Georgia Bulldogs at Alabama Crimson Tide: The Haphazard Ill-Informed Roundball Preview

All right, this is awkward.

It’s awkward, and we both know it, and there’s no getting around it, so let’s just talk about it, all right? Let’s just get it right out in the open, and deal with it, and move on from there, O.K.?

This weekend, the Georgia Bulldogs are playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs are coached by Mark Fox. The Tide are coached by Anthony Grant. When Dennis Felton was fired, I publicly endorsed Coach Grant’s candidacy to succeed Coach Felton.

In my defense, that was before Coach Fox’s name had even been floated as a possibility, and, when advocating the hiring of Coach Grant, I inadvertently described Coach Fox, as I argued: "It’s time to bring in someone young and hungry who has done all he can do at a lower level and is ready to perform at the highest level." Also, I immediately recognized that Coach Fox was a superior hire, and I later asked who the heck Coach Grant was, anyway.

Oh. No, wait. It turns out, it was MaconDawg who did those last two things. I was the one who suggested aiming lower and mistook Mark Fox for Megan Fox. Well, O.K., then. Now you know why everything I write about basketball has the words "ill-informed" in the title.

Obviously, I apologize to Coach Fox for suggesting that we hire the guy whose team his team will be going up against on Saturday, especially since Coach Fox is 1-0 against Coach Grant since arriving in Athens.

What shot do the Hoop Dogs have of making it 2-0 this weekend? I’m glad you asked:

The Tide rolled into Gainesville on Tuesday night in the bizarre position of being simultaneously in line for a regular season SEC championship and on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Alabama exited the O’Dome on the bad end of a 78-51 thrashing that dealt the Red Elephants their second straight loss and their third in the last seven games. Since ‘Bama had been projected to make more of a game of it than the visitors actually did, the result only underscores the lack of quality wins with which to offset the Tide’s bad losses, which is why Alabama remains on the outside looking in, according to the latest bracket projections. The Bulldogs, at least, don’t have any bad losses.

Georgia also has a 7-3 record in true road games this season, which is second only to the Florida Gators’ 7-2 road record as the best in the SEC, but the Bulldogs’ ledger in away games will be put to the test in Tuscaloosa, where the Tide have rolled to a 15-0 mark that is tied with the Kentucky Wildcats’ Rupp Arena record for the best in the league this season. Coleman Coliseum will be sold out for Saturday’s game.

Through Thursday morning, Alabama lead the league in scoring defense yet ranked tenth in the conference in scoring offense. Both the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide have one of the SEC’s five highest field goal percentages and one of the SEC’s three lowest opponents’ field goal percentages. The Red Elephants’ .297 shooting percentage from beyond the arc is the worst in the league. The 33.1 rebounds per game allowed by Georgia are the second-fewest in the conference, two spots ahead of the 33.6 boards per outing permitted by ‘Bama. The Bulldogs and the Tide are the only two teams in the SEC to average fewer than five made three-pointers per contest.

The Bulldogs have scored 62 or more points in each of their last four outings, and they have held the opposition to 56 or fewer points in three of their last six contests. The Tide have allowed at least 68 points in each of their last two games, while Alabama has been limited to 51 points two of the last three times they have taken the court.

The biggest question for the Bulldogs is whether Trey Thompkins will play. The absence of a healthy Thompkins could make the difference in what figures to be a close contest that could prove crucial for both combatants. A win on Saturday would ensure Georgia of a top four finish in the division and set the stage for a strong late season run leading up to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs don’t have to win this game, but, if Thompkins is able to play, the Athenians ought to win this game.

As my SB Nation colleague Matt Dover (whose cousin, Ben, you may remember being played by Randall "Tex" Cobb in "Fletch Lives") put it: "For over two weeks now, Bama has played much more like the team that couldn't beat even so-so teams like Oklahoma State and Providence back in early December than the team that dominated the SEC West, knocked off Kentucky, won at Tennessee, and came within one shot or a couple of bad calls (take your pick) away from stunning Vanderbilt in Memorial Fortress in January and early February." Here’s hoping that carries over for at least one more outing.

The game tips off at 1:30 Eastern on Saturday afternoon, with television coverage provided by the SEC Network.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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