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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Georgia

Year One of the Avery Johnson era nears its end

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Well, there's no way of sugar-coating the loss to Arkansas on Wednesday night: it was a heart-breaker. Regardless of that outcome, and regardless of how the rest of this season plays out, this has been a rousing success of a first year for Avery Johnson at the Capstone. With one game left in the regular season, Alabama will try to finish the conference schedule without a losing record for the first time since 2013. The last hurdle standing in their way is Mark Fox and his Georgia Bulldogs (16-12, 9-8 SEC), who are coming off a huge win and a season sweep over the NCAA Tournament-bound South Carolina Gamecocks.

Fox has never recruited extremely well in Athens, but he's been great at developing the talent that he does bring in and has continued to find success year in and year out. This year's team is very similar. They have a few quality guys who do most of the damage offensively, and they play really good team defense as a whole. As such, the Dawgs are pretty much guaranteed to be NIT-bound, but they are certainly no slouches. Can Alabama finish the season on a high note by ruining Georgia's Senior Day?

The Roster

Starting Line-Up

  • PG 5'10 J.J. Frazier (16.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.5 SPG)
  • OG 6'3 Kenny Gaines (13.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG)
  • 3G 6'5 Charles Mann (10.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.9 SPG)
  • PF 6'8 Yante Maten (15.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.9 BPG)
  • PF 6'8 Derek Ogbeide (4.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.8 BPG)
Georgia doesn't have much depth in their back-court, but they do have one of the best starting groups in the conference. Frazier has made incredible strides from a season ago, increasing his efficiency and impact in a number of areas. He always had the ability to get hot and knock down shots, but he's become much less streaky this season (42.4% FG%, 41.8% 3P%, 78.7% FT%). However, it's not just his shooting that has improved. He's a better ball-handler (nearly three times as many assists as turnovers), defender (a solid 99.5 DRtg), and rebounder (7.8% RB%). Really, Frazier's been one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball.

Frazier's not the only weapon the Dawgs have in the back-court though. Gaines and Mann will finally be playing in their last regular season home game as Bulldogs, after running things in Athens for what seems like six or seven seasons now. Both guards have been strong players for Georgia for years, and they will certainly be looking to go out with a victory. Gaines has always been a bit better of a scorer (Gaines: 40.7% FG%, 40.1% 3P%, 68.8% FT%; Mann: 37.3% FG%, 39.0% 3P%, 69.1% FT%), but Mann is a more skilled passer, defender, and rebounder. Either way, both of these guys are extremely capable, and the Bulldog faithful will miss them badly next season.

Finally, the front-court, where Maten has made major strides in his sophomore campaign. Not only does he average a near-double-double a game, his 7.2% BLK% and 14.7% RB% are both very impressive. He's also not just an inside scorer (though he is a 49.1% scorer from inside of the arc), he also has the ability to stretch defenses with his range (42.9% 3P%). Unfortunately for the Dawgs, he's really their only major offensive threat in the post. Ogbeide is a true freshman with a high ceiling, but his offense is lacking right now (47.5% FG%, 44.4% FT%). However, his 18.7% RB% is one of the best the Tide has seen all season, though he doesn't get a ton of playing time (about fifteen minutes per game).

The Bench
  • G 6'2 William Jackson Jr. (1.3 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 0.6 APG)
  • F 6'6 Kenny Paul Geno (2.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.7 SPG)
  • F 6'6 E'Torrion Wilridge (1.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.7 APG)
  • F 6'8 Houston Kessler (2.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG)
  • F 6'9 Mike Edwards (2.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG)
As mentioned previously, there isn't much back-court depth here. Jackson only plays about seven minutes per game, and it's almost always either garbage time or just to give one of the starting guards a breather. Paul Geno and Wilridge are both interesting wing players. Both are long and give the Dawgs the ability to play big without losing much athleticism. Neither are great scorers, though Wilridge has shown flashes at times (Geno: 33.3% FG%, 23.3% 3P%, 58.3% FT%; Wilridge: 54.2% FG%, 25.0% 3P%, 44.4% FT%). In the post, Kessler and Edwards provide some nice relief. They can both hold their own on the boards (Kessler: 9.2% RB%; Edwards: 11.1%), and their size also allows Georgia to really pack the paint defensively.

What to Watch For

  • Seeding. The SEC standings are pretty wild right now. There are five teams separated by one game in the middle of the pack, including both the Tide and the Bulldogs. Florida, Arkansas, and Ole Miss are all in that same range. On Saturday, Florida plays at Missouri, Ole Miss is in Knoxville, and Arkansas hosts the Gamecocks. Keep an eye out on those games to see where Alabama stands when the dust settles Saturday night. A Gators win, Ole Miss loss, and Arkansas loss, combined with a Bama win, would lead to a five-way tie at 9-9 in the conference.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Defend the Perimeter. Georgia has three good shooting guards and a stretch forward who can step out and knock down three pointers. This has led to a solid 37.1% 3P% for the team, 64th in the country. On the flip-side of that, this team has been atrocious on the offensive interior. Their combined team 2P% is 44.4%, 333rd in all of college basketball. They are literally among the worst teams in the nation at putting the ball in the basket when in the painted area. Obviously, it would serve Alabama well to make sure they have all of Georgia's shooters (and there's not a ton of them) accounted for. Especially considering how well Jimmie Taylor and Donta Hall have been defending the post recently.
  2. Rebounding. What happens when you have two teams that aren't great at getting the ball in the hoop on a consistent basis? You have a large amount of rebounding opportunities. Cleaning up around the glass is always a vital key to any basketball game, but it's particularly important in games like this one. Georgia's only got two great rebounding threats, but they have a ton of length on their bench as well. Also of note is that, since the Dawgs get much of their offensive production away from the basket, they don't get many offensive boards. The Tide have a great opportunity to prevent any second chance points off of offensive rebounds. Whoever wins the rebounding margin on Saturday afternoon will likely win this game.
  3. Give Retin Some Help. Alabama is a very limited offensive team. That isn't a surprise to anybody that's watched the Tide play any of the last few years. However, when the team got on a hot streak early on in February, it's because they were able to get good offensive production from at least one or two other guys each night. That has not been the case in the last four games, which has basically turned into Obasohan doing his best Trevor Releford impression every time down the court. If at least one of Arthur Edwards, Riley Norris, Shannon Hale, or Justin Coleman is on, Alabama becomes a very tough team to beat.
It's been a fun ride for the Crimson Tide this season, and this team has laid the foundation on which Avery Johnson can build this program back up. It would have been nice to see this team make the NCAA Tournament (and they aren't completely out of it), but this year has definitely been a success. With that said, there is one game left before the postseason. Alabama has one more opportunity to improve their conference standing, and it would be a great boost before the SEC Tournament in Nashville if Alabama can grab one on the road against a quality Georgia team.

The game will tip-off at 3:00 PM CST and will be televised on ESPN2.