Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post There’s no I in “team” and only two in “West Virgina”

Friday March 30, 2007

West Virgina

Post Uga VI to retire? Not so fast, says Seiler. (UPDATED)

Thursday March 29, 2007
AJC screen capture
Click to see AJC screen capture.
Macon Tel screen capture
Click to see Macon Tel screen capture.

Chip Towers is reporting in the AJC that Sonny Seiler plans to retire the current Uga following the 2007 season. Uga VI took over from his father in 1999 during a “Changing of the Dawg” ceremony before the South Carolina game. Since the indication is that the next transition will take place after the 2007 season, it doesn’t appear as if there will be a similar ceremony this time.

Uga VI is the largest bulldog in the line to date, and he has faced some health problems for years because of that size. Seiler maintains that Uga VI is in fine health for a bulldog of his age and should be up for his ninth season on the sidelines. The life expectancy of a typical bulldog isn’t much more than ten years, but we know that Uga isn’t just a typical bulldog.

While not as famous as his movie star father, Uga VI has been more effective on the field. He has presided over two SEC championships and witnessed wins in 76 of the 101 games in which he has been the mascot since that debut victory against the Gamecocks in 1999.

No word yet on Uga VII or when he will be introduced, but Sonny assures us that “I’ll just say if we needed to put our hands on a puppy, we’d be ready.”

UPDATE: Seiler denies setting a firm date for Uga VI’s retirement. Josh Kendall in the Macon Telegraph quotes Seiler, “Why should we draw a line any place?” Kendall writes,

None of the dogs in the Uga line has served beyond the age of 10, so there’s no guarantee the current Uga, officially named “Uga V’s Whatchagot Loran,” will be around for the 2008 season, but there’s also no reason to say he won’t, Seiler said.

It’s possible that the original articles might be edited, so I’ve taken some screen captures of the originals. It’s a few days too early for an April Fool’s joke like this.

Post The serendipity of recruiting

Thursday March 29, 2007

If you haven’t heard of Bobby Reid, you will by the time Georgia’s football season opens against Oklahoma State on Sept. 1. Reid emerged as a decent Big 12 quarterback last year for the Cowboys with 24 touchdown passes and over 2200 yards through the air. He added 500 yards on the ground. He was second in pass efficiency in the conference behind only Colt McCoy of Texas. Not a bad player, right?

He nearly came to Georgia. He wanted to come to Georgia.

The class of 2004 was a bumper crop of quarterbacks. Henne. Xavier Lee. Brohm. Weatherford. Ainge. McGee, Harrell, Bomar, Patton, and Reid gave the Big 12 alone five of the best prep quarterbacks in the nation.

Georgia was in on a good number of them. Henne considered the Dawgs. Harrell named Georgia his front-runner. And of course Reid all but committed to the Bulldogs. So what happened?

Georgia signed two quarterbacks in the 2004 class. A.J. Bryant committed on Signing Day 2003. He has been a receiver his entire career at Georgia, so we forget that he was considered a quarterback/athlete for recruiting purposes (and rated the #1 “athlete” in the nation by Rivals.com that year). He was Georgia’s lone commitment for months.

Things heated up in late July during camp season. Georgia was zeroing in on three quarterback prospects. There was Reid, Harrell, and Blake Barnes of Mississippi who was rated the ninth-best pro-style quarterback in the nation. Reid really began to favor the Dawgs after a July 2003 visit to Athens. Likewise, a summer visit to Athens put Georgia at the top of Harrell’s list ($). Barnes also attended camp in Athens in mid-July and received an offer after that camp ($).

The Dawgs weren’t going to take more than two quarterbacks in a class. So with one quarterback already in the fold and three leaning heavily towards Georgia, it was a matter of who would commit to take that remaining spot. We all know that Barnes was that guy. He committed on July 28 and chose Georgia over offers from Auburn, Ole Miss, Michigan, and Mississippi State. That commitment set off a chain of events with the others. Reid describes how he got home from the Elite 11 camp to find a letter from Georgia breaking the bad news. Harrell waited just a day or two before committing to Texas Tech on July 30th ($). Reid committed to Oklahoma State a week later ($).

