Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Recruiting rankings: more complex than the Electoral College, but also more important

Monday January 31, 2011

In anticipation of Signing Day, Rivals.com announces the Seantrel Henderson Rule for determining which school has the top class. (h/t Dr. Saturday)

The top team in the rankings, on signing day, will be announced later than usual and only those players that sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI) that day will count toward a team’s point totals. Players not signing, prior commitment or not, won’t be listed as commitments until they actually sign. Essentially the prospects listed as signing his NLI on the official school press release will be the ones counted on Feb. 2.

Everyone clear?

Of course the rankings announced on Wednesday will only be as reliable as a verbal commitment. “Just like every other year, we are aware that there are players who delay their decision to sign and we always update the team rankings following each of those decisions,” explains Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. This policy will potentially affect where Georgia’s class is ranked. Defensive line prospect John Jenkins won’t announce his plans until next weekend. That’s OK, because there will yet another set of rankings months from now when we all care much less and after the nonqualifiers shake out.

As always, Rivals.com will recalculate and reissue the team recruiting rankings in August in the annual Enrolled Team Rankings, essentially ranking the classes based on which players actually enroll in school and show up on campus. This is, arguably, the most accurate ranking of all but doesn’t get nearly the same attention as the National Signing Day list.

Somehow the suits at ESPNU should be able to do something about that travesty.

Post Drew’s decision: Dawgs!

Friday January 28, 2011

If you follow recruiting, you know who Ray Drew is and why his committing to Georgia is a big deal. If you don’t, just know that the next guy to wear #47 is a worthy successor to David Pollack both on and off the field. Read this SI story to become familiar with this young man. Georgia has earned the commitment of one of the nation’s top defensive prospects, and a lot of people think that’s a pretty big story:

Ray Drew on Google Trends

Anyone who’s followed the Drew story knows that football is only part of it. He’s also an ordained minister; you have about six months to come up with an appropriate nickname. There’s only one Minister of Defense. Drew prefers “The Pastor of Pass Rush.” We’re partial to the “Pastor of Disaster.” In all seriousness, Drew’s faith was, as you might expect, at the center of this process. It doesn’t take much to see the appeal of playing for Mark Richt in that context. But Georgia and Richt don’t have a monopoly on faith, and several other schools, particularly Auburn, appealed to Drew. It might seem after all of the drama that Georgia was always the obvious choice for Drew, but that wasn’t the case. It was a tough decision, made tougher by the turmoil in Athens, and Drew only reached his conclusion in the past few weeks. Mark Richt, Todd Grantham, Mike Bobo, and the rest of the Georgia staff had to work their tails off, and they deserve a ton of credit.

In the end, Georgia stood out. There was the chance to play for a major program and the home state school. There was also Georgia’s world-class journalism school; Drew plans on going into broadcasting after his football career. Most of all, there was Richt and the relationships Drew had made in Athens. Drew once said that football and academics would pretty much take care of themselves at most any Division 1 school. He focused on the relationships – where he felt most comfortable and “who I’m going to be surrounded with.” Those relationships now extend to former Georgia greats. Once he made his decision, Drew reached out to a few Bulldog legends to attend his announcement. David Pollack and Randall Godfrey were on hand to pass the torch to someone who could very well be one of the leaders of the Georgia defense and team down the road.

Drew plans on starting out as an outside linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 system – the heir apparant to Justin Houston. Much was made during the process about Drew’s distaste for playing as a stand-up linebacker rather than a down lineman, but that concern was addressed early and often by Todd Grantham and Georgia’s staff. With the prevalence of the spread and the amount of time Georgia spends in nickel coverage, Drew will have plenty of opportunities to line up with his hand down. It’s also possible that as he grows and adds weight that Drew could transition from OLB to defensive end even in a 3-4 scheme.

Drew will now turn his attention to assembling the rest of the recruiting class leading up to Signing Day next week. It would be more accurate to say that he will resume recruiting for Georgia – he’s been in the ear of several top prospects since he made his decision earlier this month. We’ll close with Drew’s own words. Drew challenges other top prospects to join him and this incredible class, but he also reminds us that Signing Day is only the beginning.

