Better Know An Opponent: Georgia

The Gamecocks try to right the ship after the debacle in Gainesville on Wednesday night as the Georgia Bulldogs come to Columbia riding a two-game win streak.

The Bulldogs themselves lost by 33 to the Gators in Gainesville earlier in the year, and then dropped a game to lowly Mississippi State in Athens on their way to an 0-3 start in conference play.  Since then, they’ve won three of four, with the only loss coming from a second game against the Gators, this time a 17-point loss in Athens.

Georgia over-scheduled this season, taking on a number of teams in non-conference action that were either name opponents (losses to Indiana, UCLA, and Georgia Tech) or schools from historically weaker conferences that are having strong seasons (more losses to Southern Miss, Youngstown State, and Iona).  They did grab two nice non-conference wins against Southern Cal and George Washington, both in Athens, and this team is far better than it’s 9-11 record makes it appear.

Team

Four Factors USC O  UGA D   UGA O USC D   NCAA
eFG 49.1
(140)
45.8
(75)
47.2
(218)
48.3
(173)
48.4
TO% 24.2
(328)
19.9
(204)
24.0
(321)
20.7
(160)
20.4
Oreb% 41.3
(4)
30.7
(127)
29.4
(254)
32.1
(178)
32.0
FTR 38.0
(113)
37.2
(206
42.0
(39)
42.3
(297)
35.6
Adj. Pace 67.2
(136)
63.0
(302)
66.5
Shooting USC O UGA D   UGA O  USC D   NCAA
FT% 69.2
(159)
67.0
(221)
68.8
2P% 48.6
(124)
43.8
(59)
45.3
(245)
48.5
(217)
47.4
3P% 33.4
(174)
33.9
(149)
33.7
3PA% 31.2
(227)
37.0
(297)
33.8
(153)
31.6
(125)
32.9

The Bulldogs make their living on the defensive end of the court, as so many lower-tier SEC schools do this season.  The Bulldogs don’t have any overwhelming strengths, but have been solid across the board against a very good schedule.

My focus will be on seeing whether the Gamecocks can score inside against Georgia’s strong interior defense.  The Bulldogs play exceptional defense inside, both in preventing the attempts (they are willing to let teams live and die on the perimeter) and on defending shots when teams come inside, holding its opponents to under 44 percent on the season, with 11.8 percent of those 2PA misses coming thanks to blocks.

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs struggle mightily in almost all areas bar one – getting to the free throw line.  Georgia scores 23 percent of its points from the line (which ranks 53rd in the NCAA), and given South Carolina’s fouling propensities, they can expect to get plenty of opportunities to score from there again on Saturday.

One area where the Gamecocks can expect to outplay the Bulldogs is on the glass.  As we’re well aware of by now, Carolina owns the offensive glass, and the Bulldogs shouldn’t disrupt that tendency.  On the other side, Georgia doesn’t hit the offensive glass too hard, so extra opportunities for points should come the Gamecocks way.

This game may well turn on an even match-up of weaknesses – turnovers.  Both teams turn the ball over a ton, though neither defense forces turnovers with any particular adeptness.  The Gamecocks started off SEC play with four straight games where the defense forced turnovers on 25 percent or more of possessions, but haven’t eclipsed a 20 percent rate in the last three games.  For Georgia, their defense has only forced a team to turn the ball over on over 20 percent of possessions once in their last six outings, when LSU threw the ball around the gym to the tune of a 30.7 percent turnover rate in a 67-58 Georgia win in Athens.

However, the Gamecocks’ offensive turnover rate has been trending downward of late, whereas Georgia’s has not.  In SEC play, UGA has turned the ball over on 26 percent of possessions, whereas the Gamecocks have only turned the ball over on 23.1 percent of possessions.  That said, Georgia has played Florida twice this year, so their statistics are slightly skewed by the much tougher in-conference strength of schedule.

Individual

BULLDOGS
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
82.6
26.6
53.7
4.2
18.8
17.6
14.6
71-89
67-126
48-133
Nemanja Djurisic
56.9
26.1
41.3
7.7
13.2
16.6
26.8
36-49
41-99
12-44
Vincent Williams
50.2
18.5
48.2
0.9
7.6
26.2
29.3
19-31
11-31
19-51
Charles Mann
50.1
27.3
37.8
2.8
12.5
33.3
32.5
56-90
25-73
5-13
Donte’ Williams
49.4
16.6
48.2
11.4
12.7
2.5
20.9
14-30
40-83
0-0
Sherrard Brantley
45.6
12.2
46.2
1.4
7.2
13.1
18.2
6-11
5-17
17-49
Brandon Morris
37.8
17.6
46.3
3.3
12.8
11
22.3
34-49
22-49
2-5
John Florveus
35.6
11.6
58.1
7.9
12.8
2.4
35.8
6-15
18-31
0-0
Tim Dixon
26.8
11.3
56.7
5.3
17
6.6
25.8
7-8
17-30
0-0
Marcus Thornton**
24.4
15.5
37.9
9
15.1
10.5
24.7
9-16
11-27
1-6
John Cannon
20.5
19.3
50
9.2
16.7
0
23.6
7-7
23-46
0-0
Kenny Gaines
19.8
20.9
39.4
2.4
9.4
6.4
17
7-11
10-28
7-24
GAMECOCKS
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Lakeem Jackson
77.4
17.2
61.6
10.1
15.6
15.8
24.6
16-48
82-134
2-4
Eric Smith
69.6
17.1
38.9
1.5
5.2
22.3
30.1
26-39
31-79
11-43
Mindaugas Kacinas
56.1
15.7
58.9
10.7
12.8
7.9
29
26-38
45-69
3-15
Brenton Williams
53.6
21.8
55.5
1.4
8.1
12.6
17.4
59-71
34-72
31-73
Brian Richardson
46.5
20.9
51.8
5.7
11.2
15
17.2
21-28
27-65
29-71
Bruce Ellington
42
23
41.7
3.1
8.9
14.5
29.5
19-33
32-75
9-34
RJ Slawson
41.1
18
46.6
14.3
13.3
8.3
22.6
30-43
31-64
2-9
Michael Carrera
36.8
26.8
49
15.6
25.8
8.3
22.8
47-61
47-98
2-4
Damien Leonard
29.6
19.3
38.8
6.5
13.2
6.5
25.5
9-13
10-31
13-45
Laimonas Chatkevicius
17.5
23.9
50
12.6
17.2
13.4
31.3
13-19
18-35
1-4

