Georgia and Mississippi State have very clear weaknesses that their opponent is suited to exploit.
Georgia and Mississippi State will face off in an overshadowed Saturday Night game on the SEC Network and it is actually quite an intriguing game due to the fact that each team is allergic to the other team’s style of play. It is going to be quite strange to watch two teams that may likely not feel comfortable with each other during the night. For Georgia, this is the second straight opportunity for revenge against an opponent that defeated them in an unusual and notable circumstance. Of course, the game being referenced can simply be called “The Beanie Dog Game” as a disgusted UGA student threw a beanie dog onto the Stegeman Coliseum court and it resulted in a technical foul. A similar incident happened this season during a game at Michigan between Michigan and Purdue where a student threw a large paper airplane onto the court, but in that particular instance a technical foul was not called. Georgia looks to avenge this bizarre moment, official call, and loss.
To say that this was a controversial and unusual finish would be an understatement, but Georgia Basketball during the 2010s was filled with unusual endings to games that all resulted in Georgia losses with the exception of a win at Arkansas on February 2, 2011 where a late foul was called in Georgia’s favor enabling a rare controversial victory.
If there is any motivation for Georgia to win and to do so in a fashion that leaves no doubt, it is the memory of last season’s game at Stegeman Coliseum. Tyree Crump reminded the team at Halftime of the previous game against Tennessee what the Tennessee Volunteers had done to them last season and that the team should put the proverbial “foot on the neck” of their Creamsicle clad opponents. A reminder from Jordan Harris would likely be in order for this particular game.
Mississippi State at a Glance
Mississippi State comes into this game 10-6 (1-3 in the SEC) and they need to cinch a win so that they can get themselves into position for the SEC Tournament. Mississippi State does not have a good enough non-conference resume to make a case for themselves in March. Head Coach Ben Howland and his team are finding it difficult to follow a very good season that resulted in an early exit from the NCAA Tournament at the hands of Liberty.
In a previous article, Mississippi State’s missed opportunities to build a non-conference resume were highlighted and the potential for debased wins were there. Mississippi State has a pair of losses that are not helpful, which were to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State at Humphrey Coliseum. However, Mississippi State was not able to take advantage of the Myrtle Beach Invitational and their win over Kansas State means very little as Bruce Weber’s team is rebuilding again after three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Mississippi State continued to miss out on opportunities to make any case for themselves and show competitiveness in the SEC slate with losses to Auburn, Alabama, and LSU. Mississippi State has a schedule where they have very little accomplished despite having 10 wins thus far.
Mississippi State dealt with Nick Weatherspoon’s 10 game suspension and the experience of playing a very short rotation for much of the season, but Weatherspoon is back and the team is 2-4 with him. They are trying to re-integrate Weatherspoon, but they do not seem to have used the suspension to build up their Freshman Class outside of Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart. The schedule was not impressive and the performances against these opponents were of the same quality as the schedule. Mississippi State needed Radford and Sam Houston State to meltdown late at Humphrey Coliseum to notch wins.
How Mississippi State Exploits Georgia’s Weaknesses
Mississippi State’s Offensive Rebounding Prowess vs. Georgia’s Defensive Rebounding Problems
Mississippi State is able to extend possessions and get second chance points. With a ludicrous 40.8% Offensive Rebounding rate that is held up by Reggie Perry, Robert Woodard II, Abdul Ado, and Prince Aduro, Mississippi State is incredibly dominant. They are not necessarily efficient scoring on putbacks with a 65.5% putback rate in the restricted arc, but they find ways to get multiple opportunities to score. Their ability to score in volume off second chance opportunities is what makes them very dangerous.
Georgia struggles to close out possessions with a defensive rebound. This is an undersized team and it is not in height, the team is undersized in strength. Going body-to-body with players of the same height is a challenge as they are more physically developed. This is part of Georgia’s youth, experienced teams have more offseasons in the weight room. Even last season’s team, which was rather young as well, struggled with defensive rebounding. Georgia has a 69.6% Defensive Rebounding rate. The fortunate thing for Georgia is that opponents do not seem to do a good job scoring on their second chance opportunities.
Mississippi State’s Strength and Physical Development vs. Georgia’s Lack of Strength and Physical Development
Mississippi State is similar physically to Georgia’s teams under Dennis Felton in his last seasons at Georgia and Mark Fox in his early run at Georgia. This is a big and physically imposing team. They are not towering, they just are a team that is very strong physically.
This strength in the frontcourt lends itself to a slower paced game. Mississippi State is one of the slower teams in the country as far as tempo is concerned. According to KenPom, they have an adjusted tempo of 65.4 possessions per game, which is 315th in the country. Mississippi State wants to establish their plays on the High and Low Posts to set up inside-out three point shots and get points in the paint from their posts.
They can push around a team like Georgia and play bully ball, look at the difference in the weights of these teams.
The main differences is weight, but height-wise Georgia is technically 3 inches shorter due to smaller guards and walk-ons. Mississippi State should be the first team since facing Dayton that will heavily emphasize the post-up game.
