Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Indoor practice facility agitprop

Thursday March 28, 2013

Georgia’s lack of an indoor practice facility seems to come up every few years – usually when weather has forced a change of plans for the football team. It’s back in the news this spring after two events. First, Aaron Murray’s spring break work at Oklahoma left him impressed with the Sooners’ facility. That, and a little rough early spring weather, led to a lighthearted (and unsanctioned) PR campaign last week.

Then on Saturday, stormy weather forced Georgia to postpone a scheduled spring scrimmage to Tuesday. That’s no big deal, but several important recruits were in town to observe the scrimmage. The canceled scrimmage changed the day’s plans which gave coaches more time to meet with prospects in person but also took away the central attraction of the day for some. When a prospect remarked ($) that “they need an indoor facility,” fans reacted to a disapproving comment from a recruit and joined the call for a facility.

If you’re one of the people wanting this done yesterday, the good news is that the project might soon be in reach. If you’ve thought of an indoor facility as a waste of good money, the good news is that the price tag need not be as steep as we thought a few years ago.

An indoor facility has been in the works since the Donnan years. It was one of the first things Richt talked about when he got to Georgia. We hear every so often that it’s in the works and a top priority, but here we are a decade later still without one. The same points come up each time, so hopefully a little Q&A will cover most of the background – what’s involved with an indoor facility, why after all this time is Georgia without one, and what would it take to make it happen?

Does Georgia really need an indoor facility?

Depending on whom you ask, an indoor facility is anything from an immediate need costing Georgia recruits and precious practice time to an extravagant monument to the excesses of college football. I think it comes down squarely in the “nice to have” category. Yes, it’s inconvenient to alter the practice schedule, especially during the tight timetable in the season when lost days can’t be made up. It’s also unfortunate to disappoint recruits who might’ve been looking forward to watching a practice.

Recruiting ends up being one of the biggest reasons to have an indoor facility. They’re supposedly heavy artillery in the facilities arms race, and being able to hook up a game console to the display inside your facility is all part of the package designed to impress and awe prospective players. Schools still manage to sign highly-ranked classes without such a facility, but we can’t deny the wow factor.

The actual usefulness to a team is less clear. There’s one obvious use case: practicing during bad weather. There will be other uses – individual workouts, a site to host Pro Day, and even other teams can take cover there. Reality seems to be that the facilities don’t get used as much as we’d expect.

UGA officials have talked about building an indoor practice facility for years, but when UGA administrators toured other universities that have such indoor facilities, they found that the schools’ football teams rarely used the expensive buildings. Instead, the biggest user seemed to be the schools’ track teams, said UGA athletic director Damon Evans. “Football hardly ever utilized the facility,” Evans told the board of directors of the athletic association.

So there’s a cost / benefit analysis to be done. A lot of other programs have decided that what few benefits come from a facility are worth the costs. Of course some of these programs haven’t been the best stewards of their checkbooks.

If there’s even a small need and most other schools have one, why doesn’t Georgia have one yet?

Short answer: given the scope of what Georgia planned for its indoor facility (more on that below), there have been higher priorities for its capital budget. The athletic association has responsibilities to all of its programs, and we’ve seen some impressive projects like the $30 million Coliseum Training Facility. Even when it comes to football, other projects have been more important since Mark Richt became coach. There have been very visible projects like an expanded Sanford Stadium and some improvements out of the public eye like improved outdoor practice fields.

Most recently the athletic association completed a $40 million expansion of the Butts-Mehre facility that primarily benefits the football program. When it came down to it, Mark Richt supported this expansion over a separate football facility.

After seeing other schools’ facilities, UGA football coach Mark Richt said he’d rather have the Butts-Mehre expansion than the indoor football field, said UGA President Michael Adams, who also is chairman of the athletic association board.

What’s the big deal? How much could it cost to put a roof over a practice field?

An “indoor facility” can can cover anything from a simple $6-7 million covered field like Georgia Tech just built to a $26 million facility at Michigan. The range comes from what you want out of the building. Putting a roof over 120 yards of turf is relatively inexpensive. It’s when you think bigger that the price tag goes up.

Georgia and Mark Richt think bigger. Even nine years ago, Richt had a pretty clear vision of a multi-use facility that would be far more than just a covered field.

Richt spoke in detail about a comprehensive facility that he said would include an indoor track and would benefit other teams and the band during inclement weather….It would include a weight room on the bottom floor, administrative offices on the second floor and a third-floor dining hall that would be part of the university dining system.

As you can imagine, that kind of building wouldn’t come cheap. Texas A&M completed a nice facility in 2008 that combined an indoor practice facility with an indoor track at a cost of $35 million. Georgia has braced itself for a big-ticket facility for a while.

Athletic officials considered an indoor facility more than four years ago when Jim Donnan was coaching the Bulldogs. The pricetag then was in the $25 to $30 million range. The cost now would be significantly higher especially with the scope of the project that Richt talked about.

Wait – didn’t we just build an indoor something or other?

Sort of. That $40 million improvement and expansion of the Butts-Mehre building took care of a lot of needs. The weight room was addressed. There’s a lot more meeting and office space. There’s even a large turf-covered area that can be used for walk-throughs and can be re-purposed for large gatherings. The only things it isn’t: a full-length covered field and an indoor track.

I can’t see Georgia throwing away a $40 million project just to build it all over again in a standalone football facility. The good news is that the Butts-Mehre expansion allows the scope – and cost – of an indoor practice facility to be pared back to something that’s more likely to get done sooner than later. Schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Virginia have all recently unveiled new facilities that came in under $20 million.

