3 reasons why Georgia got its first SEC win today

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The Dawgs (8-4, 1-4) got their first conference win of the season on Saturday at The Pavillion in Oxford, Mississippi, where the Bulldogs hung on for a 78-74 win. Here are the three reasons why UGA managed to pull off the road upset. Spoiler alert: it’s all about the backcourt.

  1. Sahvir Wheeler

The sophomore point guard played maybe his most complete game of the season against Ole Miss as he scored 18 points to go along with 9 assists. Wheeler played steady for pretty much the entire game, but I thought he had two particular stretches that were key for his team. The first came right out of the half when Georgia’s point guard scored a layup and dished out 2 assists which bolstered UGA’s advantage to 36-30. Wheeler was distributing the ball well and getting his teammates involved. His shining moment, however, came during the final stretch of play with his team leading by just 1 with 1:02 left after a pair of free throws from Devontae Shuler. Wheeler put the offense on his shoulders and got to the free throw line on consecutive possessions, where he knocked down 4 straight free throws and essentially helped his team close out the Rebels.

2. Tye Fagan

Georgia’s offense was kind of a mess in the first half of this contest. Ole Miss threw several different zones at the Dawgs that involved trapping outside the three-point line, and UGA looked discombobulated. Georgia shot under 41% from the floor and committed 8 turnovers in the initial 20 minutes of this game.

The second half was a completely different story, however, and Fagan was a big part of UGA’s offensive transformation. Fagan masterfully found the soft spots in the Ole Miss zone and was the benefactor of a lot of easy shots at the rim. After scoring just 2 points prior to the break, Fagan came out and netted 17 points over the final 20 minutes on a perfect 8 of 8 performance from the floor. The Dawgs shot a blistering 75% from the floor in the second half, thanks in part to Fagan’s efforts on offense.

3. K.D. Johnson

To be honest, Georgia doesn’t win this game if the NCAA hadn’t cleared Johnson to play this week. The freshman came off the bench to give his team 14 points, including a 4 of 5 shooting effort from beyond the arc. Johnson knocked down triples on consecutive possessions late in the game to put UGA up 71-59 with 4:33 remaining. K.D.’s ability to convert from the perimeter (in clutch situations, nonetheless) makes this Georgia team more dynamic on the offensive side of the ball. The freshman, paired with Wheeler and Toumani Camara, gives Tom Crean a solid foundation to start with next year.

While the sole focus of this post has been on the UGA backcourt, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the Georgia defense for just a bit. Tom Crean deployed his team in a 2-3 zone for much of this contest, which was a worthy strategy considering the Rebels entered this game 13th in the SEC in scoring (65) and last in field goal percentage (38.4%). While the Dawgs probably feel decent about not allowing an opponent to score over 90 points for the 4th straight game, Georgia did permit Mississippi to exceed their SEC averages in both scoring (74) and field goal percentage (50.8%). UGA still has issues on the defensive side of the ball; Ole Miss just didn’t have the firepower to completely expose them. Kentucky comes into Athens on Wednesday, and UGA’s defense will definitely be put to the test against Calipari’s bigger athletes.

Georgia’s defense helps extend losing streak

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The Dawgs looked like a team without a player taller 6’8″ on Wednesday night against Auburn. Tom Crean started JUCO transfer Tyron McMillan in a token effort to compensate for the height differential, though the sophomore played just 10 minutes so I’m not totally sure what the value was in that endeavor. Auburn played an uptempo brand of basketball similar to how Georgia has preferred to run this year, except Bruce Pearl’s team did it with bigger and more athletic players. The end result wasn’t pretty for UGA as they got drubbed 95-77 at home to an Auburn team that had lost its first 4 SEC games. The Dawgs now have the dubious distinction of the worst conference record at 0-4.

In a game that should have meant the world to both of these teams as it presented an opportunity to get off the snide, Georgia’s defense once again failed itself. The Dawgs entered this contest yielding the most points per night in league games (92), and yet, they somehow found a way for an opponent to push that average even higher. The Tigers shot a blistering 57% from the floor and they netted 29 fast break points. Auburn had SIX players finish the game in double-figures, which is ridiculous.

