#4 Georgia Bulldogs
Last Season: 20-14 (10-8) #70 in KenPom
My Prediction: 11 - 7 (4th in conference)
DawgSports Prediction: 12 - 6 (2nd in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 8.3 - 9.7 (9th in conference)
HEAD COACH: Mark Fox | Eight Season 126 - 103
A year ago I was pretty high on the Bulldogs, they had everything you could want in a successful SEC team. They had experienced guards and some solid depth down low, Yante Maten turned into a star, and still inconsistency plagued Georgia on offense. What ended up happening was a team that was good, but nothing special, and they got left out of the NCAA tournament and settled for an NIT bid. So entering the 8th season of the Mark Fox tenure, what should Georgia fans make of his tenure? The Bulldogs have only finished inside the top 70 in KenPom twice, and two out of seven isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. So the question becomes can Mark Fox turn the Bulldogs into a more consistent winner? Fox has certainly taken a bad program and turned it into a respectable program, but can he push them past respectable and into the good range? The Georgia brass have proven patient with coaches, particularly basketball coaches, in the past and I don’t envision Fox having a seat that is remotely getting warm. Fox’s seat is quite cool, and should continue to be as the Bulldogs should be, at worst, decent again this year.
SEAT TEMP: COOL
Three NCAA tournaments in the last ten years is about the normal period for Georgia, a program that has been in and out of contention for years. Their best period would have been in the late 80’s to early 90’s when they made it five times in 10 years. So to keep that average up Fox has a few years to get the Bulldogs back into the tournament. How close are they?
The story of the Georgia Bulldogs the last three years has largely been written by the exploits of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. Gaines was little used as a freshman but burst on the scene as a sophomore by averaging 13 points a game while being efficient from the floor. Mann played more as a freshman but had a similar increase in scoring from his freshman to his sophomore season as he bumped to nearly 14 points a game. That season the Bulldogs started sluggishly but the play of Gaines and largely helped Georgia finish with a 12-6 record and a trip to the NIT. Both Gaines and Mann were slightly inconsistent their junior seasons but the Bulldogs still finished with a 11-7 conference record and an NCAA trip, despite both seeing a dip in the per game averages. Last season the Bulldogs again were 11-7 in conference and both Mann and Gaines saw their per game averages dip, as neither were able to reproduce the success of their sophomore seasons. Georgia will miss their leadership and it will be interesting to see how they replace their production, but it may also benefit Georgia as they can turn to new leaders and guy who have been more productive. Osahen Iduwe transferred mostly because he wasn’t going to beat out Yante Maten for playing time.
|Kenny Paul Geno||senior||cf||29||.479||.037||.080|
|William Jackson II||sophomore||cg||29||.165||.018||.026|
|Juwan Parker||r-junior||cg||REDSHIRT -- Injury|
J.J. Frazier | SENIOR | COMBO GUARD
If continuity is your thing the Bulldogs have a pretty good dose of it, and it starts with J.J. Frazier, a slight but feisty player with exception shooting range and a fearless attitude. Frazier took on the onus of the go-to scorer for Mark Fox as he hit nearly 17 points per contest last year in over 32 minutes a game. Frazier will have a tall task ahead of him if he’s to lead this group back to the NCAA tournament.
A host of role players are back for the Bulldogs. Last season they had four players average in double figures and two of them are gone, nobody else averaged more than five points a game. But there are a few guys who could be ready to take on a larger role and I’d start with William ‘Turtle’ Jackson. Jackson was a highly regarded player coming in who was playing behind Gaines and Mann for minutes but showed flashes of being able to be and do more. Jackson could be the lead guard and primary ballhandler for the Bulldogs this season if he develops the way he’s capable, that would give Mark Fox some options with the rest of the roster. Derek Ogbeide is another guy ready for more, he was the primary backup to Yante Maten but there are many situations where you could see the Bulldogs go big and play both guys. Kenny Paul Geno plays the role of support guy well, I’m not sure I can envision him taking on a larger role, but I could certainly see Mike Edwards, a mobile big man, do so. Houston Kessler stuck with the program and was rewarded as a junior with an increase of his minutes, but like Geno, he’s a limited player. The last player to mention is E’Torrion Woolridge who is another player who showed flashes as a freshman and could be ready to step into a larger role, but there’s plenty of competition.
Yante Maten | JUNIOR | POST
If there’s one guy who doesn’t need to worry about competition at his spot it’s Yante Maten. Maten burst onto the scene last year and averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds a game. He was incredibly efficient in doing so as well as he was named to the All SEC second team. If Georgia is returning to the NCAA tournament this year it’s likely on the back of Maten who has shown he can carry the load.