The bad news is that it might require going back to the drawing board. Georgia’s ambitious facility has been the plan for over a decade now. Would the stakeholders (especially Coach Richt) support a facility that’s pared down to “only” an indoor field? Would the athletic association open the wallet for something that’s not exactly multi-use and might exclude an indoor track? Those discussions to revise the existing plans need to take place before Georgia can start building.

Even so, isn’t Georgia sitting on a pile of cash? Why are they being so stingy?

It’s true – Georgia has about $68 million in reserve funds as of last fall. That doesn’t mean that it’s idle cash. It’s foremost a safety net against any kind of downturn. Properly invested, reserves can also provide interest income to cover some of the minor upkeep projects that we hear about every year.

With annual expenses now over $88 million, the current reserves are about 80% of a year’s spending. That might seem like a lot, but let’s consider the Tennessee situation: the perfect storm of a poor economy, declining support of a poor flagship football program, hefty buyouts for coaches, and $200 million in debt has led to reserves dipping under $2 million and an operating deficit. Georgia’s not nearly in that situation, but it’s not hard to imagine the strain a sustained downturn in football could put on the bottom line.

It’s worth mentioning again that Georgia hasn’t avoided spending on facilities projects. From the 600 level and Reed Alley at Sanford Stadium to the Coliseum Training Facility to the Butts-Mehre expansion, there have been several high-dollar additions and improvements. There are even more smaller projects like the Stegeman Coliseum renovation and new scoreboards. Annual expenses have gone from around $72 million in 2010 to $88 million now. Good financial management isn’t a bad thing.

Where would it go?

Location matters, and that’s been at the heart of some of the decisions that have been made. Real estate is limited in and around the Vince Dooley Athletic Complex. Building a full-length indoor field in that area would require the expensive relocation of something like Foley Field or the Spec Towns Track, or it would cost the football program at least one of its four outdoor practice fields. Losing an outdoor field isn’t optimal, and it’s one of the reasons why the Butts-Mehre expansion only included a short stub of indoor turf – there just wasn’t the room to go bigger.

Most plans then call for any new facility to be built out on South Milledge by the soccer and softball complex. Though the hilly terrain out there would add to the site preparation costs, there’s plenty of room for a facility and parking (even for scooters!). The downside is that the remote location reduces the utility of an indoor facility. A practice couldn’t just be relocated next door for inclement weather – there would be the same logistical steps as there are now when a practice gets moved to the Ramsey Center. The facility would be several miles away from training areas, the main football offices, and all of the other amenities added to Butts-Mehre.

TL;DR: So what’s the outlook?

If you’d like to see an indoor facility, the good news is that there aren’t many higher priorities remaining. There’s a $5 million plan for Foley Field, but that’s already in the fundraising stage. Sanford Stadium won’t be expanded any time soon, but it could always use some improvements. As far as major capital projects (>$10 million) go, the indoor facility looks to be next in line.

Because of the Butts-Mehre expansion, we expect plans for this football facility to be scaled back to a building that could come in around $15 million. That does mean starting from square one and a revision to the master plan, and that will take some high-level approval from the athletics board before we even draw up plans. They don’t exactly meet every week, so it could be later this year for an indoor facility to become an agenda item.

Location seems locked in on South Milledge. That will give the building all of the room it needs, but it will also isolate it from the rest of the football facilities and make it slightly less useful than a building that’s adjacent to the existing practice fields. That’s the trade-off of getting all of the other items on the wish list.

The final hurdle will be fundraising. The athletic association isn’t eager to increase its debt load, so most – if not all – of the money for this facility would come from private sources. With that in mind, a $15 million target looks a lot more attainable than $30-40 million. Still want an indoor practice facility? Send that check to 1 Selig Circle…

Post Lady Dogs set to face Stanford in Sweet 16

Thursday March 28, 2013

Georgia’s Sweet 16 opponent was determined Tuesday night when top-seeded Stanford easily dispatched 8-seed Michigan. Georgia and Stanford will meet at 9:00 ET on Saturday night, and the game will be televised by ESPN.

2-seed Cal needed overtime to advance to Spokane, but they avoided the upset and moved on. 6-seed LSU used the homecourt to their advantage and pulled out a close upset of 3-seed Penn State in Baton Rouge. Cal and LSU will follow the Georgia-Stanford game in a late tip. The media focus will likely be on a Cal-Stanford rematch, but the SEC could end up with at least one team in the regional final.

Georgia has spent the week between games out in Spokane rather than returning home for a couple of days. That should leave them fresher than they’d be after a couple of cross-country flights, but we wondered how they’d handle their academic commitments during the time away. The Red & Black got some good answers on that subject.

The Lady Dogs will go about their day as if still attending classes and practices on Georgia’s campus. “We try to create a day that’s similar to the day we would have if we were in Athens,” (Andy) Landers said. “We want to get through three hours of schoolwork, and then we want to get a couple of hours of basketball work in. What this does afford us is more time together so we can watch a little more film than we would in a regular school day.”

As two of the most tradition-rich programs in women’s hoops, Georgia and Stanford are familiar postseason opponents. Andy Landers and Tara VanDerveer are both Hall of Fame coaches with 1,564 wins between them. This will be the seventh time their teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford holds a 4-2 edge in those meetings, including a 73-36 rout back in the 2010 Sweet 16 in Sacramento.