“I just want to say, after the end of Jay’s (Rome) announcement, I heard your call,” said Drew. “Isaiah Crowell, we’re waiting on you. Antonio Richardson, we’re waiting on you. John Jenkins, we’re waiting on you, and Jeoffrey Pagan, we’re waiting on you. Come join what we have put together as the Dream Team. But remember, a dream is only a dream, until you make it a reality. I’m calling you out on this one. I hope you’re not afraid to be thrown into the fire, I hope you’re not afraid to be the ones who make the change.”

Post Georgia has the SEC’s most profitable football program – and that’s bad.

Thursday January 27, 2011

The financial strength of Georgia’s football program and athletic department isn’t new news. It’s no surprise to see Forbes reveal Georgia as the SEC’s most profitable football program. As they note, Georgia’s profitability is only second to Texas nationally. That’s good news from a stewardship standpoint – financial strength gives you options, and there’s virtue in being frugal.

That would all be fine if we were shareholders and we were toasting this year’s earnings per share. But we’re not, and there’s no dividend check coming. Our dividends are paid out on the field. Profit of course is just revenue minus expenses. Georgia remains strong on the revenue side of things, second only to Alabama in SEC football revenue. But Georgia earns its most profitable status – over $8 million more in profit than second-place Florida – because they’re only seventh in the league in what they spend on football. As the article notes, “Georgia is only putting 25.8% of their football revenue back into the program.” That’s not entirely accurate: capital (long-term) projects, which probably aren’t included in annual expenses, are one way to reinvest, and the new Butts-Mehre expansion is a great start. Georgia and other SEC programs also have to rely on football to fund much of the rest of the athletic department, so you’re never going to see that reinvestment rate much above 40 or 50%. Still, other schools have to deal with these projects and issues as well, so Forbes asks an interesting question:

Can these 2009 numbers predict the future for Georgia? Take a look at the teams ahead of Georgia in terms of expenses (in the second chart above). In 2010, Georgia lost to every team they played who spent more than them in 2009: Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina.

Of course it’s not as simple as throwing more money around. Mississippi State has a pretty good program with under $10 million in expenses. Still, there’s an implication that Georgia could be doing more with its football revenue and reinvesting more of it back into the program. It’s one thing to be good and responsible stewards of the revenue brought in by football. It’s another for Georgia’s athletic department to have “more than twice the average profit” of the rest of the conference.

Oh, and no jokes about Auburn having the SEC’s second-highest football expenses.

Post UGA eyeing tailgating at Myers Quad

Thursday January 27, 2011

Noon starts didn’t give Georgia fans much of a reason or opportunity to have elaborate tailgates this year, and the new tailgating restrictions didn’t get much of a test. But the season finale served up a night game and a chance for a day-long tailgate. Following the Tech game, I took this dimly-lit picture of the Myers Quad, and you can still get the point even with the poor quality. It was trashed.

I know we’ll get the same response we got about North Campus: it was students/visitors/Tech fans. I’m not denying that; we saw several Tech tailgates set up in the area. The bigger point is that this outcome isn’t going to stand any better on Myers Quad or anywhere else on campus than it did on North Campus.

So it’s no shock to learn that the University is thinking of extending restrictions to Myers Quad. The school’s Gameday Committee met for the first time since the season last week and, as they do every year, began evaluating Georgia’s game day policies. Last week we noted that the SGA recommended easing restrictions on North Campus. It’s way to early in the process to say what will or won’t be done for the 2011 season, but Matt Winston, assistant to President Adams, noted that Myers Quad was among the areas they are scrutinizing.

The responsibility ultimately falls on the tailgaters, but the University also can’t keep playing whack-a-mole every year to react to where the mess pops up next. Will they go down the road of extending the more restrictive North Campus regulations to larger areas of campus? Or are there things (patrol, enforcement) the University can do on Gameday to address the groups causing the most problems while leaving campus open to the responsible majority who just want to enjoy a fun football Saturday?

Post Men’s hoops – so close they can taste it

Thursday January 27, 2011

I suppose that’s how Florida fans felt in 2003 when Jarvis Hayes ended an epic game between two good teams. Spent. Gutted. I’ve taken a day to think about it, and that made it even worse.

Robinson’s early foul trouble really shook things up. The usually reliable Price+Ware index was a healthy 26 points. It was a strange game like that. Both teams probably think that they let the win get away from them – Florida in regulation and Georgia in 1OT. In the end, it was Georgia’s inability to stop Florida inside or outside. Macklin put back whatever Boynton or Walker or Parsons didn’t sink. It wasn’t Georgia’s best defensive outing of the year.