A small class of newcomers but a group who could play a nice role for Georgia. Tyree Crump should have an impact early as he’s a highly ranked combo guard who stayed home. He’s a solid athlete with a good handle and a lightning quick trigger on his jumper. Jordan Harris is a big physical left handed wing with enough of a handle to help out at the point, he reminds me a bit of Charles Mann actually. Pape DIatta is an interesting player who figures to play a role, he’s kind of a crafty combo forward without a ton of athleticism but he’s sneaky and a good shooter.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|J.J. Frazier||Juwan Parker||Kenny Paul Geno|
|Tyree Crump||William Jackson II||Houston Kessler|
|Yante Maten||Derek Ogbeide|
|Mike Edwards||Pape Diatta|
It’s easy to predict two spots and quite difficult to project the other eight. Mark Fox tends to not play a ton of guys, he usually finds a rotation of about eight players and runs with it. This Bulldog roster also has more depth than some of the rosters in recent years, and some guys may warrant more freedom. That approach is why I’m banking on Jackson and Diatta as the starters at the CG and CF positions which would give more flexibility in how the Dawgs would approach their offense.
My Projected Record: 20 - 10 | KenPom Projected Record: 18 - 12
Non-Con: @Clemson, (N) George Washington, Marquette, @Georgia Tech, (N) Kansas/UAB, Texas
If Georgia can get past George Washington they’ll likely face Kansas, which would give an otherwise mediocre non-conference schedule a much needed boost. Clemson should be decent and playing on the road, particularly to open the season will be tough. Texas is a tough matchup in the SEC Big 12 Challenge but at least they get them in Athens. Georgia Tech and Marquette are certainly winnable games as Tech is starting over with Josh Pastner and Marquette was barely in the top 100 a year ago and lost their best player to the draft. If Georgia can get out of the non-conference with only three losses they’ll be in prime NCAA shape.
Conference: South Carolina 2x, Kentucky 2x, Florida 2x, Auburn 2x, Alabama 2x, @ Ole Miss, @ Texas A&M, @ Tennessee, @ Arkansas
A fairly balanced conference slate sits in front of Mark Fox and crew with home and home’s against Kentucky and Florida. South Carolina will be no push over, and the combination of Auburn and Alabama will be difficult as well. I think Georgia can afford to go 1-3 against UK and Florida as long as they go 4-2 in the other games. Especially when they have to travel to Texas A&M and Arkansas, and Ole Miss is always going to put up a fight at home. Their home & home opponents don’t leave the Bulldogs with a big margin for error, but the rest of the schedule breaks decently enough they should be able to hold serve.
I felt like I was disappointed in the play of Georgia a year ago, they fell two games short of my pre-season prediction of 12 - 6. When you factor in how Gaines and Mann were never quite able to put it together while Frazier and Maten far exceeded expectations you can only imagine how much better they could have been if things were firing on all cylinders. Yet it wasn’t meant to be as they faltered just enough to prevent them from going to the NCAA tournament. Mark Fox has fielded good teams at Georgia, I felt last season could’ve been one of his best and they fell just short.
So how can this team be better when they lose two senior leaders who were two of only four players who seemed to be able to score the basketball? The optimism has to come with the leaps that Frazier and Maten took, and you look at the young talent around them and realize they could take a similar jump. Talent-wise, there’s no reason why a Turtle Jackson couldn’t replicate the sort of jump (while maybe not as extreme) as Maten made last year. There were four freshmen who logged decent minutes a year ago and all four have enough raw ability to see them breaking out. Even if they don’t, they just have to be good enough to take some pressure of Maten and Frazier.
Can one team rely so much on two players and win in the SEC? If they’re as good as Maten and Frazier? I think so. If there is no growth on the rest of the roster and it’s up to Maten and Frazier to carry the load I think Georgia is much more likely to be a .500 SEC team rather than a top of the conference team. So they’re certainly banking on guys who haven’t had to do it yet. Mark Fox just has a bit of a history of finding guys who don’t give him much as freshmen, then suddenly break out and have big sophomore campaigns so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and buy in on Georgia.
Whenever you can start building your roster with an All SEC Caliber big man and an All SEC Caliber point guard, you have to like the foundation. Mark Fox has shown he can coach up the guys he has, play physical defense and make your life miserable on the offensive end. If this team is capable of being the type of team Fox likes to field stylistically, they’ve got enough talent to surge offensively which could push their ceiling up a notch or two. The only problem is Fox has traditionally started a bit slow and I’m not sure the Dawgs can afford a slow start (say dropping an extra non-conference game or two) and stay in the NCAA hunt. On top of that their conference schedule is tough enough where if they can’t find scoring outside of Maten and Frazier, they’re going to struggle to stay above the fray of the middle of the conference. In the end I think Georgia is able to pull things out and make a big enough run to at least be on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
About the preview: Each SEC site was asked to submit one representative to pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.
If you’d like to submit your picks, here is the Google Form we used:
GP - Games Played
%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury
%pts - percentage of teams points scored
%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team