Ole Miss at Georgia Preview: A Backcourt Test for the Dawgs

Ole Miss and Georgia have had quite a decade against each other, it is re-kindled at Stegeman Coliseum tonight.

Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels come into Athens after defeating South Carolina and they are looking to make their splash in SEC play after a lackluster non-conference effort.  Ole Miss poses matchup issues for Georgia, but Georgia creates issues for the Rebels as well and the style of play should be quite interesting.  Mark Fox’s Dawgs look to recover their spirit and get back to playing like they did before the 8 Day Break.  Georgia’s loss to Kentucky was a step back to the sort of game played against UMass and the good news is that there are no long breaks for the team at least until the SEC Tournament.

Ole Miss has a tough backcourt.

Most production skews heavily toward the Ole Miss Backcourt.  Five guards split up the responsibilities in the backcourt (Terence Davis, Deandre Burnett, Markel Crawford, Devontae Shuler, Breein Tyree) and Andy Kennedy has shuffled up his starters quite a bit.  Notice the minutes distribution below among his core nine, Kennedy is not heavily leaning on any one of them to give him the performance that he needs.

Ole Miss lacks size in the frontcourt outside of Dominik Olejniczak, who is a 7’0″ Center from Poland.  However, they are getting the most production in the paint from Bruce Stevens.

Ole Miss’ backcourt is the story for this team.  Deandre Burnett and Breein Tyree split the role of Point Guard for the Rebels and can even be on the floor together creating an interesting dynamic between the two.  Andy Kennedy is used to relying upon a hero whether it be Marshall Henderson, Chris Warren, Stefan Moody or last season he had Deandre Burnett play this role.  This season is a different case as Burnett has more help than he could have ever envisioned in the backcourt.

Ole Miss has a quick backcourt that can shoot, drive, create plays for each other and force turnovers.  The downside is that the defensive efforts are gambling because of the scheme and overall capabilities of the individual players.  Ole Miss is not an efficient defensive team, but they are a very efficient offensive team.

The best summary for Ole Miss:  Ole Miss’ Backcourt is strong on offense, weak on defense.  Ole Miss’ frontcourt is weak on offense, stronger on defense.

They are like Georgia Tech in terms of defensive scheme, but different in terms of pace (Ole Miss plays a fast pace), talent level and offensive execution.  Ole Miss is a much better team than Georgia Tech.  Expect 1-3-1 Zone extended out to the 3/4 Court, 1-3-1 Zone Defense, 2-3 Zone Defense, Man-to-Man Press and Pressure Man-to-Man Defense.

Ole Miss’ success is predicated on shooting three point shots this season.  Ole Miss is 0-4 when shooting below 30% from beyond the arc.  This is obviously a perimeter-oriented team that scores off assists.

Ole Miss is adept at getting to the Free Throw Line and avoiding turnovers, outside of Terence Davis.  Ole Miss’ opponents take a lot of three point shots themselves and get to the Free Throw Line too.

Ole Miss is an average rebounding team in the nation, but is considered one of the weaker teams among the Power Conferences on the glass.  Ole Miss is adept at blocking shots and getting steals, their style of play and talent are able to make this happen.

Georgia’s in Recovery and Possibly Rebuilding Mode

Georgia’s response to the loss at Kentucky and the way the team played was just a part of the Jekyll and Hyde act that is Georgia Basketball in Year 9 of the Mark Fox Era.  The performance was familiar and so was the manner of which the team was forced to play.  Right now, Georgia would not be considered an NCAA Tournament team.  This is a team that is currently on-track to host a 1st round game in the NIT for a third straight season.  Within the SEC, Georgia could arguably be fighting to avoid a dreaded draw on the Wednesday of the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.

Even with a 9-3 record, nothing is certain for a program with a penchant for regrettable losses during the past two decades.  The margin for error is rather slim for this Georgia Basketball Team as games can slip away quite easily regardless of the talent level on the floor.  Getting off to an 0-2 start going into a pivotal game for so many reasons against Alabama would be damaging to postseason hopes, but certainly not a sign that change is to come in terms of style of play and attitudes toward the Men’s Basketball Program from higher up.

