Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Pipeline to the SEC

Monday March 31, 2008

Five years after Dennis Felton left Western Kentucky to take over the Georgia program, his successor Darrin Horn will reportedly leave the Hilltoppers for South Carolina.

Horn was 111-48 in those five seasons, and his team reached the Sweet 16 this year before falling to UCLA.
Bye, now
Bye, now.

Post 0.025

Saturday March 29, 2008

It was one of the closest finishes you’ll ever see, but congratulations to the Gym Dogs for winning the SEC championship on Saturday night.

Georgia’s 197.350 total score was fractions of a point over the 197.325 posted by Alabama and Florida. The scoring was so close that it took nearly 30 minutes to sort out unofficial scoresheets that indicated an Alabama victory.

The scoring was just as close in the all-around competition. Katie Heenan’s 39.575 was also just 0.025 off the night’s best score by Ashleigh Clare-Kearney of LSU. Heenan’s results were enough to make her the all-time leading scorer in Georgia gymnastics history. Georgia’s Tiffany Tolnay was fourth in the all-around.

Now it’s on to the NCAA regionals and the team’s quest for their fourth consecutive NCAA team title. The championships are in Athens this year from April 24-26. The road hasn’t been easy for Georgia since losing Courtney Kupets for the season earlier this month, but Saturday’s results against some of the nation’s best competition shows that they have what it takes to repeat…again.

Post SEC Tournament refund policy announced

Tuesday March 25, 2008

The good news: you might be able to recover some of your costs if you bought SEC Tournament tickets.

The bad news: if you bought your tickets through a “secondary market”, you’re screwed. That includes tickets bought from scalpers, brokers, dejected Florida fans, whatever. No refund for you.

Here are the details. The key points:

Fans holding tickets to Sessions 4, 5 and 6 would receive a refund based on the following conditions:

· The original ticket holder purchased the tickets through the SEC Ticket Office, the Georgia Dome or any of the 12 SEC member institutions.
· The original ticket holder mails the Session 4, 5 and 6 tickets to the original place of purchase (SEC Ticket Office, the Georgia Dome or any of the 12 SEC member institutions) postmarked by Friday, April 18. Session 4 tickets could also be a torn ticket since the first game of the session was played in the Georgia Dome.

The original ticket holder is the only person that may receive a refund on tickets. Individuals that purchased tickets in the secondary market will not qualify for refunds through any of the authorized ticket outlets.

Ticket refunds will be issued by the same method in which the individual purchased the tickets. The maximum refund amount per ticket book would be $125 ($45 each for Sessions 4 and 5 and $35 for Session 6).

To put it bluntly, excluding secondary purchases is bullshit. Especially since UGA officially endorses the secondary ticket market. If they are requiring fans to mail in remaining tickets, all that should be required is a return address.

Qualifying Georgia fans will be most interested in these three addresses:

Georgia Athletic Ticket Office
Attn: SEC Ticket Refund
PO Box 1472
Athens, GA 30603-1472

SEC Ticket Office
Attn: SEC Ticket Refund
PO Box 661574
Birmingham, AL 35266

Georgia Dome Ticket Office
Attn: SEC Ticket Refund
One Georgia Dome Drive
Atlanta, GA 30313-1591

Post Cheering from afar

Tuesday March 25, 2008

The departures of Mercer, Brown, and Singleton was a huge part of the story of Georgia basketball this year. The Red and Black caught up with all three to get their reaction after Georgia’s historic SEC Tournament run.

Post Into the SI Vault: The Marcus Stroud Cover

Tuesday March 25, 2008

There’s a lifetime of good stuff to wander through in Sports Illustrated’s Vault, and we’ll highlight some of the best Georgia items from time to time here.

We’ll start with one of the classics: SI’s cover from February 19, 1996 showing Marcus Stroud casting off a Florida jacket as he selects Georgia on signing day. At the time the cover was considered nearly as much of a coup for the new Jim Donnan staff as Stroud’s signing itself. It was a great shot of national exposure for a program that had been drifting for three seasons.

The accompanying article is worth a read, if only for the description of Gerry DiNardo as "the man who is going to lead (LSU) to the promised land!" Some good quotes from Georgia’s Travis Stroud in there as well.

SI also takes us to the end of Stroud’s career at Georgia as he waits for his name to be announced in the 2001 NFL draft and shows us how Stroud developed into one of the top defensive line prospects.

