Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Too many bowl games?! Are you freaking nuts?

Thursday November 30, 2006

’tis the season to start hearing some very dumb statements from college football fans.

  • "There are just too many bowl games."
  • "Teams with (x) wins don’t deserve a bowl game."

Once you get beyond the BCS championship game, almost every other bowl game from the Rose to the GMAC is an exhibition game. The only variables are the payouts, dates, and media coverage. There are surely historical and traditional contexts that make some bowls more important or prestigious than others. Occasionally a bowl game might serve as a shot in the arm going into the next season for a team or a Heisman candidate, and the undecided recruits might pay a little attention to your final ranking. Still, there’s not much more than pride at stake in any game outside of Glendale.

It hasn’t always been this way – the Bowl Alliance / BCS and its other iterations have guaranteed irrelevance for most bowls. Remember the Cotton Bowl? In 1983, it was part of the national title picture as Georgia upset Texas 10-9. Now it’s a consolation prize for SEC and Big 12 teams played in a dilapidated stadium. In the 1990 season, the Citrus Bowl was in the national spotlight. Soon after, it became a punchline as Steve Spurrier tweaked Tennessee. Even the other BCS bowls suffer from diminished relevance. In 1996, viewers jumped With the mission of the BCS to match #1 and #2, it has concentrated all postseason relevance in one or very rarely two games.

But enough history and back to the point. If only one game is really relevant and the others aren’t playing for much of anything, it makes no difference how many bowls there are. If two teams are willing to get together, if a sponsor is willing to make a stadium and a payout available, and if there’s a network willing to send its sixth-string announcing team, who does it hurt to play the additional games? At worst, they are watched by 5 people and the outcome echos into empty space. Even at the risk of losing money by traveling, smaller programs would and do fall over each other to get national exposure on ESPN. The real benefit of a bowl game to most programs is a couple of weeks of extra practice – it’s essentially a jump on spring ball and player evaluations for the next year. Early enrollees even get to participate in bowl practices. What program doesn’t want that?

Dwelling on what teams "deserve" also doesn’t make much sense. Bowls are and always have been business arrangements between schools or conferences and the host committees. If a town thinks that Miami will bring fans (yeah, right) and make sponsors and merchants happy, they’ll get a bowl invitation with six wins regardless of what some talking head thinks they deserve. Occasionally teams will decline bids, but let’s leave that up to them. I’m not even sure if the six-win benchmark is appropriate. If someone wants to put up the cash for two winless teams to play in the Toilet Bowl, go for it. Of course it would be ridiculous, but it would be no more or less meaningful than the Gator Bowl.

What’s always been strange to me is why college football fans would have a problem with more college football. Bowls in general might be anachronistic, and the lesser bowls might be boring, ugly, mediocre, or all of the above, but they’re still football. If you’re not that much of a fan of the game, watch something else. So San Diego State vs. Ohio University isn’t Southern Cal vs. Ohio State. It’s another four hours that poker isn’t taking over actual sports programming. Play on!

Post Humphrey, Taylor make Lady Dog debuts in rout

Thursday November 30, 2006

Tasha Humphrey was serving the sixth game of her six-game suspension during Wednesday’s laugher with Memphis, so it caused quite a stir when she ran to the scorer’s table with 17 minutes remaining in the game. She played the rest of the game, scoring 11 points.

It’s not that she was playing out of necessity. Georgia had the game well in hand. Coach Landers explained why she was played, "Tasha made a mistake – not good. But the way she handled the consequences has been great, and that’s why I put her in tonight. I’d been thinking about it since last week, but I hadn’t told anybody."

She was definitely a bit rusty, but her offense is still there, and she spent some valuable minutes fitting in with several different rotations.

It was also a nice surprise to see Maria Taylor make her Lady Dog debut. Taylor is a volleyball player and has just begun practicing with the Lady Dogs, and she had a surprisingly nice first outing with five points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in just 16 minutes. She might be raw and lost as far as the structure of the playbook goes, but she is extremely athletic and can jump to get almost any rebound. It was very impressive watching her get after the ball.

