USC-Upstate at Georgia: Preview for Dawgs and the Spartans

USC-Upstate visits Athens for a regional clash at Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia hosts USC-Upstate in the second game of their three game homestand.  Each ticket purchased or seat occupied by a student in the student section will do a lot of good for the Athens community as Mark Fox will donate $1 for each attendee to the Athens Boys & Girls Club and Clarke Mentors.  Make it a great Tuesday Night and come out to see this Georgia Basketball Team.

After Friday Night’s game, there was a mixed bag of reactions and this game against USC-Upstate will be an opportunity for Georgia to grow on both ends of the floor.  There is an expectation that Mark Fox will experiment some more with lineups featuring a lot of length and some pressing.  The Offense will be the same and the only variation that takes place will be in both fast break and secondary break opportunities.  USC-Upstate will likely not be wise to the Georgia Offense, but this is something to be mindful of during the month of December and beyond.  (Hint hint… they will likely play zone against UGA.)

The statistics and shot distributions have finally been released, which will provide some good insight into what happened for Georgia against Bryant and for USC-Upstate up at The Barn against #14 Minnesota (92-77 Minnesota win).  USC-Upstate’s defeated the Allen University Yellow Jackets, an NAIA opponent on Sunday by a score of 85-66.

USC-Upstate Stats 

USC-Upstate has been hot from 3 point range to start the season.  Malik Moore, Jure Span, Mike Cunningham and Deion Holmes have all been shooting extremely well thus far.

Against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the team was 45.2% from three point range and 32.4% from two point range.  This team did not play very deep, only seven saw extended action in this game and foul trouble played a role in the game.  Minnesota attempted 31 Free Throws to 16 for the Spartans.  Minnesota’s ability to rebound really confounded USC-Upstate, but the Minnesota press that Richard Pitino likes to use really did not phase them.

USC-Upstate is an undersized team that does have experience, but they have a new Head Coach after former Head Coach Eddie Payne retired on October 3 due to health issues.  Kyle Perry is the Head Coach and he’s going to likely continue in Payne’s footsteps and employ a heavy dose of zone defense.

The Offense has been three point happy thus far and they do not visit the Free Throw Line that much.  They do get out into transition on an above average basis (20.4% of attempts are in transition).  Last season, USC-Upstate attempted 40.2% of their shots from three point range and were in transition at the same rate as this season.

Defensively, USC-Upstate has been effective at keeping offenses from taking shots in the money zones.  32% of shots are taken outside the money zones, which is 55th best in the country.  Last season, the Spartans were an average team at keeping offenses from shooting in the money zones.

USC-Upstate has many similarities to Bryant, but they are a better shooting team that is very eager to take threes and they believe this season they can make more of them.

Onto Georgia

What does Georgia have that USC-Upstate wishes they had?  A frontcourt that is deep, long, strong and versatile.  Georgia overwhelmed Bryant with length and is expected to do it again tonight.

Georgia’s Free Throw Shooting needs to improve.  The problems associated with the Free Throw Shooting may have a lot to do with the renovation of Stegeman Coliseum.  Georgia shot very well in Grand Rapids against Michigan State, but have struggled in Athens.

Bryant was cold against Georgia, but was able to get some good looks from three point range due to overeager help defense and trouble switching on screens along the wing.  The Georgia frontcourt is much more advanced than the backcourt on the defensive end.  The Georgia backcourt will be tested on the perimeter with guarding the three point line.  Is Tyree Crump up to the task tonight?  Can he get more aggressive on the defensive end and produce a steal?

Rayshaun Hammonds has been an offensive juggernaut thus far taking advantage of the opportunities he is given. Can Hammonds produce more on defense as part of the Milwaukee Bucks styled lineups?

Derek Ogbeide is going to make a case for himself to be SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the smothering length that accompanies him is going to help earn that distinction.

Georgia is 26th worst at taking shots in the money zone.  Georgia took the majority of their shots in between 4 and 20 feet from the basket and are horrid at it (28.6%).  Georgia took 39.6% of their shots from this range last season and were 36% from the field.  Georgia’s offense is not exactly efficient and shot selection has a lot to do with the Half Court Man-to-Man Offense.

Georgia had 14 assists to 17 turnovers against Bryant, which is actually par for the course under Mark Fox.  Assist-to-turnover ratios under 1 are quite common.

Georgia has always been an awful passing team under Mark Fox because the Man-to-Man offense never comes naturally to the players at all.  There are moving screens, poorly set screens, passes that are clearly timed out because the offensive action is easy to predict after watching some film, and terrible shots that are taken out-of-rhythm because of the poor movement of the ball and movement of players without the ball.  Georgia has had teams with enough talent to make it to the NCAA Tournament in the past four seasons, but only made it once (2014-15) and it has a lot to do with the offense.

It is not a talent issue, it’s an offensive philosophy issue.  Georgia is taking more mid-range shots and had relied upon Hero Ball, it is not terribly surprising that Georgia is below average in these offensive metrics.

As far as defense…

The last time Georgia held opponents to an Assist-to-Turnover ratio below 1 (.954) was when Mark Fox took the Dawgs to the NCAA Tournament in 2015.  It’s also no coincidence that Georgia’s opponent Effective Field Goal percentage was in the Top 20 in the two seasons Georgia made the NCAA Tournament under Mark Fox.  Georgia is not a team that forces turnovers and gets steals, this is not in the fabric of a Mark Fox defense.  If Georgia holds opponents to an effective Field Goal rate of less than 45%, Georgia will be in the NCAA Tournament.  If they do not, it is highly unlikely for this team to dance in March.  Georgia will also need to have a 74% Defensive Rebounding win rate to make up for the lack of steals produced.  This happened only once, which was the 2014-15 Team that made the NCAA Tournament.

The team’s ability to block shots and rebound will be critical since history has shown that it is unreasonable to expect a lot of steals under a Mark Fox coached team.

Tonight’s Game

Georgia’s ability to defend the perimeter will be tested.  USC-Upstate will take nearly half of their shots from beyond the arc and this means that the backcourt will need to step up.  Expect a 35-40% three point shooting night for the Spartans as it is tough to maintain the pace they are shooting.  Georgia’s dominance of the glass will be the story.  Plenty of second chance opportunities on offense and on defense, one-and-outs with secondary break run outs as long as Teshaun Hightower is at the helm.

Georgia will use its size and brute strength to send the Spartans back to Spartanburg disappointed that they could not conquer.  Derek Ogbeide is going to be the story tonight as he should get a double-double with a few blocks to dissuade USC-Upstate from coming inside.

If USC-Upstate plays zone for much of this game, which they probably will, this is going to get ugly.

Tougher challenges await these Dawgs, but they will appreciate the opportunity to eat zone defense for dessert.

Prediction:  Georgia 95 USC-Upstate 66

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