Mark Fox delivers his first loss in Starkville since January 16, 2010.
There was a bad omen before tip-off, which was Jordan Harris’ indefinite suspension and the team played like they were joining him in Athens. From the start of this game, Georgia was a disinterested, passive and unprepared party. With three preseason games, 21 regular season games and plenty of practices, it does seem like Mark Fox and his staff have figured out the identity of this team. Robotic and lost. With this identity, the team will find a way to achieve the bare minimum expected and help continue the status quo.
Rather than focus on rehashing what was already seen, let’s just go straight to what we all learned tonight.
Georgia is not an NCAA Tournament Team
In fact, this article will be the last that even references Georgia’s odds of making the NCAA Tournament this season unless a tornado hits St. Louis and the SEC is forced to relocate the tournament to Chaifetz Arena.
With a 13-9 record and eight regular season games to go, it is clear that even though the team has opportunities to make major gains against Auburn, Tennessee and Texas A&M, it will simply not be enough. This is a team that is not capable of winning half of the remaining games left on the schedule. The team is what they are and Mark Fox has to start looking to the future and the best time to do it is now.
Either a program is rebuilding, contending or stuck in the middle. Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle and the awkwardness that comes with acknowledging a rebuild in Year 9 to get the team in a different place in Year 10 is far better than the usual too little, too late game that Georgia has played during the last five seasons.
Outwardly acknowledging the need to rebuild the team and changing the style of play to fit the stars of tomorrow rather than the stars of today will do a lot of good.
Yante Maten will not have his One Shining Moment in Athens, he’ll be SEC Player of the Year, but his only memories of the NCAA Tournament will be from his Freshman Season and being summarily bounced from the tournament by Michigan State in Charlotte. The saddest part is that most will not be outraged by this likely development because he is from Michigan.
The last SEC Player of the Year to not make the NCAA Tournament was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The season is not over, but the objectives change and the staff needs a cold dose of reality.
The Team Does Not Know How To Press or Trap
Apparently the 1-2-2 Extended Zone is the only pressing look that the team knows and even when the team is in desperation mode, they give up on it.
It becomes sadder knowing that on in-bounds coming off a score, an out-of-bounds or an offensive foul, the players all drop back and Fox has to remind them to get back up in time to be in 1-2-2 Extended Zone position. It’s executed lethargically and tonight Mississippi State broke it with ease since it was clear that Georgia was going to give up the trap once ball crossed the time line.
Many teams would trap the ball handler in the corner of the frontcourt rather than give up like Georgia did, but those teams may want to win more than Georgia does. #ItJustMeansMore somewhere else.
Other teams choose to use longer players to press, Georgia uses Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump and Juwan Parker to do it. These are the three players on the team with the shortest wingspans.
Georgia does not Full Court Press, but picks up the 1-2-2 Extended Zone (their only actual pressing look beyond the haphazard Run and Jump Press, which is used for the purposes of forcing a turnover or getting a foul shooter to the line late in the game) at the just below the 3/4 court.
The 2-3 Matchup Zone This Season Has Been Half-Assed
The problem is not that Georgia runs a zone defense or even runs a 2-3 Matchup Zone. The 2-3 Matchup Zone is a staple of Hall of Fame coaches and when executed properly is very difficult to beat for any offense. During the past two seasons, Georgia was a pretty good 2-3 Matchup Zone team and an awful Man-to-Man Defense team. This season, it is the reverse. Mark Fox’s aversions to zone defense carry over into how he teaches it, he truly believes this team should be playing Man-to-Man all 40 minutes. It is not surprising that the 2-3 Matchup Zone exhibited reflected that attitude.
2-3 Matchup Zone Defenses do not:
- Have defenders leaving their zones and having an entire zone left uncovered.
- Necessarily allow opponents to get second chance opportunities.
- Make it easy for opponents to dribble drive from the perimeter without a screen.
- Fail to use length
- Fail to be disruptive.
Playing Zone Defense is not an opportunity to take a defensive possession off, but it seems that way at Georgia. It was a flat-footed 2-3 Matchup Zone Defense and it has been played this way ALL SEASON. John Chaney would kick Mark Fox’s ass for making a mockery of the defense that he mastered during his tenure at Temple. Chaney may be 86 years old, but he could do it.
Zone Defenses feature active hands and feet. It’s truly a team defense and it requires communication. Nobody’s talking on this team.