For such a mundane game, there was a bit of historical significance.

  • Ashley Houts tied the team record with ten steals in a single game
  • The win was the 700th in program history
  • Andy Landers’ 663rd win ties him with Roger Kaiser (who coached at West Georgia and Life College) for the most wins by a college coach in the state of Georgia. Kaiser was an all-American at Georgia Tech, so it’s fitting that Landers gets a chance to set the record on Sunday against Tech.

Post And now the bad news…

Wednesday November 29, 2006

Center Ian Smith has apparently been arrested for the second time on alcohol-related charges.

Smith was suspended for two games in 2006 for his first arrest. Who knows what this will mean for his bowl game and/or 2007 availability. He is one of only four offensive linemen expected to return next year with any significant playing experience.

The first time was kind of funny and “boys will be boys”. Now it’s just stupid. Forget the excuses and rationalizations about what we all did in college…Georgia’s student-athletes are very well-versed in the consequences of drinking especially given the current emphasis of the University administration, and two arrests in a year isn’t an accident.

Post First, the good news

Wednesday November 29, 2006

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has apparently withdrawn his name for consideration for the head coaching job at Florida International (FIU). He had interview for the position. A month ago, many might have considered this bad news, but hopefully most folks have come around by now.

Post Lady Dogs keep winning…and here comes Humphrey

Tuesday November 28, 2006

When news came down a few months ago that Tasha Humphrey would be suspended for the Lady Dogs’ first six games, "4-2" immediately popped into my head. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Georgia would start the season without its leading scorer, its best rebounder, and its swagger. It also meant that Georgia would start the season with seven players – including two who are still coming back from season-ending ACL injuries last year, one who had offseason wrist surgery, and two true freshmen. The first six games would include two opponents ranked among the preseason top 11 nationally.

No one would have come down too hard on Georgia for losing to Stanford and/or Rutgers with a seven player rotation and minus Humphrey. They would have been patted on the head for a nice effort and told that it would be OK once Tasha returned. But this is the team that put together a Sweet 16 run after losing four post players a season ago. Playing without Tasha was just another problem to solve, and its a good thing that they had much higher expectations for themselves than we did. A 5-0, and likely 6-0, start to this season didn’t seem likely, but here we are. It hasn’t been easy of course. Four of the six games, including Davidson and Georgia Southern, were anyone’s games. Georgia had dropped games like those in recent years.

Sunday’s game against Stanford went a lot like the opener with Rutgers and several games last season. Much has been made of Georgia’s second-half collapses last year, but so far this season they’ve been able to hold off runs by some quality opponents and finish strong. Stanford got star Candace Wiggins heated up and stormed back and even had a couple of chances at the foul line to take the lead. Big plays down the stretch came from Ashley Houts – Houts had missed several free throws earlier in the game but twice hit a pair of free throws with the Lady Dogs hanging on to a one-point lead. Despite Stanford getting effective inside-outside production from Wiggins and Brooke Smith, not many other Cardinal players were able to be factors. Georgia’s contributions came from all seven players – everything from Chambers’ scoring to Rowsey’s career-high rebound total – and that was the difference. The penetration by Hardrick and Darrah opened up the inside and provided a nice complement to the outside game of Chambers. I’m telling you – if Cori Chambers drives to the baseline and squares up, just put two points on the board.

With these games behind us, the next big challenge on the schedule is this weekend at Georgia Tech. The Lady Dogs lost to Tech two years ago in Atlanta, and it was a close win for Georgia last year at home. Tech isn’t ranked, but it’s obvious that they place a lot of importance on this intrastate rivalry as they are trying to compete with Georgia for recruits and attention. Georgia needs to build on their early success this year and firmly reestablish control of this series.

The good news now is that after a likely win over Memphis this Wednesday, Tasha Humphrey will return for the Tech game. Georgia could also add anywhere from one to three players to the court before the end of the season. Georgia volleyball player Maria Taylor has already begun practicing with the team. She’s naturally lost right now but could give key minutes at the forward spot. Sophomore wing Danielle Taylor is still sorting out some offseason legal issues. Freshman guard Jaleesa Rhoden injured her knee last spring playing with the Canadian national team and might be in the position in a month to assess whether she wants to play this year or redshirt.

