Tough to put a finger on Georgia’s tourney status

The Georgia Bulldogs are getting mixed reviews from several of the larger sports media outlets concerning their position (or lack there of) in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Even ESPN’s two major tournament projectors seem to be split on the subject.

Joe Lunardi, creator of the network’s Bracketology, has Georgia (along with Alabama) as one of his “First Four Out” – he only has four SEC teams included in this year’s March Madness.  However, ESPN’s “Bubble Watch” seems to think that the Dawgs could earn an at-large berth into the NCAA’s with a win in the first round of their conference tournament.

CBS Sportsline’s Jerry Palm has Georgia as a 9-seed, and Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner likes the Dawgs as a 10-seed.

Let’s turn our attentions back to Joe Lunardi though, and his unfavorable impressions of Coach Mark Fox’s team.

Lunardi has become a regular on ESPN’s morning “Sportscenter” show recently, and when he has discussed Georgia’s resume he has continued to harp on the Dawgs’ 3-9 record against the RPI Top 50 and their lack of quality wins.  One thing that fails to come up in his analysis of the Bulldogs is the fact that Georgia has a higher RPI than seven teams that Lunardi currently has “in” – St. Mary’s, Clemson, Illinois, Colorado, Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech.

I have always been under the impression that a team’s RPI was a strong indicator of their worth in college basketball, but apparently Joey L. disagrees.

The fact that he has Colorado “in” over the Dawgs is inexplicable to me – Georgia has a better overall record, a better conference record, a much higher RPI (CU’s is 76) and the Dawgs bested the Buffs without the services of Trey Thompkins earlier this year in a head-to-head match-up in Athens.

Lunardi hosted a chat at 4:00pm yesterday on ESPN.com, and I actually submitted him this same question regarding the Buffs and Dawgs – shockingly, he didn’t choose my question as one of the eight he decided to respond to.

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.

Travis Leslie is the Hoop Dawg’s “Player of the Week”

Travis Leslie averaged 14.0 pts & 8.0 rebounds last week in games against St. Louis and Virginia Tech, thus earning him the prestigious “Hoop Dawg Player of the Week” award (Travis has not been notified yet, but the hardware is in the  mail).

He is actually ranking second on the team in both of those categories behind Trey Thompkins…however, Leslie is a 6’4″ guard so the fact that he is averaging 6.0 reb/game is very solid (although having a 45″ vertical certainly helps).

Leslie has established himself as a scorer this year, and is really doing a great job of attacking the rim.  He is also shooting a John Stockton-like 82.1% from the free throw line (up from 57.5% last year).

He had 2 monster dunks (one a tomahawk & the other an alley-oop) against Virginia Tech and is quietly building a case for the nickname, “Human Highlight Film, Jr”.

Hokies Top Dawgs 74-62

Trey Thompkins did not have a single field goal in the game.

You wouldn’t even need the box score to know that UGA most likely lost the game…and they did.  Matter of fact, they never even held the lead once.

What was amazing was that even though leading-scorer Thompkins failed to convert a bucket (he did make 5 free throws) the Dawgs were actually in the game with 6 minutes to play.  The score was actually tied 18-18 in the first half,  but then the Hokies went on a 10-point run and finished the half up 9.  Georgia closed the gap to 6 in the second half with a little over 8 minutes to play.

Then Mark Fox did something very interesting & creative – he implemented a “Box and One” defense with the one being on Malcolm Delaney (who is totally unstoppable and punished the Dawgs with 31 points).   I personally have never heard/seen this defense actually run in a major college game…It seemed to work on the first possession, forcing the Hokies to swing the ball out to guard Terrell Bell with 2 seconds on the shot clock…unfortunately for Georgia, Bell hit the 3-pointer (more unfortunate is that Bell is a 20% 3pt shooter).  The next trip down the court Jeremy Price turned the ball over and then committed an intentional foul on the Hokie player who made the steal.  After the free throws and possession, Virginia Tech was now up by 13 and wouldn’t look back.