But Georgia’s interior defense proved to be the real Achilles heel as the Tigers torched the Dawgs for an astounding 58 points in the paint. This UGA team either doesn’t communicate well on that side of the ball, or there are some fundamental misconceptions regarding defensive rotations. The Georgia bigs were out of position often, and it led to a number of easy points at the rim for Bruce Pearl’s team. On occasion, the UGA bigs managed to provide some token help, but it wasn’t effective and left the Auburn bigs alone around the rim far too often. The bottom line is this team is getting blitzkrieged by opposing offenses on the regular now, and that is on Crean.

Offensively, Georgia becomes stagnant WAY too quickly. My understanding of the Crean offense is that in the half court set, players should basically be in constant motion. Tonight, that was not the case. Rather, the Dawgs seemed more content to occupy the perimeter, swing the ball around and let guys try to create off the dribble. Unfortunately, UGA doesn’t have many players with this sort of skill set. Credit the Dawgs as they kept attacking the rim; the only problem was that Auburn was consistently there to impede them, and the Tigers racked up an impressive 14 blocks on the night.

Point guard Sahvir Wheeler had a pretty good game as he finished with 19 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. The main highlight for UGA, though, had to be the addition of freshman K.D. Johnson, who netted 21 points in his debut to go along with 7 boards and 4 steals. Johnson looked engaged on both ends of the court, and one can only hope that some of his enthusiasm is infectious so that he can inspire some of his teammates to up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball. Although, Tiger freshman Sharife Cooper scored 28 points on these two UGA guards, so both of them have room to improve as well.

To be honest, I had this game penciled in as a win for Georgia at the start of SEC play. After witnessing what just happened on Wednesday night, it’s becoming more difficult to find 6 games that the Dawgs could potentially win, which is what they would need to eclipse last year’s SEC win tally of 5.

UGA defense fails to show up for Arkansas game

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-3, 0-3) remained winless in conference play after getting drubbed 99-69 by Arkansas in Fayetteville. The sky is not falling yet for this UGA basketball program as next week should be an easier slate (Auburn, Ole Miss), but what transpired today against the Hogs should give Georgia fans some pause for concern.

There’s an old saying in sports that “defense travels”; today, Georgia proved that’s not always true as the Dawgs’ defense clearly got lost somewhere en route to Bud Walton Arena. UGA entered this contest giving up an SEC-worst 88.5 points per game, and the Dawgs should safely hold that bottom spot in the defensive scoring category after yielding 99 to the Razorbacks on Saturday.

Georgia has particularly struggled at defending the perimeter this season. In its two SEC games, UGA’s opponents have made nearly 39% of their triple attempts. This afternoon, the Dawgs were a step late on closeouts, and Arkansas made them pay by knocking down 12 of 21 (57%) from beyond the arc, which is 3 more triples than the Hogs have been averaging a game this year.

While Arkansas was led by Moses Moody’s 25 points, the Dawgs allowed a total of five Hogs to finish in double-figures (and one other to also score 20). Believe it or not, this game was relatively close at the half with Georgia trailing by just 6 before a disinterested group of UGA players came out after the break and permitted Arky to put up 56 second-half points.

Georgia’s lack of a perimeter game is still a problem. In Tom Crean’s first three years at UGA, his team’s have shot 32%, 30% and 30.9% (this year’s bunch). When a coach states at his initial press conference that his team is going to shoot the three more, one would assume that would mean that his rosters would regularly have 3 to 4 legitimate outside threats. However, that’s never been the case for Crean, and this year’s team is no different. Georgia basically has two three-point threats: Justin Kier (42%) and P.J. Horne (35%). This is not enough firepower for a team that’s shooting over 21 triples a contest.

On Saturday, the Dawgs made just 5 of 19 (26%) on three-pointers. However, even if Georgia hits 3 more from beyond the arc, they still lose by 21, so it’s probably a non-factor in a game in which UGA played zero defense.

Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler cannot miss significant chunks of time in games due to foul trouble. Today, Camara was the culprit, and his absence from the lineup definitely hurt the Dawgs on both ends of the court. The sophomore picked up his second foul of the game with over 15 minutes left in the first half, which caused him to have to spend nearly 10 minutes on the bench. He would eventually foul out of the game with 10 minutes remaining. Camara scored 15 points in 16 minutes, which is highly effective, but his inability to stay on the court served to keep him in check.