It’s easy now to look at Barnes’ position on the Georgia depth chart while watching Reid and Harrell start to make names for themselves as Big 12 starters and think that Georgia somehow made a mistake. That’s hindsight, but there was no mistake at the time that Barnes was a quality commitment. David Cutcliffe of Ole Miss, who developed quarterbacks like Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning, didn’t let up on the top signal-caller from the state of Mississippi. Michigan had offered him right alongside Chad Henne.

This story is a great behind-the-scenes illustration of just how tight and even random some of these recruiting decisions can be. There’s no telling if the other guys would have been successful at Georgia. We’ll never know if Barnes would have flourished in another system. Might the emergence of a Harrell or Reid in Athens have affected the decision of Matthew Stafford? The recruiting trail, much like the game we love itself, is full of such individual decisions that cause ripple effects and aggregate to affect programs, games, seasons, and even careers.

Post Stan Heath the latest victim of Arkansas bloodletting

Monday March 26, 2007

Swinging an axe that would make George Steinbrenner proud, outgoing Arkansas AD Frank Broyles is cleaning house before he turns in the keys.

Broyles announced his retirement on February 17th, but the retirement will not take effect until the end of 2007. Broyles’ retirement announcement came in the midst of a storm of controversy surrounding the football program which began with interference from parents and resulted in the transfer of star QB Mitch Mustain and the demotion and eventual departure of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Then women’s basketball coach (and UGA alum) Susie Gardner "resigned" following a loss in the SEC Tournament in early March.

Today, the carnage continued with the firing of men’s basketball coach Stan Heath. Arkansas’ run to the finals of the SEC Tournament and a berth in the NCAA Tournament were not enough to save Heath. Heath was 82-71 in five seasons and had reached the 2006 and 2007 NCAA Tournaments. It’s speculated that Arkansas will target Texas A&M’s Billy Gillespie.

Football coach Houston Nutt remains one of the few survivors, but even he is on shaky ground despite an SEC West title last season. With all of the drama around the football program and the changes going on in other programs, the future of Nutt might be one of Broyles’ last decisions as he exits in December.

Post UGA: home of the minor alcohol-related incident

Monday March 26, 2007

The latest: The University police department has issued an arrest warrant for offensive lineman Tanner Strickland for possession of a fake ID. Strickland is a 2007 signee and an early enrollee.

This looks to be a pretty comprehensive case: at least twelve people, including Strickland, are named in the same case, and Strickland’s warrant doesn’t carry the “criminal attempt” or “intent to distribute” charges that others in this case will face.

UPDATE: Ching confirms that this warrant is part of a larger investigation initiated by a US Postal Inspector. If the case involves distribution of fake IDs through the US Mail, that could bring along a whole different set of problems for those with some of the additional charges. Using the mail in the commission of a crime isn’t a smart thing to do.

SID Claude Felton told the AJC that Coach Richt is aware of the issue and “will be handled in a manner (Richt) feels appropriate.”

Post Dawgs survive Saturday scrimmage

Monday March 26, 2007

No story lead has become more dreaded by Bulldog football fans than this: "Georgia’s already-thin offensive line suffered another loss…"

Fortunately, Saturday’s first major scrimmage of spring brought no such news. The Dawgs have already had two minor injuries on the line this spring: Vince Vance and Josh Davis have missed time, but both are expected to return soon. The lack of serious injury is the best kind of news you can get this time of year.

The story of the scrimmage was reportedly the defense. Brandon Miller’s move to MLB seems to be paying off, and we continue to hear good things about tailback Knowshon Moreno. Other takes:

I’ve given up on trying to read too much into spring ball. Depth charts will change and are often motivational at this point. You’ll have the Ronnie Powells who will light up spring practice and G-Day and then disappear in the fall. Everyone knows that we are trying to piece together an offensive line. They’re also trying to replace several starters on the defensive line and bring along a receiving corps that will be key to Matthew Stafford’s development. None of that is new to those who keep up with the program, and we’ve learned not to really expect answers until August.

G-Day is in two weeks (April 7th).

Post Enigmatic season ends for Lady Dogs

Monday March 26, 2007

Following last night’s 78-65 season-ending loss to Purdue, Andy Landers said something that didn’t just apply to the Purdue game but could also serve as an epitaph for the season. "When we didn’t score, it seemed to take some of the life or mission out of us defensively," he said, explaining how Georgia’s defensive intensity waned after a strong start. The Lady Dogs had another 25+ win season and another trip to the Final Four, but in almost all of their losses they faced inconsistency on offense and a sub-par defensive effort that seemed coupled to those problems on offense.

