Game Preview

Florida at Georgia Game Preview: Senior Night Edition

It will be an emotional game at Stegeman Coliseum because not only is it Senior Night, but Florida is in town.

This will be the first opportunity for Georgia to get payback against a team they blew a double digit lead against this season.  Georgia’s defensive meltdown combined with an immature performance on offense and a terrible showing on the glass allowed Florida to come back from a 22 point deficit in Gainesville.  This time around, Georgia wants to show that they can win just like they did against Arkansas or perform in a more dominant fashion.

What is Florida playing for?

Florida is playing for seeding in both the NCAA and SEC Tournaments.  Florida needs to avoid losing to Georgia as it would be a bad loss that can force them to play on Thursday in Nashville and push them down to a double digit seed line.

The only way a win at Georgia helps Florida is that other teams may fall and this will push up Florida.

What is Georgia playing for?

A number of things that have nothing to do with the NCAA Tournament.

  1. It’s Florida and in Basketball, Georgia views Florida as a bigger game than the other way around.
  2. Senior Night, but it is a special sort of Senior Night.  Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump are from the Wiregrass Region and they grew up minutes away from the Georgia-Florida border.  This game means a lot to them.
  3. SEC Tournament seeding.  Georgia is trying to avoid playing on Wednesday Night.  They will need help, but they also have to win out.
  4. A positive lasting memory for those in attendance.  Winning against Florida will quell the naysayers and leave the crowd feeling good on what should be the last game at Stegeman Coliseum until November.

Take a good look and soak in your last opportunity to enjoy a Georgia Basketball game where the crowd is cheering for the Dawgs.  Every game after this one might as well be considered a road game.  Georgia will be playing at LSU after this game and then in Nashville, the Kentucky base will be booing Georgia and chanting “Go Big Blue” whether Kentucky is on the floor or not.  This is a big next step in building a Basketball Culture at UGA, treating the SEC Tournament like it is the Georgia-Florida Football Game.  Taking away Kentucky’s second home court advantage away should be a goal.  Georgia is usually represented terribly in the stands at neutral site games and this will not change until there is an emphasis on doing this.  The first step was to fill Stegeman Coliseum and the Kentucky fans still made their presence known throughout the season buying season tickets and leaving seats vacant for the rest of the season.

Keys for Georgia to beat Florida

Control tempo

Florida uses 1-3-1 Extended Zone and 2-2-1 Zone Press to slow opponents down rather than force turnovers.  This puts the Gators in a position to force bad shots, grab turnovers, and set up opportunities without letting their opponents’ defense get set.  Florida would seem to be a fast paced team based on their talent and playing style, but Mike White has made an interesting shift during his run as Head Coach at Florida.

The pace that Gator Nation expected from Mike White coming from Louisiana Tech is not there.  Florida wants a slower paced game.

Georgia wants a frenetic pace.  Gone are the days of Mark Fox’s rock fights and slow paced games out of the belief that the talent was not good enough and Fox’s desire to micromanage everything.  Tom Crean wants this Georgia team to get out and run at any occasion and the players want to do it as well.  The fast pace is dictated by two key factors, one good and one bad for the team.

  • Good:  Off defensive rebounds, the team wants to get out and run in transition to score off missed shots.
  • Bad:  Opponents are having an easy time scoring off Georgia’s scoring possessions.

Georgia’s penchant for turnovers and quick shots that come without rhythm result in fast points on the other end.

If Florida is cold and Georgia is able to get out in transition, things will be rough like the First Half of the game in Gainesville.

Keeping Florida out of the restricted arc.

Georgia is not strong enough to guard Kerry Blackshear, Jason Jitoboh or Omar Payne in the post.  This is a team that needs an offseason desperately.  Tom Crean’s team was able to completely dominate Arkansas because the Hogs were so undersized that Rayshaun Hammonds was Reggie Perry to them.  Having Toumani Camara guard Kerry Blackshear would be a massive mistake.  Georgia needs to play bigger against Florida, but this is a team that still needs to be capable of running.  Does Crean have enough faith in Mike Peake and Rodney Howard to contain Kerry Blackshear?

What is the defensive approach to keep Andrew Nembhard out of the restricted arc on drives and force Kerry Blackshear to be a shooter?  Zone defense would seem like the right answer, but it may not.  Here’s why.

Noah Locke, Scottie Lewis, and Keyontate Johnson are shooting the ball from the perimeter really well.  Tre Mann has been extremely good from three point range when he’s left wide open.  Georgia’s 2-3 Matchup Zone is not good enough to defend the left corner or wing.

The challenge is to play man-to-man against Kerry Blackshear and not allow the Florida perimeter shooters to take uncontested three point shots.  Perhaps the best approach is to sag against Andrew Nembhard and play 1 1/2 players on Blackshear when he is in the low post.  Everyone else plays tight on defenders.

Forcing foul trouble

Florida can get disjointed offensively without Blackshear and getting Jitoboh or Payne in foul trouble would make the defensive effort much less daunting.

Here’s the good news.

Florida’s posts are all extremely foul prone, which means that Georgia could get them off the floor early in the game and focus on piling the fouls on them in the Second Half.  Anthony Edwards needs to frequently attack the basket and forget about three point shots.  The best way to draw the fouls is to use Rayshaun Hammonds as a driver from the perimeter or on the High Post.  If there is a double pinch, he can kick it out or find a cutter along the baseline to get a basket or draw a foul.

Going wild from three point range is exactly what Florida would want Georgia to do.  Georgia is not a consistent three point shooting team and the shot quality is usually poor.  However, if Georgia can force the issue in the interior, get favorable calls, and baskets in the interior, this should be a good sign.

Georgia’s offense is the best defense in this game to take key players off the floor.  If this team does it right, Georgia can turn Florida into Arkansas for significant parts of the game.

What to Expect

Similar maddening elements as the Arkansas game, but Georgia will find a way to win.  Getting Blackshear into early foul trouble and putting Omar Payne in a similar position will help with producing a similar First Half outcome.  Anthony Edwards should be more aggressive in this game, but this game is about Rayshaun Hammonds and Georgia’s ability to get offensive rebounds.  The foul count, success on the offensive glass, and Florida’s difficulties with containing Sahvir Wheeler and Rayshaun Hammonds will prove the difference.

Florida is a weak defensive team on the road and this should play a big role in this game.

As long as Georgia does not get too three point shooting happy in this game, this should be a win for Georgia.  It will not be a blowout and it will not be the offensive spectacle like the Arkansas game.

Prediction:  Georgia 72 Florida 68

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