Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dawgs Edge LSU

LSU is really, really struggling.  Hard to even think of how they were set up for success last year with Ben Simmons running point guard.  Antonio Blakeny was in that same recruiting class.  He has been performing pretty well over the last few games, but I had no idea that the very next year LSU would beat Missouri in a race to last place in the SEC.

So glad the Dawgs pulled this one out.  Wasn't able to watch the game, but from all I understand, J.J. was huge yet again.  29 points, 8 assists.  Dude is incredible.

Well, I guess Mark Fox is your coach for next year.  If we had lost to LSU, I'm not sure he would have survived.  

However, after losing Yante Maten to injury, and has recently been revealed, Jordan Harris to a bone chip, Mark Fox has coached us to a win in the next two games.  Sure, we lost to Kentucky in that game that Yante was hurt, but we were neck and neck to the end.  Alabama and LSU aren't that great (Alabama will be a top three SEC team next year, though), but the point is that UGA finally was able to win close games.  

I'm thinking Yante will be back next year, and you have to like a front court of a seasoned and healthy Maten with Derek Ogbeide in the middle, and a multi-skilled Hammonds at the three.  You still have Mike Edwards and Nicolas Claxton off the bench.  Our back court will be challenged after J.J. graduates, but a rotation of Crump, Harris, Jackson, Hightower, and Parker might be okay if any of those five can advance the ball against pressure and drive the ball to the rim.

Can we bring in Isaiah Miller or Isaiah Banks?  I'd love Miller, since he could give us help at point guard.  But if for any reason Miller isn't the guy, then Banks from the metro Atlanta area is a 6' 5" shooting guard/small forward who can defend multiple positions.  Neither one of them are being heavily recruited, but both are super-athletic, and would be great additions.

As far as closing the 2017 season out, Georgia could indeed go on a run.  Have to figure that Auburn, our opponent in the last home game, won't be able to exploit the lack of Yante in the middle.  They mostly dribble-drive and shoot three pointers.  

We wouldn't play Kentucky until the end, and though we have Florida in our side of the bracket, they're not the same team without Egbunu.

Felton did it.  Perhaps Fox can harness the "Tornado Terriers" spirit and somehow win the SEC Tournament.  Let's play hard to end the season and see what happens.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Maten's Injury: Q-Qbd

Yante Maten has been "Da Man" for UGA basketball.  Leading the team in scoring and blocked shots, notching huge games against opponents' bigger front lines, shooting 53 percent from the floor for 19 points a game, and corralling 7 boards per outing, Maten has way out-produced expectations from when he and Osahen Iduwe were the two spring commitments in April 2014.

Maten has been so central to the way that UGA plays this season, that it is difficult to imagine Georgia having any successful offensive sets without him.  But injuries happen, and for perpetually "snake-bit" UGA basketball, they come at the worst times and in the weirdest of ways.  Remember back in January 2015 in the middle of the season when Maten suffered a concussion from being hit by a car?

Up to this past weekend, Georgia had somehow managed to avoid bad injuries this season.  J.J. Frazier had two or three scary-looking falls, but he was able to bounce back.  Georgia's heart and soul, Maten and Frazier, logged major minutes, and while J.J. has not had his best shooting year, UGA's dynamic duo kept Georgia competitive in just about all of our contests.

Well, with Maten going down with a sprained knee, suffered in the first few minutes of our last game against Kentucky, Georgia faces the daunting future of closing out the season without him.

If Yante's knee injury was a nuclear bomb dropped on the hoops hopes of UGA's 2017 basketball team, what about the near and long-term fall-out?  Let's look at the Q-cubed equation.

1.  Fox coaching (quality)

Although most UGA fans have their minds made up on whether Mark Fox can coach, I suppose that now we'll really see what he can do.  If Fox somehow, without Maten, manages to win more than half of our remaining games, you have to figure the guy has done his best coaching this season, if not his entire 8-year Georgia career.

2.  Fox coaching (quantity)

How many more years does Fox get?  Is 2017 the end?  Athletic Director Greg McGarity was once quoted as saying, "anything that has to be done eventually has to be done now."  That phrase, or something close to it, was given as the kind of thinking that led to the Mark Richt dismissal.

