Now that football season (at least the onfield portion of the program) has come to a conclusion, it's time to turn some attention to Mark Fox's Georgia men's basketball team. This is the first in what I hope will be a regular series of posts on the Dawgs' upcoming games as they march toward, well, whatever it is that the first season under a new coach running a new system without optimal personnel marches toward. We'll just figure it out as we go along.
What you've missed so far. Not a lot really. Georgia is 7-5 with losses to some clearly superior teams (Missouri, Virginia Tech, St. John's, UAB), wins in games they probably should win every year (Florida Atlantic), and a game or two we're just going to forget ever happened (Wofford, cough, cough . . .). Sophomore forward Trey Thompkins is leading the squad in both points (15.9) and rebounds (8.2) per game. Sophomore guard Travis Leslie is becoming a more consistent scorer, going for 14+ points in 8 of 12 games this season, including 18 in the loss to Missouri. If you're looking for a comparison to the Dennis Felton era, we still can't hit the broad side of a barn from 3 point range, but we lead the SEC in free throw percentage (70%), and have occasionally engaged in strange rituals known as "passing" and "finding the open shooter". Who knows what that's all about. And Albert Jackson cut his hair, but is still averaging about 4 rebounds per game. That's pretty much it.
Scouting The Jackets. As a team Paul Hewitt's squad exhibits incredibly poor decision-making skills, as evidenced by the fact that they all attend Georgia Tech. That lapse in judgment aside, the Yellow Jackets are 11-2 on the season, falling only to Dayton by 4, and by 7 in overtime to Florida State. Forward Gani Lawal averages close to a double-double per game (14.8 points and 9.7 rebounds), and is a big body inside who still moves pretty well to be 6'9 and 235 pounds. Freshman phenom Derrick Favors has contributed immediately, and will only get better as he gets used to the college game. Then he'll leave at the end of the year for the NBA. But that won't really help us this evening, now will it?
The Outlook. Following their trip to Athens, Georgia Tech will return home to tip it off against the Duke Blue Devils. It will be their second ACC date of the season, and perhaps the first time anyone on North Avenue has ever engaged in any social interaction described as a "date." Perhaps they will overlook Georgia. Perhaps not. On paper, Fox's guys shouldn't be able to stay in the gym with the Jackets. Tech is deeper at every spot on the roster and comes in with a 3 game winning streak, albeit against the likes of Kennesaw State and Winston-Salem. That being said, lesser Georgia basketball teams have occasionally rained on Paul Hewitt's parade the past few seasons (the schools have split their last 4 matchups).
This is also the first game of a brutal stretch which continues in SEC play with, in order: #3 ranked Kentucky, #14 Ole Miss, 12-2 Mississippi State, and #16 Tennessee. A victory in any one of their 5 upcoming games would look very good on this Georgia team's resume. While only the most audacious of Hoop Dawg fans would even think about the March Madness this year (much less speak of the possibility), stranger things have happened. If nothing else, we're about to see a trial by fire that should help this group grow as a team. That's my optimistic take on things, and I'm sticking to it. Until later . . .