Wheeler didn’t have any foul issues, but he failed to show up in the second half. Prior to the break, the sophomore looked phenomenal as he scored 10 points on an array of dribble-drives from the perimeter. For 20 minutes, Wheeler looked the part of a premier SEC point guard; he’s got to find a way to put together two halves like that, especially when his team’s leading scorer is not participating.

A few observations from Georgia’s close loss at LSU

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-2, 0-2) are no strangers to moral victories, which is essentially what the Dawgs got in Baton Rouge on Wednesday night in their 94-92 overtime loss to the LSU Tigers. UGA dropped its first SEC road game of the season in dramatic fashion in a game that Georgia led 80-74 with less than two minutes to go in regulation.

Typically when teams are leading down stretch of games they tend to try to run clock and reduce the number of possessions. This strategy may have backfired on Georgia, however, as playing half court basketball is just not a strength for this team. The Dawgs last two possessions of regulation resulted in a turnover and a miss on a rushed shot from P.J. Horne with the shot clock expiring. I almost wonder if this UGA team should buck the tradition of milking clock and just play fast the whole game, regardless of the situation.

Here are a few other observations:

The Tigers played defense when they needed to down the stretch of this contest

LSU, who entered this game as the 9th best defense in the SEC at 68 points a night, appeared disinterested in playing defense for much of this contest. The Tigers have the best three-point defense in the SEC (27%), yet they allowed the Dawgs, who have been connecting on just 30% from beyond the arc this season, to knock down 12 triples (9 of which came from Justin Kier and Horne).

Will Wade’s team ratcheted up the defense when it needed to, though. Georgia had all the momentum with 9:07 left after Justin Kier finished at the rim to give his team a 68-58 advantage. Unfortunately, the bigger, more athletic Tigers eventually decided to tighten things up, and that enabled them to go on a 13-2 run that saw LSU take a 71-70 lead two minutes later after a pair of free throws from Cameron Thomas. It was pretty obvious that this talented Tiger team can put the clamps down pretty quickly when they feel pressed.

Georgia’s offense found itself again

The Dawgs were held to 73 points and kept in relative check last week against Missy State, however, this was not the case in Baton Rouge. Georgia had great energy from the start and looked fast and crisp with the ball. By halftime, Georgia had connected on 50% from the floor and 47% from beyond the arc. UGA had 11 turnovers, but they also had 11 assists.

Sahvir Wheeler, who had been in a bit of a mini-slump, was far more effective on Wednesday. Wheeler scored 21 points to go along with 9 assists. He kept pushing the ball into the teeth of the Tiger defense and finding open teammates on kickouts. The sophomore looked the part of a point guard facilitating offense and getting his teammates involved.

Graduate transfers Kier and Horne were the prime benefactors of Wheeler’s creativity as they finished with 25 and 11, respectively. These two seniors have developed into legitimate threats from the perimeter, which definitely opens things up a bit for the Dawgs in the half court set.

UGA’s help defense must improve

LSU had numerous drives to the basket that were essentially uncontested. Too many times an LSU guard got past the UGA backcourt defender only to find no one from Georgia’s frontcourt their to meet them. Considering that the Dawgs will be undersized in nearly every conference game, it seems as if swarming to the basketball and providing weak side help would have to be tenets for this bunch on defense.

A couple of stats that jumped out at me:

  • Cameron Thomas, who Georgia limited to 5 of 17 from the floor, still ended up with 26 points thanks to a 15 of 16 effort from the FT line
  • LSU had 19 steals
  • Georgia had 28 fast break points to LSU’s 3
  • UGA won the battle of the boards 43-40
  • Justin Kier was definitely not out of bounds near the end of OT, and UGA should have been given the ball with a chance to tie

Georgia SEC opener recap: no defense = no offense

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-1, 0-1) dropped their SEC opener for the 4th time in as many years as the Dawgs fell 83-73 to Mississippi State in a game in which UGA never led. This game marked the first loss for Tom Crean’s team of the season, and while it’s not time to hit the alarm bells just yet, it certainly should give Georgia fans some pause for concern.

UGA’s defense never seemed fully-engaged against the Maroon Dawgs. Georgia’s strengths thus far on this side of the ball have been turning teams over and defending the perimeter well. Neither of those occurred often enough to win against Ben Howland’s team. UGA entered this contest as one of the top teams in the nation in opponent turnovers per game (19), yet Mississippi State had just 12 on Wednesday night in Athens. The Dawgs failed to disrupt the passing lanes in the half court set and that resulted in just 9 points off turnovers for Georgia (to State’s 22).