Criticized for his work ethic, Stroud earned a reputation for taking plays off. Pushed by his coaches – who at one point urged him to move to the offensive line – and by his parents, Thelma and Kenneth, Stroud shaped up. When he got low grades as a freshman, it was Thelma who told him, "Get it together." Marcus hit the books, and in May 2000 he graduated with a B.A. in sports business. After his sophomore season he started spending time in the weight room and doing extra drills in practice. He became an All-SEC player, a powerful, quick pass rusher who led the Bulldogs with 24 quarterback hurries in 2000. "People don’t realize how hard I work now," he says. "I want to be the best."

Marcus Stroud SI Cover

Post Bring on the Heels

Tuesday March 25, 2008

If the Lady Dogs are going to make their fifth straight Sweet 16 appearance, it’s going to take one of the bigger upsets of this season. The #8 seed Lady Dogs play second-seeded North Carolina at 9:30 tonight on ESPN2 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Georgia survived a back-and-forth opening round game with Iowa. Though Georgia got some key outside shots from Megan Darrah, it was the interior game and specifically Angel Robinson that overcame Iowa’s success from the perimeter.

If you’ve watched the UNC men this year, their women play the same style. They love to push and get out in transition. Team speed is superior at almost every position. They will gladly concede turnovers if it means that they’re playing on the edge of going too fast.

Speed hasn’t been a hallmark of this Georgia team, and that’s quite a change from the days in the not-too-distant past when Sherill Baker’s disruptive speed gave opposing point guards headaches. Ashley Houts has many great attributes, the least of which is the ice water in her veins that helped her sink 100% of her free throws in the final minute of the Iowa game despite playing 40 minutes, but she had trouble keeping up with Iowa’s short but quick Kristi Smith.

Carolina’s Cetera DeGraffenreid is one of the best newcomers on the national scene this year, and some claim that she is even faster than the hyperactive Ivory Latta was. If Houts struggled with Iowa’s Smith even in the halfcourt game, DeGraffenreid will be twice as tough to defend. Similarly, Rashanda McCants will present a defensive challenge on the wing for Megan Darrah. McCants is an extremely aggressive and active player on offense who can drive to the basket.

The matchup inside will be very interesting. Tasha Humphrey and Erlana Larkins are nearly clones. Humphrey might have a little more range and Larkins might have a little more control of her game, but both are tough, physical forwards. Angel Robinson and LaToya Pringle also seem to match up well. Both are described as "finesse" players at center, but Robinson has a height advantage while Pringle probably has better leaping ability.

If Carolina has one weakness, it’s from the perimeter. Though the Heels have several players who could knock down the occasional outside shot, they average well under 30% as a team. The ideal defense is to slow them down inside with a zone and force the game to the perimeter, but their transition offense and ability to penetrate means that opponents are rarely able to turn Carolina into a jumpshooting team.

Andy Landers sounds up for the challenge, and he does have a 5-0 career mark against North Carolina. But none of those games were against these kinds of odds. If the Tasha Humphrey era at Georgia is going to last beyond tonight, Georgia’s star and the rest of her teammates are going to have to play their best basketball of the season.

Post Le playoff, c’est mort.

Tuesday March 25, 2008

Going by the reaction, it seems as if a drunken weekend in Vegas has provided the death knell for the college football playoff. I look forward this year to Ohio State’s campaign for their third consecutive regular season national championship.

Post The NCAA Tournament according to frogs and Jason Voorhees

Monday March 24, 2008

Thanks to NCAA and CBS rules, local affiliates of other networks can have a tough time broadcasting highlights until the day’s action has ended. An NBC station in North Carolina found that a silly solution works well for a silly problem.

Let’s reenact the highlights with dolls.

Post Walker Atrice dies after boxing match

Monday March 24, 2008

At the age of 30, former UGA defensive back Walker Atrice collapsed and then died after a boxing match last weekend. He was an accomplished amateur boxer and hoped to turn pro.

Post Building on Georgia’s run

Thursday March 20, 2008

As the impact of "this week in basketball" for Georgia continues to sink in, I think a message board post I saw put it best: the ghost of Jim Harrick got sucked up by a tornado.

Five years ago, Georgia was a pariah. "All Ronnie Gaines knew of Georgia was that the school had NCAA sanctions on the way," according to an account of Sundiata Gaines’ recruitment. The school, thanks to an academic scandal within the basketball program, was a punchline. As recently as this year, Dennis Felton’s disciplinary actions implied a program out of control.

The swing in perception has been the biggest boon from the past week. Win or lose, Georgia was everybody’s underdawg. Xavier found themselves pulling for the Dawgs during the SEC Tournament. They were a "national inspiration." this New York Times article from Thursday morning (h/t pwd) sums it up.

