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Georgia Basketball preview: Bulldogs’ non-conference slate full of opportunity

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The Wooden Legacy tournament, Marquette and Temple highlight Georgia’s non-conference schedule.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Kentucky vs Georgia Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

While not flashy, Georgia has an interesting and intriguing non-conference schedule for the 2017-18 season. The Bulldogs will participate in the Wooden Legacy tournament which includes potential matchups against San Diego State and Saint Mary’s.

December is where Georgia can build its resume with road games at Marquette and UMass to go with home matchups against Georgia Tech and Temple. The Bulldogs will also participate in the Big 12/SEC Challenge again with a late January road trip to Kansas State.

Here is a closer look at the full non-conference slate:

10/29 at Mich State (Exhibition)

Yante Maten scored a game-high 33 points but Georgia fell to the Spartans 80-68. The game gave the Bulldogs an opportunity for an early dress rehearsal against a quality opponent with the proceeds going to a good cause.

11/2 vs Valdosta State (Exhibition) - 7 pm

Division II Valdosta State is picked to finish second in the Gulf Coast conference in 2018 despite returning just one starter from last season’s team. Junior guard Beau Justice is the top returner after averaging 14.3 points as a sophomore while draining 87 three-pointers.

11/10 vs Bryant - 7 pm

The first official game on the schedule for the Bulldogs. Bryant lost its top two returners to transfers. They do possess a talented backcourt combination of Adam Grant (13.4 ppg) and point guard Ikenna Ndugba (4.1 apg). Senior wing Bosko Kostur is an excellent three-point shooter but there are a lot of questions surrounding the frontcourt. Bryant finished the 2017 with a 12-20 record including a 2-15 mark on the road.

11/14 vs USC-Upstate - 7 pm

USC-Upstate returns three starters but the graduation of 7-foot center Michael Buchanan and Josh Cuthbertson leaves quite a hole that will need to be filled. Junior guard Mike Cunningham is the team’s leading returning scorer.

11/19 vs Texas A&M-Corpus Christi - 1 pm

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi went 24-12 in 2017 but lost leading scorer Rashawn Thomas. The team returns some experience in the backcourt in guards Ehab Amin, Joseph Kilgore and Kareem South. Amin averaged 16.9 points per game last season and is a good defender. However, the frontcourt is a young group and depth looks like it will be an issue.

Wooden Legacy

11/23 at Cal State Fullerton - 10:30 pm

Cal State Fullerton was a surprise team in the Big West in 2017 finishing third in the conference after enduring three straight seasons of 20 losses. Leading scorer Tre’ Coggins is gone but the team does return some firepower in guard Khalil Ahmad (11.2 ppg) and forward Jackson Rowe (10.4 ppg, 7.2 reb). Despite their improvement, this is still a relatively young roster that will be hard pressed to build off of last season’s success.

11/24 vs San Diego State/Sacramento State - TBA

A second round matchup against a strong San Diego State squad seems probable for the Bulldogs. Brian Dutcher steps in as a replacement for Steve Fisher as coach of the Aztecs. They return both starters in the backcourt in Jeremy Hemsley and Trey Kell. The Aztecs also picked up transfers Devin Watson from San Francisco and Max Hoetzel from Indiana.

11/26 Wooden Classic Finals - TBA

The other side of the bracket features Saint Mary’s, Harvard, St. Joseph’s and Washington State.

12/2 at Marquette - 2 pm

December starts with a bang for the Bulldogs with a trip to Marquette to take on the Golden Eagles. Marquette took last year’s meeting at Stegeman 89-79. Luke Fischer is gone but Markus Howard returns in what will be a stiff test for Georgia’s backcourt on the defensive end of the floor. Howard averaged 13.2 points per game last season and shot a blistering 54.7 percent from three-point range.

Marquette can score with anyone but whether or not they can stop anybody is another question. The Bulldogs will need to control the pace and the interior if they hope to score a big road win.

12/5 vs Winthrop - 7 pm

Winthrop lost do everything point guard Keon Johnson but returns a talented roster led by 6-8 senior Xavier Cooks who averaged 16.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season. Pat Kelsey is 102-59 in five years at Winthrop but nearly left to become the head coach at UMass before backing out at the last minute.

12/16 at UMass - 3 pm

Matt McCall moves north from UT Chattanooga to UMass where he will begin a rebuilding job with the Minutemen. Big man Rashaan Holloway is a good place to start and will be one of the top frontcourt players in the conference. He is expected to miss the start of the season with a thumb injury but is slated to return in late November. Point guard Luwane Pipkins is back along with Maryland graduate transfer Jaylen Brantley giving McCall a pair of veteran point guard options.

12/19 vs Georgia Tech - 9 pm

Georgia will be looking to make it three straight wins over the Yellow Jackets. Josh Pastner will be in his second season as head coach at Tech and returns talented guard Josh Okogie and center Ben Lammers. Okogie did a bit of everything for the Yellow Jackets last season averaging 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. Lammers was a surprise performer in the frontcourt averaging 14.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.

Pastner will be looking for more consistency from point guard Justin Moore and the Yellow Jackets appear to still be suspect on the perimeter.

12/22 vs Temple - 1 pm

Temple will provide a stiff test for Georgia before the Bulldogs enter conference play. The Owls look like a tournament team with the return of Obi Enechionyia who averaged 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. Shizz Alston returns in the backcourt as does Quinton Rose. The Owls could also get back Josh Brown and Trey Lowe who missed most of last season due to injury.

1/27 at Kansas State - 2 pm

Finally, Georgia will step out of conference in late January to take on Kansas State in the SEC/Big 12 challenge. The Wildcats return three starters from last season’s team that finished 21-14. Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes give Bruce Weber an experienced backcourt which is a good place to start. Xavier Sneed averaged 18 minutes as a freshman and could be ready to see a bigger role.

The frontcourt will be an inexperienced group with some combination of juco transfer Makol Mawien and Utah graduate transfer Mawdo Sallah.