This is Georgia’s 20th trip to the Sweet 16 in program history and eighth since 2003, but the regionals haven’t been kind lately to the Lady Bulldogs. They haven’t advanced beyond the round of 16 since 2004, and after a heartbreaking 2-point loss to UConn in 2006 they’ve lost their last three Sweet 16 games by an average of more than 30 points.

It will be tough to reverse course against Stanford – they’re a #1 seed for good reason. As usual they dominated the Pac-12, losing only to Cal back in January. They were the only team this year to beat top-ranked Baylor. There is some hope: good defenses have had some success against Stanford, and the Cardinal were played to the final minute by South Carolina and UCLA – teams that might be considered comparable to Georgia. If you’re looking to history for hope, Georgia’s last regional final appearance came in the state of Washington (Seattle), and they ended up facing LSU.

Georgia’s primary challenge in stopping Stanford is a potential matchup problem. Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike averages 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. At 6’4″, Ogwumike isn’t as tall as some of the frontcourt players that caused difficulties for Georgia in the first two rounds, but Georgia’s interior defense will face its toughest task of the season against the junior. If Georgia collapses on Ogwumike, there are several Stanford players capable of doing damage from outside.

Even if Georgia is able to have the same kind of defensive success that South Carolina and UCLA had against Stanford, they’ll have to score a few points themselves. Georgia was effective from outside in the second round, but season averages tell us that a repeat performance isn’t likely. The Lady Dogs remain at their best on offense when Hassell can operate inside, and she’ll likely have Ogwumike as a defender.

Can Georgia get past this round for the first time in a decade? A few things have to happen:

  • Defensive pressure has to keep Stanford’s score low and create opportunities to get out in transition.
  • The ball has to find its way inside either in transition or on the secondary break.
  • Get to the line. Ogwumike isn’t likely to get in foul trouble, but frontcourt mate Mikaela Ruef can be prone to fouls.
  • Find Barbee. She’s been Georgia’s most consistent offensive threat so far in the tournament, and she won’t hesitate to drive.
  • Georgia’s seniors have to step up. Hassell was frustrated against Iowa State but got some big points in the second half. Armstrong has struggled all year but had one of her best performances in the last game. James can make plays, but she can be very inefficient when forced to take too many shots, especially near the end of the shot clock. This game is the biggest chance this group of seniors has had to leave a unique legacy, and it won’t happen without all three of them contributing.

Post The week ahead for the Lady Dogs

Tuesday March 26, 2013

Georgia’s 65-60 win over Iowa State puts them into the Sweet 16 for the 20th time in program history and for the third time in four seasons for this group of seniors.

Spokane is hosting both the first rounds and the regional this year, so Georgia will be in a familiar city for their next game. The venue will change – they’ll move from the Gonzaga campus to the larger Veterans Memorial Arena downtown.

When Georgia last went out west in 2010, they started in Tempe and played the regional in Sacramento. They chose to come home between the sessions, and a quick turnaround had them headed back out west for their third cross-country trip in a week. This time the team will remain in Spokane during the break between rounds. That should help their condition for the next game, but it’s tough to imagine missing over a week and a half of classes. Knowing Andy Landers’ commitment to academics, it would be interesting to hear some of the ways the team is keeping up during their time away.

We know that Georgia will play on Saturday night, but their opponent is still unknown. Top-seeded Stanford will face 8-seed Michigan on Tuesday night for the right to advance to Spokane and play Georgia. 2-seed Cal needed overtime to win their second round game Monday night, and LSU will face Penn State for the final spot in Spokane. Game times on Saturday are currently set for 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. PST (9:30 and 11:30 p.m. ET), but those times are subject to change as ESPN sets its schedule. Should Georgia advance, they’ll play again next Monday at 9 p.m. ET against the Cal vs. LSU/PSU winner.

Post Lady Dogs advance to the Sweet 16

Tuesday March 26, 2013

The 2012-2013 Lady Dogs season has been all about a veteran senior class blending with a talented group of freshmen. So with the season on the line it makes sense that a senior and a freshmen combined to make sure that the season would continue. Shacobia Barbee continued her brilliant NCAA Tournament performance with 20 points, and Anne Marie Armstrong added 13 to help 4-seed Georgia win a thrilling 65-60 game against 5-seed Iowa State in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament. With the win, Georgia advances to the Sweet 16 for the 20th time in program history.

Things started as close as you’d expect from a 4-5 matchup. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half. The game quickly became about Georgia’s outside shooting versus Iowa State’s size inside. Cyclone forward Anna Prins proved to be a tough matchup on both ends – she was able to shoot over Georgia’s interior defense, and her range extended beyond the arc. On defense Prins was a shotblocking threat that frustrated Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell and held Georgia’s leading scorer without a point in the first half.

With Hassell neutralized, Georgia had no choice but to look outside. Fortunately the shots fell. The Lady Dogs shot under 30% from outside this year, but they drilled eight three-pointers in the first half to stay in the game. Anne Marie Armstrong, despite early foul trouble, went on a personal 8-0 run to turn a four-point deficit into a four-point lead. The teams went to the locker rooms tied at halftime.

Georgia opened the second half with increased intensity on defense and a greater effort to get the ball inside on offense. Though the scoring started slowly, Hassell finally got going around the basket. Georgia’s defense was stifling and held the Cyclones without a basket for the first seven minutes of the half. Georgia didn’t run away with the game, but they started the second half on a 19-5 run that opened up a 51-37 lead with 9 minutes left.