Not to overlook all that led up to it, a lot of talk afterward focused on those pivotal six seconds at the end of the first overtime. Bernie sums it up here. There’s another wrinkle to that situation, though: Georgia still had a timeout left. Would it have been better to burn that timeout after Price’s last free throw?

I think the issue of foul/no foul is secondary. The bigger point is that, in that situation, the coach and players were not aligned in what the defensive strategy should be. That’s why you take the timeout. If you want them to foul, fine. Make sure all 5 understand that and where to do it (and where NOT to do it). If you’d rather they defend, that’s fine too, or at least preferred to no strategy. Take the time to set up your D, emphasize that a foul anywhere but on the shot is OK, and don’t give up an uncontested shot. Would it have given Florida a chance to set up a better play? Sure – but the worst that happens is still a made three-pointer.

I get Fox’s point that “we have always trusted our defense” and that he wasn’t necessarily confident about rebounding a missed free throw the way things were going in the second half. I thought I saw him calling for the foul – Vincent Williams seemed to – but if Fox says he wanted to play D instead, we’ll go with that. The problem is that the defense wasn’t sure of what to do and didn’t have much time to set up after Price’s FT. A timeout wouldn’t have meant a miss on that shot, but at least we would have had a chance to set up against the push up the court.


The magnitude of the job ahead of Georgia is sinking in around the Bulldog Nation. It’s not just that the Dawgs lost a conference game. It’s not even that they lost ground in the division. It’s that they went 1-2 over the longest homestand of the season. Georgia still has ten conference games remaining in which to make up ground, but only four of those are at home. To finish even 9-7 in the league, the Dawgs will have to go 6-4 the rest of the way against conference opponents. Six of those games will be on the road, and they’ll be against teams like Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee. Arkansas – certainly having a down year by their standards – is traditionally one of the toughest road environments in the SEC.

It’s daunting, but this is no time to abandon ship. Though Georgia’s results against Tennessee and Florida were disappointing, there’s no questioning Georgia’s competitiveness. When Tennessee and Florida have been in top form, they’ve taken down top 10 teams this year. Georgia got good games from both of those opponents. The Dawgs weren’t quite able to finish those wins, but there’s every reason to expect that they’ll be right there in each of their ten remaining games. Georgia’s as likely to rip off a few in a row as they were to drop those last-second defeats. That’s a great sign for the state of the program, but it has to be so frustrating to be so close to seeing the work really pay off.

Post Gators present big turning point for Georgia

Tuesday January 25, 2011

Following Tuesday’s loss, we wrote that “if something good can come from a game like that, maybe our guys saw what’s possible if they come into a game with a little more energy and determination.” We found out just what was possible on Saturday against Mississippi State. Georgia came out with purpose, focused, and, well, pissed off. The visitors from Starkville never had a chance.

It’s tough to call one game at this point in the season a turning point, but tonight’s matchup with Florida fits the bill. Even with last week’s loss to Tennessee, momentum is still building behind the program. The prospect of another sellout brings back memories of that incredible winter of 2003 before it all came crashing down. Georgia reeled off home win after home win against the likes of #2 Pitt, #25 LSU, #22 Mississippi State, Tennessee, and of course that epic slugfest with #3 Florida. Sellouts became the norm, and the crowd for that win over Florida was as good as it gets in college hoops. The program still isn’t to that point, but anyone who was around then can start to sense things getting close.

Recalling those home wins is central to the bigger point of tonight’s game. It’s not just a chance to knock Florida from first place and keep pace at the top of the division. Georgia is also at the tail end of a 3-game homestand. After this game, they’re off on consecutive road trips to two of the conference’s toughest venues. A 1-2 record in these three home games wouldn’t necessarily sink the Dawgs, but it would take a good bit of momentum from the program and might even mean that they’d have to win some tough road games in order to recover.

Beat Florida, and Georgia’s tied at the top of the competitive East division at 4-2. Lose, and they’re 3-3 with trips to Kentucky and Arkansas ahead. Completing the first half of the conference season over .500 with Kentucky out of the picture would be huge for Georgia’s chances to finish strong and keep this positive buzz going.