This feast-or-famine storyline played out in dramatic fashion during the postseason. It began in the SEC Tournament where Georgia routed Kentucky in record-setting fashion. They were on the other side of the rout the following night against Vanderbilt, failing to score 20 points in the first half. Another sluggish effort followed in the NCAA opening round when they struggled to score and got a scare from an overmatched Belmont team. Thing swung back around the other way for the second round game against Iowa State, and neither offense nor defense was a problem.

Houts against Purdue
Loss hurts Houts, but she’s
got a bright future. (Photo: AP)

Inconsistent teams rarely advance far in the postseason. Georgia was good enough to advance. They’ve recorded wins over three Elite Eight teams this season. Their inconsistency buried them last night. Purdue’s consistent senior sharpshooter Katie Gearlds went for 30 points. Georgia’s starting seniors combined for ten points and two field goals.

Tasha Humphrey and Angel Robinson were effective inside. Humphrey scored 20 points, but it was on the other end where she ran into familiar problems. Foul trouble put her on the bench for key stretches in both halves. With her watching from the pine and Chambers cold, Georgia’s scoring fell to freshmen and role players. They were valiant and kept up as much as they could, but they weren’t going to keep up with Gearlds and Wisdom-Hilton.

Last season ended for the Lady Dogs with a proud and defiant Landers refusing to get down about the way with which Georgia lost to UConn. The Lady Dogs fought that game with their best effort and lost on a miracle shot. "We didn’t lose," Landers said after that game. "You lose when you don’t go out and apply the ability and talent that you have to the challenge that faces you. When you apply yourself like we did, you don’t lose. You get beat."

No such statement could be made about last night’s game. Georgia’s offense fizzled but for a few brief runs, and the defense couldn’t react quickly enough to the screens they knew they’d face. "They did what we knew they were going to do," said Cori Chambers. "They run off screens, and I didn’t do what I needed to do to stop them." She wasn’t alone, but unfortunately Cori has been the poster child for the feast-or-famine season. She set Georgia’s career mark for three-pointers back in January, but she has battled through struggles on offense for much of the second half of the season while drawing some tough defensive assignments.

This has been a tough team to figure out all year, and it must be frustrating for Coach Landers to have to pull and plead to get results and leadership. They started the season beating teams like Rutgers and Stanford without Tasha Humphrey. After she returned, the team struggled for a bit as their identity changed. Then they got it back together for a second-place SEC finish that included wins over Vanderbilt, LSU, and Ole Miss. It ended with the wild swings in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments.

Though the Lady Dogs lose Chambers and Hardrick, the future of the team is in a core of three freshmen honored this year by the SEC. At least six players will be joining the team next year, four of them in the backcourt. With Tasha Humphrey entering her senior year, the window is closing on building a championship team around her.

Post Getting Georgia back to the NCAA Tournament

Monday March 26, 2007

Georgia has made enough progress as a basketball program that we can seriously talk now about the things that stand in their way of returning to the NCAA Tournament. The Dawgs have added four or five wins to their total in each of the past two seasons, but we’re going to find out that adding each additional win from here on out will become marginally more difficult. Going from, say, 13 to 17 wins means you can beat another middle-of-the-road nonconference team and catch a conference opponent or two on a bad night. Going from 19 wins to 22 means that you can’t lose many that you’re expected to win and that you have to pick up a couple of games against higher-quality opponents in and out of the conference.

The goal for every year is a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but the urgency is turned up quite a bit next year. The pieces seem to be in place. That we can point to a handful of woulda-coulda-shoulda games makes us think that we were one or two wins away. But being so close and getting a taste of the bubble just makes the hunger that much stronger, and fans have heard "rebuilding" now for three seasons. Let’s look at a few factors that will determine whether or not Georgia can get over that hump next year.


I’ve talked about favoring the "Harrick approach" to nonconference scheduling ever since Georgia had far and away the nation’s toughest schedule in 2001. They didn’t get there by lining up Duke and UConn. They likely would have lost those games. In fact, they didn’t schedule many top 30 teams in 2001. The secret was to avoid the bad teams. Don’t schedule teams below the top 150.