While Georgia finished 4-12 in conference, think back to how many of those games hinged on a play or two down the stretch. I can think of four or five without trying. The difference last weekend might have been as small as those handful of plays going Georgia’s way for once. Thanks to those results, Dennis Felton is now able to go into living rooms with a new sense of legitimacy, a tangible accomplishment, and, best of all, a positive national perception for the first time in years.

As those few extra plays made the difference in an SEC Tournament title, getting that one extra player in recruiting can make all the difference for a team’s success. With this incredible story to tell, a glistening practice facility, and a nice returning cast, Georgia has become a whole lot more attractive for basketball prospects.

Post The magic runs out

Thursday March 20, 2008

I wrote before the game that "Xavier wants to go to the line – don’t help them get there."

Unfortunately, that worst-case scenario unfolded as Xavier came from 11 down in the second half to defeat Georgia 73-61 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers were in the bonus with over 12 minutes remaining in the game, and they drilled 27 of 33 free throw attempts (81.8%). In contrast, Georgia made it to the line only five times in the game, hitting three shots.

Terrence Woodbury was in double-figures by halftime, and a strong first half from Jeremy Price helped the Dawgs to a 9-point halftime lead. The Dawgs were able to extend that advantage to as many as 11 points in the second half before Xavier made their move. Georgia’s only counter to Xavier’s run was a pair of Billy Humphrey three-pointers as the Musketeers turned an 11-point deficit into an 8-point lead thanks in part to a 22-6 run. Georgia drew to within as few as three points with a minute and a half remaining, but they couldn’t keep Xavier off the free throw stripe down the stretch.

Officiating can be blamed for specific calls, but foul trouble isn’t an exception for Georgia. Think back to the SEC Tournament. Georgia put Kentucky on the line 25 times; Mississippi State attempted 20 free throws. Sundiata Gaines fouled out twice. Things were better, and Georgia’s situation was much more secure, on Sunday when the Dawgs committed only 16 team fouls against Arkansas and put the Hogs on the line just 15 times. Even accounting for the fouls at the end, Xavier had over 20 legitimate trips to the line, mostly in the second half. If you want to blame refs, you also have to recognize undisciplined defense that picks up too many unnecessary fouls in the name of being aggressive.

The Bulldogs shot 47% and outrebounded Xavier, but free throws and nine second half Georgia turnovers made the difference. Georgia’s decisive second half lull was familiar to anyone who watched the team before last weekend, and Xavier was good enough to make the Dawgs pay. The big swing came on a back-to-back pair of Xavier three-pointers inside of 8 minutes remaining that turned a three-point Georgia lead into a three-point Xavier lead in just a few seconds. The Bulldogs never recovered.

Josh Duncan led Xavier with 20 points, but 11 of those came from the stripe. Derrick Brown was the key Musketeer weapon from the floor, hitting 7 of 9 shots and pulling down ten rebounds for the double-double. Though Xavier didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor, they turned it over only seven times – only three of which came in the second half. Xavier played the final minutes as you’d expect from an experienced, well-coached team worthy of a high seed – valuing possession, playing sound defense, and converting opportunities at the line. If they can do that in both halves, they’ll be a tough team to beat.

Woodbury’s 16 points were the team high for Georgia, but Xavier did a good job containing him after an explosive first half. Sundiata Gaines in his final game at Georgia had a solid afternoon with 13 points and 5 assists, but his 5 turnovers and 4 fouls proved costly. Billy Humphrey was Georgia’s main source of big baskets in the second half, and he finished with 12 points. Jeremy Price finished with 10 points, but he did his damage in the first half.

I realize that we should just be happy that the team got to the tournament in the first place, but up by 11 with the end in sight the prospect of advancing became a cruel tease. I can’t deny a sense of disappointment, but this group has accomplished so much more than we thought possible of them just a week ago. And, damn, was the ride fun.

Georgia finishes the season at 17-17 and with the program’s second SEC Tournament title. As with most seasons, there is plenty to build on with the returning talent, but there’s also much to replace with Gaines and Bliss moving on. Billy Humphrey and Terrence Woodbury move into the leadership roles as seniors, and both look poised to accept those roles on the offensive end.

Post Nuts and bolts – what to expect against Xavier

Thursday March 20, 2008

Georgia returns today to NCAA Tournament action for the first time since 2002. The excitement has been building all week, but there’s a ballgame to play now. Here’s what to watch for on the court:

1) Xavier will see your Sundiata Gaines and raise you a Drew Lavender. Alphabetical order is about the only stat in which Gaines doesn’t appear first for the Georgia team. That’s not the way it works for Lavender and Xavier. He can definitely score, but he’s also the engine and the creator. He sets a tempo for the rest of the offense, and the other Musketeers seem to play better with him in the game. They are efficient, shooting in the high-40% range with a decent team assist-to-turnover ratio, and they spread the scoring around. Lavender has been injured but is reportedly fine now. Slowing Drew Lavender is probably the single most important job for Georgia in the game, and it might take more than one defender.