We come back to the energy level of the team. For whatever reason, it was down against Tennessee. The Vols did a ton to frustrate Georgia, especially inside. The crowd should be great tonight as it was for last season’s upset of Florida, and it’s always intense when the Dawgs and Gators play. The difference in approach between the Tennessee and Mississippi State games was an important lesson for this team still learning how to win and play at a high level every night, and we’ll see how well they’ve taken that lesson to heart.

If you want a barometer to how well Georgia will do, watch the production of Ware and Price. We almost take the points from the Big 3 for granted, but Georgia is so much better when they get points from the 1 and 5 spots. If they can add production off the bench (as they did from Brantley and Thornton on Saturday), Georgia can play with anyone.

Post Radio change for tonight’s hoops game

Tuesday January 25, 2011

If you’re going to be out or just like to turn the TV down, tonight’s Georgia-Florida game will be on a different radio station in Atlanta and Athens. The State of the Union address will be carried on WSB (AM 750/FM 95.5), and you can find the Dawgs on 97.1 FM.

Post Lady Dogs on the rise

Tuesday January 25, 2011

Riding a 6-0 start in SEC play, the Lady Dogs have climbed to the #20 spot in this week’s AP poll. That’s as high as the team has been ranked since they were #18 during the first week of the season. The young team with only two upperclassmen had its ups and downs at the tail end of 2010, but they’re gaining confidence and experience in early SEC play. An infusion of freshman guards has given the team a shot of energy, and the Lady Dogs are finding a specific – but fragile – formula for success.

On paper, the Lady Dogs had about as easy of a week as you’ll get in the SEC. Alabama and Mississippi State are a combined 0-13 in conference play. Of course those could have been dangerous games: both opponents were hungry for their first SEC wins, and Georgia’s young squad could have easily overlooked the lesser opponents. We saw some of that in Thursday’s win at Alabama. Georgia built up an 18-point lead, but the homestanding Tide cut it to 6 and made the last few minutes interesting. Sunday’s game was much less in doubt. Georgia led by 20 at halftime, built a 35-point margin, and emptied the bench before winning by 20. It was a far cry from the Mississippi State team that bounced Georgia from last season’s SEC Tournament.

With few interesting storylines from either of those games, the we’ll spotlight the development of a few players:

  • Khaalidah Miller has settled nicely into her role. After hitting a minor scoring slump, she’s bounced back with games of 12 and 13 points. Miller has become a serious threat to hit open perimeter shots – a huge need on this team – and she’s one of the best finishers in transition that the team has had in years. As her defense improves, she’s proving to be as big of a shot in the arm to the program as Jasmine James was a year ago.
  • With center Jasmine Hassell struggling, Tamika Willis came off the bench to make the most of her playing time this week. Willis looked solid in 18 minutes against Mississippi State scoring 8 points, pulling down 6 rebounds, and blocking 2 shots.
  • Freshman guard Ronika Ransford likewise had an impressive Sunday in relief of a starter. Jasmine James re-injured her wrist in morning shootaround and was limited to 11 minutes. Ransford stepped in and posted her first double-double: 12 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Anne Marie Armstrong struggled for most of the Alabama game. Her shot lacked confidence, and there were some bad misses during an 0-for-8 start. Andy Landers took the occasion of a second half timeout to focus on Armstrong and her shooting technique. Whatever was said during that timeout worked. Armstrong finished the game hitting 4 of her last 5 shots and tallied 8 points to go along with 8 rebounds. She followed that up with a 6-for-8 performance against Mississippi State and a team-high 17 points. Her size and athleticism makes her able to contribute in several areas – rebounding, steals, and even assists. But with a more consistent and confident shot, she’s a very dangerous player to have out on the court.

The Lady Dogs take their undefeated conference mark back out for consecutive road games. Georgia has already faced South Carolina in Athens. The Lady Dogs built a big lead but had to withstand a furious second half comeback from SC. They’ll be heading to Columbia on Thursday for a rematch with a team that won’t be scared. On Sunday they’ll face LSU in Baton Rouge in a nationally televised game. LSU isn’t as strong as they’ve been, and they’re very young after a lot of turnover in the past few years. But they’re still talented and well-coached, and they’ve had some impressive results against common opponents.

