Georgia at LSU Preview: Because to Fight Darkness is to Fight Yourself

Georgia is in the Danger Zone as a loss at LSU could turn into a downward spiral.

Georgia Basketball seasons have followed the same basic formula and there usually is an SEC game where Mark Fox loses it, could this visit to Baton Rouge be that night?  Georgia went from a safe NCAA Tournament quality team to completely out of the field altogether in one week.  There are opportunities for redemption and a win at LSU could provide some sort of a quality victory for the NCAA Tournament Committee to consider, but Georgia does not have momentum on its side.  The SEC slate has been an abject disaster on the offensive end where the worst and most fearful impulses of Mark Fox have permeated into his team.  The low scores and stifled pace of play bring back memories of a mustachioed, well-dressed coach who had a propensity to stomp the floor in $500 wingtips.

LSU does not have Johnny Jones for everyone to kick around.

Mark Fox was only 4-3 against Jones and only won once at the Pete Maravich Center (March 8, 2014).  Will Wade took over a poorly coached, but talented team and has them thinking about the possibility of playing in the NCAA Tournament.  The infusion of Tremont Waters into the LSU program is a big one and he is very reminiscent of Erving Walker and J.J. Frazier.

Tremont Waters is easily the most important player Will Wade will have on the floor, the team in a way lives or dies with him due to his high usage rate.  Offensive possessions typically end with Duop Reath or Tremont Waters doing something bring about the end.  Waters’ range is still yet to be determined because a 35 footer for him can be considered normal and putting defenders in his face on the perimeter can still lead to baskets.  Waters is a bit of a wild-card and there’s no way to hold him down as a scorer, but the objective is to make him the sole scorer and not let him get his teammates involved.  For Mark Fox, it will remind him a lot of South Carolina alumnus Devan Downey as far as what he means to his team on both ends and how he will get his points.  Waters does seem to be ahead of Downey as a Freshman.

Waters creates his own threes off the dribble and he does not need a pass to get him into a shooting rhythm.  Waters could literally come up the floor, stop at 30 feet away from the basket and attempt a three point shot like it is not a big deal.   Waters forces opponents to guard him the entire way and what this does it sets him to make plays for his teammates because Waters is an unselfish and confident Point Guard who can make magic happen.  Waters can make heroic plays, but he’s not the Hero on the team.  Waters can get to the Free Throw Line quite a bit, but the rest of his teammates are not able to do so.  Waters uses his speed, quickness and sudden change movement to draw fouls.  Truly a unique talent in the conference and the only thing holding him back is his size, he’s 5’11” 170 pounds.

LSU does an effective job at getting shots inside the restricted arc and much of it comes off the dribble drive.  Sure, LSU’s presses force fast break turnovers, but they do a very good job attacking the basket with Mays and Waters.

Aaron Epps is a tough Combo Forward to defend, he can knock down threes from the corner or the top of the key.  He can also score in the mid-range and he’s efficient inside the restricted arc.  Epps is very tough on the offensive end and if there’s someone who will get those second-chance points, it is him.  He is forgotten out there and opponents may fail to take him into account, which creates problems.

Epps’ aggression on the glass is an important indicator.  If Epps is effectively grabbing rebounds, LSU is more likely to win.  In fact, LSU is 8-1 when Epps grabs 6 or more rebounds in a game.  Epps is very important and if everyone is too busy focusing on Sampson and Waters, Epps has an opportunity to shift the momentum in the Tigers’ direction.

LSU may like to generally play fast, but they are an average paced team that has experienced their most success in lower possession games, which means slow paced games.  In their eight fastest paced games, LSU is 4-4.  In their eight slower paced games, 7-1.

LSU is another opponent for Georgia that has a high offensive efficiency rating and a below average defensive efficiency rating per KenPom.  Georgia lost their most recent outing on the road against a team that fit these characteristics, which was Missouri.  Georgia is 2-1 this season against these types of teams in venues not named Stegeman Coliseum.

LSU’s inside-outside balance and the dynamic nature of Tremont Waters is a major challenge for Georgia.  LSU’s willingness to press may cause problems for Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris.  Mark Fox coached teams do not fare well against the full court press and to expect this to change in this game at the Pete Maravich Center would be unrealistic.

Georgia’s Potential Downward Spiral

To make the NCAA Tournament, teams need to win games.  This is important.  A tough schedule still requires the team with it to win the games, other programs are doing it and qualifying, which means Georgia needs to do it too.  The road ahead is daunting.

What does history say about Mark Fox coached teams in the month of January against SEC competition?

  • 2009-10:  1-5
  • 2010-11:  3-4
  • 2011-12:  1-5
  • 2012-13:  3-4
  • 2013-14:  4-3
  • 2014-15:  5-3
  • 2015-16:  4-4
  • 2016-17:  3-5

Consecutive losses have not been an occurrence this season, but in conference play in the past they have.  Two game losing streaks do not just stay two game losing streaks.

