As I indicated earlier, I haven't precisely figured out this new-fangled basketball blogging business. But we here at Dawgsports believe in learning by doing, so basketball blogging it is. On the eve of the most significant University of Georgia mens' basketball game in quite some time, I had to think long and hard about the 5 things that I think we'll see later today when the Bulldogs take on the Xavier Musketeers. But finally, I think I've got a handle on it:
1) Please Hammer don't hurt 'em. Xavier guard Stanley "Hammer" Burrell (no, not that one) is a solid perimeter defender, and he'll be counted on to keep Sundiata Gaines on the perimeter and away from the basket. If Gaines is able to slash to the lane, he'll be able to get easy points, and he'll put Xavier's big men in potential fouling situations. This would be absolutely ideal for us.
2) Playing experienced basketball. Xavier has a roster full of seniors who have been to the Big Dance before. They played a schedule this season that saw them beat Indiana, Kansas State and Auburn on their home court by 20+, enroute to a #9 RPI ranking. Georgia, not so much. We cannot come down with the "Hawaii Syndrome" now. It will be up to Coach Felton and the seniors to keep this team focused in the face of heavy media attention. It will also be up to the seniors to keep this team in it when Xavier makes their second half run. Which they will, because . . .
3) They're deep and wide. Just like the River Jordan. Xavier has six guys averaging in or around 10 points a game. When you have that many players who can, in hoops parlance "score the basketball", somebody is bound to be hot every game. It's just a matter of figuring out who it is and getting the ball in his hands.
4) Backcourt bingo. Xavier is experienced and athletic on the perimeter. We are as well, although probably not as experienced. One of the key matchups of the game is going to be Billy Humphrey versus whoever Xavier sticks on him. Humphrey is among the world's streakist shooters. If he finds his stroke early, he'll keep us in the game one 3-ball at a time.
5) UGA 67, Xavier 65. I know, I know. The odds are long. We have no depth, no tournament experience, and we're coming off the basketball equivalent of the Ironman Triathlon. Heck, they even have Charles Bronson on their side. But if there's one thing I've learned since last Thursday, it's not to bet against this team. If they win I'll be absolutely ecstatic. If not, it's been a great run, especially given where this team sat at the end of February.
Don't forget the open comment thread immediately below this post. Until later . . .