Georgia’s defensive closeouts around the arc were borderline lazy as they permitted Missy State to connect on 12 triples. I foolishly assumed that UGA might tighten up the pressure on the outside when Deivon Smith hit his team’s 6th three of the half with over 10 minutes remaining before the break, but the Dawgs gave up 6 more triples before the final horn sounded. Missy State point guard Iverson Molinar ended up playing just 26 minutes due to early foul trouble, yet he still ended up leading all scorers with 24 points on a 4 of 6 effort from beyond the arc. Molinar completely had his way with the Georgia backcourt, and I wondered if Tom Crean might give him the Andrew Garcia treatment, but that didn’t happen.

The problem with all of this inefficient defense is that it greatly impacted UGA’s offense. You might go so far as to say that Georgia’s ability to be successful on offense depends solely on if UGA can generate steals and stops; that’s what allows this team to play fast, which is definitely the style they are most comfortable playing. Last night, however, the Dawgs netted only 9 points on the break, a crippling statistic for this team.

The tempo of this contest forced Georgia to play in the half court on offense for most of the night, and that portion of UGA’s game is still a work in progress. The Dawgs settled for threes to start the game; unfortunately, they made just 1 of their first 9 attempts. Georgia ended up making 36% from the perimeter thanks to a 5 of 10 performance by P.J. Horne (21 points). The Dawgs hoisted up 25 three-point attempts on last night, which feels like an awful lot for a team that only has two outside shooters (Horne and Justin Kier).

Coming into this game, Georgia had been one of the more prolific two-point scoring teams in the country. UGA had been averaging over 47 points a night on two-pointers, while last night they mustered just 34. Sahvir Wheeler is only a sophomore and still developing, but he has to find a way to be more effective at scoring the ball in a slower paced game. Wheeler finished with just 6 points on a 2 of 10 shooting performance, and he struggled to score around the rim against the bigs of Missy State. Wheeler did dish out 8 assists, but they came at the expense of 5 turnovers. Ultimately, Sahvir has to be better at producing offense if the Dawgs hope to win more SEC games than last year’s total (5).

The Fast and the Furious: Georgia basketball edition

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Between Sahvir Wheeler and Toumani Camara, I’m not exactly sure who is Vin Diesel and who’s Paul Walker in this analogy, but Georgia’s sophomores have teamed up with director Tom Crean to create a pretty exciting product this year. UGA’s breakneck style of play overwhelmed the Bearcats in the 83-68 blowout, and the Dawgs are sitting at 6-0 for the first time since the 1982-1983 season.

Georgia took its first real test of the season on Saturday and aced it with 20 minutes to spare. Cincy was clearly not prepared for the track meet that they stepped into as the Dawgs pushed the tempo to Mach Speed from the opening tip. Georgia scored 18 (of their 27) points off the break in the first half; the Dawgs forced the Bearcats into 13 turnovers, which UGA converted into 16 (of their 27) points. All this chaos led to a 49-26 halftime advantage for Georgia that had everyone from the chili-making region of the country scratching their heads.

Prior to the start of this game, I thought (foolishly) that 7’1″ center Chris Vogt might pose a problem for undersized Georgia. Cincinnati’s big man was named to the American Athletic Conference’s Second Team by the media. By the time 20 minutes had eclipsed in this contest, I had forgot that Vogt existed. The Cincy big ended the half (and the night) with 0 points on just 1 measly field goal attempt.

The Bulldogs are finally starting to produce the coveted deflections that Tom Crean has spoken so eloquently of these past several years. Georgia turned the Bearcats over a whopping 24 times on Saturday, and the Dawgs are now 13th in the nation in opponent turnovers (19). UGA’s ability to occupy the passing lanes is frustrating opposing offenses and resulting in a lot of extra possessions for Tom Crean’s team (UGA is 19th in the nation in possessions per game).

This UGA team is a pesky bunch that is extremely active on the defensive side of the ball. The Dawgs limited Cincy to just 17% from beyond the arc, a place that Georgia has defended well this year; UGA is holding opponents to under 23% from the perimeter on the season.