Iowa State didn’t fold and began to close the gap. Georgia suddenly like a team that struggled hitting the outside shot. A pair of Iowa State three-pointers turned a comfortable nine-point Georgia lead into a three-point advantage around the 5-minute mark, and we were set for a tight finish. It ended up being a 19-1 run for the Cyclones, punctuated by Prins’ second three-pointer of the night inside of 3 minutes left that put Iowa State up by 4 and had Georgia reeling.

Desperate for an answer, Georgia turned to its freshmen. Tiaria Griffin drove towards the paint and found Barbee open on the left wing. Barbee calmly drained her third three-pointer of the night to close the gap to one and put an end to Iowa State’s run. Then it was Armstrong’s turn. Anne Marie caused a turnover on the other end and found herself wide open at the top of the key on the secondary break. She nailed the three-pointer to put Georgia back on top. Iowa State answered with their own deep shot to retake the lead, but Armstrong came up big again by handling a tough lob pass and going under the basket for a reverse layup that gave Georgia the lead for good. Iowa State missed their next shot, and Armstrong forced a jump ball on the rebound. With the possession arrow in Georgia’s favor, Iowa State had no choice but to start fouling, and Barbee hit three of four shots at the line. Iowa State didn’t manage another basket, and Georgia sealed the win with a full-court pass to a streaking Jasmine James.

The game was about as exciting as Georgia’s comeback win over FSU two years ago that send the Lady Dogs to their most recent Sweet 16. Georgia had to play outside of their comfort zone on offense and overcome a big size disadvantage in order to win. For the second straight game they won despite a big deficit on the boards, and the cold stretch in the second half nearly cost them. On the whole though the outside shooting was as good as it’s been all year, and they only turned it over 5 times.

The defense was outstanding. They held a team that shoots about 43% well below their average. Though Prins’ size was tough to deal with, no other player was consistently effective. Though Iowa State got back in the game on their run, Georgia’s defense helped to surround that stretch with Georgia spurts of 19-5 and 13-4. The offense in this win was unconventional for this Georgia team, but the defense was typical of what has carried the team this year.

Post Congrats to the national champion Swim Dawgs!

Monday March 25, 2013

Georgia’s women’s swimming and diving team rolled to its fifth national title over the weekend, posting 477 points to runner-up Cal’s 393. The team features Olympians Allison Schmitt and Shannon Vreeland, but a team accomplishment like this requires contributions up and down the roster. The highlight of the meet was the 400-yard freestyle relay which broke the NCAA and U.S. Open records.

The national title is Georgia’s first NCAA team title since 2009. That means it’s the first team national title under athletic director Greg McGarity, who was appointed to the job in August 2010. That merited the AD joining the national champs for a celebratory dive into the pool.

Post Late Night with the Lady Dogs

Monday March 25, 2013

The Lady Dogs opened up a tight game midway through the second half for a 70-50 win over Montana in their NCAA Tournament opening game on Saturday. Georgia squandered an early lead and Montana fought back to within two points, but a decisive run with about 13 minutes left put the game out of reach. Tight Georgia defense began to wear on the 13th-seeded Lady Griz who scored just 14 points over the final 15:53 of the game.

We know by now that Georgia’s not going to light up the scoreboard, so they’ll go as far as defense will carry them in the tournament. At its best, Georgia’s defense both disrupts the opponent’s offense and creates chances to score in transition. That combination was on display during the pivotal second half stretch against Montana. Georgia held Montana to under 30% shooting and forced 17 turnovers while recording 8 blocks and 7 steals.

Georgia’s halfcourt offense wasn’t bad – they assisted on 15 of 28 made shots, and they only turned it over 11 times. They shot 46% from the floor – better than their typical 40%. The only thing that held them back was missed shots – Tiaria Griffin was just 1-of-7 in her first NCAA Tournament game, and Jasmine James was 4-of-12. Other players stepped up to help. Jasmine Hassell had her usual efficient performances with a game-high 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Shacobia Barbee had an impressive tournament debut with 13 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Georgia’s depth proved key: bench players scored 19 points led by Erika Ford’s 8. Tameka Willis added four points and four rebounds in just 9 minutes of playing time.

The Lady Dogs advance to the Round of 32 where they’ll play fifth-seeded Iowa State. On one hand, it’s a good thing to be facing Iowa State. Host team Gonzaga has been a giant-killer in recent seasons, and they pushed Iowa State in the opening round. With the hosts out of it, there should be a relatively sparse and neutral crowd. The bad news of course is that Georgia will face a very capable and balanced opponent. Iowa State has good height, and most players aren’t afraid to step out for a perimeter shot. They shot over 50% in their opener and hit nine three-pointers.

One key in this second round game will be rebounding. Georgia was outrebounded by Montana, and the Lady Dogs gave up 17 offensive boards. Iowa State controlled the glass against Gonzaga with 39 rebounds. Georgia will need to emphasize rebounding for two big reasons: first, second-chance opportunities for a team that shoots as well as Iowa State almost guarantees that the possession will result in points. Second, Georgia looks to push for transition chances off of defensive rebounds. Those opportunities to run can mean valuable points for a team that can struggle at times in its halfcourt offense. Iowa State doesn’t go very deep, so any chance to push the tempo could pay dividends later.

Georgia’s bid to return to the Sweet 16 should tip off from Spokane, Wash. at about 9:50 p.m. ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN.

