If it feels like Mizzou just played Georgia, it's because they did. Mizzou took on Georgia in Athens to begin SEC play just two weeks ago to the day. It's almost as if the individuals in the SEC scheduling department just didn't feel like trying any kind of variety. With that said, since Mizzou just played the Dawgs, this preview will be a little lighter in content than normal.
Since Mizzou and Georgia last played, the Dawgs have played three games, they lost a close game on the road at Ole Miss, then took care of business at home against a confusing Tennessee team, and lost to current SEC leader Texas A&M at home. The loss to A&M was on the level of Mizzou vs Arkansas brutal with the Dawgs only being able to put up 45 points and getting beat by 34.
Going into the season the feeling around Georgia was that this was not as strong a team as last year, but still capable of being one of the upper echelon teams of the conference. While they did lose high volume players Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic, these departures were not viewed as a large impediment to the Bulldogs getting back to the NCAA Tournament and being a factor in the SEC this season. At this point however, Georgia looks like a team that will sit around .500 for the season and be able to beat the lower level teams of the conference, get beat by the better teams and potentially steal a game or two against a higher ranked team at home, though the beating against A&M does call that into question.
BEST WIN(S): Clemson (58) 71-48; Georgia Tech (62) 75-61
WORST LOSSES: Chattanooga (94) 92-90 (OT), Ole Miss (105) 72-71
Georgia's two best wins came in December, both at home and within days of each other. Since then, both Clemson and Georgia Tech have both been playing at a much higher level especially Clemson. For tonight's purposes it's probably better to focus on what they've done in conference to date, and that's lose to Florida, Ole Miss and A&M, and beaten Mizzou and Tennessee.
For Mizzou's part, you're aware of what they've done, got shot out the gym against Georgia, beat Auburn, got destroyed by Arkansas and then held tight with South Carolina this past Saturday thanks to the continued hot shooting of Wes Clark. Has anything really changed in the two weeks since these teams last played? On the surface of it, no. Both teams will be running out similar lineups and have access to the same players, so what should Mizzou fans be on the lookout for against Georgia in the rematch.
Georgia still runs out a starting five of JJ Frazier, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, Yante Maten and some combination of Houston Kessler and Derek Ogbeide. However, their production comes from the four individuals mentioned first, Frazier, Gaines, Mann and Maten. Simply, if you can corral them, or better get them into some foul trouble, Georgia will be exposed for its lack of bench support.
Where Georgia is the strongest this year, as they have been in the past is on the defensive side of things where they are a top 10 team in affecting your team's shot to the point of teams only hitting an effective field goal percentage of 43%, which isn't great for a Mizzou team in a bit of a shooting slump since the last Georgia game. This stat takes into account three point shooting as well, where Georgia is currently in the top 20 of three point defense, so if you're going to have a chance to beat them it's more than likely not going to come from a barrage of three pointers. With that in mind, you'd think perhaps Mizzou should take the ball to the paint (as best they can), unfortunately for the Tigers, Georgia is a top 20 team in blocks per game as well, averaging around 5 blocks per game to date.
That all being the case, there are spots in which Mizzou can exploit the Bulldogs. Georgia, turns the ball over quite a bit on the offensive side of things, and they don't even attempt to turn you over, preferring to let you run down the court and face off against their defense in the half court. If the Tigers can move the ball effectively and get clean shots at the basket Mizzou should have a chance in this game.
All that said, let's take a look at the three keys to a Mizzou victory:
1) Guard the Three Point Line
Last time these teams faced off Mizzou got shot out of the gym from outside, both at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the second half. If Mizzou can shore up their defense around the perimeter they'll have a chance at getting win number 2 in the conference.
2) Someone help Wes Clark
In SEC play it's been the Wes Clark show. It appears as if the freshman are hitting their wall a bit earlier than many would have expected and their production has fallen off a bit since conference play started. In that time Wes Clark has been on a tear most recently flirting with a triple double against South Carolina last Saturday. That's all well and good, but Wes needs some help out there, someone else to pick up the slack, whether that be a Namon Wright who has shown signs of life or Jakeenan Gant, someone needs to take some of the scoring burden upon themselves.
3) Get to the Free Throw Line
This being a home game you'd expect the whistles to be on Mizzou's side more than on the road, and in the past two home games Mizzou has managed to get to the free throw line with some consistency, and are making their fair share. As noted above, Georgia does not have a deep rotation and are prone to put you on the line (almost as much as Mizzou is) so if you can get them in foul trouble and take advantage of your free shots at the line, this could bode well for the Tigers.
Looking at all the above, it seems that this game is a winnable one. Mizzou put together a nicer showing against South Carolina than they had against Arkansas, so hopefully the Tigers can build off of that.
KenPom has this as a close loss at 67-65 but for some reason I'm feeling a little more bullish and am predicting a Mizzou win, 71 - 68. It's the first home game of the semester, so there should be more bodies in the seats, we'll get our first glimpse of Jordan Barnett on the sidelines, and the specter of the NCAA investigation should have dissipated and the team can focus solely on basketball.