Georgia sophomore Sahvir Wheeler did not turn in his best performance of the season. Wheeler pressed too much and try to force up some shots around the rim that just shouldn’t have been taken. The Georgia point guard made only 4 of 14 from the floor and turned the ball over 6 times.

While Wheeler struggled, his teammates Toumani Camara, Justin Kier and Tye Fagan flourished. Camara logged another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and his ability to get up and down the court and score points in the transition makes this UGA team so dynamic. Camara’s jump from year one to year two is so similar to Travis Leslie it’s downright eerie. Leslie averaged 6 ppg and 4 rpg his freshman year and nearly 15ppg and 7rpg his sophomore campaign; Camara averaged 6.6 ppg and 4 rpg last year, and he’s currently netting over 15 ppg and snagging over 8 rpg. Both players seemingly needed a season to hone in their freakish athleticism; the only difference is that Toumani is 6’8″, a nice little bonus for Coach Crean.

Kier and Fagan finished the game with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Each player scored numerous buckets at the rim, and Kier flashed the ability to create offense off the dribble, which is something we haven’t seen too much of from him up to this point.

ESPN announcer Jimmy Dykes praised Georgia’s brand of basketball, but the announcer insinuated that UGA would have to prove itself in the SEC when teams like Tennessee lock them up defensively and force them into a half court game. In the words of Samuel Jackson’s character from “Pulp Fiction”, please allow me to retort. The #12 Vols trailed this Bearcat team 53-51 with 6:14 left in the game before Tennessee was finally able to pull away for the 65-56 home win. If Georgia can continue to disrupt opposing offenses with deflections and limit three-point opportunities, the Dawgs will be able to play at any pace they want.

Don’t believe me? Ask this Jon Rothstein.

Georgia comes from behind against Samford

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Sometimes the sports’ gods come together and align for the good of UGA fans, and yesterday was one of those days. The football team steamrolled Mizzou, LSU dashed the Gators’ playoff hopes and the basketball team came from behind against the fighting Samford and Sons to preserve Georgia’s undefeated record.

However, UGA’s 5-0 record has come against the 292nd ranked schedule in college basketball, according to ESPN, so it feels like we should take it with a little grain of salt.

We learned two things from Saturday’s 79-75 win: 1) Georgia needs Toumani Camara to play in every single game, and 2) the Dawgs are not built to play in the half court, which is something SEC teams will probably force them to do every night.

Samford kept this game at a turtle’s pace by playing primarily zone from the opening tip. The Dawgs played right into the other Bulldogs’ hands as they settled for outside shots, where UGA connected on just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half. Georgia converted just two field goals through the first 11 minutes, and after a triple from Triston Chambers, Samford held its largest lead of the day (24-11) with 8:45 left in the first half.

Offensively, this game looked nothing like the previous four. The Dawgs were held to just 9 fast break points, and they were outscored in the paint (36-28) for the first time this season. Sahvir Wheeler, who ended up with 15 points, shot a dismal 5 of 15 from the floor. When he tried to force the ball inside against the Samford zone, defenders collapsed on him and forced him into either difficult shots or turnovers, of which he had 5.

UGA looked visibly uncomfortable trying to facilitate offense in the half court, which is understandable considering this team’s lack of outside shooters. Georgia continued to struggle to make three-pointers as they hit just 26% of their attempts on Saturday, one percentage point below their season average. However, we did gain a few insights into this facet of UGA’s game: Justin Kier needs to shoot more, and P.J. Horne should probably shoot less. Kier scored 18 points and buried 4 of 9 from beyond the arc, including a pair of triples late in the second half that brought the Dawgs to within a point with less than 8 minutes remaining. The senior has established himself as Georgia’s premier outside threat as he’s hitting over 43% from the perimeter, and he should have the greenest of green lights from that spot on the court.

Horne, on the other hand, made only 1 of 7 outside shots, and many of them were taken in rushed fashion with his feet not set. He hit over 34% from three-point range last year at Virginia Tech, so he obviously has this shot in his arsenal, but I just don’t think he needs to fire off quite as many. Horne is currently leading the Bulldogs in three-point attempts on the season.

The absence of Camara and its impact on this game must be noted again as he’s tied with Wheeler in importance to this team. However, the fact that Georgia needed the entire 40 minutes to put away Samford, a team that was projected to finish 8th in the 10-team Southern Conference, should provide UGA fans with some pause for concern. This game was essentially a preview of what SEC play will look like, except the players defending Georgia in the various zone looks will be bigger and more athletic.

