Bryant at Georgia Preview

Georgia will take on Bryant without Jordan Harris or Mike Edwards.

Hope springs with a new season and after a long stretch of time since the disappointing loss to Belmont, a new iteration of Georgia Bulldogs will play a game that actually counts for something.  Bryant is the opponent and Mark Fox’s Dawgs will be a bit short-handed without Shooting Guard Jordan Harris and Power Forward Mike Edwards.  The losses of Harris and Edwards are said to be of a disciplinary nature and that they will come back soon.

Harris’ absence is a big topic of conversation for good reason.  Harris is the best defender, shooter and scorer in the Georgia Backcourt.  Tyree Crump is not a natural Shooting Guard and his skill set actually fits the Point Guard role better, but Teshaun Hightower is poised to usurp the role.  Turtle Jackson had good performances against Clemson and Valdosta State with a complete clunker against Michigan State.  If Jackson can get his feet set and shoot well, he could see time at Shooting Guard while Crump gets time at the Point Guard spot.  Crump is said to be splitting responsibilities at the 1 and 2.

As for the reasons regarding Harris’ absence, there are theories as to what is happening.  Here’s what we know:  Jordan Harris still has bone chips in his knee and he’s managing it, he was suspended this season for disciplinary issues, last season he was seen on the court wincing during the second half of the conference season and the pain negatively impacted his play.  Read between the lines and it may not be hard to think of what could be happening.

Onto Bryant

Bryant is in the lower half of the Northeastern Conference (NEC) and they hail from Smithfield, Rhode Island.  Tim O’Shea is in his tenth year as Head Coach after a seven year stint with Ohio.  O’Shea took the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament in the 2004-05 Season and their season ended at the hands of Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators.

O’Shea is a Boston College alum and he graduated two years after Bruce Pearl, which means that he was playing while Pearl was a student manager for the team.  Small world.

O’Shea’s teams at Bryant have been toward the bottom of the country in defensive efficiency in recent years and tempo has more often than not been below average pace, but last season featured a team that was above average in pace.  This season, Bryant may end up being a bit faster than last season.

O’Shea tends to favor zone defenses.  Do not be surprised to see extended 1-3-1 and 2-3 Zone Defenses from Bryant tonight and it may be a bit reminiscent of what it could be like to face Ole Miss later on this season.

On offense, O’Shea runs the Modified Flex Offense as he is a Dr. Tom Davis disciple, just like Bruce Pearl.  However, unlike Pearl during his time with Auburn, O’Shea is more committed to running it.

The Bryant Roster

Last Season’s Stats and Efficiency

Nisre Zouzoua, Marcel Pettway and Dan Garvin are gone.  There’s a lot to replace there.  This is a relatively young and inexperienced team.  It is hard to see it on a roster listing, but it is much easier to see on a scholarship distribution chart.

Much of the team’s size is inexperienced or has not produced much.  Bash Townes is the best frontcourt player they have and he’s built like Admiral Schofield of Tennessee (6’5″ 240 pounds).  Townes has not produced on the glass and has been a defensive liability despite his ability to score.  However, Bash Townes will not play tonight against Georgia because of appendicitis.

The Bryant Backcourt is a much better situation, Bosko Kostur is a strong shooter who needs more shot attempts and can rebound for his position.  Adam Grant is the best returning pickpocketer on this team and he’s an average three point shooter.  Ikenna Ndugba is the Point Guard and leading distributor for the team, he is a terrible shooter (likely explained by the fact he takes his threes off the bounce) and a good rebounder for his position.

Bryant was 62nd in the country in shot distribution percentage in the money zones, but without Dan Garvin and Marcel Pettway, who is going to take the lion’s share of shots inside the restricted arc?

Bryant had a pretty good three point defense last season giving up 33.7% from beyond the arc (87th in the country), but could not defend the restricted arc at all.  This season, their interior defense is even worse and they will have to hope that their zone defense serves as a deterrent.

Bryant was pounded by Boston College in an exhibition game at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  In this matchup, Bryant committed 22 turnovers and their only double digit scorer was Bosko Kostur who went 4 for 5 from three point range.  Bryant interestingly outrebounded Boston College, but the difference was Bryant’s inability to take care of the basketball and defend the perimeter.  Boston College is a team with a rather weak frontcourt and it is a bit of an accomplishment for a team like Bryant to control the glass and win out on second chance points.

Ryan Layman is expected to emerge as a perimeter option this season who will help significantly while Townes is out.

Expected starting lineup:

PG:  Ikenna Ndugba

SG/PG:  Adam Grant

3G:  Hunter Ware

Combo:  Bosko Kostur

Post:  Gus Riley

Sixth Man:  Ryan Layman

What to Expect

Given Bryant’s zone defense and lack of depth in the frontcourt, Georgia should feast and not be tested in the half court offense.  Georgia will be able to move the ball around with ease and set up Yante Maten or Derek Ogbeide wherever they need to be.  Georgia will dominate the glass and get second chance opportunities.  This is going to be an absolute blowout for the Dawgs and it should be over by the end of the first half.  Tonight is not about Maten or Ogbeide, it is about getting everyone else acclimated.

If Georgia pounded Clemson, Georgia should be able to pound Bryant.  The big test is to see how Teshaun Hightower handles the extended zone looks and whether he can be patient enough to get his opportunities to score and dish when necessary.

Defensively, the question is going to be “Who guards Bosko Kostur?”  It may end up being E’Torrion Wilridge because pulling Yante Maten so far away from the basket on defense may not be a good idea.  However, it will be interesting to see if Nicolas Claxton or Rayshaun Hammonds get a crack at it in the second half.  The backcourt is too small to guard Kostur, but it would actually be interesting to see if Fox chooses to put a post on Ndugba considering the fact that he is such a bad shooter.  The objective may be a sort of a pack line sort of a defensive approach with smothering defense on Kostur.

Isaac Kante should get some valuable experience tonight in the second half and this will likely be a major reason to keep watching.  Kante’s minutes will be reduced once the level of competition rises, but he needs the experience so that he can be a contributor later this season.  If Kante is getting minutes and there’s no noticeable drop-off this season, it is an extremely bullish sign for the program going forward.  So keep an eye on the ultra-physical Power Forward from Brooklyn tonight.

Prediction:  Georgia 90  Bryant 57