For the first time in a long time I get to start this preview by saying that your Missouri Tigers are coming into this game at Georgia...OFF OF A WIN! All hail Namon Wright and his Clarence Gilbert shooting explosion that took down Florida. It's clear Namon had the...you know what, no, no more puns! Let's head down to Georgia, like the devil did in that song.
Presenting the Georgia Bulldogs
location: Athens, Georgia
By HHKB Chris: We head to Georgia on a one game winning streak and at this point we have two choices ahead of us. We can either choose to ruin Georgia's post season chances (remember, Mizzou is a bad loss this year...damn it!) or we can roll over like dogs and let Georgia win and help the SEC get more teams into the dance. Well my friends, I am NOT one for rolling over, playing dead, sitting, shaking or fetching. That's what dogs do and we are not dogs. But you know who are dogs...Georgia!
Wow, another SEC school, another dog mascot. We've got Collies, Hounds, Bulldogs (from State) and Bulldogs from Georgia. Like all those other schools, Georgia has a real live dog as their primary mascot, his name is Uga and he's adorable. But being him is to be uncomfortable. It gets hot in the South and Uga doesn't do heat!
There have been many Ugas before this Uga. Georgia is now on Uga IX and he began his reign in the year 2012, may he live long and prosper. Other Ugas get buried between the hedges at the Sanford Stadium where the football team plies its trade. That's cool, in a weird way. You know what else happened at Sanford Stadium? THIS!
Georgia also has a human in an animal costume as their mascot and his name is Hairy Dawg. Hairy Dawg was one of the first mascots caught up in the Balco steroid ring, along with Sparty of Michigan State and the Gael from St. Mary's. The truth will set you free you 'roided up monster, just come clean, no one's gonna be mad.
Now, in this spot I would go on and on about the many famous alumni that did their studying at the University of Georgia and if you go online you will find enormous lists of people who went to Georgia...but in that list you'll also find most people who did not finish their education! The following people went to Georgia but decided they did not want to play school: REM, Sawyer from Lost, Seacrest, the guy who played the coach on the Friday Night Lights TV show about Texas, murder, adultery, switching schools, and eventually football, Alton Brown, the B-52s, the list goes on and on and on. But you know who did go to UGA and finished (eventually)?
That's right, Wayne Knight attended Georgia and got his degree back in 2008. Knight was also in Jurassic Park and some other stuff, but who cares, he was and always be...Newman.
Anyway, enough about the one interesting guy that I could find that graduated from Georgia. Because this game is in Athens you can walk the same streets that so many other famous people that you have a lot in common with did (not graduating from Georgia). While down there, the place to go to get some drinks is Trappeze. Trappeze has SO many beers, over 200! But if it's anything like any other bar I've been to that says it has 200 beers available, it will actually have about 40, 15 of which will be some form of Busch. But this game tips at Noon eastern, so this will be your post game spot. For those not able or inclined to head to Georgia, you can watch the game on ESPNU. So grab a friend, maybe some brunch (a bloody mary never hurt anyone) and sit back and let's see if we can get a third SEC win and cause some consternation among the Georgia faithful.
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: The Bulldogs come into Saturday's game with solid footing on a bid to the NCAA Tournament, they're currently 18-9 with a 9-6 league record and are sitting at 38th in KenPom rankings. They would likely be higher if it weren't for a fairly recent rash of injuries that disprupted the season and caused the Bulldogs to lose continuity, which in turn forced them to lose 4 out of 6 games. They had a bad week a few weeks ago and lost to both South Carolina and Auburn at home, but then recovered by going on the road and beating Alabama and Ole Miss. Because that makes sense.
Some may best remember Georgia as the team that was terrible through their non-conference last year, then managed to beat Missouri at home to kick off the SEC season and ended up going 12-6 in the league, basically ruining the perception of the strength of the league, if it was there at all. But this year they had a much stronger non-conference campaign and have been in the 20s and 30s in KenPom rankings, and if it weren't for a rash of injuries would be challenging Arkansas for the second spot in the league. As it is, they're currently 5th.