Next Saturday the Dawgs get their first real test of the young season when they host the Cincinnati Bearcats, who just took the #12 Tennessee Vols to the wire in Knoxville.

Instant analysis: UGA defense too much for Montana

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The Georgia Bulldogs picked up their 4th win of the season as they remained undefeated with a 63-50 home win over the winless Montana Grizzlies. While the Grizz have yet to check the box in the old win column, Montana was projected by the media to finish 2nd in the Big Sky prior to the start of the year, so it’s possible they could be better than they have shown thus far.

UGA’s length and athleticism defensively proved to be too much for the Grizz on Tuesday night in Stegeman. Georgia forced Montana into 20 turnovers, which the Dawgs converted into 16 points. Tom Crean’s team held the Grizz under 36% from the floor, and they limited Montana to only 3 offensive rebounds and 5 second chance points. The question, though, is can Georgia’s defense remain stout in the face of stiffer competition? The Dawgs get Cincinnati in Athens on December 19th, and this game will give us a much deeper glimpse into what this team is really about.

Georgia created 10 steals in this game, but unfortunately the Dawgs gave the ball away 18 times. Turnovers continue to be an issue for this squad as UGA entered the game coughing the ball up nearly 19 times a contest. Tom Crean wants this team to play fast, and that is going to result in some turnovers, but Georgia has to iron out this sloppiness before conference play because those mistakes will prove to be much more costly against bigger and more talented teams.

While Georgia’s three-point shooting continues to be problematic (22%), this team sure did capitalize in the transition, where the Dawgs scored 24 points. Georgia ended up with 40 points in the paint, and I’d venture to say that nearly three-quarters of those came on the break in the open court. Toumani Camara, who logged a double-double with 15 points and 17 boards, once again benefitted from the up and down tempo of this game; Camara ran the court well and was rewarded with a lot of easy baskets both off the pass and offensive rebounds. The sophomore had one trip down on a break where he crossed up a Grizz defender and finished at the rim, and it was a thing of beauty. If Camara can create like that off the dribble, then I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’d like to see A LOT more of it.

The last thing I will touch on is the fact that Montana outscored the Dawgs 13-10 in the minutes that Sahvir Wheeler wasn’t on the court. Even though Wheeler didn’t have his best game of the year (9 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists), he’s just so much for a defense to deal with when he’s in the game. Whether it’s a make or a miss, the Grizz knew that Georgia’s sophomore point guard would be attacking them full speed at the rim in a matter of seconds. When Wheeler was on the bench, it definitely gave Montana a chance to collectively breath and settle in a bit. It’s going to be critical that Wheeler remain out of foul trouble as this team progresses into league games.

Dawgs are 1-0 after 85-75 win over FAMU

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The Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) played their first game of what surely will be one of the strangest and most chaotic seasons in recent memory. After having the originally scheduled Gardner-Webb game cancelled due to covid, the Dawgs maneuvered quickly to invite the FAMU Rattlers for an impromptu basketball game on Sunday. Totally normal, right? This is 2020.

Without a doubt, this is the least informed I’ve felt in regards to the makeup of a Georgia roster. One-and-done Anthony Edwards is gone, along with recent UGA basketball household names like Rayshaun Hammonds, Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump. The Dawgs returned two starters from last year’s squad that finished 13th in the SEC; Tom Crean added five transfers to the team (3 grad and 2 JUCOs). This UGA squad will be a work in progress for likely the remainder of the season as all these different pieces learn to play with and off one another.

The one player that Tom Crean has to feel the most confident in this year is sophomore point guard Sahvir Wheeler. Coming off a freshman season in which he averaged 9 points and 4.5 assists a game, Wheeler is the best candidate to be the leader of this bunch. On Sunday afternoon against FAMU, Wheeler gave UGA fans a reason to be excited for this upcoming year as he notched a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists (to go along with 3 steals). FAMU struggled to stay in front of the Georgia sophomore as he found himself in the Rattlers’ paint for most of the game. Wheeler’s ability to innovate and facilitate offense should keep Georgia competitive in a lot of contests this year.

