Georgia’s 2015-16 Non-Conference schedule was released today by the UGA Athletic Association.
Georgia will play a total of eleven non-conference games and play only two of them on the road. Unlike the rest of the Southeastern Conference, Georgia will not play in a neutral site tournament. When Georgia pulled out of the MGM Grand Main Event, the writing was on the wall that the Georgia coaching staff would prefer to play more true home and road games for the 2015-16 Season. The schedule is geared in such a way to protect this team from another November slump and it does nothing to assuage fears that Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker will be 100% ready to go in Fall practice.
Georgia will enjoy some serious home cooking and it will place pressure on this team to win every non-conference home game. This is not a sexy schedule and when the NCAA Tournament committee convenes in March 2016, the unwillingness to take on another road challenge or even another two more games may prove harmful to Georgia’s seeding.
Notice how quiet Georgia’s schedule is in the month of November. Only four games, three home games and then a big game on November 28th at the Prudential Center against a Seton Hall team that is coming off a season of complete disarray. The first two games of Georgia’s schedule are against 20+ win teams that now have new coaches. Murray State as good as their record was last season, it was against poor competition and they started their season 2-4. Murray State’s top 3 scorers from last season are gone (accounted for 48.3 points per game). High Point is capable of challenging a major conference opponent, but have not defeated a major conference program since joining the Big South. Georgia played six games in November last season and certainly the schedule rebalancing to account for the SEC/Big XII Challenge may account for the reduction of a game from November, but to reduce an entire game across the board raises other questions.
Dawg fans will get to see six non-conference games in December as opposed to last year’s five. December will provide as many power matchups as last December and the Christmas Break will feature games against Georgia Tech and Clemson, which will provide both regional and rivalry induced intrigue. Kansas State brings a brand new team to Athens after last season’s underachievement and they will look to get revenge for last year’s New Year’s Eve loss.
As much as this non-conference schedule is hyped, it badly needed that game at Waco against Baylor to round it all out. This is a game that could provide UGA with an RPI bump since the other games will not likely be as significant. It also provides the NCAA Tournament committee with a preview of what Georgia can do against a non-conference opponent in the heart of the conference season.
It is not disappointing that Georgia did not schedule an elite program, but rather the problem centers on the quantity of non-conference games and only having two non-conference road games. Will Georgia really be battle tested for a game at Florida, Vanderbilt or Arkansas? This is a major unknown, BUT loading up on home games in this fashion suggests that the staff anticipates that this team may be more fragile than anticipated in the early going.