Charles Mann leads the way for the Bulldogs in minutes and is third on the team in points at 11.5. In fact 5 Bulldogs score between 10 and 12.5 ppg, led by Marcus Thornton, who is a load on the interior. Nemanja Djurisic is a stretch 4 who can hit threes and create space on the floor. J.J. Frazier went for 37 against Mississippi State, and Kenny Gaines is difficult to guard on the wing. The biggest issue for the Bulldogs is depth, and that is evidenced when they have an injury they have struggled to win games. So, there, all Mizzou has to do is hope for somebody to get hurt! :/
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With DAWG SPORTS
Thank you to Mr. Sanchez from DawgSports.com for taking time to answer our questions. Sanchez doesn't have a twitter account, which we find crazy. But you can ready all his hot sports takes on DawgSports, he and the rest of the crew over there do great working covering our new unholy alliance brothers.
RockMNation: Georgia came out of the gate in SEC play, putting a good string of wins together, of late it appears that the Dawgs have stumbled, to what do you attribute this?
Mr. Sanchez: Injuries, in my opinion, are playing a big part of it. Some of it is also likely just being back in league play where everybody knows everybody, with improved coaching and everyone has a player or two that on a given night can beat you. But Georgia's also been bitten hard by the injury bug, which along with subpar past recruiting and a thin depth chart to start is a bad sign. We started the year down a starting SF when junior glue guy Brandon Morris was dismissed over the summer. Then the other SF on the roster (Kenny Paul Geno) broke his wrist and is just now returning to action. A SG forced into starting SF duty (Juwan Parker) suffered an achilles injury that has taken him out for most of the last two months, and he's still unlikely to get playing time. His departure led to sophomore PG JJ Frazier entering the starting 5, with 6'4 junior Charles Mann moving from PG to SF, but then he suffered a concussion and facial fracture, to go along with a hairline fracture in a wrist bone, that caused him to miss the loss to South Carolina and play with a mask ever since. Backup C Yante Maten was hit by a car on campus, and missed a game with a concussion. Starting C and senior leader Marcus Thornton suffered a concussion in a hard fall against Vanderbilt, which led to him missing two games and playing far from his pre-concussion form in the 5 games since. In those 5, he's averaged 7.6 pts on 42% FG shooting with 5.6 boards, with none reaching 10 pts or more. In the previous 19, he had 16 games in double digit points, averaging 13.4 on over 50% from the field, with 7.2 rebounds. So injuries and long, physical season are taking their toll.
RMN: Speaking of which, do you see Georgia dancing in March? If so, what's it going to take down the stretch to lock up a bid?
Mr. Sanchez: I'd say 2 more wins will do it. With the tournament now at 68, the bubble has gone a little further down the ladder and Georgia's RPI and SOS look strong right now. They can't have a bad loss to Missouri, and then need one of the two road games in Oxford (written on Tuesday - which they got!) and the season finale in Auburn. I can't imagine beating Kentucky even if it is at home. So win this game, and then add a road win and Georgia should make the NCAAs. If they had taken care of business at home against Auburn and South Carolina last week, the team would already have the invitation in the mail.
RMN: Charles Mann has been the man of late (punch me now), aside from him, who should Mizzou fans be worried about containing in Saturday's game?
Mr. Sanchez: As indicated above, Marcus Thornton if he can finally shake lose those concussion cobwebs. JJ Frazier is one of my favorite things in college basketball, the 5'9 or shorter PG with quick handles and the ability to get red hot from deep (see his 37 points in Starkville). And Kenny Gaines was the man last year offensively with several big nights, but he hasn't had one really so far after struggling with mono and some other ailments coming into the season, so he may well be due to blow up. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention senior PF Nemi Djurisic after he came off the bench for 16, and 4 of 5 from 3, in last year's upset in Columbia, so he'd also be one to watch out for having a difference making game.
And yeah, I know I just said our entire starting lineup should be a worry. But if you look back when Georgia was playing well in January, contrasted to their recent run, it was because all 5 were a threat to score and would step up when the opponent focused on another.