This year Georgia played Southern (RPI 289), Jacksonville (RPI 198), South Carolina State (RPI 288), Alabama A&M (RPI 334), Gardner-Webb (RPI 268), and Kennesaw (277). Those games are boat anchors to a team’s perceived strength. The Dawgs couldn’t even count a win over Valdosta State (in terms of the RPI) because the Blazers are a Division 2 school.

"Hold on a second," you say. "Georgia had the #14 schedule according to Palm’s collegerpi.com. Why are you talking about schedule?" Sure they did. They play in the SEC East. The only SEC East team without a top 30 schedule was Florida. The strong conference schedule masks the fact that the nonconference schedule had problems. Having some really good teams mixed in with the dregs means that you’d better beat a team like Wisconsin if you want points for your schedule.

Georgia might have been a win or two away from the NCAA Tournament, but so were a lot of teams this year. Georgia’s March loss to Tennessee might have knocked them all the way from the brink of the tournament to a #4 seed in the NIT. Between the few questionable teams like Arkansas and Stanford that got in the tournament and the 1-4 NIT seeds, that’s a pool of 18-20 teams who had similar records and who all felt they were within a win or two of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Would a Top 10 schedule look more impressive among a similar group next year? You don’t have to play Kansas or UCLA to get there.

The games against teams like Wisconsin and the rumored game with Duke next year are fine and certainly high-visibility games for the program. It helps to win them; "good losses" are better than beating a sub-250 RPI team, but they’re still losses. There are 336 teams playing Division 1 ball. The key is to focus on those in the top 150. There is no reason to schedule the sub-200 teams. Look to the lower NCAA seeds and the NIT field. Georgia is 4-3 against NCAA six seeds or lower. They were 5-2 against the NIT field in 2005-2006, and three road losses made them 1-3 against the NIT field this year. No, they’re not Kansas. But Georgia can compete with these teams, win their share, and, most importantly, these opponents would boost and not drag down Georgia’s schedule and reputation before the selection committee.

The conference

Even if a team is improved, that improvement is still relative to the competition. The SEC East was a murder’s row this year. Four of the six teams received #8 seeds or higher in the NCAA Tournament, and three were still alive in the Sweet 16. The division should be tough again next year, but its strength will depend a lot on some key decisions. Player of the Year Byars is a senior, but other guys like Lofton, Morris, and Florida’s trio of Noah, Horford, and Brewer could all have an impact on next year’s SEC landscape.

We saw this year that the minimum "safe" conference record for NCAA consideration is probably 9-7. 8-8 is pushing it. 10-6 is a sure thing. The most traditional path to achieve that record is to win at home and steal a couple on the road. That strategy nearly worked for Georgia this year; a home win against Tennessee in the finale probably would have put them over the top (and dramatically altered the SEC Tournament seedings and matchups).

Georgia will have the usual home and away games with the SEC East. They will play Auburn, Mississippi State, and LSU from the SEC West on the road with Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas in Athens. It’s possible that Georgia will still be picked 5th in the East next year. Tennessee has a solid core even without Lofton, and Vanderbilt will have a strong group of seniors. Everyone is starting to notice that Georgia could have a much improved team once again next year but still be facing a tough challenge to get to that nine and ten win threshold.


Sundiata Gaines assessed next year’s team for the AJC. "I think it will be the best team since I’ve been here," he said. "We’ve got some good freshmen coming in. The guys are older. We’ll have a lot of juniors and seniors with more experience. That should get us far as we’re trying to make the postseason again next year."

He’s right. He’ll be a senior along with Dave Bliss and Takais Brown. Billy Humphrey and Terrance Woodbury developed as this season went on and will join Mike Mercer as juniors. That’s a really solid group. Then you have role players like Cory Butler and Rashad Singleton. Albert Jackson will have a year of seasoning. There is a strong freshman class bringing help at point guard and in the frontcourt.

Just in terms of returning players, the one area that jumps out immediately for me is perimeter shooting. Levi Stukes graduates, adding his name to the legacy of sharpshooting 2-guards like D.A. Layne and Ezra Williams. Though Stukes shot for a relatively high percentage on average, he definitely had his hot and cold moments. Georgia’s fortunes usually followed.