Post I come not to bury Searels

Friday January 21, 2011

The departure of offensive line coach Stacy Searels to Texas is official. The timing isn’t the best – coaches are full on into recruiting mode. In the meantime, the staff has to work to keep the commitments of five offensive line prospects. Most, if not all, seem to be firm in their commitment, but you can be certain that they’ll be hearing from the competition.

I can understand the perception of this news as rats-off-a-sinking-ship, but Georgia still doesn’t have a lot of voluntary turnover relative to its peers. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s the first lateral move by a Georgia assistant under Richt. One guy leaving for a lot more money isn’t a sign to man the lifeboats.

The reaction has ranged from indifference to don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya . You’re not finding many tears shed over Searels’ departure, and in a way that’s more than a little sad. No one blames him for the disappointing 2010 season, certainly not in the way that the defensive coaches took the fall for 2009. But, yes, there was a lot of head-scratching going on over the performance of the offensive line of which a lot more was expected.

I won’t deny anyone their opportunity to think that this isn’t bad news for Georgia. The line did underperform last season. If you want to put that on the position coach, fine – it makes sense. This was also a line with some real issues and injuries that affected their play. There are a few things keeping me from joining those offering to help Searels pack.

First, if you believe some of the scuttlebutt out there, Searels was one of the first to blow the whistle on slippage in Georgia’s conditioning program. Searels, if you recall, was one of the first big external hires by Mark Richt. There had been some shuffling at running backs coach, and the underwhelming John Jancek was brought in following the departure of Brian VanGorder. But in large part the staff had remained intact. That’s good in terms of continuity and synergy, but there are always the temptations of complacency and insular thinking for a group kept together that long. For the first six years under Richt, there hadn’t been a strong outside perspective brought into the program. Searels was just that, and I hope that we’re not losing that challenging perspective.

I think four years later people have a vague sense of what Searels inherited, but let’s recap exactly what the offensive line looked like entering the 2007 season:

LT 77 Trinton Sturdivant 6-5, 286, Fr.
72 Vince Vance 6-8, 330, So.

LG 63 Chris Davis 6-4, 292, RFr.
54 Tanner Strickland 6-5, 318, Fr.

C 75 Fernando Velasco 6-4, 328, Sr.
74 Kevin Perez 6-3, 274, RFr.
64 Ian Smith 6-3, 295, So..

RG 70 Scott Havercamp 6-4, 310, Jr.
78 Josh Davis 6-6, 293, RFr.
73 Micky White 6-3, 320, RFr.

RT 67 Chester Adams 6-4, 330, Jr.
79 Justin Anderson 6-5, 335, Fr.

The biggest change on that line came as Havercamp washed out and Clint Boling came along quicker than expected. Searels earned his reputation as a miracle worker who pieced together a line starting three freshmen. Georgia, behind that line, was able to win 11 games, finish #2 in the nation, and produce the single best individual rushing performance from a Dawg since Herschel Walker.

The situation was even more dire in 2008 when Vance became the single upperclassmen on the line. Sturdivant was out with his first knee injury, and Searels’ spent most of the season rotating players just to fill the gaps. Kiante Tripp was even brought over from the defensive line to provide whatever he could at tackle. The results weren’t as great as they were in 2007, but Georgia still won ten games, and both run and pass blocking were good enough to launch the pro careers of Stafford and Moreno.

In a way, Searels earns a grade of “incomplete” for his time in Athens. This season saw only the first big turnover in the line he began constructing in 2007. The 2010 edition was disappointing, but the 2011 version also has a lot going for it now that Sturdivant and Glenn are coming back. Searels did enough just to get Georgia a funtioning line to begin with, and he also did a lot to make sure it’s a long time before the Bulldogs have to face the nightmare scenario of 2007 again.

Post Students get the ball rolling on moderating tailgating restrictions

Wednesday January 19, 2011

The University’s Student Government Association voted Tuesday to propose changes to the year-old controversial tailgating restrictions affecting North Campus.

The key changes recommended by SGA include allowing tables and tents back into the North Campus area. Tables under four feet in length were already allowed under the new rules, but more substantial tables and tents were prohibited. Even if this proposal is adopted by the University, and there is no guarantee or even a hint that it will be, the following would still be banned in that area:

  • Kegs
  • Generators
  • Televisions
  • Amplified music
  • Grills or cookers of any type
  • Household furniture (folding chairs not included)

Whether due to the number of early kickoffs or the new tailgating rules, North Campus was more or less vacant on game days last fall. It’s debatable whether allowing tables and tents would bring more people back to the area given the remainder of the restrictions, but it would at least allow those who do set up there the option of getting out of the sun.