Post Georgians headed to the NCAA Tournament

Tuesday March 19, 2013

Georgia’s 2012-2013 basketball season ended up having quite a bit more life than I expected, but it still ended just short of a shot at postseason consideration. Mark Fox has patroled the Stegeman sidelines for four years. The NCAA Tournament bid in 2011 was the high point, but the process of rebuilding the program has been slow going. Have we reached a plateau, or will there be a payoff to patience in and a commitment to a coach?

Getting Georgia back to the postseason is going to be about the players. With Caldwell-Pope’s return for next season still up in the air, Georgia might have to find answers elsewhere. One player like Caldwell-Pope can elevate a program, but we learned this year that the rest of the cast must do its part. There was some nice progress from the freshmen in the backcourt. The frontcourt remains a liability. If Georgia is going to continue to show progress next season, there are significant holes to fill.

Though no team from the state of Georgia is headed to the 2013 tournament, there are 25 student-athletes participating who called Georgia home. I don’t mean to suggest that Georgia would be a contender if they built a team around this list – there are players here from high-major starters to minor program benchwarmers. There are also several good players from Georgia who are on teams that didn’t make the tournament. But good recruiting starts at home, especially in a state like Georgia. Will Kentavious Caldwell-Pope be a rare exception, or will some of these home-grown impact players start to pick Georgia and lead Fox’s program to the postseason?

Player Position Year College Hometown Stats
Alloune Diouf G Sr. James Madison Powder Springs (McEachern) 4.8 pts / 3.4 reb
Bernard Thompson G So. Fla. Gulf Coast Conyers (Rockdale County) 14.0 pts / 4.4 reb
Carl Hall F Sr. Wichita State Cochran (Bleckley County) 12.8 pts / 7.2 reb / 1.6 blk
Cashmere Wright G Sr. Cincinnati Savannah (Urban Christian Academy) 12.6 pts / 3.1 asst
Chad Lang C So. Belmont Marietta (Marietta) 1.2 pts / 1.1 reb
Connor Perkey F Fr. Davidson Atlanta (Pace Academy) 0.4 pts / 0.4 reb
Damien Goodwin F Fr. Southern Atlanta (Columbia) DNP
Damien Wilson G Fr. Memphis Austell (Oak Hill Academy) 1.8 pts
Jacquez Rozier F So. Middle Tennessee Waynesboro (Burke County) 1.8 pts / 1.6 reb
Jamail Jones G Jr. Fla. Gulf Coast Atlanta (Montverde Academy) DNP – transfer
JJ Mann G/F Jr. Belmont Smyrna (Hargrave Miliary Academy) 10.5 pts / 4.7 reb / 2.6 asst
Jordan Adams G Fr. UCLA Atlanta (Oak Hill Academy) 15.3 pts / 3.8 reb
Lorenzo Brown G Jr. NC State Roswell (Centennial) 12.1 pts / 4.3 reb / 7.2 asst
Marcos Knight G Sr. Middle Tennessee Rentz (West Laurens) 12.5 pts / 5.8 reb / 2.4 asst
Michael Hall F-C Fr. Harvard Atlanta (Woodward Academy) 0.8 pts / 0.7 reb
Nigel Snipes F So. Western Kentucky Marietta (Wheeler) DNP – injured
Richard Howell F Sr. NC State Marietta (Wheeler) 12.7 pts / 10.7 reb
Rion Brown G Jr. Miami Hinesville (Liberty County) 5.9 pts / 1.8 reb
Shannon Scott G So. Ohio State Alpharetta (Milton) 4.8 pts / 3.8 asst
Shaq Goodwin F Fr. Memphis Atlanta (Southwest DeKalb) 7.8 pts / 4.6 reb
Tekele Cotton G So. Wichita State Marietta (Whitefield Academy) 6.3 pts / 3.9 reb
Thomas Marshall G So. Southern Atlanta (Miller Grove) Has not played since Nov. 15
Tony Parker F-C Fr. UCLA Atlanta (Miller Grove) 2.2 pts / 1.1 reb
Tony Woods C Sr. Oregon Rome (Rome) 9.5 pts / 3.7 reb
Torin Walker C Jr. Middle Tennessee Columbus (Northside) 2.4 pts / 1.4 reb


Post Lady Dogs head west

Tuesday March 19, 2013

Andy Landers’ squad enjoyed the relatively close destinations of Auburn and Tallahassee in the opening rounds of the two most recent NCAA Tournaments. This year, for their 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, they’ll be sent about as far from Athens as possible.

The Lady Dogs earned the 4-seed in the Spokane Regional of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Georgia will open on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) against 13-seed Montana in Spokane, Wash. at the McCarthey Athletic Center – the home court of Gonzaga. The winner will advance to Monday’s second round game against the winner of 5-seed Iowa State and 12-seed, and host, Gonzaga.

Should Georgia advance to the Sweet 16, they’ll be right back in Spokane a week later – this time at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, the host site of the regional. It’s doubtful that the team would miss a week of classes to remain out west, so they could be facing consecutive coast-to-coast trips. Three seasons ago the team was sent to Tempe, Ariz. for the opening rounds, returned to Athens, and flew back out to Sacramento for the regional.

They’ll have to take care of business before worrying about frequent-flier miles. Georgia, given a high seed and a venue close to home, didn’t survive the first round a year ago. That loss to Marist should be fresh in the minds of a senior-laden Lady Bulldog team. Georgia faced Montana in 2000 when the opening round was hosted in Athens. The top-seeded Lady Dogs rolled 74-46. The setting won’t be as friendly for this meeting.