The Dawgs’ options on the perimeter next year are 1) Gaines, 2) Humphrey, 3) Woodbury, 4) Mercer, 5) Butler. That surely looks like a good, deep group. But looking closer reveals a bit weaker picture. Gaines will be running the show at point, and while it isn’t rare for point guards to be scorers (Rashad Wright as a senior comes to mind), it’s asking a lot. Mercer struggled with his outside shot all year, and we don’t know how effective he will be after his recovery. Butler might play a larger role, but will still likely be a reserve. So Georgia’s fortunes on the perimeter will likely depend on the development of Humphrey and Woodbury. Both came along nicely as sophomores. Humphrey, established as a streaky set shooter from outside, started to show more creativity inside the arc. Woodbury was usually a good shot in the arm off the bench, and he continues to come along defensively. He had one of his best games in the season-ending loss at Air Force.

We know all five of those guys can hit a three-pointer. The question and key is consistency. Can someone not only step into Stukes’ role but extend it and become a scorer rather than just a shooter or a three-point specialist? It’s likely that Felton will begin the season with Bliss, Brown, and Gaines as sure starters. There are three guys (Mercer, Woodbury, and Humphrey) left for the remaining two positions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Humphrey and Woodbury start as Mercer is eased back into action.

If you read the tea leaves on the message boards, Felton is looking for additional help once again from the junior college ranks, and it seems as if he has that 2-guard spot in mind. The comparison kicked around a lot this week has been Katu Davis; Davis was a JUCO transfer for the 1995 and 1996 seasons, and he was a big part of the tournament run in 1996. He also provides a reference for contrast between the three-point specialist and a guy who can score inside and out from that guard spot. If there’s another Katu out there, that kind of spark from the backcourt, along with Gaines’ steady play, could really transform this team.

The frontcourt will appreciate the help. Brown is the star, and his game could really take off next year if he works on those glacially-slow moves with the ball. After Brown, you have several guys who can give a minute here, a minute there. Bliss will hopefully continue to stay well. Singleton came along on defense, and it could mean something if he developed any kind of game on offense. Jackson was limited as a freshman, and an injury really slowed him down at the end of the year. There is a nice group of freshmen coming in for the frontcourt, but we shouldn’t place the expectation of big minutes on freshman.

You can see why pwd made "find another Takais Brown" one of his suggestions for next year. Given one scholarship, I’d still choose a scorer at guard first. Brown and the rest of the frontcourt were typically effective this year when Stukes (or on rare occasions someone else) was lighting it up from outside. With Stukes gone, I’m just not as confident yet that we can replace that potency.

Post Georgia b’ball assistant applies for head coaching job

Friday March 23, 2007

John Kaltefleiter reports in the ABH that Georgia basketball assistant Mike Jones is chasing the dream that most assistants have. He has applied for the head coaching vacancy at Division II Columbus State.

Jones said,

I do, just like every other assistant coach, want to be at the top of his profession and that means being the head coach of his own program. I’d be happy to have the opportunity to coach my own team.

You can’t argue with that. We wish him the best of luck going after his goals.

Post What a tournament

Friday March 23, 2007

There have ben some duds in recent years, but this year’s NCAA Tournament has been one of the best I can recall. It started last Saturday with one of the best all-around days of tournament basketball I’ve seen. The day began with Ohio State’s thrilling overtime win over Xavier. Butler hung on against Maryland. Pitt was in a struggle with VCU. UCLA survived against Indiana. Texas A&M and Louisville was a classic back-and-forth slugfest. The Vandy-Washington State game was the best of them all – a double-overtime roller coaster.

The first night of the Sweet Sixteen continued to live up to form. Of the four games, two were decided by a single point and another had only a three-point margin. Memphis continues to prove the doubters wrong. Ohio State came back from the dead for a second straight game and showed that they still had some magic left.

Keep them coming – this has been an incredible event so far.

Post Tubby Smith out at Kentucky

Thursday March 22, 2007
Ron Jirsa
Waiting to hear from Mitch Barnhart.

FoxSports.com is reporting that Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith has been forced out and will take the vacant job at Minnesota. Not at Michigan – at Minnesota.

I’m not one to dance on graves. As a relatively ambitious man, I can understand why Tubby left Georgia for Kentucky. But I’m certainly not sad for him and definitely not sympathetic with the Cats. With the greater prestige of the job comes greater expectations and pressure. Now is the Minnesota situation in 2007 better than the situation Tubby came into at Georgia in 1995? I don’t think so.

