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Post Basketball prepares for SEC play: Part Two

Thursday January 5, 2012

We pick things back up with the Lady Dogs.

The Team:

Georgia lost only one player from last season’s Sweet 16 group, but it was a significant loss: Porsha Phillips was Georgia’s top rebounder and a big presence inside on both ends of the court. With Phillips gone, the Lady Dogs have gone just a little smaller. On the upside, they are able to have 4 players on the court with outside range. Anne Marie Armstrong nominally takes over for Phillips. Armstrong of course isn’t a power forward but has the size and jumping ability to play inside. As a natural wing, Armstrong can put it up from outside or make quick moves to the basket with a long stride.

Jasmine Hassell returns as Georgia’s inside presence. Hassell has continued to improve, especially on defense. She continues to have a nice scoring touch around the basket and was key to Georgia’s win over Georgia Tech. Tamika Willis can provide important minutes off the bench at center.

Georgia starting guards all return. Mitchell is the team’s lone senior and can play anywhere from the 1-3 spots. James and Miller hold down the traditional guard spots with James playing the majority of possession at the point. All three of these guards, in addition to Armstrong, are threats to hit from outside.

Two freshmen have worked into the rotation. Guard Erika Ford brings a refreshing attacking style on offense and has proved especially good at driving the baseline. Krista Donald is seeing time at small forward and has impressed me with her intensity and aggressive rebounding.

Though I’d argue that the team is as all-around strong as it’s been in several years, a few weaknesses stick out. Size is one of the obvious ones. Teams with well-developed frontcourts can give Georgia plenty of trouble. Turnovers can also be an issue. Georgia’s solid defense means that they enjoy a positive turnover margin, but the team is still averaging over 15 turnovers per game.

The Season So Far:

Georgia’s nonconference slate this year wasn’t incredibly challenging. Though they’ve lost only two games, the bad news is that those losses were against the only ranked teams on the schedule. The Lady Dogs were competitive but just short of a good Georgetown team. They led Gonzaga by 15 points late in the game, but a complete collapse with turnovers and missed free throws resulted in a shocking loss. The good news is that Georgia has avoided slip-ups against lesser teams. They have a handful of decent wins against quality opponents with Georgia Tech, TCU, and USC highlighting their resume. Georgia has been ranked in the teens for most of the season.

Around the SEC:

It’s a familiar landscape to those who have followed SEC women’s hoops lately. You have a top tier with Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia. Vanderbilt is pesky as always and can probably be considered a favorite to earn a top four position. Several teams have similar records at this point, but there’s a wide spread in strength of schedule. Mississippi State’s 10-3 is nowhere near the quality of Tennessee’s 10-3. That said, Tennessee – while still very good and probably still the class of the league – has shown some vulnerability. The problem is the relative lack of challengers. Kentucky has to be considered a legitimate threat to win the conference, but few others have the resume to this point that would establish themselves as SEC contenders.

A storyline this year will be the movement among teams in the middle tier. South Carolina has improved over the past several seasons. LSU is trying not to slip very far under a new coach. Arkansas has a nice collection of scorers. There are no truly awful teams – even Alabama has some nice results to their credit. It’s going to be a long year though for teams like Ole Miss, and Auburn is already 8-6.

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