The changes will bring a different set of challenges for Coach Landers and the players. Georgia’s offense has been primarily focused on the wings and particularly Cori Chambers. Posts Rebecca Rowsey and Angel Robinson have made a big difference just by their presence on defense and in rebounding, but their roles on offense have been more opportunistic than strategic, at least in terms of point production. That will change when Humphrey is in the game. Her abilities will present lots of options. The team can show a bigger look with Humphrey at the 4 and Darrah sliding over to the wing. Darrah’s year playing down low will give her a nice physical advantage over most wings, and her size and speed are already advantages. A dynamic player like Humphrey also means Georgia can run high-low plays with other posts or play inside-out games with the wings. Humphrey’s versatility and ability to draw defenders might even mean that she is on the outside feeding the ball inside.

Options and versatility are almost always good things, but there are pitfalls. Chemistry between the five on the court has gone a long way in the first five games, and some combinations going forward will be more effective than others. It will be interesting to see in the Georgia Tech game – a very close game in the past couple of years – how the team chemistry adjusts to the significant addition of Humphrey. Tech doesn’t have a lot of size, but they have a fleet of quick guards who can take advantage of sloppy play. You also have a special weapon in Chambers, and it’s important that she not disappear once Humphrey gets going.

A concern that has emerged is at point guard. Ashley Houts will be fine, but she will certainly be the focus of defensive pressure. After a spectacular opening game, Houts has been up and down. It’s not that she’s a liability or unskilled; she’s just a true freshman and is still learning the college game. The team’s assist-to-turnover ratio is under the benchmark of 1.0 (74/83). Teams will try to disrupt Houts before the team can get into its offense and get the ball to Humphrey or Chambers. Hardrick is more experienced and can also bring the ball up but has been notoriously wild at times. Humphrey’s return will help there as well – she (along with Darrah) is more than capable of getting the ball up the court.

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself – they could easily have a losing record at this point and could definitely get caught on a night where they sleepwalk into a game. If they can get past Tech this weekend, they should be considered even money to head into the SEC schedule undefeated.

Post Seniors are ultimately winners

Tuesday November 28, 2006

In a season that will be remembered for the contrast of losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky and wins over Auburn and Georgia Tech, it makes perfect sense that Saturday’s game went as it did and that seniors were at the center of some of the game’s most brilliant and most boneheaded plays. Take three examples from this weekend:

  • Tony Taylor has been born again hard in the second half of this season. He has simply played lights-out and for a while was one of the few bright spots on a defense that was hanging its head. He became a turnover machine – at one point intercepting a pass in four consecutive games. Against Tech, Taylor showed the presence of mind and sheer strength to wrest a loose ball away from a pile of players when everyone else in the stadium was sure that the play would be blown dead. Forgetting a lesson from the Auburn game, Taylor plunged over the goal line and was called for excessive celebration. Tech got right back in the game as a result of the shortened field on the ensuing kickoff.
  • Quentin Moses had two of Saturday’s biggest individual defensive plays. He deflected a Reggie Ball pass in the third quarter that led to an interception and set Georgia up with their best field position of the game. On Tech’s final drive, he was able to reach a hand around an offensive lineman on third-and-two and disrupt Ball again leading to a sack which put Tech in fourth-and-long. Yet seconds later – on a dead ball – Moses got suckered into a shoving match and was flagged for a hit to the head.
  • Dan Inman, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, was again called for a couple of penalties. Yet when the offense needed a final game-winning drive, the offensive line with its three seniors was right there opening holes for Ware and giving Stafford all the time he needed against a steady Tech blitz to lead the team down the field.

We’ve struggled all year to get a handle on this senior class. Coach Richt wondered aloud in the preseason about the leadership in this group. There weren’t the obvious superstars of recent seasons; Moses was one of the few identified as potential first-rounders. Others (namely Taylor and Gant) who might have stood out were fighting injuries. The advantage of a senior quarterback never materialized. There were even some polarizing figures – just mention the names Milner or Tereshinski or Elmore or Inman around a group of Georgia fans and see how the conversation turns. Increasingly as the season wore on, a true freshman became the public face of the team.