The college basketball world now waits to see if Billy Donovan will turn down the job.

Perhaps Tubby can continue his legacy at Kentucky much the same way he did at Georgia with a recommendation for his successor. Ron Jirsa is available.

Post Around the Dawgnation

Wednesday March 21, 2007

Random bits of news today:

The Lady Dogs’ Sweet Sixteen game against Purdue in Dallas is set for Sunday the 24th at 7:00 ET. ESPN2 will have the game.

Georgia baseball beat Mercer last night for their fourth win in a row. The Bulldogs were more or less left for dead with a punchless offense after losses to Kennesaw and Western Carolina, but they rebounded to sweep a ranked Auburn team last weekend and now have a bit of momentum as the SEC schedule starts to heat up. Four games is a nice little streak, but there’s a long way to go. It’s good to see the pitching stay solid now that some more timely hits are coming.

There’s quite a bit of talk coming out of yesterday’s pro day in Athens. Charles Johnson injured his hamstring. We have the interesting story of Danny Ware. After making the questionable decision to leave early, he’s trying to impress scouts with his physique. Ching has a lot of thoughts on pro day both on his blog and in the Columbus paper. He thinks Ware might have helped himself the most of anyone yesterday.

Ching and Kelly Quinlan of UGASports.com both spoke with defensive ends coach Jon Fabris yesterday. Ching focused mostly on the defense end position, and Quinlan got a few quotes ($) looking at a more abstract concept of player evaluation. I liked his caution against placing too much emphasis on the measurables at things like pro day and basing most of the evaluation on film.

I might take some chances on recruits based on potential, but I do not want to take a lot of chances just because a guy looks good on the hoof and what he might become. It is the same thing in the NFL. You have first and second round draft picks and you do not waste those on how someone teased you on Pro-Day.

…I could care less what kind of 40 times my ends run because they are not going to run 40 yards. I care about their first two or three steps. I care how hard they want to chase the football.

Fabris is a great interview when you get him speaking candidly like this. Lots of talk about Tarzan and Jane!

Post Air Force humbles Dawgs in worst loss of the year

Tuesday March 20, 2007

Georgia’s men’s basketball season ended last night with a lesson in offensive execution and defensive intensity. Air Force took advantage of Georgia’s overaggressive man defense and lack of athleticism to roll to an easy 83-52 win last night. The Falcons spread the court and left Georgia’s big men standing in cement at the high post as Air Force ran cut after cut at the basket. When the cuts didn’t result in easy baskets, quick ball movement and reversal led to open three-point looks, and Air Force knocked down 11 of those.

The loss ends the season with a 19-14 record. It’s an improvement, but losses like this show how fragile the program still is. "The things that they do just really showed our weakness," said Levi Stukes after his final game as a Bulldog. So much of what Georgia was able to do this year was dependent on matchups, and they were a team built for the physical play of the SEC.

The lessons didn’t stop with offensive execution. "They switched up their defense a lot," Stukes said. "They went from a match-up zone to a 1-2-2 (zone). They were doing all kind of things out there to get us hesitant on offense." Tight Air Force zone defense early on frustrated Georgia inside the arc. The Bulldogs made only one two-point basket in the game’s first 13 minutes and settled for a lot of the three-point-shots-by-default that we’ve all come to dread at times this year. Takais Brown never got going. As bad as things were going on defense, the Bulldog offense had as many turnovers as made field goals (16). Only Terrance Woodbury scored in double-figures. Meanwhile, Georgia continued to get burned by overpursuit and slow recovery in their own defense.

Dennis Felton came into the program four years ago preaching defensive intensity. But that intensity was somehow missing yet again in a road game. "We were real nonchalant on defense," said Sundiata Gaines. A last-minute flurry at Arkansas notwithstanding, Georgia had only one really solid showing on the road this year, and that was at South Carolina.

While it might seem as if Georgia is a win or two away from a spot in the NCAA Tournament, those additional wins might require more improvement than you think. The Dawgs have to learn to play with purpose and fire on the road. They need additional personnel and coaching creativity to adapt against different kinds of challenges. The zone used against Fresno State was a good example of that adaptation, but the team was lost and looked unprepared for the complex Air Force offense.

