Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Women’s basketball preview

Friday November 10, 2006

We looked at the men’s team yesterday, and now we preview the Lady Dogs. Rated among the Top 10 in preseason polls, the team should be strong and deep if they can weather some early season challenges in conditioning and personnel. The season starts tough right out of the gate with a Sunday afternoon game against perennial power Rutgers (1:00, ESPN2).

When we last left them…

The 2005-2006 Lady Dog season ended with a heartbreaking loss to Connecticut in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. But the story of last season was written much earlier. Entering last year, the Lady Dogs lost four frontcourt players due to injury and attrition. Tasha Humphrey remained as the only true post player, and wing Megan Darrah was forced out of position into the power forward role all season. The injuries left Georgia small and without depth on the frontcourt. They rarely played more than seven people.

Despite that depleted roster, the team still had a strong season. They came up just short in several close games against LSU and Tennessee, but they dominated the rest of the SEC. The senior guards ran the show, and of course Humphrey continued her all-American pace. Cori Chambers emerged as one of the nation’s deadliest three-point threats, and defense was strong across the board. The ability of the team to overcome a major preseason setback and still finish third in the SEC and top 15 nationally was the legacy of last season.

Key losses:

  • PG Alexis Kendrick
  • SG Sherill Baker

You can’t underestimate the loss of these guards. Baker blossomed as a senior, setting SEC marks for steals and emerging as a prolific scorer on her way to a WNBA first-round selection. Kendrick wasn’t quite the threat on offense, but her presence as a dependable floor general gave the team stability and identity. They were the glue that kept the team together.

Key additions:

  • F/G Christy Marshall
  • PG Ashley Houts

Marshall is an outstanding wing from Savannah. She will be a good inside-out option on offense and an athletic defender. Houts is the program’s point guard of the future. Tough and quick, she will be stepping into the big shoes of Alexis Kendrick right out of the gate. The additions actually don’t stop there. The return of posts Rebecca Rowsey and Angel Robinson is huge and should make the team much more balanced. Georgia also has two newcomers who won’t play – Jaleesa Rhoden is a shooting guard from Canada who injured her knee over the summer playing for her national team. Lindsey Moss transferred in from Tennessee and will sit out this year due to transfer rules. It’s also possible that UGA volleyball player Maria Taylor (remember her?) will play for the Lady Dogs this year.

The competition:

As usual, Tennessee is expected to be the class of the SEC. They return Candace Parker and a slew of talented players. LSU without Seimone Augustus will rely heavily on center Sylvia Fowles, but her supporting cast will be tested. Anticipating a slight dropoff from LSU, the preseason selections had Georgia second in the SEC. Kentucky and Vanderbit should battle for that fourth spot. Vandy has their usual tough squad, and Kentucky took a big step forward last year with a fourth-place finish and a win over Tennessee. Florida and Ole Miss should also be competitive.

The schedule once again makes things difficult for Georgia. The quirks of the SEC rotation have them playing both LSU and Tennessee twice (just like last year). Georgia was extremely competitive in those four games last year, but they still lost all of them. Fortunately, they took care of business against everyone else and still had one of their better SEC seasons in a while. The same challenge exists this year. Georgia has little room for error against "everyone else" if they want to be right there with Tennessee and LSU at the top of the standings.

Georgia faces a couple of early-season contests that will be made much more interesting due to the six-game suspension of Tasha Humphrey. The season opener against Rutgers and a Thanksgiving weekend home game against Stanford are games that Humphrey will miss. Tasha will be back in time for an important early December game at Georgia Tech.

What to expect:

The Lady Dogs enter the year ranked in the Top 10. Replacing the backcourt combo of Kendrick and Baker will be job #1. Ashley Houts is the point guard of the future, and she’ll be thrown into the fire right away. I believe the play of senior guard Janese Hardrick will be Georgia’s key this year. Hardrick over her first three years has shown spectacular offensive skills and strong defense. She has all the tools to be a star, but the consistency hasn’t been there.

Once Humphrey returns from her suspension, Georgia will be as deep and balanced as it has been in years. Tasha will have help inside, and there will be multiple options on the wing. We’ll see a freshman develop at point guard bolstered by the experienced Hardrick and Chambers. Unlike the past few seasons where they were forced into mismatches, Georgia should be able to have some elements of customization in their lineups in order to counter opponent strengths and weaknesses.

The Lady Dogs should certainly expect to finish again among the top four teams in the league, but a second-place finish seems very possible. They’ll have to turn the tide against LSU and hold off the rest of the conference, especially Kentucky and Vanderbilt, but this team should be capable of remaining in the SEC championship picture. A favorable conference result could be very important with the SEC Tournament right down the road in Duluth.

Comments are closed.