Georgia will try to end on a positive note in Baton Rouge.
After another blown lead and the same culprits behind the blown lead coming back to haunt Tom Crean and the Georgia Bulldogs, it is the regular season finale. Time did not exactly fly during this season, it certainly felt longer and more torturous as it went along. From the exhibition game in Charlotte against the 49ers in a road environment to this final road game at LSU, it has been a long road and there are more answers than questions with this current team. The answers unfortunately are not good and Crean really needs some momentum to go into this offseason.
LSU is a lot like Mississippi State and they are a peek into the Future
LSU’s physicality and ability to crash the offensive glass will remind this team of Mississippi State. Mississippi State and LSU are similar in the backcourt with the lack of a true Point Guard. Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart share the distributing responsibility much like the way Mississippi State does with Tyson Carter and Nick Weatherspoon.
LSU does not have a tall, strong, physical, and deep frontcourt like Mississippi State. They do have a strong and physical frontcourt featuring Trendon Watford, Darius Days, and Emmett Williams. They could be considered undersized in terms of height like Georgia, but they are far more physically developed. Georgia’s success on the offensive glass and the green bodies of the team can look at LSU and see what they can become if they put in the work during the offseason.
LSU much like Georgia as they have struggled to force turnovers, is a strong offensive rebounding team (stronger than Georgia), is not a strong defensive rebounding team, has great success in the restricted arc, cannot defend the restricted arc, struggles from three point range, and enjoy a fast pace of play.
Where the teams differ is LSU’s ability to keep opponents out of the restricted arc is much better than Georgia, they are a strong team in the mid-range on offense, and they have done a good job avoiding turnovers.
Who to Watch for LSU
Emmitt Williams – 6’6″ 230 pounds (he has to be heavier than this)
Emmitt Williams is a fierce rebounder and LSU gets a lot of second chance scoring opportunities from him. Williams is there to get garbage points and play physical in the post where he derives the lion’s share of his points in the restricted arc and in the paint. He has a high Free Throw Rate and he is a 77.4% Free Throw shooter, which means he cashes in on his ability to draw contact.
Williams is a good shot blocker and slightly above average defensive rebounder. He’s extremely dangerous on the offensive glass and the bad news is that he has a lot of help.
Darius Days – 6’6″ 240 pounds
Darius Days has been a better offensive and defensive rebounder than Emmitt Williams, but he has not the same interior force that Williams plays in this offense and defense. Days is not a shot blocker and he is not an explosive force in the restricted arc and paint. Days cuts, posts up, and dribble drives to the rim while also being a catch-and-shoot three point shooter. Last season, he was far more effective from beyond the arc in a more limited role, but this season his role expanded and his three point shooting percentage has fallen considerably. This change for Days may be a result of the new three point arc.
Trendon Watford – 6’9″ 235 pounds
Watford is the tallest of the regular LSU rotation, but he is not much of a shot blocker. Watford is a more balanced player. Watford is capable of shooting from beyond the arc (he has not done it well though this season) as a catch-and-shoot three point shooter, scoring in the middle range, and dribble driving. He is also able to get second chance opportunities and close out possessions with rebounds. Watford does not rebound as well as Days and Williams.
Skylar Mays – 6’4″ 205 pounds
The heartbeat of this LSU team. He has seen the lows of the Johnny Jones era and the resurgence under Will Wade. Mays is the team’s leader and he is a tough matchup. Mays is able to shoot three point shots quite well, he draws fouls, hits Free Throws, and sets up his teammates.
Defensively, Mays is disruptive with 2.9% steals rate and he does it without getting into foul trouble. Mays is a tough defensive matchup and he may end up drawing Anthony Edwards as his counterpart.
When Mays has an Assists Rate above his season rate (17.7%), LSU is 10-3. When he is not distributing it well, LSU is 10-7. Skylar Mays cannot carry this LSU team though and opponents should force Mays to be a Hero.
When Mays scores 20+ in a game, LSU is 2-6 this season.
What is LSU playing for?
LSU is playing to avoid dropping another seed line. LSU has lost 6 of their last 9 games, which is rather ugly considering this is an SEC team. LSU was riding high with an 8-0 start to conference play, but they have crashed. LSU did not have the strongest non-conference performance with wins over Texas (last four IN), Rhode Island (bubble team – OUT), and Liberty (likely Atlantic Sun champion) to carry their resume. A team like LSU can ill afford a second “bad loss” on their resume especially with such a fluid bubble and the SEC being a weak conference.
LSU wants to maintain status quo. A loss to Georgia and a slip up in Nashville could lead to a trip to Dayton or even a #1 seed in the NIT. There are many spoiler candidates that could steal at-large bids and LSU needs to stay in this bracket.
What is Georgia playing for?
There’s no SEC Tournament seeding situation that would improve Georgia’s situation, the only way to get to the NCAA Tournament is to win 5 games in a row in Nashville, the NIT may be a possibility if there is a deep run in Nashville, and everyone decided to ruin the final home game of the season against Florida. What is Georgia playing for? Pride, an opportunity to play more basketball, and positive momentum going into the offseason.
What is the identity of this Georgia Team? Do we know it now after 32 games played?
The good news is that this team has an identity. The bad news is that it is not necessarily good and one can expect this sort of an evaluation for a team that is 14-15 (Chaminade does not count, they are a Division II school).
Georgia is a driving and cutting team that would prefer to play in transition over a half court situation. They get de-railed by Hero Ball, quick three point shots off advance passes, and an overeagerness to shoot three point shots early in possessions.
Georgia is a team that prefers not to press, but has shown strength using 1-2-2 Extended Zone pressure. Forcing turnovers is not in the team’s DNA and players lose assignments quickly in the man-to-man defense. Struggles to close out possessions with a rebound and inconsistent defensive effort due to missed shots plague this team. Defense is optional.
Georgia is not a team that is strong at drawing fouls because the team takes so many three point shots and commits so many turnovers.
Individual metric bright spots worth mentioning for the Dawgs going into their last regular season game:
- This team is rather strong at finishing at the rim. 68.3% in the restricted arc is commendable for a team that lacks strength.
- Christian Brown has a high Free Throw Rate, once he has more strength and plays more minutes, he should be major factor next season.
- Jordan Harris is carrying the team with steals rate, he has a 3.4% steals rate and the rest of the team needs to take some notes on how to be as disruptive. If he was able to qualify in games played, he would be second in the SEC in steals rate.
- Mike Peake with additional strength and stability will be very intriguing next season. He has an 18.2% defensive rebounding rate and a 6.3% offensive rebounding rate. He can develop into a double digit percentage player on both, even the 10%/20% Club is possible in his future.
- Sahvir Wheeler is 6th in the country in Assists Rate among Freshmen.
- Toumani Camara as an offensive rebounder has been quite strong despite his undersized frame. He has a 7.8% Offensive Rebound rate.
- Rayshaun Hammonds is 7th in defensive rebounding rate in the SEC.
Anyway, what to expect?
LSU’s physicality and ability to break down Georgia’s perimeter defenders off the dribble will make the difference. Georgia cannot close out possessions well enough and it is too easy to penetrate this defense. They are not connected enough defensively and they are not aggressive enough to take this victory. Emmett Williams should have a big game that will remind people of how South Carolina’s Alanzo Frink abused this frontcourt.
Prediction: LSU 90 Georgia 80