I’ll have some more thoughts about the future of the program later, but last night showed us that while the program has come a long way, there is a difference between being able to do the math to slide into a postseason tournament and simply being a really good team.

Post Lady Dogs blow past Iowa State

Tuesday March 20, 2007

After Saturday’s shaky win over Belmont, Georgia coach Andy Landers challenged the leadership on his team, particularly among the upperclassmen. He went so far as to say that he would assume the leadership of the team and that everyone could decide whether or not they would follow him.

After responding with a 76-56 second round win over Iowa State last night, it looks as if some upperclassmen took that challenge personally. Cori Chambers scored 18 first half points, and Tasha Humphrey finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the way for Georgia. The Lady Dogs steamrolled Iowa State in much the same fashion that Georgia had been humbled by Vanderbilt over two weeks ago. Ashley Houts started the game by missing a three-pointer, but that would be only one of two missed Georgia shots in the first nine minutes of the game. Before fans could get comfortable, Georgia was up 29-4, and they led 51-27 at halftime.

After that start, the only question that remained was whether the Lady Dogs could keep up the intensity and hold off the inevitable Cyclone charge. The pivotal first four minutes of the second half passed without Georgia ceding any ground. They eventually led by as many as 32 points. Iowa State went on a run to come within as few as 17 points, and Georgia’s offense finally sputtered with only four points from the 16:00 through the 6:00 mark in the second half. Georgia then turned to Tasha Humphrey to finish the deal. Humphrey scored nine points in the final six minutes to keep Iowa State safely at arm’s length.

Though the second half slowdown meant that Georgia shot under 45% overall, they were still efficient. They turned the ball over only six times. They got good shots created within the offense; 20 of their 29 field goals were assisted.

They were equally effective on defense. All-Big 12 first teamer Lyndsey Medders was held to 11 points and never got on a roll. Georgia held the Cyclones to under 35% shooting and under 30% from the arc. The Lady Dogs were quick to get into passing lanes and forced eight steals and 15 turnovers. They were also menacing inside with five blocks.

Georgia showed what can happen when they turn it on and play well. But we’ve seen that before during this season, and it’s the upside of the pattern Coach Landers has talked about for some time. When things are going well, they go well and everyone steps it up. It’s when things get difficult that someone rarely comes through to carry the team. It was a bit troublesome seeing the score stuck between 59 and 63 for a good ten minutes last night, but Humphrey finally put a stop to that.

The Lady Dogs advance to their fifth consecutive Sweet Sixteen round and their seventeenth Sweet Sixteen in 24 trips to the NCAA Tournament. They will face Purdue who easily handled Georgia Tech in the second round. Purdue is the #2 seed and Big 10 tournament champion. They are led by Player of the Year finalist Katie Gearlds at guard and forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. The Lady Dogs and the Boilermakers have met just once before – a 66-64 Georgia win in the 2004 Sweet Sixteen. Alexis Kendrick hit a jumper with five seconds left to give Georgia the win over the higher-seeded Boilermakers. That win over Purdue was Georgia’s most recent win in the Sweet Sixteen round; they’ve since lost to Duke and UConn.

Two players from each team were involved in that 2004 game. Purdue’s Gearlds had 8 points, and Erin Lawless scored 12 points and pulled down four rebounds off the bench. For Georgia, Cori Chambers scored 5 points in a reserve role, and Janese Hardrick had a game-high 17 points on 7-12 shooting as a freshman. Another big night from Hardrick would go a long way towards advancing Georgia to the Elite Eight, but her role on defense might be as important against Purdue’s solid offense.

The Lady Dogs will play Purdue on Sunday, and the Regional Final would take place on Tuesday if Georgia can advance. Times are still TBA, and I’ll post them as we find out. Tickets for the Dallas Regional are on sale through the UGA ticket office.

Post Four straight hours of Dawg hoops tonight

Monday March 19, 2007

First, the Lady Dogs play Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 7:00. The game is on ESPN2 and ESPNU. In the only other meeting between these two teams, Georgia soundly defeated Iowa State to advance to the 1999 Final Four. Let’s hope the outcome is the same.

The men follow that up at 9:00 with their second round NIT game at Air Force. ESPNU is the only TV outlet for this game. A lot is going against Georgia in this game, but a win would be a huge step towards New York.

Find a comfortable corner at your local sports bar and enjoy.