Post Junior OL Strickland will not return

Wednesday January 19, 2011

Dean Legge reports that Georgia junior offensive guard Tanner Strickland will not return for his senior season. Strickland will graduate following spring semester.

Strickland played quite a bit in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, but shoulder surgery kept him out for the better part of 2009. Though he played in all 13 games in 2010, those lingering shoulder issues were enough cause for Strickland to move on after graduation.

The loss of an older lineman like Strickland is softened somewhat by the decision of Cordy Glenn to return. Strickland might have been a candidate to start or at least contribute at right guard, but the staff at least has other options to consider with Glenn holding down his guard spot. Faced with a similar choice this year, the staff instead turned to true freshman Kenarious Gates.

The biggest concern with the departure of an experienced reserve is the possibility of injury elsewhere on the line. Depth at guard becomes a little thinner and younger, and it’s time for the next wave of linemen to start making an impact. You also hate to lose good seniors for their leadership and experience value. If nothing else, Strickland’s decision gives the staff another scholarship to work with this year.

Post Dawgs drop a home heartbreaker to UT

Wednesday January 19, 2011

Tennessee 59 – Georgia 57

I’m just not going to dwell too long on the no-call at the end of the game. Refs swallow their whistles at the end of a game, and you’re not going to get any call other than a clear hack on the guy shooting the ball. Barnes knows that, and next time he’ll box the guy out to the halfcourt line. The offensive rebound that led to the game-winner was the second time in the final minute that Georgia couldn’t grab a Tennessee miss, and the Vols got three possessions over that final minute while Georgia had none.

I have to admit to my judgement of the game being clouded by annoyance at the ESPNU crew. Rob Stone and Jay Williams could only have prepared for this game by watching the Vandy-Tennessee game and then interviewing Hopson. Their nonstop gushing over Hopson, who was pretty well matched by Travis Leslie, completely missed the bigger story going on inside. Hopson only scored six points in the final 30 minutes of the game, but on they went. Meanwhile, Georgia’s explosive offense was struggling to do what they do best. Holding Tennessee to 59 points was a good job by the Georgia defense even with good nights from Hopson and Harris.

The key to the game, and it’s not just because he hit the game-winner, was Brian Williams. It wasn’t so much his production, though he did put up ten points. It was more his effectiveness on the other end and his physical style of play. He had help from Fields and Harris, but Georgia’s frontcourt was frustrated on offense all night. Thomkins only got eight points from the floor and shot only 30%. Price, thanks to some poor decisions with his foul discipline, was not a factor. Barnes held his own on defense but was never a threat to do more than the occasional put-back on the other end. Freshmen Thornton and Williams were simply overmatched in such a physical environment. Without Price holding it down inside, Tennessee had an easy time pushing Thompkins outside, choking off passing lanes on penetration, and keeping Georgia off the offensive glass.

It’s not an exact science of course, but you can generally tell how things are going for Georgia by looking at Price and Ware. The trio of Leslie, Robinson, and Thompkins are almost sure to get their double-figures even in a lethargic low-scoring game like this one. At Vandy, we noted that Price, Barnes, and Ware combined for a paltry five points. The story was exactly the opposite on Saturday at Ole Miss. Ware put up one of the best lines you could ask for from your point guard: 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting, 2-of-3 from outside, a perfect 7-of-7 from the line, 1 steal, and the topper…9 assists without a turnover. Price likewise had an efficient and productive day, and it came at a time when Georgia needed him. He was perfect from the line, led the team in rebounding, had a couple of nice blocks, and was able to hang around for his most playing time since the St. Louis game.

Last night, things looked a lot more like they did against Vanderbilt. Price spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble and never scored. Ware had that huge three-pointer to tie things up and had another turnover-free night, but he still ended up with only six points. At Vandy, Price, Barnes, and Ware had five points between them. Last night it was ten. Georgia’s trio of stars will only carry the team so far – the other half of Georgia’s top six players have to produce every time out.