It was tempting all year long to point fingers at the seniors, but just as you did they would show us why they were on the field. Tra Battle was pressed into service right away as a walk-on freshman against Clemson. This tiny player, hardly from the mold of Sean Jones or Thomas Davis, went from walk-on to multi-year starter at safety. He had his ups and downs to be sure, but his three interceptions against Auburn two weeks ago and the performance of the entire secondary against Tech was as good as it gets for a defensive back. Martrez Milner probably will never escape the association with dropped passes, but he is second on the team in receptions, leads the team in receiving yards, and has as many receiving touchdowns as anyone else on the team – including the game-winner against Colorado.

The Tech game was certainly not beautiful, but it was a win. Such is the way these seniors, their senior season, and their final home game might be remembered. It wasn’t an unblemished year, but with two SEC East titles and an SEC championship to their credit and a chance in the bowl game to earn their 40th win in four years, they are ultimately winners, and they are 4-0 against Tech. I’ll take it.

Post Stafford’s consistency key to beating Tech

Wednesday November 22, 2006

Looking at PWD’s tale of the tape, two stats stand out as areas where Georgia really trails: turnovers and rushing offense.

Turnovers we know about. The fact that Stafford threw no picks at Auburn was beyond huge. Looking deeper at the turnover numbers tells us some things:

  • Both teams have been relatively similar in their takeaways (24 vs. 23), though Georgia’s four interceptions at Auburn gave that total a nice shot in the arm.
  • Of course the disparity comes in giveaways. Georgia has coughed it up an incredible 29 times to just 15 for Tech.
  • While Stafford’s October interception-fest got the most attention, Georgia has fumbled it away 14 times this year. That’s way, way too much. And when you think about when some of those fumbles have occurred (on the punt in the endzone vs. Tennessee, to start the second half vs. Florida, Raley’s injury at Kentucky), they have come at some really bad times. At least the three fumbles at Auburn were deep inside Tiger territory, so they weren’t immediately costly (though they did end three more scoring opportunities!).
  • Tech has only lost four fumbles this season. But while Georgia’s 15 interceptions are dreadful, Tech has also thrown 11 picks. That puts them solidly middle-of-the-pack in the ACC.

Tech’s turnover numbers speak to the maturity of Reggie Ball. Tech is also among the ACC leaders in fewest sacks allowed, so Ball isn’t getting hit and fumbling it away. On the contrary, the rushing numbers show that, in additon to the emergence of Choice, Ball has been a lot more successful this year in pulling it down and getting positive yards. That’s a problem as Georgia has struggled against such quarterbacks and done reasonably well against potted-plant QBs at South Carolina and Auburn. Ball still isn’t that great of a passer – the interception numbers speak to accuracy – but he is at least not gift-wrapping nearly as many opportunities for teams as he has in the past.

Tech’s weakness on defense is in the secondary. They press at the line of scrimmage to shut down the run and create sacks, but if you get decent protection and catch the damn ball, you’ll be fine. It’s worth noting that Georgia’s offensive line hasn’t given up a sack since the meltdown in the Florida game. They’ve played pretty well lately, actually. Lumpkin has had some good holes, and the protection has been adequate for Stafford. Was the sharper offense we saw at Auburn a sign of growth? Good protection…generally good passes – most caught….leading to opportunities for the running game…funny how all that works. That’s the good news: the running game and turnovers – both areas of concern going into this game – were areas of great improvement at Auburn. So keep it up.

Most of the Tech week talk will naturally focus on stopping Calvin Johnson and Reggie Ball. They are in the spotlight and make the most noise. But my focus is on the other side of the ball. Georgia hasn’t broken 20 points on Tech since 2003. Tenuta’s defense has been tough, tough enough to make the last two games one-possession nailbiters even with good defense from Georgia. Even if the Dawg D can do a nice job on Calvin Johnson and contain Ball and Choice, another low-scoring game could leave this anyone’s game in the fourth quarter.

