A Little “Pick Me Up” For UGA Fans

University of Georgia fans (myself included) everywhere are presumably feeling a tad bit down about the current state of Mark Richt’s football team.  After last Saturday’s showing in Starkville, how could they not be?

Hopefully everyone can continue to support the football team going forward, and maybe the return of A.J. Green can spark a mild winning streak – I am flying to Boulder, CO with some friends for the game and I pray that the Dawgs aren’t 1-4 when I return home on Monday afternoon.

But enough about football.

October is quickly approaching and that means that we are only one month away from the start of the 2010-2011 NCAA basketball season.  The Dawgs open things up at home against Mississippi Valley State on November 12th – no game time has been set yet.  You can bookmark the complete schedule from the Georgiadogs.com website.

This season Mark Fox will start the year with probably the best basketball team that UGA has had since the days of Jim Harrick and his legendary basketball tests.  ESPN college basketball analyst, Andy Katz, has Georgia in his preseason Top 25 (actually rounding out the list at #25).  When was the last time ESPN had a Georgia basketball team on any of it’s preseason material?

ESPN’s Dick Vitale put Trey Thompkins on his “Second Team Preseason All-Americans” list.  Thompkins should have an amazing supporting cast on the floor with him this year, starting with junior guard/forward Travis Leslie aka “The Elevator from Decatur”.  This summer Leslie supposedly added a three-point shot to his repertoire (that being putting big men on posters when he drives into the lane – see Demarcus Cousins).  Both of these guys are projected first-round draft picks in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Transfer Gerald Robinson should give Georgia a point guard that can penetrate and create off the dribble – something the Dawgs definitely lacked last season.  Robinson’s presence on the court will prevent teams from being able to double-team Thompkins, and his ability to slash should free up Dustin Ware and sharp-shooting transfer Sherrard Brantley for a lot of open looks from beyond the arc.

There are some interesting out-of-conference match-ups on this year’s schedule – Colorado, @ Saint Louis (ESPN’s Pat Forde likes them), The Old Spice Classic Tournament, UAB, @ Georgia Tech and then a big-time game in Athens with Xavier on February 8th (right in the middle of SEC play).

So don’t let the football team’s three-game losing streak get you down, because Mark Fox’s Dawgs should do a lot of winning this season.

Travis Leslie Becoming a Regular on ESPN’s Sportscenter

travis leslie
What has been your favorite Leslie highlight so far this year?

No one on the University of Georgia’s Men’s Basketball team is doing better Public Relations work  for the program than sophomore guard Travis Leslie.

Leslie came in at #4 on ESPN Sportscenter’s “Plays of the Weekend” for two of his highlight dunks against the Gamecocks.  The first dunk was the one in the first half in which Leslie grabbed an offensive rebound, and through it back down with one hand (very reminiscent of the jams that Dominique Wilkins was famous for with the Atlanta Hawks).  The second dunk showcased on ESPN was the one where Leslie went through the Carolina defender to throw down a monster flush.

Through 6 games of SEC play, Travis “Why drive when you can fly” Leslie is averaging 2.67 dunks per game!  He has been on ESPN’s “Top Plays” segment a handful of times already this season.

Here are links to my 3 favorite Travis Leslie dunks this season…which one do you guys like best?

Leslie dunks over Kentucky’s Demarcus Cousins

Leslie’s open-court double-clutch reverse jam against Tennessee

Leslie follows up a missed Ware 3-pointer with a one-handed flush

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?

Gaines Leading NBA Development League in Scoring

Sundiata GainesFormer University of Georgia standout PG Sundiata Gaines is currently playing in the NBA’s Development League (D-League) for the Idaho Stampede (who are affiliated with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets)…and at the moment, he sits atop of the scoring leaders with a stellar 27.0 ppg average!  But Gaines isn’t only scoring, he is also averaging 8.3 assists a game and 4.3 rebounds.  Sundiata already has one double-double under his belt in this young season, and it’s safe to say that he is clearly establishing himself as the “Lebron James” of the D-League.

This is Gaines’s first year playing in the D-League.  He spent the 2008-2009 basketball season playing in Italy for a team called NGC Cantu.  Him choosing to live in Boise, Idaho instead of Italy (beautiful landscape, amazing food culture, wine, etc) can only mean one thing – this guy must believe he has a real chance to earn a spot on an NBA roster (or he loves potatoes and all potato products).

Currently, there are only two former UGA players in the NBA – Damien Wilkins is on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jarvis Hayes plays for the New Jersey Nets.

Hopefully there will be a third former Bulldog entering the NBA ranks before the season ends.

Hoop Dawgs First Post

We all know that the University of Georgia is a football school, and will always be a football school.  However, UGA also participates in a number of other collegiate athletics and this blog is going to be dedicated to one of them – Men’s Basketball.

I know, I know…why would anyone (even a UGA grad or fan) give two thoughts to the UGA Men’s basketball team?  Besides a miraculous SEC Tournament Championship two years ago (which can be mostly attributed to the tornado that ripped through Atlanta, GA and rendered the Georgia Dome unsuitable for the remainder of the tournament – the final 2 rounds of the tournament were played in Georgia Tech’s gym with only family & friends present), the state of affairs of the basketball team has been in meddling in mediocrity since the Jim Harrick meltdown.

I am a University of Georgia graduate (2001) and a HUGE sports fan.  I love UGA football (by “love” I mean I wake up on Gameday Saturdays with the same nerves that I remember having before high school basketball games), but I am also part of a rare breed of Dawgs fans that actually cares/follows the basketball team as well.   That is why I started this blog – hopefully I can help build interest and support (or the “brand” as UGA Athletics Director Damon Evans likes to say) amongst my fellow Dawgs fans for the UGA basketball team.

With this blog I hope to try to talk about the team, analyze some aspects of the games and the opponents and maybe make a few more people turn on Comcast Channel number 7 every now and then to watch the Hoop Dawgs on Peachtree TV.   I was a decent high school basketball player (good shooter, bad dribbler) that only gained minimal interest from a handful of D-II & D-III schools, so I am by no means the Jay Bilas of the basketball media…but I do think that I understood the game pretty well when I played, and that I still understand most of it now – except for the shift away from the black ankle socks made popular by Michigan’s Fab Five…I loved those!

Here is a link to the Dawgs schedule this year – I suggest you memorize it (or at least print it out?).

Here are some things I like about this years team:

  • Mark Fox – the Dawgs desperately needed a breath of fresh air at coach and I think Fox will be just that.  In five years at Nevada, he took his team to the NCAA tournament three times.   He is used to succeeding without too much depth, which is exactly what he has inherited in this year’s team
  • Trey Thompkins – great shooter that now has an inside game after a summer of hitting the weights and bulking up…look for him to be one of the premier forwards in the SEC.
  • Chris Barnes – this guy is going to be one of the bigger bruisers in the conference.  I anticipate that Barnes averages 8 rebounds a game and maybe even 8 or 9 points as well.

There is a game Tuesday night in Athens, GA  at “The Steg” against the Saint Louis Billikens…check back tomorrow for the unveiling of the definition of the word “Billiken”.