St. John’s now on Polee’s list?

According to the New York Daily News, Westchester High senior wingman Dwayne Polee, Jr. has added St. John’s University to his mix of potential schools.

Polee’s list has now expanded to include Georgia, UNLV (where his father played), UTEP (where former USC coach Tim Floyd was recently hired) and the Red Storm.

Polee announced in March that he would announce his decision at the beginning of April…it appears that he meant to say early May.

What does everyone think about Fox’s chances of landing this kid?  I felt better about it last week when Georgia was the only school he was considering from a major conference – now CMF has to compete with the Johnnies from the Big East.

In other recruiting news, apparently the Memphis Tigers have now entered the mix for Mr. Georgia Basketball player Marcus Thornton.

And in case you missed it, Trey Thompkins is coming back next year!

Moral Victories?

I hope that everyone got what they wanted for Christmas today (my present came early back in November at Historic Grant Field).

Ten games into the 2009-2010 basketball season and the Hoop Dawgs are sitting at an unassuming 6-4.  Their biggest win so far has to be the one over orange people from Illinois.  Hopefully Coach Fox has a few more big wins stored up his sleeve before they get into the SEC schedule…

I was looking at the 4 losses (Wofford, UAB, Virginia Tech, St. John’s) the other day, and I started taking comfort in the successes these teams have had thus far:

UAB (11-1) – The Blazers are riding a 10-game win streak that includes victories over Butler and Cincinnati

Virginia Tech (10-1) – The Hokies are winners of 7 straight games, and in the process have knocked off Iowa and Penn State.

St. John’s (10-2) – The Red Storm has beaten Siena and Temple (both teams that will most likely make the tourney), and they lost a close one at Duke.

Wofford (7-6) – The Terriers have the worst record of this bunch, but that’s only because they have played a brutal out-of-conference schedule with losses to Pitt, Illinois and Michigan State.  They upset South Carolina last week to make themselves 2-0 against the SEC.

This puts the combined record of Georgia’s opponents that they have lost to this season at a stunning 38-10.  I am (as I am sure all of you are as well) aware of the old adage “There’s no such thing as moral victories”.  I remember hearing it when I played, as I am sure many others have heard it as well.  In some regards it does hold true…but for a Georgia team that finished last season 12-19 (3-13 in SEC play) I think it’s ok to take a little pride in these four losses.

Illinois (8-2) @ Georgia (4-4) at 7PM in the Gwinnett Center (and on ESPNU)

leslie blocks shot
Block Party hosted by UGA

Tickets – check; wallet – check; gas in car – check…only thing left to do is before I head out to the game is to talk about it.

I wonder how much time Mark Fox spent previewing this year’s out-of-conference schedule before he accepted the job as head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs Men’s basketball team?  Did he realize that before his first UGA team even enters into SEC play that he would take on Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Illinois, Missouri and Georgia Tech?  For all those Joe Lunardi Bracketology fans out there, the Illini, Red Storm and Yellow Jackets are all currently listed as IN the projected field for this year’s tourney (and in my opinion the Hokies will make it too when it’s all said and done).

But what’s done is done, and the schedule is set…time to take on the Illini.

And without further ado, here are the Hoopdawg’s “Keys to the Game”:

1. Defense (clap, clap), Defense (clap, clap), Defense (clap, clap) – Most of the preseason attention (which was minimal & local) circling this year’s team focused around new head coach Mark Fox’s Triangle Offense.  While I am excited to see more of this offense and how it operates, I can’t ignore what has been the strong point of this UGA team so far this season – the defense.  The Dawgs are holding opponents to a mere 63.6 points per contest which ranks 84th out of the 347 Division I teams (or better than 76% of the country).  And don’t look now, but Georgia is beginning to resemble  something of “SWAT Team” on the defensive end, averaging 5.6 blocks/game (ranking 28th in the country!).   As I mentioned in my last post, Illinois shot terribly in both of their two losses this season.  If Georgia can maintain the same defensive intensity it’s shown through the first 8 games, I truly believe this one will go down to the wire.

2. Thompkins, Leslie and Ware – Oh My! (pretty cheesy “Wizard of Oz” reference) – The Bulldogs haven’t had one game this year in which Thompkins, Leslie and Ware have all had good shooting/scoring nights (check the box scores if you don’t believe me).  For the most part, it’s been Leslie and Thompkins that have been consistent…but the couple of games that Ware was scoring, one or both of these other two guys were off.  Tonight’s game against Illinois would be a great time for this trio to all post good offensive efforts.

