Georgia visits South Carolina in the final road game of the season.
After this game against South Carolina, Georgia will play their final home game and then the rest of the season will be played on technically neutral courts. Georgia knocked off South Carolina at home employing a very different style of play than the rest of the month of February, it gave fans reason for hope that the team would make a run. Of course, Georgia did not go on a run and instead has had extremely disappointing performances. It is never a good sign when articles are published concerning a Head Coach’s employment status, even if they are stating that the coach is safe.
South Carolina is right now an NCAA Tournament team and they should be considered safe. Their schedule softened more than they wish because the Paradise Jam did not set up the matchups in a favorable fashion and their non-conference foes were not as good as expected. South Carolina made the most of their non-conference schedule by winning the games that they were assigned and scheduled.
On average, South Carolina is currently on the 8 seed line according to BracketMatrix.com, there is room for the Gamecocks to move up as many as two seeds from now until Selection Sunday. There are 102 brackets that have been published/updated since February 28th and South Carolina is included in every single one of them. ESPN will pump their bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, to the moon because they look to control the narrative for as long as they can until Selection Sunday when they cede their influence to the alliance of CBS and Turner.
Where does Georgia stand?
Beyond this thought being completely ridiculous at this time considering where Georgia stands, but Georgia has the following resume, it is presented for informational, non-quixotic purposes only.
Georgia is currently projected to be a 5 seed in the NIT, but this could change with regular season champions not reaching the NCAA Tournament by not winning their conference tournaments. There will be upsets in the conference tournaments and less NIT at-large bids will be available on Selection Sunday.
South Carolina is effectively eight deep and Michael Carrera has been this team’s leader. He’s a glue guy that has emerged as the leading scorer and rebounder.
Carrera’s progression as a three point shooter is a major story as he has improved rapidly during his time in Columbia.
Carrera went from a below average three point shooter to one of the best three point shooters in the country. Carrera shifted from an undersized Power Forward to a Small Forward. Carrera’s overall senior season evolution is one of the most unexpected developments in the Southeastern Conference. It comes at a good time for South Carolina because his contributions buy time for the six South Carolina freshmen to gain experience and become sophomores.
This is going to be a more game film intensive preview as the Georgia-South Carolina game in Athens was an interesting game to break down especially on the offensive end, so let’s discuss some of the things that Georgia did on offense that worked so well.
Preface these GIF clips by saying that the team did not always execute perfectly, but Mark Fox’s game plan was perfectly on point. This was the Georgia offense many expected this season in terms of the way the team would attack. Just imagine though, these spread looks with more backdoor cuts, shuffle cuts and backscreens. The screen and roll was rather effective and the spread element puts a lot of pressure on defenders considering how well UGA can shoot the three point shot. The downside to packing in the defense is that it is susceptible to three point shots, mid-court jump shots, being shifted and also being in a reactive defensive position that opens up the possibility of defending with hands rather than feet.
South Carolina was employing a zone defense to start and Georgia’s perimeter players were looking to detect what type of a zone they were working against. South Carolina declares a 2-3 Zone of some kind and Kenny Paul Geno’s first instinct is to get into the middle of the zone as it is one of the soft spots of a 2-3 Zone. Geno returns back to his position in the post area after not receiving a feed in the high post area then Charles Mann goes from the wing into the high post area switching the alignment from 3 out 2 in to vice versa. The South Carolina zone shifted to much toward one side when the action went Kenny Gaines’ way that when there was ball reversal, P.J. Dozier could not get out to the wing in time because he was too busy defending his assigned area that was populated by J.J. Frazier.
The above seems somewhat obvious, except here’s the part you may have missed. It is like a magic trick, there’s a little bit of deception. Remember, Kenny Paul Geno returned to the low block, which was inhabited by Mindaugas Kacinas. Geno when the ball reversal was taking place was setting himself up for a low post feed. The low post feed required Geno to get into position, which includes some physical jostling. Mann was previously covered by Kacinas on the wing, but this time when transitioning and shifting, Kacinas was not able to take on the assignment. If Kacinas gave up on Geno and let Silva do the defending, Silva would either be out of position or Kacinas has to pick his poison. Mann had the shot all to himself wide-open and drained it like a 39% three point shooter would.
In Fox’s early seasons with Georgia, zone defenses would cause his teams nightmares, but now going zone against Georgia is not exactly a good idea because he has student-athletes with better instincts, shooting ability and they are better prepared for it. After all, Georgia forced Baylor out of the signature zone defense. If this Georgia zone offense can take down Baylor’s zone, it is a good zone offense.
