The Hoop Dawgs are in Kansas City tonight to take on the George Washington Colonials for the third time in program history. We split a home and home with them in 2012/13 and 2013/14, with both teams winning on their own floors, earlier in the Fox days. This evening's game tips off at 7:00 and can be seen on ESPN U.
But tonight, the CBE Hall of Fame Classic semifinals will be underway, with the Dawgs well represented. In addition to our boys on the floor, Dominique Wilkins and Hugh Durham formed 25% of this year's College Basketball Hall of Fame inductees last Friday in Kansas City.
Back to the game though, the Colonials are 3-0 thanks to home wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Sienna, and Maryland-Eastern Shore. Suffice it to say, we should present the toughest opposition they've seen so far. Led by 6'9 SF Yuta Watanabe, 6'9 PF Tyler Cavanaugh, and 6'10 C Collin Smith, they'll be the tallest team we've seen all season, or at least since that season opening loss to Clemson.
Like Mark Fox with his Dawgs, interim Head Coach Maurice Joseph is willing to go 11 deep with his bench and has used 9 with regularity. That interim tag for Joseph came just weeks before the season, when an investigation in to former head coach Mike Longergan's verbally abusing players led to his firing. Cavanaugh, at 18 points per game, and Watanabe, with 11.7 per, are the only players who average in double figures, while Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina would be as well if he was shooting better than 30% from the floor with his 9.3 points per game mark.
Joining Sina, Watanabe, Cavanaugh, and Smith in the starting five should be senior PG Matt Hart, while guards Jair Bolden and Jordan Roland have averaged more than 10 minutes a night in each game so far off the bench. Big men Arnaldo Torro and Patrick Steeves have also been getting similar regular minutes off the bench for the Colonials. So far, they've been a disaster on deep balls (shooting just 26% as a team from 3-point range despite attempting more than 20 per game) but have been dominating their opposition on the glass (outrebounding opponents by an average of 17 per game).
In addition to their struggles shooting the ball, they've also been turning it over at an alarming rate (51 so far in 3 games). And again, their opponents haven't exactly been quality so the extreme struggles offensively should mean Georgia can come away victorious. The Dawgs have had offensive struggles of their own, with big questions about who from the supporting cast will provide assistance to stars JJ Frazier and Yante Maten, but provided Maten and sophomores Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards can do work on the inside, this is a game they should win.
And a win tonight would mean good things for the ol' RPI come Selection Sunday in March with a neutral site boost, and the likely chance to improve the strength of schedule with a game against Kansas (should the Jayhawks do as expected and defeat Alabama-Birmingham in the night cap on ESPN 2) that would result Tuesday night at 10, also on ESPN 2. I'd expect Georgia to continue with the same starting lineup of the previous two games; William "Turtle" Jackson at PG, JJ Frazier next to him with Juwan Parker at SF, Maten and Ogbeide inside. Then off the bench, Gs Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris will be joined by wings Kenny Paul Geno, E'Torrion Wilridge, Pape Diatta, and then maybe a little of Houston Kessler if needed inside along with Edwards.
Tonight also gives Frazier, Parker, KPG, and Kessler a chance for payback after losing in DC to George Washington as freshmen. No current Colonial was on that team.