All that said, it was still a game decided in the last second against a good team that’s held their own against some of the nation’s best. Tennessee has been wildly inconsistent this year, but we saw one of their better efforts last night. That’s no consolation for the heartbreaking loss. If something good can come from a game like that, maybe our guys saw what’s possible if they come into a game with a little more energy and determination. Georgia missed a good opportunity to claim some ground in the SEC East after Kentucky lost again, and it’s never a good thing to drop a conference game at home. The Dawgs will get another chance to defend their home turf against a turbulent but talented Mississippi State team on Saturday.

Post Georgia’s short-lived stay at the top of the mountain

Thursday January 13, 2011

If Georgia wanted to build on their upset of Kentucky, the SEC schedule wasn’t going to make it easy. Georgia’s first SEC road game of the year was at one of the league’s most difficult venues, and the recent winter storm meant that Georgia would have to make the long bus trip rather than the short flight to Nashville. There are more specific reasons why Georgia lost, but they never looked all that sharp and fresh. Vanderbilt jumped out on the Dawgs, withstood several comeback attempts, and held on for a 73-66 win in Nashville.

Georgia found themselves with three big problems:

  • After a quick 4-of-7 start from behind the arc, Georgia hit just one of their next 14 three-point attempts. Mark Gottfried was exactly right calling Georgia’s early success from outside “fool’s gold.” Once the outside shots stopped falling, Georgia’s only remotely consistent offense was Robinson’s penetration or Leslie’s mid-range game.
  • The Dawgs got only 5 points combined from the point guard or post positions. For a team as strong up front as Georgia is, it’s stunning that Barnes and Price could only have two points between them. But that’s what happens when you have more combined fouls (9) than shot attempts (8). Neither could stay in the game long enough to establish a presence, and Vandy was able to focus most of their defense on trapping Thompkins (with great success). It also wasn’t Dustin Ware’s best game. No Bulldog attempted more three-pointers, but Ware could only knock down one late in the second half.
  • Georgia only got 7 points from the bench. That in itself isn’t a sign of trouble (Vandy only got 5 bench points), but when 40% of your starting lineup isn’t producing points, the scoring has to come from somewhere.

And yet this was a seven-point game. A lot of that had to do with Leslie and Robinson playing some of their better ball of the season, but Vandy also left the door open. They only shot 42%, and Georgia had several chances to make the ending interesting after Ware’s lone three-pointer cut the deficit to seven with under four minutes remaining. But Leslie and Robinson could only carry the team so far. Thompkins was frustrated by the doubleteam, and he had no help inside thanks to the foul situation of the posts.

The disparity in fouls is going to draw some attention, and it should. But Georgia came by a lot of those fouls honestly. Whether it was the long bus ride, the unfamiliar arena, or just an off-night, the Dawgs were often a step slow on defense whether it was on the initial move to the basket or rotating over to help. That left the Dawgs in plenty of situations where they were out of position, and that’s when fouls happen.

There’s a temptation to bring expectations down to earth now that the winning streak is over and point out that any team can get up for the big home games. I don’t know that last night was so much of a letdown as it was a case of some very specific things going wrong against a decent opponent. They were knocked from the top of the standings, but none of that matters two games into the conference schedule. Conference road games are tough – just ask Duke. Georgia might not have impressed many people last night, but they can by bouncing back in another big road game on Saturday. The posts will have to be smarter about their fouls, the outside shots will have to be more efficient and timely, and Georgia will have to a better job on Chris Warren than they did John Jenkins.

Post Sturdivant stays

Friday January 7, 2011

Marc Weiszer reports that junior left tackle Trinton Sturdivant will remain at Georgia for his senior season. Other than kicker Blair Walsh, Sturdivant is the only Bulldog junior to announce his intentions one way or the other. Sturdivant’s senior season will be his fifth at Georgia, and it will be his second full season following a return from two knee injuries. His return gives the Bulldogs another veteran presence up front on a line that is losing three seniors.

Post Tipping off the SEC schedule: men’s hoops

Friday January 7, 2011

Record: 11-2

November and December went about as well as you can expect for Mark Fox’s team. They might have liked to win another game down in Orlando, but getting through the rest of the schedule unscathed was a good accomplishment. There were several close calls against arguably lesser teams giving plenty of cause for concern, but 11-2 is the important thing right now. Georgia survived nailbiters on the road at St. Louis, Georgia Tech, and Mercer, and they can expect to be in plenty more tough road games during conference play.