  • Last season, Georgia went on a five conference game losing streak.
  • In 2015-16, Georgia went on a three conference game losing streak.
  • In 2014-15, Georgia did not go on a conference game losing streak greater than two.
  • In 2013-14, Georgia went on a three conference game losing streak.
  • In 2012-13, Georgia had a pair of three conference game losing streaks.
  • In 2011-12, Georgia had a pair of three conference game losing streaks and a four conference game losing streak.
  • In 2010-11, Georgia did not go on a conference game losing streak greater than two.
  • In 2009-10, Georgia had a pair of three conference game losing streaks.

The teams that were able to bounce back from a bad week went to the NCAA Tournament, the teams that extended the woes beyond two games did not get a berth.  It’s that simple.

because to fight darkness is to fight yourself.

Offensively and defensively, it is expected that Georgia goes back to the typical sets and plays their standard Man-to-Man Defense.  Georgia is a slow paced team and it will not be a surprise to see Georgia average more than 18 seconds per possession.  Right now, Georgia has an adjusted tempo (per Ken Pomeroy) of 66.5 possessions per game, which is 289th fastest in the country.  In the preseason projection, the expectation was for the team to finish the season with an adjusted tempo between 65 and 66 possessions per game and the team is on the path to fulfilling this.

Georgia’s offensive success dictates the team’s success and the True Shooting Percentage metric really tells the story of how things went in each game.

The True Shooting Percentage formula is as follows:

Image result for true shooting percentage formula

If Georgia has a True Shooting Percentage below 50%, the other team better play as lifeless as Alabama did.  If Georgia has a True Shooting Percentage above 50%, it is a good indication that Georgia is going to #RAISETHEFLAG.

Time for a little Fact or Fiction:

“If Turtle Jackson takes care of the ball, Georgia is going to win games.”

In the three games Jackson did not commit a turnover, Georgia lost two of them.  In the four games Jackson committed four or more turnovers, Georgia went 2-2.

In wins, Jackson had 2.2 turnovers per game.  In losses, 2.27 turnovers per game.

Turtle Jackson’s ability to take care of the ball means very little and if he’s not committing turnovers out of aggression, it may be a sign that Georgia is going to lose the game.

Then there’s this inconvenient table…

FICTION

“If Tyree Crump gets more minutes, Georgia will win more games.”

Crump did not play against Temple and Georgia completely blew out the Owls in an impressive offensive and defensive performance at Stegeman Coliseum just before the Christmas layoff.  Based on the game log alone, it’s inconclusive.  However, Georgia was 7-4 in games when Crump played 10 or more minutes.

Many point to the Points per 40 Minutes metric, which is extremely deceiving and in this case very disingenuous because of the following information presented.  Here it is anyway, the purpose of this metric is to proportionalize the scoring efforts of players that do not have an equal amount of playing time.  Playing time is situational as garbage time points are different from points during regular competition in a game, which means that not all production is truly equal.

Tyree Crump is the second highest in scoring when it comes to Points per 40 Minutes, there’s no denying it.   For many, this is case closed, the science is settled… etc.  That’s not how this works.  Even in the table above, there are clear issues that a simple Points per any time frame or possessions metric cannot explain on its own.

  1. Field Goal percentage is 35.1%, which is dismal and his 3 Point shooting percentage is 32.1%.  He’s a high-volume shooter (leads the team in Field Goals Attempted per 40 Minutes and would have over 12 Three Point Attempts per 40 Minutes played) and he has a quick trigger, for better and mostly for worse given his relative inefficiency.
  2. Outside of Connor O’Neill, who received garbage time minutes, he has the highest number of Field Goals Attempted.  Should a player with a Field Goal percentage of 35.1% take more shots?
  3. 71.6% of Crump’s shots are from three point range, which makes him really easy to guard.
  4. If Crump is the shooter that many say he is, he certainly does not fit the mold.  How so?  Shooters get themselves to the Free Throw Line to build confidence and get into some sort of a shooting grove.  Crump has a 25.7% FTA/FGA ratio, which is the lowest on the team among scholarship student athletes that are in the active 11 man rotation.
  5. True Shooting Percentage:  50.6%.  Don’t get too excited over this, he’s only 8th best on the team in this metric.
  6. Effective Field Goal Percentage:  46.6%.  Once again, 8th best on the team.
  7. Usage rate:  28.3%.  This means that 28.3% of offensive possessions he’s on the floor culminate with him doing something whether it be making/missing a shot or turning the ball over.  His usage rate is second highest on the team and it is just a shade below Yante Maten.

With such a high usage rate and shooting volume on a proportionalized basis, of course Crump is going to have a misleading and gaudy figure like his Points Per 40 Minutes or Points Per 100 Possessions.

As shocking as it may seem, Georgia does play defense and it is unfortunate that the offensive effort results in easy transition points for opponents.

