SEC Opener! LET'S DO IT!
Meet The Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia entered SEC play with a 7-3 record and ranked 58th in the KenPom rankings. They played against Florida in their SEC opener last Saturday and lost 77-63, dropping to 7-4. Georgia's best wins to date are against Clemson and Georgia Tech, their worst loss was a season opening overtime loss to Chattanooga. They also dropped games against Seton Hall and Kansas State.
The Bulldogs have largely counted on Yante Maten down low, and J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines from the outside, while Charles Mann has often struggled to make the impact he's accustomed to. But make no mistake, this team is very much a four person outfit. Eight players average more than 12 minutes per game, but only Mann (9.7), Gaines (13.1), Frazier 15.1) and Maten (16.6) average more than nine points a contest. Those four tend to provide the production, with some fluctuation this year, but there's been surprisingly little movement.
Where the Bulldogs make their name is on the defensive end. They don't gamble, so they don't get a lot of turnovers, but they make you take tough shots. If you make the shots they want you to take, you'll beat them, but not many teams are able to make many tough shots. Georgia is 9th nationally in eFG%, and 41st in Adjusted Efficiency for overall defense. So the Tigers better be prepared for a struggle on offense.
Time for a...
Q&A With DAWGSPORTS
The ongoing joke is how much the two fanbases of Georgia and Missouri get along, and well we have a really good relationship with the guys at DawgSports.com. Mr. Sanchez is one of their main basketball writers, so we decided to ask him some questions about the Bulldogs.
RockMNation: Georgia has had a bit of an up and down start to the season, what is it about Mark Fox's teams the last few years have caused them to start so slowly?
Mr. Sanchez: It could be his offense, or just how he handles practice. But Fox teams always seem to struggle early before figuring things out during the exam and winter break before going well in SEC play. Now, a down SEC the last few years may help there. And this year with a very young front court has added to the inconsistency, but he does seem to have a pattern.
RMN: One of the concerns going into the season was how Georgia might replace Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic, what have the Bulldogs done to replace their production?
Sanchez: Sophomore Yante Maten has been tremendous. The 6'8 man from Michigan has stepped up this year, being a force inside offensively and effective defensively. He's prone to foul trouble but otherwise been excellent. That's replaced Thornton. Replacing Nemi has been harder. We've used veteran Houston Kessler, and he does some things well but is limited in athleticism and by poor hands. Michael Edwards has looked the part as a freshman, both as a capable SEC player and a freshman in mistakes. He has skill, especially defensively, but struggles. Derek Ogbeide is another freshman big with all the physical tools. He uses his thickness well inside, but also struggles with quick fouls.
RMN: The Bulldogs have always relied heavily on guard play, have Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines lived up to the billing to date?
Sanchez: Not really. Gaines has been solid but aside from a couple games has not emerged as an elite scorer. He's still strong defensively and capable offensively, but as a preseason All-SEC type, he's looking third team at best. Mann is what he's always been, big and physical with a good handle but turnovers and driving into packed lanes are still major issues. He's also been consistently inconsistent, as you look at his scoring by game: 17, 2, 13, 5, 15, 6, 14, 4, 18, 4, 9.
RMN: Missouri has shown flashes of being a decent team, is there something about this matchup concerns you?
Sanchez: Not really. Georgia has the size inside when freshman play well, and the experience outside when you add juniors JJ Frazier and Kenny Paul Geno to the senior pair of Gaines and Mann that they can physically match up with anyone but Kentucky's or Vanderbilt's 7-footers. Missouri is solid, but winning in conference on the road is always a tough task.
RMN: Last, how do you see this game playing out, and what is your final score prediction?
Sanchez: 73-64 with Georgia not in danger but never comfortable. The Tigers aren't back, but Kim Anderson is getting things better. At least better than a year ago for whatever that's worth. But experience, home arena, and Georgia being much deeper should rule the evening. Plus a 5:30 (for central time folks) weekday start seems odd, and could also help the home team a touch.
Thanks to Mr. Sanchez for the assistance, and the reminder of the weird start time to this game, I guess the Tigers wanted to make sure they got on a plane by a certain time? Who knows.
Georgia v. Missouri
In 2014, Missouri entered conference play 12-1 and ranked 41st in KenPom. They were led by two stellar guards in Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, a tough senior wing in Earnest Ross, a talented true freshmen and some spare parts. They were taking on a limping Georgia team with an unspectacular 6-6 non-conference record, a paltry 170 KenPom ranking, and no wins inside the top 200 other than a season opening win over Wofford. The Bulldogs were led by a couple talented sophomores, a rugged junior, and they stunned Missouri at home in overtime led by the hot shooting of Nemanja Djurisic.
In 2016, Georgia is led by stellar guard play in seniors Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, they have a tough sophomore post, but they don't have great depth. They're taking on a limping Missouri team who comes in ranked 166th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, but they do have some talented sophomores, a couple of tough juniors who could get hot at the right time, just enough to put the scare into a solid Power 5 team, like Georgia.
The SEC was bad in 2014 as Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were all good, and Georgia took advantage of the fluctuation in the league and won 12 games. The SEC is better this year than in 2014, and Missouri isn't as lucky. Bulldog team was in the schedule. Georgia won 12 games only having to play Florida (who were 36-3), Kentucky and Tennessee (UT's Sweet 16 team) each once, and they lost to all three. I don't think you're looking at Missouri potentially winning 12 games, but beating Georgia at Georgia isn't impossible. It's a long shot, for sure, but it's not impossible. So a few keys:
1) Let the kids run
Georgia is so good in the half court Mizzou needs to find ways to get easy points, and the easiest way to get those points is by beating the defense to their position. So get out and let the kids run
2) Stay hot Wes
It would be ideal if the Tigers could find more reliable scoring from other sources, but I'll take Wes Clark continuing his recent tear of shooting.
3) Shoot Free Throws, a lot of them
Both teams do a good job of getting to the free throw line, but Georgia should have a big advantage by being at home. If Missouri can negate the advantage or even win the Free Throw battle, I like their chances.
Outside of Mizzou taking care of all three of those keys, I really am not sure how they are able to pull this game out. I'm with Mr. Sanchez on the prediction, I think the game is played close enough, but Georgia should be able to keep the Tigers at enough of a comfortable distance by the end. 73-64 actually feels like a pretty good margin, honestly if the Tigers are on the road and lose by less than 10 points I think it's a small sign of progress. I'll play the homer and saythe Tigers maybe figured something out against those two terrible opponents and they play this a lot closer, but not enough to win. Hopefully they let it be a confidence boost enough to win against Auburn. I'll say the final score is 68-65.
Predict the final score below, you'll win bragging rights!