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Post Tipping off the SEC schedule: Lady Dogs

Friday January 7, 2011

Record: 11-3 (1-0)

Andy Landers intentionally structured this year’s nonconference slate to avoid the big name opponents that usually fill up a Lady Dogs’ schedule. With so many freshmen and sophomores still adjusting to the college game, this wasn’t the year to be taking on all comers. Still, the nonconference schedule featured a couple of interesting challenges. Unfortunately, Georgia wasn’t up to many of those challenges. There are only a handful of quality wins, and the comeback at TCU was the lone big road win. Road losses at Georgia Tech, USC, and a neutral-site loss to Louisiana Tech knocked Georgia from the polls and kept them from posting any other high-profile wins.

The Lady Dogs actually already have one conference game under their belt. They erupted for 40 first-half points last Sunday and held on to beat South Carolina 61-51 despite only scoring 21 in the second half. With two very important road games coming up, it was essential that Georgia start off SEC play the right way, and they came away with the home win.


There’s something to like about each of the players on the court. You can highlight Phillips’ rebounding or Mitchell’s poise or Miller’s offense and so on. But what stands out is the lack of the consistent playmakers that Georgia usually seems to have. Jasmine James will often give Georgia double-figures, but she’ll do it by taking a lot of shots as the ball is usually in her hand when the shot clock winds down. Merideth Mitchell can be a difference-maker if her shot is falling, but it can be spotty. Anne Marie Armstrong has hit some big outside shots, but her offense is inconsistent, and she’s a step slow on defense.

Georgia’s freshmen guards show a great deal of promise. Khaalidah Miller just earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for a couple of strong recent outings, and she led Georgia with 15 points against South Carolina. Ronika Ransford is a quick, tough guard who shows good skill on defense and getting to the basket. Her shot needs work, but she’s played well enough to earn more time. Ransford and Miller will be a solid tandem down the road, but they’re not quite to the point of taking over games the way Jasmine James did a year ago.

Post play has been a relative weakness. Porsha Phillips is a fine player and an outstanding rebounder but is more comfortable working around the elbow rather than banging inside. Armstrong and Mitchell likewise have the size to play forward but just aren’t comfortable in traditional post roles. Jasmine Hassell hasn’t exactly fizzled at center after a promising freshman campaign, but she’s struggled enough to be challenged for her starting job. Tamika Willis and Ebony Jones are able to give minutes off the bench, but neither has shown much punch on offense.

What to expect in the SEC

The SEC is typically the strongest conference in women’s hoops, but this isn’t an especially strong crop of teams. Tennessee is a national contender, and Kentucky is as strong as they’ve ever been. After that, it’s a toss-up. Arkansas is stronger than expected. LSU and Vandy are in transition seasons. There aren’t a lot of bad teams, and most anyone can pull off a win at home against all but a couple of teams.

Because the women don’t play a divisional schedule, Georgia will face Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and Alabama twice. They’ll only face traditional powers Tennessee, LSU, and Vanderbilt once. In most years, that would be a favorable schedule, but Kentucky and Arkansas look to be two of the better teams this year. The Lady Dogs will find out immediately where they stack up: their next two games are on the road against those strong Kentucky and Arkansas teams.

The nonconference schedule has taught us a few things. 1- Georgia’s not likely to light up the scoreboard. 2- they struggle on the road. Georgia’s scoring woes extend across the board. They aren’t get a ton of production inside, they shoot under 30% from outside, and they shoot just over 60% from the line. What this means for Georgia is that they’re likely to be in a lot of close, low-scoring games – and that’s a best-case scenario. If the defense or rebounding effort isn’t there on a given night, they’ll likely lose. It also means that Georgia’s prospects in SEC play are widely variable. They’re good enough to contend for one of the top spots in the league if enough of those close games break their way. But their margin for error is so thin that a handful of points across a few games could plunge them into the bottom half of the conference.

This isn’t one of Georgia’s stronger teams, but the potential is there for a good season and another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia’s biggest unknown the rest of the way is what they’ll get from their post players. If James remains a consistent scorer and the freshmen continue to come along, the backcourt should be OK – but not great.

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