3. Home Court Advantage – Winning college basketball games on the road is hard…very hard.  The fans are physically located very close to the court, and I believe that basketball players can feel the crowd’s energy and feed off of it.  Now I realize that this game isn’t in Athens, but it is only 41 miles away and should have the same feel as a game being played at “The Steg”.  Hopefully a good number of Georgia fans turn out for the game tonight to help this team seize the momentum early…

A few people commented earlier in the week that they had tickets…anybody else going?

Hoop Dawg “Player of the Week”

Trey ThompkinsThis week’s prestigious “Hoop Dawg Player of the Week” Award goes to (drumroll) Trey Thompkins.

Trey had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals in a losing effort against St. John’s in the SEC/Big East Invitational.  He established himself as the team’s scoring leader early in the game, and kept the Dawgs in it at the beginning of the first half (Ricky McPhee was the first person other than Trey to score a FG with 11:57 left).

Highlights, Tickets & Comments

There isn’t a game for 9 days so I don’t have a whole lot to talk about today…

However, I did want to mention that I am loving all the comments I have gotten so far!  It is so refreshing to know that there are others out there that support the basketball team and watch/listen/attend games…keep them coming!

I did find a link to some highlights from the game last night – UGA-St. John’s highlights.  If you like watching highlights that are totally dedicated to only showing your team scoring on offense than you will really enjoy this (although it is certainly not a great representation of the game since it doesn’t show St. John’s scoring a single basket).  If you are pressed for time, just fast forward ahead to the 2:19 mark on the clip so you can see the alley-oop to Travis Leslie that I mentioned last night (this is the main reason I posted the link).

As I mentioned yesterday, the Dawgs next game is against Illinois on Dec. 19th at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, GA.  If you need tickets you can purchase them online for $18  here – http://www.gwinnettcenter.com/Event-Info.66.0.html?&tx_calendar_pi1[f1]=155.  If you live near Duluth, you can also buy tickets at the box office of the Arena and avoid paying Ticketmaster’s silly processing fees.

According to the “Show Details” for this event as posted by the Gwinnett Arena, strollers are not allowed and children over 2 years old must have a ticket (seems a little steep to charge a 3-year old $18 to watch a game)…so you may want to get a babysitter and leave the kiddies at home for this one.

Georgia falls to St. John’s 66-56

First off, I want to say that this team plays hard and doesn’t quit.  I know that there aren’t “moral victories”, but it was encouraging to see this team fight all the way until the end against St. John’s Tuesday night.

Georgia started out down 9-3 early in the first half before going on a 9-3 run of their own to tie the game at 12-12 with 11:11 left in the first half.  The Dawgs were playing great defense and limiting St. John’s to only one shot – their leading scorer, DJ Kennedy, only scored 2 points in the first half.  Trey Thompkins came out of the gates on fire and finished the first half with 11 points…Ricky McPhee even had a massive block (meaning he blocked the shot) which may or may not have been the first of his life.  At the break, Georgia trailed the Red Storm 28-25.

At the start of the second half, St. John’s started playing with a lot more intensity and Georgia couldn’t match it.  The Red Storm really extended their man defense and started challenging the ball with a lot of tenacity.  Georgia’s offense got pushed away from the bucket, and this resulted in several bad possessions.  UGA’s defense (match-up zone) was somewhat sloppy, and St. John’s was able to knock down some big 3 pointers to build up a 10 point gap that the Dawgs were unable to close.

A couple of key statistics:

  • St. John’s shot 48.1% from the field while Georgia shot an icy 37.5%.
  • The Johnnies shot 81.8% FT; UGA only 66.7%

Trey Thompkins played a very good game offensively scoring 19 points and grabbing 6 rebounds…he looked unstoppable when he was able to get in one-on-one situations.

Travis Leslie had another solid outing with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  He continued to play very aggressively on the offensive end, and also finished an amazing alley-oop in the second half (it looked like his head might hit the rim) that may show up on ESPN’s “Top Ten” highlights tomorrow.

Dustin Ware had a tough night, shooting 1 for 5 from the field while scoring only 6 points.  He also committed 4 turnovers with only 1 assist to match.  The Dawgs must get more consistent play from Dustin going forward to be successful offensively.

The team is off for exams next week and won’t play again until December 19 when they take on Illinois in Duluth, GA.

Anybody have any other thoughts/comments from the game against St. John’s?

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.