Last season: 21 - 12
My Prediction: 12 - 6 (in conference)
DawgSports Prediction: 14 - 4 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 10.1 - 7.9
On the list of underappreciated coaches, Mark Fox certainly is at or near the top. What Fox has done in building a consistent and tough winning program in Athens isn’t easy. The Bulldogs have had fits and spurts of success, but it was usually waning and often gone with the next coaching change. And the Bulldogs have had trouble keeping coaches on the sidelines since Hugh Durham manned the head chair for 17 seasons ending in 1995. Fox is the 6th coach since Durham, and despite a few rocky years early, Georgia’s patience has appeared to have paid off as the last two years have been good ones. Fox’s teams are always disciplined, and they fight hard. And he’s finally gotten the talent in place to compete at an NCAA tournament level.
WHO THEY LOST
The strength of the Bulldogs last season was their balance, and they certainly lose some of that with the loss of Nemanja Djurisic and Marcus Thornton. Combined, the two starters played about 70% of their minutes (Thornton only played less because of missing a few games) and provided an inside-outside combination that went well with the otherwise guard-oriented attack that UGa employs. Djurisic was, at times, a deadly three point shooter who provided rebounding and sound defense as well as solid passing from the high post. Thornton was a bit more of a brutish low block player out of need, but he fit into that role well. The transfer of Cam Forte was a bit of a surprise, because he had some nice moments and the potential to impact the team this coming season. Echols was a walk-on who was able to provide spot contributions here and there, but not a major contributor by any stretch.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
Sometimes it feels like Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines have been at Georgia forever. Maybe that’s because Missouri is going into it’s 4th year in the SEC and the two stellar Georgia guards are as well. Mann is the poised and steady physical guard who does most of the ball handling, and he also has the highest usage rate on the team last year. Gaines struggled a bit through some injuries that he mostly played through, and didn’t play as well consistently as he did the year before. The biggest surprise from last year was the play of J.J. Frazier, the sprightly guard made a name for himself by hitting clutch three’s and coming up with big defensive plays. Yante Maten is a guy that most tend to think could break out this season, and frankly he’s going to have to for Georgia to have a good season. Juwan Parker was somebody I thought could break out a bit last year, but that didn’t happen. He’s a big key to ensuring that the lead guys stay fresh. Kenny Paul-Geno is an interesting player, he’s a nice athlete and can play both forward spots, he’s struggled to stay healthy but could provide an additional boost off the bench.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
If there's one thing that Mark Fox does, it's put together below average SEC recruiting classes. I don't mean that as a knock against Fox, because he turns those players into men and beats up the rest of the league, but he rarely impresses on the recruiting trail from a rankings stand point. Combo Guard William Jackson is the highest rated who cracks the top 150 for 247sports. He's a big physical hometown guard cut from the same mold as Charles Mann, and also has the best nickname of any recruit in the country: Turtle. Derek Ogbeide is another physical post player who can fit right into the system and provide defense and rebounding early, and could challenge for a starting position because of his ability to do both. E'Torrion Wildridge also fits the mold of a bigger wing, though he probably needs some time to get to the physical part. Last is Michael Edwards who was a late riser and highly sought after big man who picked the Bulldogs in the spring.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|J.J. Frazier||Kenny Gaines||Charles Mann|
|William Jackson||Juwan Parker||Kenny Paul-Geno|
|Houston Kessler||Yante Maten|
|Osahen Iduwe||Derek Ogbeide|
You know when you take on a Mark Fox team they’re going to be physical, they’re going to push you off your spots and make you earn everything you get on offense. The Bulldogs are going to struggle at times to score, but Fox has drilled into them such a mental toughness that they’re nearly impossible to separate from, even when your shots are falling and theirs aren’t. That’s the beauty, if I can call it that because it’s rarely pretty, of the Mark Fox way. And he’s put his stamp completely on the program at this point.
The schedule isn't anything outlandish for them either. They take on Seton Hall, Kansas State, Georgia Tech and Clemson in the non-conference, and those are all winnable games. In fact KenPom rates Georgia as the 52nd team in the country, and a 43% chance of beating Seton Hall, the only time they aren't favored at this point. They get Baylor in the SEC/Big12 Challenge, which is a tough game, but Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn and South Carolina twice isn't too bad. They only get Mizzou, Arkansas and Tennessee once, though that's helped by only getting Kentucky once. Overall this is the kind of schedule that's manageable and could help the Bulldogs challenge for an NCAA spot.
