Nobody quite knows which Georgia team is going to show up in Columbia, South Carolina, but the only thing that is certain is that South Carolina will put a vigorous fight.
South Carolina came ready to fight in Athens and brought more physicality and willingness to play than Georgia ever expected. The team now knows first hand what to expect when facing the Gamecocks. However, the question is “Are they willing to match or exceed the intensity of their Garnet and Black clad opposition?” If the Vanderbilt game is any indication, the answer is ‘no’. Georgia may have dominated the glass, but the team was not willing to play the necessary defense to force turnovers and bad shots. It is a major ask to take a team that is not always mentally in the game to lock in and play with the necessary mental and physical fortitude.
Georgia’s Defensive Struggles on the Road
Georgia is a much better defensive team at Stegeman Coliseum, it is quite jarring to see how much better Georgia is on the defensive end in front of a more favorable crowd.
Away from Stegeman Coliseum:
At Stegeman Coliseum
Away from Stegeman Coliseum against SEC teams
At Stegeman Coliseum against SEC teams
Away from Stegeman Coliseum, Georgia yields 14.5 more points per 100 possessions against SEC opponents than they do at Stegeman Coliseum. Defense does not travel and the team’s willingness to rebound and force turnovers is simply not there. It is easy to understand how Georgia could blow double digit leads on the road.
- Georgia has a strong offense inside the perimeter.
- Georgia finds ways to get to the Free Throw Line.
- Georgia struggles to deny second chance opportunities.
- Georgia allows opponents to run roughshod inside the perimeter, particularly inside the restricted arc.
- Georgia is far too susceptible to the dribble drive.
- Georgia does not force enough turnovers and the perimeter defense is too passive for a team lacking in size.
- Georgia’s shot selection is terrible.
- The team tries to get too fancy and too many players are trying to impress scouts that are there to watch Anthony Edwards rather than win a game.
When Georgia is not blowing double digit leads, they clam up like they did against Auburn in Auburn Arena, Mississippi State in Humphrey Coliseum, and Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
Georgia clammed up on the road, but they have failed to show up at Stegeman Coliseum against Ole Miss and South Carolina.
UGA has only been in two conference games that would be considered battles and the team is 1-1 in these games.
How can anyone expect a team that needed a lot of breaks to go their way to win at lowly Vanderbilt and has failed to play with physicality, intelligence, and resilience on both ends of the floor in the last 14 games to do it on the home court of their most brutal and taxing opponent? Can anyone explain how? The answer is that nobody can. It’s all optional with this team.
Turning the Corner? Not so much.
It’s two wins in a row against a shorthanded and shallow team (Auburn) and the worst team in the SEC (Vanderbilt). To get excited about this Georgia team and expect that the Dawgs come in as a new, revitalized team would be delusional. Defense travels, Georgia’s defense does not travel. Georgia is not capable of playing offense in an efficient fashion for 40 minutes. Not everyone wants to be there or plays like they want to be there. No corner has been turned until there is clear progress. The trends are just remaining the same and the team was very fortunate. Claiming that the upperclassmen leadership is there and has emerged because of Vanderbilt’s mismanagement and Tom Crean exploiting this mismanagement is disingenuous.
In many ways, this South Carolina game is the test of the season. This is the fight. Put up or shut up. What is this team’s identity? It has never been quite clear, but this is the game that will provide the full story as to what this team is. It is possible that the identity is just a reckless, bipolar team just muddling their way through a season. If this is the case, this is just a common problem faced by teams going through massive changes and the underclassmen are typically the ones who step up and fix things. The team is a common zoomer or millennial: Anxious, semi-interested, thin-skinned, inconsistent, unfocused, histrionic, and “living their best life.”
Can the season turn around? It’s up to them, but their past performances indicate that they are going to flop against South Carolina. Upperclassmen will rest on their laurels and not realize that their legacy is at stake. Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris could go four years at Georgia without ever beating South Carolina. How embarrassing.
South Carolina is going to play angry.
South Carolina was trying to backdoor their way into the NCAA Tournament. They had a resume that could actually make the case, if they continued to win in SEC action. Every SEC loss would be a dagger to their candidacy. The Gamecocks won 8 out of 10 games prior to losing their last two games at Mississippi State and on their home court to LSU.
South Carolina is firmly out of the NCAA Tournament conversation. They would need to win out the rest of their schedule and make a run in Nashville without slipping up to one of the also-rans of the SEC to even be considered for Dayton.
South Carolina on their home floor is a lot like Georgia. They play poorly on offense and play very well on defense. South Carolina also plays faster at Colonial Life Arena.
The Gamecocks are a disruptive team that fights on the glass, but are susceptible to fouling. Their inefficiency stems from missed shots inside the perimeter. Why are they so inefficient? They take a lot of mid-range shots and they are not getting to the rim.
The alarms are raised for Georgia when it comes to South Carolina when it comes to the following metrics:
- South Carolina yields a low three point Field Goal rate, 27.8%. Georgia is a terrible three point shooting team and when the shots are made early, it is fool’s gold and the team will not stop shooting until they dig their own grave.
- South Carolina is a strong shot blocking team with a 14.2% blocked shot rate. How can Georgia expect to be effective in the restricted arc when they have shown resistance to finishing through contact? Georgia routinely blows layups expecting blockers, it is the equivalent to “alligator arms”.
- South Carolina is a good offensive rebounding team at Colonial Life Arena against SEC opponents. They can get more opportunities from three point range or at the rim.
- South Carolina forces turnovers with an attacking, physical defense. Every player is trying to force a turnover and the shots forced by South Carolina are poor or challenged well. There are no easy opportunities for a team like Georgia.
What to Expect
It is a massive stretch to expect Georgia to win this game. South Carolina is a team that is perfectly suited to disrupting and destroying Georgia’s offensive rhythm. Georgia is not going to bring the defensive effort necessary to win.
Tom Crean probably will not realize that this South Carolina team is really susceptible to presses and ball screen action offense (with rolls, slips, fades). The smartest thing to do would be run ball screens for Edwards and Wheeler to drive and make something happen. Attacking the basket and drawing fouls is the best way to take the teeth out of this defense and take key offensive players off the floor. A compromised South Carolina team that is in foul trouble against an attacking Georgia team would have a very difficult time because Georgia would be out in transition far too often for Frank Martin’s blood pressure.
South Carolina will stifle Georgia’s pace and put the pressure on the Georgia half court offense while Georgia’s transition defense falls flat and allows Jermaine Couisnard and A.J. Lawson to be able to score at will. The question comes down whether Georgia gets out to a lead due to uncharacteristically hot shooting or playing well for 10-25 minutes of the game.
Prior to the Vanderbilt game, the first three non-conference road games were beatdowns by the opponent and the next three non-conference road games were collapses. This game seems more like it would fall in the collapse category. Georgia should get out to a 10-13 point lead at some point, blow it in the usual fashion (wrong priorities, lack of physicality, and no adjustments), and lose the game. Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump will graduate without a win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Prediction: South Carolina 73 Georgia 63