This is some great secondary break action here engineered by J.J. Frazier. Frazier grabs the board and immediately looks to run up the floor. Frazier jukes Sindarius Thornwell and has two choices: Drive toward the rim and try a floater OR pass the ball out to Kenny Gaines who is positioned well on the wing for a jump shot. What is most important about this secondary break opportunity was how Yante Maten ran down the floor and how P.J. Dozier and Chris Silva had to respect his presence in the transition opportunity. Maten’s presence and Kenny Gaines’ positioning set up the wide open three point attempt. Well done. Very well done.
Against South Carolina’s man-to-man defense, the action is initiated with a ball screen. Notice how spread out the Georgia offense is and how South Carolina’s defense is so committed to the man-to-man defense and help defense against Charles Mann. Mann saw that he was going to take on three South Carolina defenders and passed it out to Houston Kessler in the corner. Kessler lured Kacinas out of the paint with his dribble and pass to Mann to get ready for a screen and fade. Yante Maten lured Chatkevicius out toward the perimeter as he is an established threat to shoot from 20 feet.
Kacinas took the lane expecting Mann to drive left and Thornwell did not expect Mann to reject the screener and was able to get a clear driving lane because everyone was spread out and unable to recover to the paint area. It was an easy layup for Charles Mann, it was set up by spreading the floor and a basic screen and fade with the best dribble penetrator in the SEC.
Georgia’s screen and roll action here is far more complex than many think here. This is within the setup of a triangle offense look. Notice the triangle set up on one side of the court with Yante Maten occupying a low post position with Wilridge on the wing and Gaines in the corner. This is the two man game that is part of the triangle, the screen and roll makes it a 2-on-2 matchup and in order to defend it best, South Carolina would need help defense, but help defense can be countered with effective interior passing. Kessler had a route to the basket, but was detoured trying to go for the reverse layup. The idea to use the rim as a shield was right, but the execution of the layup – not so much.
The action on the non-ball side is worth watching because you can see that they are setting themselves up into triangle position. The other side is Charles Mann and Yante Maten in the two man game. The whole idea was to isolate Maten against Kacinas. Mission accomplished. Charles Mann and Yante Maten set up for the screen and fade, but Maten has an iso situation against Kacinas and takes him straight to the basket. It is a complete mismatch and that’s the whole idea of even setting that up!
E’Torrion Wilridge runs across the court as Charles Mann sets up to deliver a pass to him on the wing conveniently setting up A TRIANGLE. Yante Maten is in the triangle as well. The two man game is not on the ball side and that is where Ogbeide takes his position on the high post with Gaines closer to the top of the key. The objective was to set up a good post feed and exploit the matchup of Kacinas against Maten. Wilridge even though he is off balance is able to feed the ball into a position for Maten to be able to score at the rim, but Maten was fouled. Wilridge is a very good post entry passer and getting the ball to Maten in the paint early in a possession is a winner.
There is a recurring theme, which is the emphasis on spacing and placement over scheme. Use the spacing and placement to set up favorable matchups. Mark Fox spent quite a bit of time picking on Kacinas in Athens, which is clearly by design. This is the sort of thing that Fox should have been doing all season. He did by simply getting his guys into the right places, running basic ball screens and setting up isos when necessary. Nothing complex here, but it was very effective.
If South Carolina chooses to pack it in against a Georgia offense that is so spread out, they have to account for a three point shooter and be ready to contest a shot. This is especially the case against Triangle and 2. South Carolina would have to choose two shooters to defend and then there’s the challenge of defending Yante Maten on the perimeter as he can step up and take the 15 to 20 footer. In the case of the dribble drive, a screen and roll will not lure any zoning defenders out, but there may exist the threat of a stagger screen for the dribble driver and then it becomes a tough choice for the defender that is occupying a zone space. There are ways to counteract the Triangle and 2 or even a sag look that is used to take away the entry pass off the cross screen. Georgia did it for 40 minutes against South Carolina as there were no clear linear sets, just simple ball screen continuity for the purposes of setting up mismatches and spacing. Heck, Georgia went from going 2 out 3 in at one point and had a 4 out 1 High look at another point in the game. South Carolina was thrown completely off balance and it was not the typical Georgia sets in play.
It will be interesting to see how Frank Martin and Mark Fox address this. Georgia did an effective job of slowing down the South Carolina offense and setting up quick baskets off missed South Carolina shots. Carolina did not shoot threes very well and may once again struggle. This is a road game that many would think is one that South Carolina should be able to exact their revenge. If South Carolina shoots at their average rate from beyond the arc and make a few more layups, it is a much tighter game than the previous game at Stegeman Coliseum. This is going to be a tight one that goes down to the wire and it is the type of game that J.J. Frazier finds a way to be the hero at Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina will get their final regular season win at Bud Walton Arena, but this one will go Georgia’s way. Mark Fox will have a similar game plan ready for Frank Martin’s Gamecocks and it will work again.
Prediction: Georgia 70 South Carolina 68