The Lady Dogs should expect to feel very much like the visiting team in Spokane. The University of Montana is only a three-hour drive from Spokane. Gonzaga, on their home court, will be a dangerous 12-seed for any of the other three teams. They’ve reached the Sweet 16 in three consecutive seasons. For the past two seasons, they’ve hosted as an 11-seed and ended up knocking off two teams with 3-seeds en route to the regional. Georgia has been fortunate over the past three seasons to host or play at a venue where the host team didn’t qualify for the tournament.

Georgia is the top seed in the Spokane group for the first two rounds. The top three seeds in the region are Stanford, California, and Penn State.

Post Lady Dogs advance to SEC semifinals

Saturday March 9, 2013

Led by Jasmine Hassell’s 19 points, the third-seeded Georgia Lady Dogs cooled off the SEC’s hottest team, #6 seed LSU, 71-53 in Friday night’s quarterfinal of the SEC Tournament. LSU had won seven straight games, starting with a 62-54 win over Georgia in Baton Rouge in early February.

All five Georgia starters scored in double figures and the team shot over 45% from the floor in a welcome show of firepower. The Lady Dogs hit two three-pointers to open the scoring and never trailed. Georgia led by ten at halftime, came out firing after intermission, and eventually led by as many as 28 points.

LSU, already down to eight players entering the postseason, took another hit when forward Shanece McKinney suffered an apparent concussion during the first half. The Tigers were taken to the buzzer by Auburn in Thursday’s opening round, and the thin roster wasn’t able to hold up against a Georgia team fresh off an opening round bye. The Lady Dogs were able to show off their depth and play 12 players thanks to the large lead.

Georgia advances to face second-seeded Kentucky in the second semifinal on Saturday. Tip-off will be just after 6:00. Georgia broke a 34-game Kentucky home win streak in February with a tight 75-71 comeback victory, and they know that Kentucky will be looking for redemption for one of their few losses. The Lady Dogs trailed by 10 at halftime in Lexington but exploded for 45 second half points. Khaalidah Miller was the star, posting a career-high 25 points and handling the point guard duties once Jasmine James headed to the bench with early foul trouble.

The Wildcats will present challenges on both ends of the court. Their trademark pressure defense forced 26 Georgia turnovers in Lexington, but opportunities are there if you can break the pressure. The Kentucky offense is no picnic either. Not only do they create transition chances out of their defense, but they can be efficient in the halfcourt game also. Jennifer O’Neill and A’dia Mathies will score from the guard position, but they can find Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth inside. Kentucky had a fairly easy time of it with Vanderbilt in their quarterfinal, and they’ll be well-rested for Georgia. The Wildcats had 10 players play at least 12 minutes against Vandy.

Post 7th Annual SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Preview

Wednesday March 6, 2013

SEC Women's Tournament 2013The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament is back at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth this week after a couple of years in Nashville. We’ll be there all week, and each year we like to look around the conference before things tip off. You can follow us @dawgsonline for updates from the arena.

It’s a new era for the conference and the tournament. Three programs have first-year coaches. The conference has welcomed two new teams, and that means an extra day is added to the format. The bottom two seeds, Mississippi State and Alabama, have the ignominy of playing in the SEC’s first play-in game (obligatory “Les Robinson Invitational” shout-out). The winner will advance to Thursday to face #5 seed South Carolina.

There hasn’t been a dominant team this year, and that should make for a fun and competitive tournament. I could see anyone seeded 1-6 winning the tournament – #6 seed LSU is the hottest team in the league right now. Mississippi State has beaten Georgia, Missouri has beaten Tennessee, and a good South Carolina team isn’t even among the top four.

Georgia enters the tournament looking to send an accomplished senior class out with a title. The 2012 season ended with disappointment – Georgia was the #3 seed last year also, but they lost their first game in both the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. There was optimism that the loaded senior class would carry the Lady Dogs to a conference title, and they have some impressive wins over teams like South Carolina and Kentucky. Some flat performances on the road at LSU and Mississippi State cost them a share of the championship. They’ve played well enough to make a run in this tournament, but they’ve also been inconsistent enough to make any game a toss-up.

Georgia’s Path Through the Tournament:

  • Wednesday and Thursday / First Round: Bye
  • Friday / Quarterfinals: vs. LSU-Auburn winner, ~8:30 p.m. ET. SportsSouth
  • Saturday / Semifinals: ~6:00 p.m. ET. ESPNU
  • Sunday / Finals: 6:00 p.m. ET. ESPN2

Complete Bracket Here

The Field:

1. Tennessee (12-2, 23-6): It’s rarely a surprise to see Tennessee as the top seed, but it kind of is this year. The Lady Vols lost five starters, returned only three upperclassmen, and – of course – started their first season since 1974 without Pat Summitt on the bench. They were actually picked to finish fifth by preseason polling. So while it’s easy to overlook the job that first year head coach Holly Warlick has done as just Tennessee being Tennessee, it’s a significant accomplishment to have her young team play to the standard set by the program.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride. A season-opening loss to Chattanooga raised a lot of eyebrows. The Lady Vols have played their usual challenging schedule and have come up short against the nation’s elite teams. They’ve survived scares against Florida, LSU, and Arkansas and still have the capability of putting up a head-scratching loss as they did at Missouri. They’re not going to challege for the national title, but they’ve still done enough to emerge as the team to beat heading into Duluth.

The Lady Vols start with junior guard Meighan Simmons. She’s the SEC’s leading scorer and the team’s emotional leader. Freshman Bashaara Graves has stepped up as the post presence the team had to have. Massengale and Spani are important role players at guard, and Kamiko Williams and Cierra Burdick have come on strong at the end of the season.