I know the cliché, “There are no moral victories”, but there were some good things to take away from the game:

  • I do think this Va Tech team could make the NCAA Tournament, and the fact that Georgia was able to travel to Cassell Coliseum and give them a fight with their leading scorer not scoring shows that this team does have potential.
  • Travis Leslie has become a baller!  Leslie continues to improve each game and today was no different as he dropped in 17 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.  I was listening to the game on the radio, and that was unfortunate because Leslie had two dunks that sounded like they would have been very nice to see.  Hopefully he can keep up the aggressiveness on the offensive end.
  • Freshman guard Vincent Williams played a solid 12 minutes – scoring 5 points in the first half when the Dawgs were struggling for offense
  • Other than his intentional foul, Jeremy Price played a pretty good game – 10 points, 7 rebounds.  He continues to get open underneath on the offside block, and has a nice touch around the basket.

One final nugget: Former UGA Center Dave Bliss was in attendance in Blacksburg.  He is currently a Graduate Assistant for East Carolina University, and he apparently will attend UGA road games that are within driving distance….the announcers said he drove 6 hours!  He is from Wisconsin so maybe driving distances are relative…

Georgia travels to Blacksburg, VA to take on the Hokies today @ 3:30pm ET

The good news is:  Georgia beat this team in Athens last year.

The bad news is:  today’s game isn’t  in Athens.

UGA (4-2) travels to Virginia Tech (5-1) to take on a Hokie team that finished 18-14 last year and felt somewhat slighted that they were not chosen for the NCAA Tournament.  In my opinion, they were not selected to the field because they lacked enough quality wins against non-ACC opponents (lost to Xavier, Seton Hall, Wisconsin & Georgia).   That means that they will be not only looking for revenge against the Dawgs, but also will be hoping to use the game as a “resume builder” for this year’s NCAA tournament.  What remains to be seen in this young season is if Mark Fox’s team is actually a “resume builder” and not a “resume killer”.

Here is what worries me about the Va Tech starting five:

  • Malcolm Delaney (21.2 pts/game) – 6’3″ 190lbs Junior Guard
  • Jeff Allen (11.7 pts/game) – 6’7″ 250lbs Junior Forward
  • Victor Davila (7.7pts/game) – 6’8″ 245lbs Sophomore Forward
  • Terrell Bell (7.2 pts/game) – 6’6″ 205lbs Junior Guard
  • Dorenzo Hudson (6.7 pts/game) – 6’5″ 220lbs Junior Guard

There are no misprints there – this team starts four Juniors, and they are all very well-fed.  Allen and Davila are both wide space eaters, and two of their guards run 6’5″ & 6’6″…this looks like some big-time match-up problems for Ricky McPhee & Dustin Ware (who will have his hands full trying to limit Delaney from dropping 20+).

Let’s not get too down though…there is some good news.  This Hokie team struggles in the shooting department – mustering only 39.8% from the field as a team.  In there one loss this year against the Temple Owls, Tech shot a dismal 29.8% from the field.

UGA “Keys to the Game”:

  • Full-Court, Full Tempo: Historically, Virginia Tech basketball teams like to play a half-court game and use their big bodies to wear teams down…and this team looks no different.  UGA needs to show that same full-court trap press that they used against St. Louis on Wednesday against the Hokies as well to try to create turnovers and speed up the game
  • The Price is Right: Teams this year will continue to try to apply double-teams to Trey Thompkins in an attempt to frustrate him offensively.  Against St. Louis, Price was able to find himself wide open on several occasions by being active and moving along the baseline.  If he continues to do this today, I don’t see why he can’t get more easy buckets with the defense shading towards Thompkins
  • Ware ‘Em Down: Malcolm Delaney is a great player – you have to be to average 21.2 points/game in Division I basketball.  He is going to score against UGA, there is no doubt about it.  However, if Ware can get after him for 40 minutes and make  him earn every bucket then he may not score quite so many.  Last game, I asked Danny Ware to score points; this game I am asking for lock-down defense.

This game will not be on television…anywhere.  Even the local Hokie networks are not showing this potential instant classic.  Unless you are making the trip to Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, VA, you will have to put the fourth quarter of the Atlanta Falcons game on mute,  tune into 750AM and let Scott Howard be your eyes.

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