For that reason, I’m saying that this is Stafford’s game. Tech’s weakness ("weak" being relative on a good defense) is against the pass. The Auburn game was a statement by Stafford, but it was also a nice surprise. He’s showed ability and better decisions as that game progressed. Now the next step is consistency. That Georgia passing game really is the biggest variable in Saturday’s game. Regression to interceptions and drops means more trouble. Building on the success at Auburn on the other hand could make for a very fun afternoon.

Post A tip of the cap to Des Williams

Wednesday November 22, 2006

Today’s Banner-Herald reports that fullback Des Williams will be among those honored in Saturday’s Senior Day festivities. Though technically a junior in terms of eligibility, Williams is in his fourth season and expects to graduate in May. Injuries have sidetracked and ultimately ended his Georgia career. Most who come to play for a major program like Georgia’s bring dreams of getting their shot in the NFL. Some get to live the dream. Some screw it up through their actions. Many more just have ordinary careers and move on. Some work hard, get good grades, stay out of trouble, do everything else right, and have the rigors of college football tell their bodies that it’s time to stop.

Des arrived at Georgia as a highly-rated middle linebacker (four stars if that’s your thing). I had been really impressed by his ability to cover the field laterally in high school. He was moved to fullback in his freshman season (2003) but was mostly a special teams player. The Dawgs had an established fullback starter in Jeremy Thomas, but depth was an issue. With a seemingly solid depth chart at linebacker, Des’s prospects for contributing were much brighter, at least as an underclassman, at fullback. He saw much more time as a sophomore in 2004 – even starting a few games – and left spring practice in 2005 as the starter who would replace Thomas.

But then the injuries changed things. A torn pectoral caused him to miss the entire 2005 season. Earlier this season, a shoulder injury ended his 2006 season. With his NFL dreams cut short and Brannan Southerland now in firm control of the fullback position, Williams has decided to graduate and hang it up. "Everybody, when they come to play college ball, they have aspirations to go the league. After being hurt my first time, and tearing my pectoral muscle, I counted myself out in that aspect. I fought to come back and got hurt again. I didn’t want to go through the rigors of going through the rehab again."

You can’t blame him. Football is incredibly demanding, and Williams has paid the price with his body. You hate it because you feel his chance never really came, but this isn’t necessarily a sad ending. Williams has been a part of some memorable Georgia teams, and he will start life after college with a degree from the University.

Post Just a reminder

Tuesday November 21, 2006

Defend the Hedges

Post Weekend hoops

Monday November 20, 2006

The men got an expected easy win over Valdosta State on Saturday. The story of the game was the debut of Takais Brown, and he shook off some early rust to really make an impression. A consistent player who looks to score inside is a big hole filled for this team. UGASports.com has a nice interview ($) up with Brown.

If there’s a red flag this early in the season, it’s wing defense. Courtney Lee lit up Georgia from the wing earlier this week, and on Saturday Valdosta State had two 20+ nights from the 2/3 spots. I understand that most teams have big scorers at those positions, but that makes it even more of a point of defensive emphasis. The Dawgs will have to get better at guarding the swingmen.

The women had a scare on Sunday and had to overcome a six-point second half deficit to beat Davidson. Davidson is picked to win their conference and has a senior-heavy lineup comfortable in a sound system, so Georgia expected a challenge. I doubt they expected this result though. Davidson played a good defensive game, choked off Georgia’s inside game, and made it back-and-forth for much of the afternoon. Cori Chambers kept the Lady Dogs alive time after time, and freshman Christy Marshall showed up in the second half with some devastating mid-range shots. Defense and rebounding finally made a difference down the stretch, but this was anyone’s game with two minutes left. Kudos to Megan Darrah – she had her first career double-double on Wednesday night and followed that up with another against Davidson. Her rebounding was a difference-maker in Sunday’s game, and she’s come such a long way in just a year.