2. Kentucky (13-3, 25-4): The Wildcats were the preseason pick to win the conference, and they came close. They started the season 18-1 with the sole loss coming to #1 Baylor. They’ve only lost three times in conference – all to respectable teams (Georgia, South Carolina, and LSU) and all by five points or less. That thin margin was enough to bump UK to the second seed, and only Georgia’s improbable loss at Mississippi State kept UK from falling to the #3 seed. Though Kentucky lost to LSU recently, they still finished strong with wins over ranked South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Tennessee teams. The Wildcats pulled away from Tennessee in the regular season finale and served notice that the top seed might not be the favorite to win the tournament.

Kentucky is loaded with talent. Senior guard A’Dia Mathies has been the constant during the rapid rise of the Kentucky program. She’s aided on the perimeter by Jennifer O’Neill. The guards have plenty of help inside – Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth have to be accounted for. Kentucky’s style is characterized by relentless pressure that has them tops in both steals and turnover margin. If teams can break the pressure, there’s opportunity for favorable numbers, but that’s easier said than done.

3. Georgia (12-4, 24-5): Georgia is another team that thrives on its defense. The Lady Dogs are second only to Kentucky in steals and turnover margin, and they thrive on creating points from those turnovers. They’re among the top three in scoring defense and opponent shooting percentage.

The senior trio of Hassell, Armstrong, and James often sets the tone on defense, but they’re not always among the team’s leading scorers. Hassell has been great down the stretch both in scoring and rebounding. The production of James and Armstrong can vary wildly. Georgia’s depth has been bolstered by a strong freshman class. Shacobia Barbee, Merritt Hempe, and Tiaria Griffin will see lots of time. Thanks to the contributions of the freshmen, Georgia should be fresher entering the postseason than they’ve been in years.

Georgia’s weakness is a big one: they don’t shoot the ball all that well. They’re 9th in overall shooting percentage (40.5%), 11th in three-point percentage (27.9%), and 10th in free throw percentage (66.8%). Considering that those numbers are inflated by the volume of transition chances created by the defense, halfcourt offense can be an adventure for Georgia. The defense has been good enough to cover for several sluggish nights shooting the ball, but it has cost them in some puzzling upset losses (Illinois and Mississippi State).

4. Texas A&M (11-5, 21-9): Which SEC school has the most recent national title in women’s hoops? Not so fast, Tennessee. The addition of A&M to the SEC made big waves in football of course, but the Aggies have also been a recent powerhouse in this sport. A&M imported coach Gary Blair from Arkansas, and he built a program that broke through for a national championship two years ago. Conference re-alignment brought Blair right back into the SEC, and his team roared out to a 10-1 start in the conference. The Aggies have stumbled recently, losing four of their last five. They’ve been competitive in nearly every loss, but the sheer number of losses and the late slide took them from the brink of a title to the fourth seed. A win over South Carolina could set up a semifinal showdown with Tennessee and a chance to recapture some of the momentum and stature they enjoyed a few weeks ago.

This is still a very dangerous team. South Carolina transfer Kelsey Bone is perhaps the SEC’s most dominant frontcourt player on offense. She’s third in scoring, second in rebounding, and tops in field goal percentage. Few teams can match up well with her, and the Aggies have guards, especially Courtney Walker, that can make teams pay for showing too much attention to Bone. The Aggies don’t have to attempt a lot of outside shots – no team has attempted fewer three-pointers – but they’re tops in the league (36.3%) at hitting them. But if the backcourt is misfiring, as they did in the season-ender against LSU (0-of-8 from outside), not even Bone can carry the Aggies past better teams.

5. South Carolina (11-5, 23-6): Dawn Staley’s team took a big step forward last year with a Sweet 16 run. Their style is consistent: low-scoring, grinding defensive battles. They’re tops in the SEC in scoring defense and next-to-last in scoring offense. It won’t be aesthetically pleasing, but the formula has worked to lift the Gamecocks from the basement to a team that’s often right around the 4 or 5 seed and a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

South Carolina is built on attacking the basket – they drive and crash the boards. They don’t shoot well, but they’re tops in the SEC in rebounding margin. Forwards Aleighsa Welch and Ashley Bruner are the top scorers and rebounders, and Ieasia Walker is the top threat from outside. If South Carolina survives their Thursday game, and they will, Friday’s quarterfinal with A&M will be a war. Only two points separated the teams in an earlier meeting won by A&M. The Bone storyline will be a big one, and both teams take pride in defense.

6. LSU (10-6, 19-10): If it’s the end of the season, LSU must be on a winning streak. A year ago they won six of their final seven regular season games and rolled on into the SEC championship game. This year they enter the tournament as the conference’s hottest team and winners of their last six games. A heartbreaking home loss to Tennessee on February 7th dropped LSU to 4-6 in league play and 13-10 overall. They’ve turned it around and are on a six-game tear that includes wins over Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas A&M.

Forward Theresa Plaisance has taken a big step forward in her junior year. The former McDonald’s All-American struggled as a freshman and only tallied just over 2 points per game. She came off the bench as a sophomore and improved slightly to 4.5 PPG. She’s now right at the top of the SEC scoring chart at 17.6 points per game. She’s also among the top ten in rebounding and leads the SEC in blocked shots. Teams can’t afford to pay too much attention to Plaisance because Adrienne Webb is a credible perimeter threat. Danielle Ballard is the likely SEC Freshman of the Year and posted consecutive double-doubles to end the season. Ballard stands out as a freshman for making the hustle plays – she’s an effective rebounder from the guard position and leads the SEC in steals.

