How can a road game at Mizzou Arena against a projected NCAA Tournament team be considered favorable for the Dawgs?
Georgia and Missouri take part in their only regular season face-off and this game should be less “entertaining” than last season’s game. The word “entertaining” is in quotes because last season’s game received nationwide attention for the Coach Fight to start Halftime of last season’s game. Missouri has a brand new staff and Cuonzo Martin is once again coaching in the SEC. Cuonzo Martin was unceremoniously run out of Knoxville after nearly taking the Tennessee Volunteers to the Elite 8 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament (it was a questionably officiated game against Michigan), which would leave Tennessee Men’s Basketball in the wilderness for four years and bring about permanent damage to the reputation of the Tennessee base. However, Cuonzo Martin and his towel are back with a younger, more talented Missouri Tigers team than in the wake of Frank Haith’s exit from Columbia.
Onto previewing Missouri…
Wait, there’s a title and lede that are alluding to Georgia having the edge and there’s nothing about it in the opening segment.
Yes, that’s true. It’s called burying the spoiler lede. It’s 2018, everyone does it. Just the way every digital publication or television network has a heel/contrarian pundit, it’s meant to get you to read or watch.
Missouri is Young, Talented and Still Flawed
When you think of a Cuonzo Martin coached team, what do you think of? Take a moment to ruminate.
- Do you think of a team that runs it up and down the floor with a wide open offense?
- Do you think of a Press Virginia style of play?
- How about a distinct offensive and defensive style?
- Or maybe you just think of an extremely physical defensive team with an offense that is half-baked?
Well, the last one is actually what comes to mind when it comes to Cuonzo Martin styled Basketball. Examining the metrics of this Missouri team would force everyone to think that the real Cuonzo Martin is presently in a different galaxy being probed by a super-intelligent species. Who is this Cuonzo Martin?
The pace is very much like a Cuonzo Martin coached team, but everything else is uncharacteristic. It’s not like Martin has not coached talented teams that lacked experience before. This is one of Cuonzo Martin’s best offensive teams as far as efficiency and easily his worst defensive team. It’s startling to see an adjusted defensive efficiency that high for a Cuonzo Martin coached team, it would be like finding out that Usain Bolt has a cholesterol level of 300.
The Tigers will play 9 Deep and their offensive capabilities are the major threat. It’s like facing Iowa State in years past as far as an offensive juggernaut. This team has threats all along the perimeter to make things extremely difficult and they are adept at scoring in the restricted arc. They do an above-average avoiding the non-money zone, but they do attempt 44.9% of their shots from three point range. Without Michael Porter Jr., Missouri has done a good job of having everyone step up and not feel like the season is lost.
Jordan Barnett is dangerous basically everywhere on the floor, Kevin Puryear is an effective inside-outside undersized Combo Forward, Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter are an effective duo in the paint and Kassius Robertson is an interesting matchup. Kassius Robertson takes a lot of threes, he’s shooting 66% of his shots from long distance and if he’s scoring inside the restricted arc, it’s off the dribble. The objective when guarding Robertson is to make him cut to the basket when he does not have the ball.
What is a good sign that Missouri could be in trouble?
Hero Ball. Jordan Barnett’s Hero Ball. Against major conference competition thus far, when Barnett fires 12 or more shots, the team is 1-3.
If Barnett is forced to do everything on offense, it means that everyone else is dropping the ball. Barnett and Robertson will carry the backcourt even more now with Blake Harris’ transfer. There’s no natural distributor in this offense.
Jontay Porter led the team in assists against Florida, which says everything that needs to be said about ball movement. It’s a wonder that the team had only 11 turnovers against Mike White’s Gators.
Is it reasonable to expect Jordan Geist to be a Point Guard to lead a seamless transition and ensure that the offense has an adequate flow to it? Terrence Phillips never rose to the role and Geist is Cuonzo Martin’s so-called enforcer, but he’s just being thrown into the role he’s in now. Geist’s shooting prowess is certainly advantageous when compared to Blake Harris, but he’s a small step backwards on the defensive end. Geist is the member of the team most likely to take a three point shot in an unassisted fashion, in fact, much of his attempts are done off the dribble.
Geist’s aggressive style of play coupled with his success from three point shooting makes him an X-Factor for Missouri. Geist is a fiercer, more athletic and perhaps more selfish version of Marquette’s Andrew Rowsey. If Geist cannot help his teammates get production on offense and if he’s slipping up on defense, his aggression is netted out. Geist’s decision making and instincts are not what one would want in a Point Guard though, it would be too kind to even call him a Combo Guard. Geist may have the aggression, but he has his current role by default.