The strength difference will put Rayshaun Hammonds in a matchup that he may struggle with due to his lack of experience and capabilities defending in the low post. Rodney Howard and Mike Peake will likely be called upon to bolster the effort in the low post to take on Ado, Woodard, Perry, and Oduro. Whether KeyShawn Feazell plays is a bit of an unknown at this point.
How Georgia Exploits Mississippi State’s Weaknesses
Georgia’s Fast-Paced Style of Play vs. Mississippi State Poor Track Record Against Faster Teams
Mississippi State wants to pound it down Georgia’s throat in a methodical game, but if they cannot get this sort of a game, they are likely to be in a track meet with Georgia. Georgia wants to run it up and down the floor, which means trouble that for a team that is lacking depth late in a game. Mississippi State struggled with fast-paced teams and teams that pressed this season.
- LSU – Presses and is 104th in Adjusted Tempo.
- Alabama – 3rd in Adjusted Tempo.
- Auburn – Presses and is 82nd in Adjusted Tempo.
- Louisiana Tech – Presses through the entire game.
- FIU – Presses and is 12th in Adjusted Tempo.
- Sam Houston State – 54th in Adjusted Tempo.
Georgia occasionally presses and wants to get into secondary break once they get a rebound. Georgia takes 31.7% of their shots in transition opportunities, which is 13th highest in the country. Georgia’s company among this distinction are Alabama, Auburn, and FIU. Alabama and Auburn whipped Mississippi State, FIU did not have the personnel to pull the upset in Starkville. Georgia has a much higher talent level than FIU. If Georgia can get the tempo to a 72 or more possession game, Mississippi State may be in for a rough evening.
Georgia’s Ability to Score in the Restricted Arc vs. Mississippi State’s Struggles to Defend the Area
Georgia is one of the most efficient teams in the country at scoring in the restricted arc with a 69.4% Field Goal percentage. Georgia also takes 38.9% of their shots there, which makes Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs, a team that is both effective and efficient in this important area of the court. Georgia is in elite company with Dayton, Kansas, and Auburn.
Mississippi State struggles to defend the restricted arc with opponents scoring 63.5% of their shots, even though 32.8% of the shots are attempted there.
Georgia’s Offensive Rebounding Capabilities vs. Mississippi State’s Inability to Get Defensive Rebounds
For all of the talk about Mississippi State being strong and dominant, it is isolated to the offensive end. They are a weak defensive rebounding team sporting a 69.4% Defensive Rebounding rate. Mississippi State is worse on the defensive glass than Georgia! This is hard to believe, but it is true. Mississippi State is heavily reliant on Robert Woodard II and Reggie Perry to close out possessions. Blocked shots play a large role for Mississippi State as they have a 15.5% blocked shot rate, which is 10th in the country. However, if the shots are not blocked, it means one of three things are likely to occur.
- The shot is made
- There is an offensive rebound
- There is a foul committed
Georgia is a good offensive rebounding team, it is truly a team effort. Georgia has a 32.2% Offensive Rebounding rate, which is 60th in the country.
Mississippi State’s Turnover Problems vs. Georgia’s Ability to Force Live Ball Turnovers
Mississippi State has a 22.2% Turnover Rate, which is 317th in the country. For a team that wishes to play so few possessions, they do not value their possessions. 11.1% of their possessions result in a live ball turnover, which is 25th highest in the country. This is not a good thing. The turnovers counteract Mississippi State’s ability to get extra shot attempts because these turnovers mean that there is a denial of a shot attempt.
Georgia has a 10.9% steals rate, which is 80th in the country. Georgia has come a long way in this category and teams that struggle with turnovers will find themselves having trouble with the Georgia Bulldogs.
What is remarkable is that Mississippi State struggled with teams that typically do not force the same rate of steals as Georgia does. This could become a massive problem that compounds itself if they let Georgia control the pace of the game because it could mean an extra 2-4 fast break opportunities for Georgia, which in this sort of a game could mean the difference.
Teams that cannot keep opponents from getting a high steals rate cannot and have not beat Georgia. Every team that has beat Georgia does not let opponents get live ball turnovers, the exact opposite is true as Georgia has feasted on teams that are turnover prone.
- Tennessee – 11.1% opponent steals rate
- Georgia Tech – 10.9% opponent steals rate
- Memphis – 10.6% opponent steals rate
- SMU – 9.7% opponent steals rate
What to Expect
Can Mississippi State score more second chance points against Georgia than allow points off turnovers? This is the golden question for Ben Howland’s squad. If they can, they will likely win this game. If they cannot, the tempo dictates how big a win this will be for the Georgia Bulldogs. Home or away, the opponents’ ability to prevent live ball turnovers really has told the tale. In the case of Georgia, four of their five losses were against teams that do not beat themselves. Their lone loss was to Auburn, a team that was 134th highest in opponent steals rate, but yet 84th in the country in turnover rate.
Mississippi State is a more physical and experienced version of Tennessee, but their bugaboos are significant and their inability to handle pressure, pace, and depth will crack them. It will not be a blowout, but Georgia will find a way to win in Starkville.
Prediction: Georgia 71 Mississippi State 66