Post Great game, but no rematch

Monday November 20, 2006

Going into Saturday’s Michigan-Ohio State game, I gave the Wolverines the slight edge. I thought their run defense would be good enough to make the Buckeye offense rely too heavily on the pass. I also thought that a healthy Hart would give Michigan the balance they needed on offense. I was right about Michigan’s offense. Hart ran well, and Henne played a fair game. But he and the Michigan passing game were not spectacular, and Troy Smith and his receivers were.

But what I really missed on was discounting Ohio State’s big play threat at tailback. Antonio Pittman has been a dependable back this year, rushing for over 1,000 yards. Chris Wells is a typical freshman superstar – electrifying but inexperienced and mistake-prone. They’re both very good players who would probably be standouts on other teams. I, and probably many others, just didn’t expect them to be able to gash a top rush defense. Each had a touchdown run of over 50 yards, and those two touchdowns plus a solid afternoon from Smith & Co. were too much for any team to overcome. Credit Michigan for even coming close.

The final margin ended up being three points, but this felt like a two-score win for Ohio State. After Michigan’s initial touchdown, the Buckeyes grabbed control of the game early in the second quarter. Each time Michigan scored and found life, Ohio State responded to keep the Wolverines at a comfortable distance. Even when Michigan scored late and brought it within three points, you never really felt the urgency because you knew, if it really mattered, Ohio State would simply answer again.

Michigan is a fine team. The score doesn’t bother me – it was a slugfest just as last year’s Rose Bowl was, and it doesn’t mean that anyone’s defense is suddenly terrible. Ohio State simply had the means to attack Michigan and keep the foot on the gas. If your team has a Heisman front-runner at QB, an elite receiving corps that runs three or four deep, and two tailbacks who can take it to the house, you might too.

The talk quickly turned to a rematch in the national title game. Those on Michigan’s side claim that the Wolverines showed that they are worthy of the #2 spot and another shot on a neutral field. I’m sure that Ohio State fans feel that they’ve already proven that they can beat Michigan. And of course others in the Florida and SoCal camps claim that it’s wide open now and time for another team to get a shot. Though the BCS standings disagree with me, I have to side with those who don’t want to see a rematch.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a rematch for the national title. It happens all the time in playoff systems. It even happens sometimes in college football, especially in conferences which have championship games. Georgia and LSU met during the regular season in 2003 and also played for the SEC title. Had Georgia won the December game at the Georgia Dome, they’d have been SEC champs despite losing earlier in the year at Baton Rouge. That’s a fact of life that we proponents of a playoff system must live with. Does it make the regular season game "meaningless"? Not really, in that regular season games determine the shape of the postseason. We recognize though that the postseason is a different stage on which teams have to prove themselves again.

But if we’re not going to have a playoff in college football, then rematches seem improper. Instead of a postseason where we reseed teams and start a new season, the college football regular season resembles one big game of "king of the mountain" that continues on for one more game in the bowls. A team starts the season at #1 and remains there until they are knocked off. There are a select few who get a direct chance to knock #1 from the top. If they can’t do it, they’ve had their shot, and it is appropriate for a different team to get the opportunity. People like to talk about a playoff diminishing the importance of the regular season, but let’s set up a BCS rematch that says Saturday’s loss by Michigan has no consequences.

Though he agrees with me, it’s amusing to hear the criticism of a rematch coming from Florida’s Urban Meyer. Though Meyer was not Florida’s coach in 1996, the Gators’ championship came in a rematch against FSU. Florida wasn’t even the #2 team entering their bowl (this was still pre-BCS). It took a combination of events including an upset in the Big 12 title game and an Ohio State comeback win over Arizona State in the Rose Bowl to make that UF-FSU rematch a default national title game. Meyer’s pretzel logic explaining why Florida has a better case than Arkansas is also good stuff. The Hogs will have their chance to say something about that in two weeks.

Post Schembechler dies

Friday November 17, 2006

Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler is dead at age 77. We know this will hit the Michigan family hard, so our thoughts are with them.

It’s anyone’s guess how this will affect the game. Will Michigan be stunned, or will they ride the emotion? I think that something like this means a lot more to the fans and coaches than the players – Bo hadn’t had much of an official position at Michigan since the early 1990s. We saw this ourselves earlier this year when Erk Russell passed away. Fans still talk about it, but other than a helmet sticker it hasn’t had a tremendous impact on the team. But surely Michigan will get caught up in what the fans and media are going through, so they will have plenty of emotions to handle.