RMN: If Mizzou is to somehow steal a win in this game, what's it going to take?
Mr. Sanchez: Considering it's in Athens, an awful showing by Georgia. Charles Mann with a lot of turnovers and continued below expected production from Gaines and Thornton would probably be a part of the Dawgs' end of things. Big games out of Jakeenan Grant in a kind of homecoming, and from Jonathan Williams would almost certainly be required, but the Tigers record is 8-20, with a long run of SEC losses for a reason. Their road results have been pretty bad this season too, so I'm really hoping Mizzou is nowhere close to stealing this game during the full 40 minutes.
RMN: How do you think the game goes, and what's your predicted score?
Mr. Sanchez: Georgia plays sloppy, Missouri plays relatively well, and the game goes back and forth for much of it with hopefully Georgia pulling away at the end, something like 67-57.
Thank you again to Mr. Sanchez for providing us with answers to our questions. Take some time to read up on the Dogs over at DawgSports.com. Also, Mr. Sanchez hates Vandy's Court as much as I do, so you know he's good people.
With that all said. Does Missouri have a chance to beat Georiga? Yeah, probably not. Georgia is a very good team despite their depth problems. When healthy they are easily in the 5 best teams in the league, and probably #3 right behind Arkansas when all things are even. KenPom projects Mizzou to lose this one 70-57 with a 97% chance to win the game. I don't know if I feel it's that much of a lock, so let's see what Mizzou has to do to turn their fortunes.
1) Effective Offensive Possessions
One of the things I hope the Tigers take from their most recent win is that they can now relax. For several (maybe 10) games they felt like they were pressing on offense because they knew they were struggling in that area. But this team does, in fact, have guys who can make shots. They'll just need to leverage as many possessions as possible in order to stick with the Bulldogs who find a lot of different ways to score points. They don't play at the fastest pace, but they are efficient when all things are going their way.
2) Stay even on the boards
Missouri got absolutely crushed by Vanderbilt, then turned around and won the rebounding battle against the Gators. When the Tigers rebound, they're a pretty good team. But they're a team that needs to rebound as a team. It won't be easy because Thornton is a big guy down low, who has similar experience, build and athleticism to James Siakam who was a problem for the Tigers. They're really going to need to rebound by committee.
3) Keep Mann Off The Line
And not just Mann, but the whole Georgia team. The more FTs they shoot, the more impossible it will get to win. Mann is sort of the case study of this because he's the bigger playmaker. He's the one who drives and kicks, he's the one they look to late in the shot clock. If he's going to the line, it means their offense is doing what it's designed to do.
Winning on Tuesday felt great. It was nice to see the team happy again. They had stuck together and made it to this point of the season (with a few big bumps along the way) but hasn't quit playing. So it was a good reward for them. Going to Georgia isn't a great way to follow that up. Georgia is a tough, physical, experienced team that does all the little things together. A few weeks ago they lost to Auburn and South Carolina at home, when that happens you do tend to perk up and think that maybe Missouri has a chance. And they do have a chance. But they'll have to play a near flawless game, or watch Georgia self destruct, basically. The Bulldogs have spend most of the season (when healthy) imposing their style of play on their opponents.
On the positive side, we've seen Missouri play well in games they shouldn't contend in. That method can work, even without a crazy shooting night from an unexpected player. Having Johnathan Williams back to double-double range would be good, having a second scorer from outside step up would help as well. But more than anything, Missouri is going to have to shoot the ball better than they have, and take advantage of any easy points they can muster. Because I do think Georgia will make them play ugly.
I don't know many that think this is going to be a win for Missouri. In fact, I don't know of anyone that is picking the Tigers. Doesn't mean it can't happen though. I'm going to say that this game is ugly, methodical, and points are hard to come by for both teams. The Tigers fight, and put a scare into the Bulldogs, but not enough to win: Georgia 63, Missouri 60.
Do your thing with predictions and trifecta below. For the trifecta, I'll take Shams, JW3 and Teki.