As far as Boxscore Plus/Minus is concerned, Crump is 9th on the team.  If there was a desired 8 man rotation that many want, Crump does not crack it based on this metric.  In fact, Crump is the laggard in Defensive Boxscore Plus/Minus and the team’s 2-3 Matchup Zone Defense is just not good enough this season.  However, the Man-to-Man Defense is good enough to warrant a KenPom ranking of 24th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

It’s up to Tyree Crump really.  Fox’s Soviet offense is to blame for a lot of things, but Tyree Crump needs to get his shot distribution back to the way it was in High School and play unselfishly (his game would then be closer to Tremont Waters).  Otherwise, he’s a less effective Mike Mercer without the defense.

Fox’s offensive style, Crump’s shot distribution/selection and his defensive skills are what hinders him.  Not playing time and it is certainly not about individual mistakes made.  Crump let himself be one-dimensional, he takes the 25 foot jump shot option over using his superior first step.  Crump could shot fake and force defenses to account for him as more than just a scorer, but he opts to shoot three point shots and isolate himself.  Why has everyone forgot about Crump’s Free Throw shooting capabilities?

It’s not like there’s no precedent to Guards breaking sets, attacking the basket and earning more playing time out of it all:

  1. The previous #4 at UGA figured out that he had to break the sets that Fox ran to get himself opportunities and because he played good enough defense, he kept his time on the floor.  His name:  Charles Mann. 
  2. Gerald Robinson Jr. broke sets routinely to attack the basket and he played intense defense as well.  He’s playing professionally in Monaco and loving it!

Crump has given into the pressure of playing like someone he is not and the hype around him would make him seem like he’s Steph Curry being suppressed.  However, Steph Curry does not make himself as one-dimensional as Tyree Crump.  In fact, Curry’s shot distribution the past three seasons is just like Crump’s from High School.  Curry also had plenty of success before shooting over half of his shots from three point range in the past three seasons.

Steph Curry is getting himself to the Free Throw Line more than ever this NBA Season.  He’s still playing great, right?  Curry is not attempting 71.6% of his shots from three point range and not averaging 3.7 assists over 40 minutes because if he did, Steve Kerr would have an aneurysm and he’d be the Odell Beckham Jr. of the NBA.

After all, E’Torrion Wilridge’s minutes are clearly down for a reason too.  His defense has not been as good as last season and he’s too afraid of Mark Fox to function properly on offense.

But the narrative is what matters, right?  Everyone is to blame for this.

INCONCLUSIVE, BUT CLOSER TO FICTION GIVEN HOW HE HAS PLAYED THUS FAR

“Getting to the Free Throw Line and Second Chance Opportunities are critical to Georgia’s success.”

It would not be surprising to see that Georgia getting more Free Throw Attempts correlates with winning.  However, against South Carolina and to some extent Kentucky, missed Free Throws hurt.  However, the sheer number of Free Throw Attempts do not necessarily tell the full story!

If Georgia is getting to the Free Throw Line and has a high FTA/FGA ratio, Georgia is more likely to win.  Period.

The Free Throws Made to Field Goals Attempted Ratio is one of the so-called Four Factors that determine the outcome of a game.  Georgia won every game except the debacle against UMass when they had a better FTM/FGA ratio than their opponent.   Georgia lost every game when they had a worse FTM/FGA ratio.

Second chance opportunities come from offensive rebounds.  Georgia’s offense on its own is unable to generate points like it should, which is rather sad.  However, points are coming from second chance opportunities through tip-ins and other putbacks by the Georgia Frontcourt.  This could even result in fouls and Free Throw Attempts.

It’s not a surprise that Georgia performs well when the team is able to control the offensive glass.  Georgia’s worst defensive rebounding effort came against Kentucky and it helps explain in some way the loss to the Wildcats.

Georgia is at their best when the team is aggressively attacking the basket and pursuing the ball at the rim.  Forcing opponents to commit fouls and making them pay fully for their failure to handle aggression results in victory.

Wallflowers are not winners.  Put it on a T-Shirt.

MOSTLY FACT

What to Expect

Now onto the prediction.  This season, predictions have been way off and it is hard to gauge this team going into a game, but after five minutes usually everything becomes quite clear.  Expect Tremont Waters to have a big game on both ends while the Georgia Backcourt generally struggles.  LSU may let Georgia play slow and it will hand the Tigers this win as Aaron Epps and Skylar Mays join in the act for a really good game.  LSU is simply the more aggressive team and Georgia will play tight.

Prediction:  LSU 69  Georgia 63

For your amusement, the LSU Fight Song has been translated from English to Uzbek to Thai to German to French to Arabic to English from Google Translate.

And now here’s the Classic LSU Fight Song “Fight for Sue

We must strive to maintain pride.
His majesty is purple gold.
Let us die or leave
Win the game for the old Du
Avoid this high result.
Come fight,
We need a little more
Come on, you fight the tiger! Fight! Fight!
For love L-S-U
Oh!

This song became dark in a hurry.  Don’t sing along, especially in front of people.