Trey Thompkins has been as advertised. He’s been slowed in terms of both actual playing time and conditioning by that preseason ankle injury, but he’s still every bit the scorer the team needs him to be. The rest of the frontcourt has had a positive early season. Jeremy Price has become a nice, strong scoring option inside, but he can’t avoid foul trouble. Chris Barnes has been able to step in off the bench, but there’s a slight drop-off in production. Though he won’t have a huge impact this year, I like what I see from freshman Donte Robinson. He’s a very good leaper and shows promise as a shot-blocker and rebounder. He also has a nice touch on short jumpers.

Gerald Robinson and Sherrard Brantley have had their moments as shooters, but with each shooting under 31%, neither has been a consistent scorer from behind the arc. The team overall shoots 31% from outside – not great, but decent enough to be a threat if someone gets hot on a given night (see Ware against Tech). Robinson has made more of an impact in the role we came to love from Sundiata Gaines – that driving, creating guard who can do amazing things going to the basket.

Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie are the veteran guards and have played like it. Ware has a solid 3/1 assist/turnover ratio and can provide occasional help with his outside shot, but it’s a bit unusual that the point guard doesn’t lead the team in assists. That honor goes to Robinson, and it makes sense when you consider the frequency with which Robinson attacks the basket. That aggressive play has a cost: Robinson’s team-high 43 turnovers go with those team-high 61 assists. Leslie has had another solid year with a 13.8 PPG average. But if you’ve been looking for Leslie’s game to take a big step forward this year, it just hasn’t happened. He still does what he does – great leaper, rebounder, and even a solid shotblocker for a guard. The dunks are as good as they ever were. His jumper is still inconsistent though and almost nonexistent from outside. It’s unreasonable to expect him to duplicate the progress he made from his freshman to sophomore seasons, but he’s more or less the same player he was a year ago – only with a lot more attention from opposing defenses.

Despite so much firepower on offense, Georgia has had plenty of frustrating stretches on that end of the court. When Price is in foul trouble or Thompkins is out of the game, points can be tough to come by. The stats tend to smooth out and look fine, but most every position, except for Thompkins, has gone quiet for long stretches. Finding a way to keep the points coming and preventing big runs the other way when the key starters are on the bench will be a big factor in SEC play.

Defense hasn’t been a strength for this team. Opponents are shooting nearly 35% from outside, and relaxed defense has led to the erosion of some early big leads. The Dawgs have an impressive 78 blocks already, but post players are also quick to pick up fouls. Mark Fox has a preference for man defense over zone, but the zone has been more effective at times this year, especially in the comeback at Mercer.

What to expect in the SEC

What we’re really asking of course is “can Georgia get to 9 wins in the league and 20 wins overall?” The conference isn’t terribly strong this year, although the East looks to be healthier than the West. Kentucky stands out, and then there’s a thick layer of inconsistent but potentially dangerous teams. Tennessee and Florida have some standout wins and puzzling losses. South Carolina and Vandy aren’t all that good, but they aren’t putrid.

In the SEC West, it’s a mess. Preseason favorites Mississippi State already have six losses and some alarming internal issues. Ole Miss and Arkansas top the division, but they really haven’t been tested all that much yet. Arkansas’ win over a pedestrian Oklahoma team is about it for decent wins. LSU and Alabama don’t really scare anyone, and Auburn is going to struggle. But even Auburn is on a four-game winning streak that includes a home upset of Florida State, reminding us that life on the road in the SEC is never a sure thing.

Ideally, to get to 9 or 10 wins in the SEC, Georgia would win 4 or 5 games against the West and break even against the East. In a best-case scenario, the Dawgs would do well against the West and sweep the season series against at least two teams from the East. Georgia must travel to Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Alabama from the West – all traditionally tough venues but teams no better than others Georgia has defeated this year.

Georgia’s season could well come down to the final three games of the year: they host South Carolina and LSU and then wrap up at Alabama. All three are winnable, but they will come after a stretch of 3 out of 4 games on the road including back-to-back trips to Florida and Tennessee. If Georgia can come out of that road swing at or close to .500, they’ll be set for a strong three-game push into the postseason.