What’s the downside of True Freshman Posts? They can foul a lot.
Missouri fouls a lot, they turn it over frequently and they fail to do a good enough job forcing live ball turnovers. They are very good at getting second chance opportunities, but remove Tilmon and Porter from the picture with foul trouble and they are a Paper Tiger. Tilmon is their leader on the offensive glass and taking him out of the game is a matter of targeting him on offense.
Tilmon cannot collect offensive boards when he’s on the bench with foul trouble. Tilmon has no discipline on the defensive end, he’ll either foul you or block a shot.
A Free Throw Parade is exactly what is needed against Missouri. Frustrating this young team forces them to make bad decisions, commit turnovers and have one-and-out possessions.
What Can Georgia Do to Beat Missouri?
How has Georgia fared against offensive juggernauts with poor defenses this season? The only two teams Georgia has faced that has met these criteria are Marquette and Saint Mary’s. Georgia won those games by exploiting the defenses, playing tougher in the paint and frustrating them on the perimeter. These games also happened away from Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia is a tough matchup for Missouri. The Dawgs can get second chance opportunities, force foul trouble, attain a high FTA/FGA ratio and hold opponents to poor three point shooting nights.
Even with the coaching change, Georgia is not afraid of Missouri. Georgia has beaten Missouri routinely and been in very physical scraps with the Tigers both in Athens and Columbia. Mizzou Arena is not the same setting as Rupp Arena and Cuonzo Martin is not a Hall of Fame Coach.
Derek Ogbeide is starting to make his push both on defense and offense after a tough start to the season. Jeremiah Tilmon is a more talented, but similar Center to Daniel Giddens. Ogbeide and Maten abused Giddens in Athens on Saturday. Tilmon may get more of the same sort of treatment along with his fellow Freshman Jontay Porter. Inexperienced posts against an experienced frontline like Georgia’s is a mismatch.
Nicolas Claxton has outperformed Mike Edwards and has become the go-to post off the bench for Mark Fox. However, Ogbeide’s emergence has contributed to the defensive toughness of the team and Claxton has provided shot blocking and versatility.
In conference play, Derek Ogbeide has been an important cog, but it is important to point out what Rayshaun Hammonds has done lately too. Hammonds has shown great improvement on the defensive end as well forcing turnovers, grabbing rebounds and discouraging good shot selection.
Team defense has improved greatly and taken advantage of the situations given in the past two games. The only blemish from conference play thus far has been against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The toughest draws defensively are starting to be transitioned to Jordan Harris. Teshaun Hightower and Turtle Jackson have played well defensively in SEC action, but Harris has been the standout. As a backcourt, Georgia is becoming more confident on the defensive end and there is a sense that the team is buying into defensive roles.
One of the biggest weaknesses for the Georgia Defense is actually Baseline Out-of-Bounds Situations (BLOBs). Fox has tried both man-to-man and zone defenses to counteract the opposition, but they still typically end up with a poor result. Something may need to be examined here and it is not exactly clear what the problem may be.
What to Expect?
Lots of Jordan Barnett and Kassius Robertson. For better and for worse. Can the Georgia team take advantage of early foul trouble against the Missouri posts? The answer better be ‘yes’ and it likely will be that way.
Fox did not like how his team played too cautiously in the Second Half of the Alabama game. Expect an aggressive response to Fox’s desires. Fox did not like the rebounding effort against Ole Miss and the response was to dominate the defensive boards in the following game.
Georgia has yet to play a “complete” game this season and may not do so tonight, but the performance will certainly look like previous wins over major conference opposition.
- Yante Maten is going to probably have 8-10 Free Throw Attempts.
- Nicolas Claxton will be able to exploit a foul beleaguered Missouri frontcourt.
- Derek Ogbeide will close out possessions.
- Jordan Geist has a tough time with Teshaun Hightower.
- Jordan Harris frustrates Kassius Robertson.
- The pace will be slow and the score may not be sexy.
- Rayshaun Hammonds may have a tough time with Jordan Barnett, but Barnett has to be the hero.
It’s a game that seems tailor-made for Georgia to win. It’s not going to be a blowout and the offense will have self-inflicted mistakes, but it’s not going to result in Mark Fox to walking away with his first loss to Missouri during the Jere Morehead Era at the University of Georgia. It may result in Fox walking backwards after the game on his way to the locker room like he did at Marquette, narrowly dodging some obstacles.
Prediction: Georgia 64 Missouri 59