Before Schembechler’s death, I had a slight edge to Michigan in this game. I think they have the better defense and a more well-rounded offense (given the running game behind Hart). But Ohio State had the homefield and the ridiculously good WR corps and QB. Now…who knows?

Post On the air

Friday November 17, 2006

I’m a guest on this week’s UGASportsLIVE (Episode 39), talking about the Lady Dogs and their outlook for the season. My segment comes right before a nice interview with coach Andy Landers with his take on the early season.

I know I’ve said this before, and it’s not just because I’m on there from time to time, but this weekly podcast seems right up the alley for most every die-hard Dawg fan. Give it a listen – it’s free.

Think of it as the 60 Minutes of Bulldog sports. It’s professionally produced, and they get the news makers – coaches, players, media experts, and prospects. For everyone outside of Athens who has wished for a Bulldog-focused talk show, give this a try.

Post Bulldog frontcourt to get a shot in the arm

Friday November 17, 2006

JUCO forward Takais Brown has been cleared to play by coach Dennis Felton after serving a suspension to get his academics in order. “Obviously he has been doing better academically,” Felton said. Brown will hopefully add some firepower to a frontcourt that will have to pick up the slack at times this year from a talented but inconsistent backcourt.

I’m looking forward to seeing him in action. This Saturday’s game with Valdosta State will be his first.

Post Familiar problem plagues Hoop Dawgs in loss

Wednesday November 15, 2006

I know it’s still early in the basketball season – off the radar even for most Georgia fans – but last night’s loss to Western Kentucky was pretty disheartening. It’s not that the Hilltoppers are a bad team; they are the favorites in their conference. The disappointing part is that one of Georgia’s biggest issues last season seems to still be a problem.

Last year after a loss to Nevada, I wrote that Georgia’s biggest problem was the lack of a go-to guy. They certainly had some talent, but there was no one on the team they could trust with the ball when the game was on the line. Unfortunately, that same problem persists this year – at least for now. Billy Humphrey disappeared in the second half. Mike Mercer was likewise streaky. Terrance Woodbury, touted as a hidden gem, was nowhere. Veterans Stukes and Gaines were on the bench for much of the stretch run. Post play was better but still in no position to take over the game.

Western Kentucky did have such a player. Courtney Lee was the best guy on the court last night, and, as Fazekas for Nevada last year, provided a very good contrast and example of what it means to have a player who can be depended upon to make significant plays at the end of a game. A play in the final minute illustrated that perfectly. With the shot clock running down and Georgia still ahead by a point, Billy Humphrey tried to set up an isolation play and held the ball almost at halfcourt until the final seconds of the shot clock. Lee defended him perfectly, forced Humphrey to attempt a shot from at least 22 feet, and even blocked the shot enabling Western Kentucky to take their first lead. Forget the 20+ points – that’s a clutch playmaker.

Until Albert Jackson or even Takais Brown can show otherwise, this is still a guard-driven team, and they will continue to rise and fall with the inconsistencies of those guards. You can add depth, and you can turn the calendar and add another year of experience, but none of that matters if you don’t know who should have the ball with a minute left.

While Western Kentucky got big plays from their go-to guy, Georgia choked up, committed consecutive turnovers, took poor shots, and finished the game on the wrong side of a 15-2 run. How unfortunate on a night when the team paid tribute to the spirit of Kevin Brophy. This isn’t a year or two ago where we could hang our hat on the occasional nice play and pat the team on the head for a nice effort when we knew they were outmanned. This team led the entire game, held a double-digit lead with around five minutes left, and showed no urgency or response to the challenge that Western Kentucky gave them at the end.

Georgia expects, or at least hopes, to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth this year. With the challenges of the SEC schedule, there is so little room for error in the nonconference schedule. If the season comes down to the Bulldogs trying to make the case for the postseason with 17 or 18 wins, this one is going to really hurt.