With Gaines and Mann, Georgia will have control of the ball and get the kind of shots they want on a regular basis. The loss of Djurisic and Thornton isn’t going to be easy to get over, they provided so much help down low, and extra opportunities with their superb rebounding. Thornton’s adaptability was probably his biggest strength, so how does Georgia make up for the loss of two such vital players? They’re going to have to lean on their guards even more and hope that a few of their younger players step up to fill the void. The most likely are the previously mentioned Maten, and then… some question marks… which is worrisome if you’re a Bulldog fan. Fox has excelled at taking underrated players and building them up over time. Some of these players are going to have to be ready before they’ve been given that time to develop. Derek Ogbeide and Michael Edwards are both freshmen, and high ceiling guys, but can they be ready to contribute to the rotation so early? William Jackson is probably going to be ready to help on the perimeter as a freshmen, but guys like Juwan Parker and Kenny Paul-Geno are going to have to be there as well.
The biggest concern for the crew in Athens has to be this depth. At the top of the roster there are enough known quantities that you feel confident in this team finishing above .500. Where the Bulldogs could get tripped up it not with the talent at the top, but spots 4-13.As you can see from the prediction, I’m betting on Maten and the other Bulldogs interior players to carry enough of the load to propel this team to the top tier of the league. I do think that 12-6 or possibly 13-5 is the ceiling for this team. The depth worries me a lot, but the strength of senior guards and the big play ability of a guy like J.J. Frazier is awfully exciting. KenPom has them projected at 18-11 and 10-8 in conference, and I think if everyone stays healthy that’s closer to the floor.
Kenny Gaines had mono in preseason camp last year, so he was never healthy last year (I think he can be a huge player now healthy as a senior) Mann worked as SF when injuries decimated us and I can see it happening again, with JJ Frazier at PG. I wouldn't be shocked if he shifts there full time letting Frazier and Jackson handle the point. But it would be a three guard lineup where all of Frazier, Gaines, Jackson, and Mann, or even Parker at times, can initiate the offense or work off the ball as play dictates.
Turtle Jackson has Mann measurables a but is a more natural point guard as Mann plays a lot with his head down, and Jackson is a markedly better shooter than the senior. Ogbeide is physically ready, and he, along with Edwards, will be needed a lot as we have so few other big men. Edwards, like Maten, was a late bloomer we fought off multiple Big 10 schools to land in the spring signing period.
I like Houston Kessler to start as he's thick and could be a weaker version of Nemi [Djurisic]. He has that same thickness to rebound and a shot to help outside, but he has nowhere near the handle Nemi had or the Euro's creativity. You only have one ball, so I think Kessler becomes a 10-15 minute a game role playing starter who sets screens, hits a shot when the opposing D forgets him after a pick, and rebounds. Then Fox can mix and match small lineups the rest of the way using Parker, Geno, or one of the three freshman Fs. We just have no big man, which means Maten has to be a 30 minute a night isolated interior beast. He could be, but I'm not sure he will be next year.
I think this team can do big things but has a razor thin margin for error. Maten has to be the man inside. Mann has to rebound well against bigger match ups. Gaines needs to return to the go to, 18 ppg type scorer we saw in SEC play as a sophomore. And we need Edwards and Ogbeide to be immediate rotation options with our failure to land a graduate transfer big man to pair with Maten last spring.
|Mr. Sanchez||Dawg Sports|
Georgia, wow, you did it, you made it to March and didn't fall apart like the Sam Jackson in Unbreakable. If ever a team was living on the edge of barely staying in one piece it was Georgia. Do you remember the 2012 Mizzou team that broke down at the end of the year, well that was Georgia last year, just an injury away from total collapse. So good for you Georgia, you stayed healthy...THANKS OBAMA! And how long has Kenny Gaines been in college? He's got to be on Medicare by now, while Charles Mann, damn that guy was shooting hoops before there was shooting hoops. It's time to leave campus you two Tommy Boys. Anyway, Mark Fox is in that sweet zone where he's got his players playing his way, bringing solid, not spectacular kids to campus that should take Georgia to the post season for the time being. But that won't be enough for Georgia fans who will call for his ousting when they don't get further than a round of 32 in the coming years. They will then become essentially Tennessee because the lunatic fringe always win. It's time to make Georgia great again will be ringing from one end of Athens to the other. Then they'll hire Donnie Tyndall and we'll all have a good laugh.
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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