You have to be there to watch Georgia face Charlotte, otherwise you’re stuck with listening to this game on the radio.
Georgia will face Charlotte in its third annual charity exhibition game at Halton Arena on the UNC-Charlotte campus. Proceeds from this game will go to the April 30th Remembrance Fund, which supports the memorial and remembrance efforts in response to the tragic shooting at UNC Charlotte on April 30, 2019, in which two students lost their lives and four others were injured because the gunman wanted to avoid paying off his student loan debt. Onto the happier segment and much larger segment of the charity exhibition, an actual preview of the game.
What should we know about Charlotte?
Charlotte is in Year 2 under Ron Sanchez, who was an assistant for a member of the Bennett family (Dick and Tony Bennett) from 2003-2018. Sanchez was also an assistant for Mike Davis’ Indiana Hoosiers from 2001-2003 and was on the staff that lost to Maryland in the 2002 National Championship Game. Sanchez was a part of the revival of Washington State Basketball with Dick and Tony Bennett and he was a part of the revival and newfound dominance at Virginia under Tony Bennett.
Sanchez took the job at Charlotte knowing that he was taking on a massive rebuild. Charlotte also has not been the same since the glory days of Conference USA. Charlotte moved out of Conference USA to the Atlantic 10 and then back to a much diminished Conference USA, which was gutted by the Big East and the AAC. Charlotte used to enjoy a rivalry with Cincinnati and was an NCAA Tournament regular under Bobby Lutz, but those days are a distant memory as the Charlotte 49ers have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
What does Sanchez bring to the table? Tony Bennett’s offensive and defensive style, but with lesser talent executing it. More teams are using the Pack Line Defense, but no one has experienced the defensive success that Virginia has enjoyed. On the offensive end, Sanchez runs the Mover-Blocker Offense, which is a more obscure style of offense that is not used by many teams. Mover-Blocker Offense in short is a role-oriented offense that places players in roles of screeners and movers who are designed to be handling the ball. It is not an unusual sight to see a player cycle through the same sort of off-ball screen as if they are doing it on a loop, they are just doing their job within the offense.
Much like Virginia’s pace of play, Charlotte is also very slow. Charlotte should be in the bottom 5-10% in Adjusted Tempo this upcoming season. It takes Year 2 for the new pace to set in.
- 2008-09 Virginia had an adjusted tempo of 67.2 possessions, which was 89th in the country.
- 2009-10 Virginia (with Tony Bennett) had an adjusted tempo of 61.7 possessions, which was 316th.
- 2010-11 Virginia had an adjusted tempo of 59.1 possessions, which was 340th.
Virginia was the slowest paced team in the country last season with an adjusted tempo of 59.4 possessions per game. The last time that Virginia was not the slowest paced team in the country was the 2015-16 season, they were just 348th in the country.
In the 2017-18 season, Charlotte had a rather fast pace with an adjusted tempo of 71.2 (48th in the country) and then Ron Sanchez came along and choked the pace to 64.5 (325th in the country). Charlotte’s defense improved by 6 points per 100 possessions, but the offense was still behind.
Charlotte is a young team with a new starting Point Guard as Jon Davis, the do-it-all Point Guard departed after exhausting his eligibility. The known contributors are largely sophomores and someone will have to step up at the Point Guard spot. Cooper Robb and Jordan Shepherd will vie for minutes at Point Guard and the expectation is that swingman Malik Martin will be carrying the offensive burden.
Unlike Virginia, Charlotte is not a strong three point shooting team and last season were among the worst in three point shooting percentage and the expectation is that this continues into this season. Cooper Robb should be the closest to a three point threat that Charlotte has this season, he was a 33.8% three point shooter last season, which makes him rather average from beyond the arc. The team was out of sync from the perimeter because there were not enough three point attempts made off rhythm passes, which is far more critical in the college game than the professional game. Charlotte was a three point happy team, but they just were not able to execute.
Defensively, Charlotte’s best stalwarts are Malik Martin and Milos Supica, but this is relative considering that Charlotte is still a poor defensive team and are expected to continue their subpar ways this season. Charlotte seems to be a four year project for Ron Sanchez considering the need for roster turnover, some more experience, and better chemistry.
Last season, Charlotte had an unusual distinction for blocking the 3rd highest percentage of 2 point jump shots while being the 201st ranked team in blocked shots. Charlotte was blocking jump shots, not shots in the restricted arc. Charlotte was not doing an effective enough job last season at forcing opponents to take mid-range jump shots as opponents only took 22.6% of their shots in the mid-range. Opponents were content to take threes and shots in the restricted arc and this harmed the team’s defensive efficiency.
What Georgia needs to do against Charlotte
Georgia played a track meet of a game against Valdosta State, but Charlotte is going to look to slow down the Dawgs. How can Georgia can speed up Charlotte?
- Pressure man-to-man defense much like the Valdosta State game to force the newly entrusted Point Guards to commit turnovers and create transition shot attempts.
- Don’t get caught in the trap of the Pack Line to move the ball side-to-side, this is a good game to use the Pick and Slip from the top of the key frequently to take advantage of Charlotte’s hedge on ball screens. This will create faster possessions and loosen up the defense to be more responsive to dribble drive action, which means that Sahvir Wheeler can have a field day attacking the basket and distributing to set up cutters and open shooters on the perimeter.
- Secondary break is going to be tough since Charlotte drops their defense back and does not fight for offensive rebounds, but looking for these opportunities to push, attack, and kick when necessary will turn this game from a snoozefest into Tom Crean-styled Basketball.
Possessions are at a premium against a team like Charlotte. Even though Charlotte is lacking experience at Point Guard, shoots poorly, and is not as talented as Georgia, their style of play matters and they wish to impose it upon Georgia. It is good preparation for a team like South Carolina on the defensive end. Georgia has not defeated South Carolina since March 11, 2016. It is an opportunity for this Georgia team to show maturity when it comes to decision-making. Turning the ball over against a slower paced team like Charlotte, Missouri, Florida, or SMU means more than it would against a team that gives opponents more possessions.
This game is about how the Georgia frontcourt performs and generally handles the ball. Winning the offensive glass and defensive glass is crucial for this team, last season it was a massive problem and it reared its ugly head against Valdosta State. Amanze Ngumezi, Toumani Camara, Rodney Howard, Christian Brown, and Rayshaun Hammonds have to step up.
This game provides an interesting look at how Tom Crean game plans an opponent with a particular style of play, this is a good opportunity to see if Tom Crean makes adjustments or if he is rigid like his predecessor. It is tough to backdoor cut or chin screen a sagging defender at the 16 foot arc, which is why there has to be some sort of an adjustment.
This being said, Charlotte is not going to run Pack Line Defense anywhere close to as well as Virginia and they won’t run their offense as efficiently either. However, this should not stop Georgia from approaching Charlotte as if they were facing the defending National Champions.
Prediction: Georgia 70 Charlotte 54