win some road games – just ask ESPN’s Andy Katz.  And speaking of Andy Katz, this guy seriously loves plugging Georgia Bulldog basketball.  In his recap of the first 10 days of the season, Katz says “The world is right again. Georgia handled Colorado after nearly losing to Mississippi Valley State, and both games were without injured SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins.

Even though the Billikens roster took quite a hit with the losses of Mitchell and Reed, they did lose to the Dawgs in Athens last year 64-56 and they no doubt will be looking to exact some revenge tomorrow night in the prime time slot.

One final thought – the last time that a Georgia Men’s basketball team was ranked in either the AP or USA Today Coaches Poll was March 10, 2003 (they were #21 in the AP; #22 in the Coaches).

At the moment, the Dawgs are just outside of both polls – they are receiving 42 votes for the AP and 4 for the Coaches.  If Georgia were to win at Saint Louis on Saturday night, could they possibly break into the AP Poll next Monday?

It will be very interesting to see how Coach Fox’s team responds to its first road challenge of the 2010-2011 season.

Katz and Scheduling

Mark Fox might need to take ESPN College Basketball Analyst Andy Katz out to lunch.

Remember back in May when Katz listed Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs in his “revised Top 25 for the 2010-2011 season“?

In a more recent publication, Katz highlighted Georgia’s Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie in a piece he did on potential 2011 NBA Draft Prospects.

This guy is big on the Dawgs!

But for Georgia to live up to Katz’s lofty “Top 25” expectations, they are going to have to work their way through another tough out-of-conference schedule.  On July 1st, Xavier coach Chris Mack tweeted “Get your plane tickets to Athens, GA for February X fans…“.  Cincinnati.com confirmed the tweet on July 2nd – Georgia will play Xavier at home in February 2011.  ESPN’s Andy Katz has Xavier listed just outside his preseason Top 25 list, but don’t be surprised to see the Musketeers nationally ranked when February rolls around.

The Dawgs also play host to UAB – a team that whipped Georgia last year in Birmingham, AL and finished the season 25-9 and just missed getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Saint Louis is on Georgia’s schedule again next season as well.  Last year the Billikens gave the Dawgs a game in Athens in a 64-56 loss.  The Billikens ended up 23-13 and 11-5 in the Atlantic 10 during their 2009-2010 campaign.  ESPN’s Pat Forde is high on Saint Louis next year, especially since they return every player along with colossal coach Rick Majerus.

Of course the Dawgs have their annual showdown with Georgia Tech…However, next season’s match-up is back in Atlanta where Georgia hasn’t won since the 2000-2001 season (thanks to 28 points from D.A. Layne).

Probably the most intriguing part of the Dawgs 2010-2011 schedule is the Old Spice Classic tournament, which will be held in Orlando, Florida over Thanksgiving weekend.  Georgia will join a field that includes Boston College, California, Manhattan, Notre Dame, Temple, Texas A&M and Wisconsin.  Five of the eight teams in this season’s group (Cal, ND, Temple, Texas A&M & Wisconsin) all reached the NCAA Tournament last year.  Temple and Wisconsin are already on CBS’s Top 25 for the preseason.

The Georgia Bulldogs compete in the SEC East, which has to be one of the toughest halves of any conference in the country.  The Dawgs will play national powerhouses like Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee twice.  Throw in the remaining SEC schedule along with next season’s out-of-conference warm-up and its starting to look like Mark Fox’s Dawgs are going to have their work cut out for them.