Dennis Felton’s 1-3-1 Zone Defense easily beat any effort that Mark Fox coached teams put in with Zone Defense during these nine seasons. When your Zone Defense is so dreadfully coached that Dennis Felton is remembered fondly, you did something wrong.
Georgia’s rebounding effort is going to be inconsistent
Georgia does not force many live ball turnovers, the team forced 1 tonight. 1 steal and that’s all.
Offensive rebounding makes the difference between the offense looking like a dystopian nightmare and the offense being the equivalent of being forced to see a Lifetime movie.
Defensive rebounding makes the difference between the defense looking like the Heavyweight Champion of the World and a tomato can.
Winning the defensive glass 53.84% of the time and winning the offensive glass 19.35% of the time against Mississippi State is pathetic. However, the team completely dominated Florida in Athens on the glass. This is a maddening inconsistency for a team that was supposed to have a strong frontcourt.
Why aren’t the Dawgs pulling down rebounds like they should? Four reasons.
- Poor positioning: The bigs are not getting themselves into rebounding position and winning their spots on the floor.
- Failing to box out.
- Effort. There are many rebounds where the guys just do not want to get their hands dirty.
- This is covered in the next segment.
This Team is Afflicted with Hands of Stone
During the past decade and a half, Georgia players especially in the frontcourt have suffered from Hands of Stone. The teams that made the NCAA Tournament as at-large teams did not prominently feature players with Hands of Stone.
2010-11 Georgia Basketball Team
- Trey Thompkins
- Jeremy Price
- Chris Barnes
2014-15 Georgia Basketball Team
- Marcus Thornton
- Nemanja Djurisic
- Yante Maten
- Cameron Forte
Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards struggle with corralling rebounds and catching passes. It hurts the rebounding effort. Even Nicolas Claxton has this issue. However, this can be corrected, it just has not with this roster.
In this game, Tyree Crump should have had 4 assists in the First Half. Crump was literally setting the table for big men to dunk it and the passes were dropped, fumbled or unsurely handled in a way that resulted in a poor shot attempt at the rim.
The ability to catch the ball is ongoing concern, but there’s another related issue.
Horrendous Passing is a Calling Card
It’s not a secret that the offense is robotic and the sequences are predictable. This of course means that passes along the perimeter early in a possession should be ripe for picking off. Mississippi State got the memo and knew what to do and this helped put Georgia into a deficit that the team could never recover from early in this contest.
However, this issue is not isolated to what happens along the perimeter. The deliberate and robotic nature even impacts the potential SEC Player of Year, Yante Maten. Georgia kept forcing the ball into Maten, contrary to what idiotic TV analysts who are coasting along may say. (After all, most viewers do not know what they are watching in the first place.) Maten was collecting his feeds in areas that are less than advantageous and would require him to make a baseline attack at the rim or back down his defender to set up a jump hook or turnaround jumper. No matter what, Maten had to make more than 2 or 3 dribbles from his position. Maten would collect a terrible pass since he is out of position to be a real threat and wait for the double-team. Maten would try to kick it out, but there’s no spacing and no option on the corner or wing to set up any sort of ball rotation. Needless to say, Maten would turn it over in those situations.
There is very little chemistry between the players offensively because everything is done within the context of the sequences prescribed by Mark Fox. It is not surprising that when everything breaks down, the offense plays helter-skelter and there is a massive sense of achievement that a basket is scored. This is due to the inability to pass to each other and move without the ball in a natural fashion.
Mark Fox does not want the team to shoot Free Throws or score at the rim.
The team has a decidedly retro feel where there is a desire to play a clean game on both ends and get the fans out of the building early. Hit mid-range jump shots and score off an assist. The idea of attacking the basket, forcing opponents into foul trouble and getting to the Free Throw Line comes off as undesirable. It seems uncouth to Mark Fox.
Mark Fox should be thanking Pape Diatta for having such a good night from three point range because it covers up a lot of ugliness.
Poor spacing, limited options, a lack of aggression and playing from a position of weakness have defined Georgia Basketball for too long. When it comes to percentage of shots at the rim in the last three seasons, Georgia has been ranked 7th lowest (this season), 86th lowest (last season) and 17th lowest (2015-16). When it comes to percentage of shots between the restricted arc and three point line (the least ideal shooting zone) during the same time frame, Georgia has been ranked 10th highest (this season), 16th highest (last season) and 9th highest (2015-16).
Mississippi State did not shoot Georgia out of Humphrey Coliseum tonight, they went 5 for 22 from three point range. Mark Fox took his own team out to pasture and that process started with some figurative tranquilizers.