Georgia now must win the Wooden Legacy to preserve the non-conference resume.
Georgia takes on San Diego State, a team with a bit of a different attitude and approach under Brian Dutcher. This game takes on a whole new meaning with Saint Mary’s losing to Malachi Flynn and the Washington State Cougars. This San Diego State game has greater importance as Georgia, with a loss, would face Saint Mary’s in a consolation game and face the likely prospect of leaving Orange County with with two losses. However, Georgia could win the Wooden Legacy outright and have a 6-0 record along with a possible Top 25 ranking. This is an incredibly important game. It’s a must win game in November.
Georgia Basketball has never won more than one game in a non-conference tournament under Mark Fox. Tonight is an opportunity to change that. San Diego State is Georgia’s first significant opponent since playing Michigan State in Grand Rapids. In big games, Mark Fox coached teams tend to fold late as the pressure of the moment becomes far too much.
Can this iteration of Bulldogs do what previous teams could not? Can they win a second non-conference tournament game? Can this team win a tournament that is nearly gift-wrapped for them?
San Diego State
The Aztecs are experienced in the backcourt and have enough size to counter Georgia.
To make matters tougher, this San Diego State team a little less predictable defensively. Steve Fisher used to play exclusively Man-to-Man and it worked really well. Dutcher has a different vision and there will be 2-3 Zone. One of the reasons cited for playing 2-3 Zone is that Dutcher found that it helped with their zone offense to practice and play some 2-3 Zone.
Stats before the Sacramento State game:
So far, San Diego State has shot the three point shot much better than last season. The Aztecs have only faced one major conference opponent, Arizona State, it was a 90-68 loss at Wells Fargo Arena.
San Diego State will be at a slight disadvantage having to play a second game 16 hours after the game against Sacramento State. Georgia will have a 2 1/2 hour advantage in rest for this game.
Sacramento State was a last-second fill-in for DePaul who had to participate in the PK80 Tournament, which may explain the lack of fanfare and competition in the Wooden Legacy. Last season’s Wooden Legacy field was much stronger than this season’s. San Diego State completely dominated Sacramento State in the first half and coasted by in the second half.
The versatile 6’9″ Junior Combo Forward Max Montana is expected to be out in this game due to a hyperextension of his knee.
San Diego State is a faster paced team than previous Aztec teams and they are more offensively potent, but how they are able to combat another opponent of similar size and talent level is a major question. They did not answer the bell at Arizona State and will need to do so tonight.
Malik Pope is the leading rebounder for the team and while Jalen McDaniels and Kameron Rooks had a big game on the glass against lowly Sacramento State, this is a team that rebounds largely by-committee. Trey Kell is one of the better rebounding guards in the country and it helps with the team’s 2-3 Zone Defense.
What to Expect
Malik Pope vs. Yante Maten will be the matchup to watch, but the biggest thing to look for is whether Georgia can play with composure against multiple defenses. This team is immature and passive. The offense is predictable and stale.
Does Mark Fox resort to Hero Ball? Would he go down this route to try to win a pair of games and then fix a bunch of issues in Athens in preparation for Marquette? It’s a terrible approach, but it cannot be ruled out as a possibility.
Georgia is going to look unprepared in this game. This may be like the 2010 Old Spice Classic in reverse. Georgia played slow and sloppy against Manhattan with a pair of NBA Draftees (Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins), but they won the 7th Place Game. Georgia played Notre Dame first and lost in Double Overtime to play a second game where the Dawgs lost to Temple in sloppy fashion.
This is in a sense an elimination game in the non-conference slate. Both teams need this win. The last time Georgia had a game like this in November was last season at Clemson and that turned out horribly. Expect a repeat of that sort of a performance.
Malik Pope may not have a big game, but Trey Kell and Matt Mitchell certainly could from beyond the arc and attacking the basket.
Prediction: San Diego State 70 Georgia 58