SEC Make or Break: Georgia BulldogsPosted by Brian Joyce on October 25th, 2011
The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. The next team in the series is the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia lost a lot of scoring and star power by losing early entrants Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA draft. However, there is still enough talent in Athens to field a good team. Senior guard Gerald Robinson returns along with his 12.2 PPG, and Mark Fox landed a 6’4″ standout guard named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from nearby Greenville. Georgia made the NCAA Tournament last year primarily because of Thompkins and Leslie, but also because they have become an outstanding defensive team. The Bulldogs held opponents to 39.7% shooting from the field. If Fox can get his team to buy in to team defense, then the Dogs can remain competitive in the SEC. Expect UGA to get out and run this year because they have the athleticism to push the tempo, and also because a faster pace will help minimize the effect that losing Thompkins and Leslie will have on the Georgia front line.
The three key non-conference games that will make or break the Bulldogs schedule this season:
- November 21 – vs. California: In addition to consistent scoring, Georgia will be looking for leadership in the early going. What better place to determine the identity of this team than a preseason tournament game against a Cal team that could win the Pac-12? The Bears return three double-digit scorers from last year, and are a tough and physical team that will test the resolve of the Bulldogs. The way that Georgia responds, especially so early in the season, will tell us a lot about the mental and physical fortitude of the young Bulldogs. Cal is most certainly an NCAA Tournament team, and even a close loss could be a good sign for Georgia so long as they can find leadership and consistent scoring. Finding a low post threat to go along with that would be a great bonus!
- November 28 – at Colorado: Georgia has tough games at Xavier and vs. Cincinnati, but this game matches Georgia against a team they are very similar to. The Buffaloes, like Georgia, were hurt by an early departure to the NBA draft. In addition to losing star shooting guard Alec Burks, Colorado lost its next three top scorers as well. Despite being on the road, this is a game that Georgia should win and that is what makes it a make or break game. Colorado is a team that has struggled with rebounding and low post scoring in the past. Tad Boyle’s team allowed opponents to shoot 44.8% from the field last year, so Georgia should be able to give Robinson and Caldwell-Pope the ball with scoring opportunities available. Georgia has the better team and significantly more talent than CU, so this should be a road win against a power conference team that gives the Bulldogs substantial confidence moving forward.
- December 7 – vs. Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is a team that really struggled last year and has been unable to define a post presence. The Yellow Jackets’ leading returning rebounder is a shooting guard, Glen Rice, Jr., at 5.6 RPG. This should be a good test for Georgia in this annual rivalry game as the Dogs look to run and gun to overshadow its own deficiencies down low. The front court of Georgia Tech should be a good measuring stick for how the Bulldogs are developing their big men at this point of the season. Believe it or not, Georgia’s leading returning rebounder is 5’11″ guard Dustin Ware with 2.9 RPG, so Mark Fox’s team will have to find a low post presence somewhere to replace Leslie and Thompkins, and this seems like a good game to find their way. In addition, Georgia Tech is a team that had difficulty getting things pointed in a positive direction last year, so this becomes a game the Dogs can’t afford to lose prior to heading into the tough SEC East.