7. Vanderbilt (9-7, 19-10): It’s an exaggeration to say that Vandy has had a disappointing season, but they’ve struggled to gain much momentum this year. They have a big non-conference win over Oklahoma, and a recent upset of A&M might’ve been the win that clinches their spot in the NCAA Tournament. But Vanderbilt went from early January to the last week of the season without consecutive conference wins. The Vanderbilt offense flows through senior forward Tiffany Clarke, and Jasmine Lister is a veteran point guard. Another experienced guard, Christina Foggie, is working back from an injury.

Vanderbilt’s opening opponent, Missouri, will be a concern only if the Tigers can get hot from outside. That plays into Vanderbilt’s strength – they’re the SEC’s top defense against the three-pointer. Vandy did a great job taking away this element of Missouri’s game when the teams met in Nashville. Mizzou was a horrid 4-of-27 from outside, and Vanderbilt came away with an uneventful win. We expect a similar result on Thursday as a loss to Missouri would do serious damage to Vanderbilt’s postseason hopes.

8. Arkansas (6-10, 18-11): Arkansas followed a familiar pattern of starting the season strong and then struggling to sustain success in SEC play. They started 12-1 and notched a win over then-#17 Kansas. Fayetteville proved to be a tough place to play, as usual, but Arkansas couldn’t close out home upset opportunities against Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Six of their ten SEC losses have been by six points or less, but those losses might be enough to keep them from a consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.

The Hogs are led by a pair of versatile forwards who can score inside or outside. Sarah Watkins is Arkansas’ leading scorer, and Quistelle Williams has continued the form she showed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. She’s prone to foul trouble, though. The Razorbacks succeed with defense – only South Carolina does a better job limiting opponent field goal percentage.

9. Florida (6-10, 17-13): It’s been a frustrating year for Amanda Butler’s squad. There’s some good talent – Jennifer George is an experienced forward, Jaterra Bonds is a capable guard, and Sydney Moss has emerged as one of the conference’s top freshmen. It just hasn’t been enough – there’s a nice early win over LSU before the Tigers caught fire, but the rest of Florida’s SEC wins have come against the bottom of the league. It’s not that they haven’t been competitive – seven of their ten conference losses have been within ten points. The biggest problem has been on defense where they rank 12th in scoring defense.

There’s reason for optimism – at least on Thursday. Florida had a relatively easy time with Arkansas in Gainesville a week ago, and they held the Razorbacks to just 31% from the floor. If Florida can defend that well on a neutral floor, they have a good chance to advance to a rematch with Tennessee – a team Florida took to overtime earlier in the season.

10. Missouri (6-10, 17-13): As with football, Missouri didn’t have quite the impact on the SEC that Texas A&M had. Still, Columbia proved to be a dangerous place for some of the conference’s best teams. Tennessee and South Carolina both lost on Missouri’s home court. The key for Missouri is simple: outside shooting. Mizzou hit a school-record 253 three-pointers this year – no other SEC school made more than 200. In their February 3rd upset of Tennessee, Missouri drilled 11 three-pointers. They concluded the regular season hitting 13-of-28 three-pointers against Bama.

The good news for Vanderbilt, Missouri’s first-round opponent, is that Missouri’s excellent shooting has been hard to come by away from home. They have a pair of road wins against poor Alabama and Ole Miss teams, but five of their six road losses were by 15 points or more. Morgan Eye is the SEC’s top three-point shooter at nearly 42%, and she and forward Bri Kulas will have to be on fire for Missouri to have a chance of advancing.

11. Auburn (5-11, 16-13): Former Georgia assistant Terri Williams-Flournoy was hired from Georgetown to take over head coaching duties at Auburn. It’s been a rough debut for a coach who built Georgetown into a respectable program. To be fair, Williams-Flournoy hasn’t had a lot with which to work. The Tigers won the regular season finale against Mississippi State and avoided Wednesday’s play-in game.

Auburn has good size – 6’1″ guard Hasina Muhammad leads the team in scoring but prefers to work inside the arc. Wing Blanche Alverson is a capable threat from outside. Sisters Tyrese and Tra’Cee Tanner contribute in the frontcourt.

12. Mississippi State (5-11, 13-16): The Bulldogs also welcomed a new coach. Vic Schaefer was the respected “defensive coordinator” for Gary Blair’s Arkansas and Texas A&M programs, and he’s been working towards this opportunity for a long time.

The Bulldogs dropped their first six SEC games, but they’ve gone .500 since. They won four of their last five home games, including wins over Arkansas and Georgia. Schaefer hasn’t had the raw material to craft a defense comparable to what he had at A&M, but there has been some progress by one player in particular. Center Martha Alwal leads the league in rebounding and is second in blocks.

13. Alabama (2-14, 12-17): It’s been another year at the bottom of the conference for Alabama. They won a couple of early SEC games against Ole Miss and Auburn, but they’ve lost their last ten. The Tide are at or near the bottom in shooting percentage offense and defense, and that’s about all you need to know. Mississippi State hasn’t had a great year, but it would be a mild upset for Alabama to win on Wednesday.

Hey, wait, aren’t there 14 SEC teams?

Yep. One team, Ole Miss, won’t even make the trip. An investigation into “recruiting and academic misconduct” led to the dismissal of the head coach and several staffers entering this season. The school also self-imposed sanctions including a one-year postseason ban. That self-imposed ban will leave us one team short in Duluth.