2) But Lavender won’t be defending Gaines. Stanley Burrell, the A-10’s defensive player of the year, will draw the assignment of defending Georgia’s playmaker. Burrell has contained a who’s-who of scorers this year including Chris Lofton. With that in mind, the focus shifts to Billy Humphrey. The 6’2" shooting guard will have a size advantage over 5’7" Lavender, but he’ll have to step up his game after a disappointing weekend in the SEC Tournament. Humphrey did hit a couple of key shots down the stretch in the SEC championship game, so hopefully he left his shooting woes there.

3) We’ve seen bursts from Terrence Woodbury before, but he’s put nothing together like his performance last weekend. With Humphrey struggling from the floor and Gaines battling fatigue, Woodbury’s shooting carried the Dawgs for stretches all weekend. Georgia is so much better when it’s Gaines + someone else scoring from outside, and last weekend was Woodbury’s turn to be "someone else". Though Georgia is playing very well right now, the team isn’t very far removed from some ugly nights from the perimeter leading to some bad losses. Woodbury and/or Humphrey need to remain hot from outside for Georgia to have a chance.

4) Xavier shoots 75% from the line as a team, and four of their top six scorers shoot over 84%. That’s unheard of. Georgia’s aggressive defense has a tendency to put opponents on the line early and frequently. That defense can result in a lot of unnecessary fouls away from the basket (right, Sundiata?). Xavier wants to go to the line – don’t help them get there.

5) Can the frontcourt be an advantage? Many fans would just be happy to have the frontcourt be a push and let the game be decided by the guards. But with Jackson, Bliss, and Price forming an increasingly-effective rotation, there’s an opportunity for the frontcourt to be a factor. Even if they don’t score a lot, this group has shown recent ability to affect games through rebounding and blocks. Like Georgia, Xavier’s strength is the backcourt, but their big men are no pushovers.

Eleven years ago against UT-C, Georgia saw first-hand how dangerous a #14 seed can be. Let’s hope that the Dawgs are on the other side of that outcome today.

Post Now this is welcome news (and overdue)

Wednesday March 19, 2008

Earlier last year, the New York Times opened up its archives online. Now Sports Illustrated is doing the same. It will take a long time to go through all of the great writing and photos from over the years.

This is something I’ve suggested that Rivals.com and Scout.com – the two leading subscription networks focused on college teams and recruiting – do as well.

Post Meanwhile, back on the football field…

Wednesday March 19, 2008

Senior linebacker Marcus Washington will likely redshirt this season as he recovers from a shoulder injury. It’s funny – an injury to Washington a year ago would have barely registered a blip. Though Georgia’s depth at linebacker is fine, Washington came on well last season and recorded 40 tackles. His injury leaves the Dawgs without a ton of returning experience behind Ellerbe at MLB.

Post The logistics of preparing for the tournament

Wednesday March 19, 2008

A lot of last weekend’s basketball schedule had to do with the expectation of the NCAA selection committee that conference representatives would be known before the selection show at 6:00. Many fans wondered why this process was so inflexible – couldn’t the selection show just be delayed awhile or even moved to Monday?

This article from the AJC illustrates the biggest problem with delaying the selection process: logistics.

Consider Georgia: the Bulldogs won the SEC championship around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, stayed to watch the selection show in Atlanta, and arrived back in Athens later on Sunday evening. Almost as soon as they hit the ground in Athens, the staff went to work pulling film and developing a schedule for the next two days. With an opening round game scheduled for Thursday, the Dawgs left Athens mid-afternoon Tuesday. Hopefully some sleep was involved at some point.

That sequence of events gave the Bulldogs less than 48 hours to do everything from film work and scouting to coordinating travel plans, itineraries, hotel rooms, and practice times at the tournament site. The travel manifest has to be finalized well before departure. Since the NCAA arranges travel for participants, factor in 64 other programs doing all of this at the same time. Now imagine shortening that window of time even by 6 hours.

As the AJC points out, the logistical challenges don’t just involve the team. Band, cheerleaders, and other auxiliary groups have to make plans, and the athletics administration also has to swing into gear. Ticket employees must coordinate with the host site to make tickets available to fans while also developing the now-infamous pass list.

Georgia was also one of a handful of schools who had to do this process twice – for the men’s and women’s teams. The women had a little more flexibility as their tournament doesn’t start until Sunday, but I assure you that their scouting process also began minutes after the Georgia vs. Iowa pairing was announced on Monday evening.