Squandering Yante Maten’s time at Georgia would be a shame.

There is so much to be said about Yante Maten and what he means to Georgia Basketball, but the part that goes unsaid is how underappreciated he is by the base.  Maten is going to hold records and possibly win SEC Player of the Year, but no one will care.

  1. He’s not a Football Player.
  2. He’s not from Georgia.  (Sorry, but Georgia folks like their own to be the heroes)

The only Georgia Bulldog to overcome both of these two hang-ups was Dominique Wilkins.

Maten is unfortunately poised to join a list of the underappreciated that includes Vern Fleming, Sundiata Gaines, Litterial Green, Damien Wilkins, Terrance Woodbury, Levi Stukes and Charles Claxton.  It’s just the way it is.

The hope among the base was that Tyree Crump would be the Hero of the Peach State that made the team relatable to the common folk, but he has struggled to meet expectations on both ends of the floor.  Crump finds himself in a conundrum on this Georgia roster and things get further complicated with the possible re-classification of Ashton Hagans.  Crump is already the 3rd string Point Guard behind the sharpshooting Turtle Jackson and energetic Teshaun Hightower.  Crump is competing against his best friend (Jordan Harris) to play Shooting Guard.  When Harris is confident and playing defense like he’s accustomed, he’s tough to pull out of that role.  The idea of three guards on the floor at once is removed because of Rayshaun Hammonds’ ability to contribute.  It’s also hard to forget about the surging JoJo Toppin who will be on campus next season to join his friend Rayshaun Hammonds.

The best defender on this squad is Derek Ogbeide and he’s come along much better on offense lately.  The surprise is that Mark Fox is getting superb defense from Nicolas Claxton and Teshaun Hightower, both are Freshmen and they are already performing very well on defense.  The future is bright for these two as they will be needed on the defensive end this season.  Hightower has lived up to the expectations made on this publication, he’s not much of shooter, but he’s aggressive and confident on offense.  Hightower defends with intensity in the Man-to-Man Defense, he is far ahead of Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump in this respect.  Hightower thrives in transition and secondary break, he’s not a Point Guard comfortable with running sets.  Hightower is at his best just coming down the floor and making something happen off the bounce just like if one was watching Collin Sexton and the Alabama Crimson Tide this season.

What to Expect?

A frenetic Basketball Game that will have the feel of what Ole Miss-Georgia has been during the past decade.  Back-and-forth swings and foul trouble will be a part of this game.  What makes the difference and enables Georgia to finally pull away late are second chance scoring opportunities.  Yante Maten and Nicolas Claxton get the buckets needed to win this game for the Dawgs.  Tyree Crump’s shooting will be tested early against the Ole Miss 1-3-1 and if he is knocking them down, he’ll continue to see minutes as long as he does not turn it over.  Otherwise, expect more minutes from Jordan Harris in the second half.

It should set up to be a good game for Rayshaun Hammonds against a smaller team that will play a bit of zone.  Hammonds will have some perimeter opportunities and a baseline drive or two.  Hammonds is being patient and the lack of attention to him by the media has allowed him to be able to set reasonable expectations for himself.  Hammonds has played mature this season and his experience in AAU and High School Basketball has served him well to prepare him for this level.

The concern would be whether Mark Fox seeks to slow down the game by slowing his own team down on offense or if he looks to disrupt Ole Miss’ tempo with defense.  The Georgia Tech and Temple games were good preparation for Ole Miss.  An EXTREMELY IMPORTANT game is to follow on Saturday.

Prediction:  Georgia 76 Ole Miss 70

One comment

  1. I do not understand why all the players are not held to the same standard. Example would be Harris, he has not produced since Fox started playing him again. His defense has not been as good as last year and then that wasn’t great but he can play and play and make mistake after mistake and he never leaves the floor, don’t get it unless he is Fox’s favorite player. He doesn’t have to prove himself at all and he is granted more playing time than any other player who would be performing at the level he has shown this year. I don’t see the praise for Hightower either he played no better than Crump . I just don’t see Georgia being a great team until they start playing more transition basketball and not the same old sets. Would like to see them play more like Florida or Auburn, now there are fun to watch.

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