**Not expected to play

Georgia’s offense focuses on two things – getting to the foul line, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  As we said in our SEC Power Poll ballot this week:

 This team’s offense begins and ends with Caldwell-Pope.  When he goes 8-12 from the field and grabs 9 rebounds against A&M on the road, they win. When he’s 5-14 from the floor at home against Mississippi State, they lose.

Caldwell-Pope is the Georgia offense, playing by far the most minutes, and taking 32.4 percent of the team’s shots while on the court (that’s good for 33rd in the nation).  He scores at an above-average rate on shots no matter if they’re worth one, two, or three points, and does a very good job of avoiding turnovers given that level of production.

Given his centrality to the ability of Georgia to win, it’ll be critical for Bruce Ellington (or whoever matches up with Caldwell-Pope) to stay with Caldwell-Pope and try to make an impact on his play.  It’ll also be critical that whoever is matched up against Caldwell-Pope on the other side of the floor maintains control of the basketball, as his 4.4 percent steal rate means he’s disruptive on both ends of the court.

Defending him could be difficult for Bruce, because Caldwell-Pope stands 6’5″ as compared to Bruce’s 5’9″ frame.  Coach Martin talks about not letting size matter a great deal, though that’s something he says repeatedly because size is an issue we’re frequently forced to address this year, given the under-sized nature of almost all of our players at almost every position (only Laimonas and Richardson could be said to be tall for their spots on the floor).  The Bulldogs starters are all over 6’0″ tall, and its front-line comes in at 6’11” (Florveus), 6’9″ (Donte’ Williams), and 6’7″ (Morris).

Though we have 12 players listed above for Georgia that play over 10 percent of their minutes (their bench plays 42.1% of their minutes, 15th in the nation, and even higher than South Carolina’s 39.0%, which is 34th), they’ve finally settled into an 8-man rotation, with Mann, Djurisic, and Brantley joining the starters, and each contributing significant minutes (the seven players that aren’t Caldwell-Pope typically play between 15-25 minutes each).

When they’re on the court, look for Djurisic and Mann to play a huge rule in Georgia’s offense.  In particular, Mann loves to get inside and get to the line, so the foul-prone Gamecocks will need to be careful to avoid letting Georgia run up the score from the free throw stripe.  As for Djurisic, while he takes a ton of shots, he doesn’t make them with any particular degree of effectiveness, so if you see him throwing the ball up from all over the court, it’s likely a good sign for the Gamecocks.

Vincent Williams runs the point for the Bulldogs, and his impact on the game could end up determinative depending on how it comes out for him – his assist rate of 26.2 percent is excellent, but his turnover rate of 29.3 percent is atrocious.  His ability (or inability) to control the game with his ball-handling and ball distribution will be important.

Given how often the Bulldogs let opponents shoot the 3-ball, Brenton Williams and Brian Richardson could be poised to make a big impact on the game (especially if Richardson can play good defense and help bring some size to the floor for the Gamecocks at the two guard).

It’ll also be critical for the Gamecocks to hammer the glass, and Slawson, Kacinas, and Jackson will be counted on to keep up their offensive rebounding rates – each of them are rebounding at a rate that puts them in the top 500 of players nationally (who’ve played over 40 percent of their team’s minutes).  Chatkevicius’ rate of 12.6 percent would also put him in that range if he had the minutes, so the Gamecocks have the personnel to press this advantage.  The key will be doing so.

Predictions

KenPom: 62-61 W (53%)

TeamRankings: 71-66 W (66%)

This game should be a close one, with match-ups to exploit on both ends.  The Gamecocks should get more opportunities to score from the field with their rebounding advantage on both ends, but the Bulldogs should get to the line a ton, which will give them the chance to stay in the game despite those extra opportunities.  Of course, both teams have it within them offensively to turn the ball over a ton, and if one team gets out of hand with the turnovers while the other breaks its own form, that could easily swing the game.

The Gamecocks may struggle to score on the interior, but Georgia similarly struggles from inside.  Given Georgia’s defensive decision to let teams take the 3-point shot if they want it, South Carolina could exploit the advantage with its two outside shooters and pile up points from the outside.  That’s not Martin’s preferred style, but the interior buckets aren’t coming this year.  On the other hand, it’s easier to grab rebounds off 2PAs, and so I doubt we’ll completely abandon that part of the game.

While Georgia’s probably the slightly better team, the teams that have really made the Gamecocks struggle have been those with a dominant post presence.  That’s not how Georgia gets it done on the offensive end, and between that and home-court advantage, I think the Gamecocks will have just enough to walk away with a victory in what should be yet another close, hard-fought SEC battle.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
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2 Responses to Better Know An Opponent: Georgia

  1. Pingback: Gamecocks outplay Georgia, but Bulldogs outshoot Carolina, and prevail 67-56 |

  2. Pingback: Gamecocks finally get it right, beat Ole Miss 63-62 |

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