Why Washington Was Worst Draw for UGA

The University of Georgia was in last place in the SEC last season in men’s basketball and made a remarkable turnaround in year two of the coach Mark Fox era. At 21-11, UGA has a decent record, and the Dawgs are battle-tested from having been in the rugged SEC East, playing twice each against fellow tournament teams: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Out of conference, Georgia faced strong competition from tournament squads: Xavier, UAB, Temple and Notre Dame.

Georgia’s record against top teams was notably bad; they just won a few big games and beat every team they were clearly supposed to beat. Washington does not fall into that category coming off a Pac-10 tournament championship. The glaring problems for UGA are lack of depth, inability to consistently shoot the ball from outside, and above all the lack of a killer instinct to close out good teams when playing with a lead. This last problem was notable in two recent slip-ups against BAMA – losses that could have cost UGA a trip to the Big Dance if BAMA’s schedule was remotely close to comparable to UGA’s this season. BAMA came from way behind twice to beat Georgia, and both teams ended the season with the same overall win total.

All three weaknesses are definitely interrelated. A team rotating as few as six regular players will tend to tire near the end of a tight ballgame playing against a deep team that subs frequently and runs. The most laborious way to score is by working for shots near the basket as UGA must, and conversely the least energy is exerted by pouring in outside shots. Georgia’s perimeter players (Dustin Ware, Gerald Robinson Jr., Travis Leslie) are noteworthy for their athleticism and overall skill set, not their long range shooting ability.

Led by scoring point guard Isaiah Thomas, godson of the Detroit Piston great by the same name, the Washington Huskies are dogs of a different bread. Though they actually have better inside size than UGA, they rotate deeply and are known for a fast-paced style. Tempo, tempo, tempo. It grinds on teams that cannot keep up with Udub in fast break scoring. All season long, Georgia has struggled with running and gunning teams. The games have been close, but the Dawgs have found themselves on the short end of those contests. And while Georgia can become cold late in big games, Washington has regularly come up with big scores to win close games.

I can’t say I like our chances in this contest, unless we play better than we have all season. Win and we get the blue blood University of North Carolina Tarheels in a border war that would be played in the hostile confines of Charlotte, North Carolina. Win that contest, and this would undeniably be a special basketball team that gelled at the right time. Regardless, I’d like to see Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie return for their senior seasons, as Trey can go from proven talent to utterly dominant and Leslie can quiet the skeptics by continuing to improve his outside stroke and mid-range scoring created off the dribble.