The most pleasant surprise of the day had to the production that Crean got from junior Tye Fagan and senior Andrew Garcia. Fagan provided his team with a double-double as well with his 21 points and 10 boards. Fagan is just an absolute joy to watch play as he is in constant motion on offense. The junior moved well without the ball against the Rattlers, which led to a number of buckets off of backdoor cuts. He also found himself the benefactor of 4 offensive boards, something Fagan has had a knack for during his time in Athens.

Garcia, the grad transfer from Stony Brook, led all scorers with 22 points. The senior netted over 13 points a game last season, so he seemed like an obvious candidate to help shore up some of the scoring load vacated by Antman and Hammonds, who provided over 42% of Georgia’s offense a year ago. While only 6’6″, Garcia looks comfortable playing with his back to the basket, and his wide frame and controlled movements made him effective against the FAMU interior.

Three-point shooting, which has been a shortfall of the Tom Crean era, looks as though it could be a handicap for the Dawgs again this season. FAMU held UGA to under 23% from beyond the arc on Sunday in Athens. Justin Kier, who transferred in from George Mason, seems like Georgia’s only legitimate three-point threat. The senior connected on over 45% of his triple attempts last year, and he made 2 of 4 from the outside today. Hopefully for Crean’s sake Kier remains consistent from beyond the arc or this team may not find many points from the three-point line.

Up next: Jacksonville Dolphins

Postseason prediction: Too early

Georgia basketball’s Achilles’ heel

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The regular season came to a grinding halt yesterday in Baton Rouge, and Georgia Bulldog (15-16, 5-13) basketball fans most likely breathed a collective sigh. After being treated to a little mini-run of success a few weeks ago in which the Dawgs won 3 of 4 games, including a dramatic buzzer-beater against Vanderbilt in Nashville, UGA spent the past game and a half getting pulverized by LSU and Florida.

Yesterday’s drubbing at the hands of LSU was just a microcosm of an epidemic that has plagued this Georgia team all season: its defense (or lack thereof). The Dawgs ended the year with the second-worst scoring defense in SEC play as they allowed over 78 points a contest. In 13 of 18 conference games this year, Georgia allowed the opposing team score above their season SEC average in points. All season, this UGA team has been slow to react and provide help on penetration, and yesterday was no different as the Tigers scored 42 points in the paint and shot over 58% from the floor.

Probably the most concerning piece of the puzzle regarding the UGA defense is the lack of improvement that this team has shown. Over the past 3 games, the Dawgs are ranked 344th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The fact that this team is young is no excuse; they should have gotten better in this regard as the season progressed, yet they didn’t. In fact, one could go so far as to say that UGA regressed on the defensive side of the ball.

Tom Crean had his guys in a matchup zone for most of the game in Baton Rouge. However, it still appears that too many of Georgia’s players don’t understand the concepts of this particular defense. Sure, UGA’s perimeter guys switch off screens and movement on the wing. But once an opposing dribble-driver gets into the lane, there’s still little indication that any of Georgia’s 4 other defenders knows how to react. The Tigers had little issue shattering their season average of 80 ppg as they almost pushed the scoreboard to triple digits against a UGA team that provided little resistance. LSU hasn’t been a particularly strong three-point shooting team this year (32.5%), yet against Crean’s zones the Bayou Bengal Tigers canned over 52% of their attempts from beyond the arc.

With the losses of Nic Claxton and Derek Ogbeide from last year’s team, coupled with the sudden departure of Amanze Ngumezi, some drop off had to be expected. Obviously, this year’s squad was not built to deal with a lot of size from opposing frontcourts. However, this is a highly-athletic team, especially Anthony Edwards, Jordan Harris and Toumani Camara. Despite the glaring size disadvantages, Georgia should have been able to contain teams better on the defensive side of the ball.

Georgia opens up the SEC Tournament next week on Wednesday in a rematch with Ole Miss, a team that beat the Dawgs 70-60 in January back in Athens. Depending on which UGA team shows up, this experience in Nashville could go one of two ways: it ends painlessly on Wednesday, or Georgia plays into the start of the weekend. If the Dawgs do manage to get by the Rebel Black Bears, I think they have a realistic shot of beating Florida in the next round. I mean, surely UGA can find a way to hold onto a double-digit lead against a team that has beaten them twice this year, right?

Best case scenario: the SEC does not permit fans to attend due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, and Georgia steals the championship similarly to the 2008 tornado team.