Following that same logic would probably lead to Fox suffering the same fate as Richt, an end-of-season pink slip.

Can't you see the performance review?  "Coach Fox, I see you gave yourself an A- on your 2017 performance self-analysis.  Care to explain that?"

"Well, you see how I graduated all my guys.  Sure, I have yet to win a single NCAA Tournament game in my 8 years, but everyone knows that it takes at least 15 years to turn UGA's program around.  We're just beyond that half-way point, now, and you see how I graduated all my guys.  Besides, we were just about to beat Kentucky when Yante got injured, and but for that freak accident, probably would have won the SEC Tournament and gone to the Big Dance."

Does the Maten injury generate any sympathy?  Will it get Fox past the "just do it (now)" approach of his boss?

3.  Fox coaching (quandary)

By quandary, I mean how will Fox answer the following questions?  Which style gives UGA the best chance to win?  Will he, looking at his personnel, finally realize that you can't micro-manage your way to basketball success in the SEC?  Without Maten to feed in the post, will Fox stop the crazy substitutions, give in and play more up-tempo?  Allow the talented freshman guards more minutes?

He might have to.

Fox, frustrated with the number of UGA turnovers, announced after a recent game that he might have to coach the way he did a couple of years ago--  slow the game down, and make every play call from the bench.

However, the 2017 team has no Chuck Mann, a powerfully-built point guard, who could, with the shot clock running down, drive the ball toward the rim and get fouled.  I suppose that when he made the above comment, Fox had in mind playing a version of "snail-ball", such that just about every play would go through Yante.  Well, now there's no Yante.

If we try snail-ball at this point, we'll probably just resort to "iso-J.J.", a game strategy that other teams will likely prepare for, and that even with Maten on the floor has already failed Georgia both early and late in games this year.

Facing his personnel quandary and realizing that he needs to coach like his job is on the line, I think he has to modestly speed things up, try different defenses, and allow guys to play, make the good pass, and shoot when they're open.

4.  Go or Stay?

Maten has a quandary of his own.  Go, or stay?

If Yante simply looks at his predecessors, the decision is pretty much made.  Coach Fox has had a few basketball players before who have faced the "go or stay" conundrum--  two players Fox inherited from Coach Felton, and one he brought in on his own.  But each guy who potentially had NBA ability-- Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, decided to forego their full college eligibility and opt for early entry into the pro ranks.

What about Maten?  Well, the jury was out on whether he would come back.  Some felt, perhaps selfishly for UGA's sake, that Yante needed another year to develop his game.  Others looked toward the future with dread, thinking that Maten would probably bolt for the pro ranks, especially since next year there won't be any J.J. Frazier to feed him.

Well, a wrench has just been thrown in the decision machine.  Now that Yante's been injured, I think he just about has to stay.

The potential of a knee injury is always in the back an athlete's mind.  That nagging concern can feel like a pebble in your proverbial career-choice shoe.  As you think about your family, your future, and the kinds of salaries guys are getting these days. even the NBA bench-riders, the knee-injury possibility is a thought that presents itself again and again.  It's a powerful motivator to cause student athletes to go for the money early, or at least, like Todd Gurley, get an insurance policy.

But once a knee injury in fact occurs, and worse, happens late in a college junior's sports career, it totally changes the dynamics.

Pro scouts, who are paid to not gamble with a franchise's money, have to distinguish between pretenders and contenders.  If some were casting furtive glances toward Yante or even staring him down, their gaze might be averted now.  "Perhaps he needs to play his senior year to see if his knee is really in good shape."

Since even with healthy knees, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie only played a few months of Big League basketball, Yante probably is best served now by returning for his senior season.

The question remains:  If he does return, will Yante have to adjust to a new head coach?

Stay tuned.  Tonight's Alabama game and the Q-qbd equation over the last few contests could make all the difference.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Difference between Josh Pastner and Mark Fox

There are plenty, but perhaps this exchange from an article is most telling:

Earlier this month, a reporter asked Pastner about his plan for the long rebuild of Georgia Tech basketball. Pastner cut him off.
“Not a long rebuild,” he said, cracking a smile. “A major rebuild.”