The start of Georgia’s December Sweep Campaign begins Wednesday at Stegeman Coliseum with North Carolina Central.
Georgia hosts North Carolina Central in a buy game that has no upside beyond filling Stegeman Coliseum, giving this young team more experience on the court against a different opponent, and adding one to the win side of the win-loss record. The downside of this game is that a Georgia loss would be devastating to the team’s postseason aspirations, may be discouraging for such a green team, and reintroduce negativity into a program that is in the process of cleansing itself. This is not going to boost the resume, but it is an opportunity to get better against an opponent that is 1-6 and has been largely uncompetitive this season for a team that was picked by the media (they always get it right) to win the MEAC once again.
Bethune Cookman was projected second by the media in the preseason, but they have been much more competitive than North Carolina Central thus far and do seem to be the current favorite. However, in a conference like the MEAC, the MEAC Tournament is what matters to determine which team goes to Dayton for the play-in game.
Let’s Meet North Carolina Central Eagles
LeVelle Moton is a well-respected coach and he has taken the Eagles from being an NCAA independent team to becoming a dominant force in the MEAC with three straight MEAC Tournament Championships and First Four berths. Moton is coaching at his alma mater and given his success one would have thought he would be poachable for a mid-major, but thus far he has not made a move. Moton’s name always comes up during the Coaching Carousel Season, he was most recently linked to the previously vacant Georgia State opening.
North Carolina Central will be the first opponent for Georgia to actually be a slower paced team that may be content with a slower pace.
North Carolina Central’s offense is generally a 4 out offense that emphasizes ball movement to set up shots in the restricted arc. Cuts and post-ups are how this team makes it happen. Moton’s Eagles are a bit unusual, they take 24.6% of their shots in transition and yet sport an awful 35.2% Effective Field Goal rate in transition. They take 39.8% of their shots in the restricted arc and only make 49.7% of these shots, which is 13th worst in the country.
Defensively, North Carolina Central is above-average at keeping opponents from taking shots in transition with a 22.3% rate from opponents. North Carolina Central is not as slow-paced as previous seasons, but their defense does slow things down. However, the defense is ineffective at keeping opponents from taking and making the most optimized shots on the floor (restricted arc and three point shots). North Carolina Central is 13th worst in the country in this category as only 17.5% of opponent shots are taken between the restricted arc and three point line. This explains North Carolina Central’s defensive struggles quite a bit.
LeVelle Moton has an undersized team that is completely lacking in post play and this hurts a lot on the defensive end. Opponents may be slowing down to set up post feeds to take advantage of the mismatch that they do not have to force through offensive scheme. No need for ball screens to force mismatches in the post against this squad.
Moton’s defensive footprint has generally been consistent with man-to-man defense through the years.
Who to Watch for North Carolina Central
Jibri Blount – Forward
Jibri Blount transferred out of Cleveland State and has emerged as the best performing player on this North Carolina Central team. Blount is easily the team’s best defender while still being a very slightly below average offensive player this season. Blount is the team’s best offensive and defensive rebounder while being a threat to attempt the three point shot, but not necessarily make it. Blount is capable of drawing fouls off the dribble and in the restricted arc.
Preventing Blount from scoring on a putback will be important as he takes 11.8% of his shots on putbacks.
Defensively, Blount has active hands and is foul prone. He is the team’s best defensive rebounder, nobody else comes close.
Randy Miller Jr. – Guard
Miller is extremely inefficient inside the perimeter with a 30.8% two point Field Goal percentage. He is rather good at getting himself to the Free Throw Line on his drives to the basket and he will make opponents pay for their fouls when he gets to the Free Throw Line, he’s an 86.5% Free Throw shooter.
Miller is a dangerous shooter from three point range and the objective should be to get him to dribble inside the perimeter make him attack the basket without fouling him. If he becomes a jump shooter or tries a floater, let him have it. Miller’s game is predicated on shooting at the line or the arc.
Not to forget, he is very turnover prone and he is not a threat as a rebounder or a distributor.
Ty Graves – Guard
Georgia struggles with volume three point shooters, which means that Graves may be the biggest matchup issue. Graves transferred out of Boston College and he is now playing for LeVelle Moton. Graves is not much of a distributor, but the reason why we care about Graves is because he takes a lot of three point shots and he is a strong shooter. 75% of his shots are from three point range, running him off the line should be the priority. However, Georgia is weak at staying with perimeter shooting threats, which makes Graves such a problem.
How is Georgia challenged by North Carolina Central?
Georgia’s weaknesses are:
- Inexperienced decision making
- Poor perimeter shot setups
- The temptation of Hero Ball
- Perimeter Defense
- Contesting shots
- Free Throw Shooting
The visual horrors are a match with Georgia’s metrics.
Georgia’s Assist Rate is average, which is reflective of the team’s inability to set each other up well from three point range or confidently take the shot that they are handed on a silver platter. The hasty, fancy, unnecessary, and inappropriate passes result in both turnovers and more easily challenged shot attempts. This is a combination of Hero Ball and inexperience.
Georgia’s three point defense is abysmal. Georgia’s opponents are able to go off on the Dawgs from beyond the arc with wide open three point shots. Nobody is challenging the shots and defenders are too far away from shooters. Throw in the inability or unwillingness to both stay engaged on a defender in man-to-man defense and put pressure on opponents after a scoring possession to deny quick points, it is going to result terribly on the defensive end. Insecurity about post play has forced perimeter players to pack it in more. Amanze Ngumezi’s inability to step up on the block, Rayshaun Hammonds’ inability to stay out of foul trouble, and Rodney Howard’s limited capabilities yield a lot to opponents on the inside. The fear of the dribble drive is the main concern and while it matters, the scouting reports are not being followed and above-average volume three point shooters are able to get high percentage three point shot attempts.
Georgia allows 30.6% of shot attempts in transition. This is the company this team keeps when it comes to this metric, it is not good.
Georgia is not defending the transition three point shot very well, but this is a team that struggles to defend after they score a basket.
After a Georgia scoring possession, Georgia’s opponents have enjoyed a 57% effective Field Goal rate on non-transition possessions. After a missed shot and an opponent rebound, this rate climbs to 62.8%. In both metrics, Georgia is 13th worst in the country.
It is far too easy for opponents to score against this defense. The threat of Graves and Miller from three point range ought to have this team’s attention. Can Amanze Ngumezi assert himself against the one player who may be inside the perimeter?
Georgia’s not cashing in on forced turnovers either. Georgia is much better at forcing the turnovers, but the points off turnovers are not there. It is a bit absurd that Georgia is in the top 10% in transition shots attempted off a live ball turnover, but yet are 281st in the country in Effective Field Goal rate for those shots. This is the problem with Georgia’s Hero Ball issue whether it be Anthony Edwards trying to do far too much on offense when it is simply not necessary or Tyree Crump thinking he has a shot quota and his teammates feeding into that idea.
This is a game that is not about winning the rebounding battle, avoiding turnovers, shots made or how many points someone has.
This game is about how Georgia addresses their very clear weaknesses:
- Can the members of Georgia’s backcourt adequately defend Ty Graves, Randy Miller Jr., and Justin Whatley?
- Can Amanze Ngumezi show that he can hold his own defensively, even if it is against an undersized 4 and 5 out offense?
- Can the Dawgs prevent opponents from being so easily able to cross the timeline after a made basket?
- Can Sahvir Wheeler, Anthony Edwards, and Red Gresham do a better job using the dribble drive to set up shooters for shots that they have actually practiced from three point range?
This will end up being a tougher game than what the sportsbooks will put out because of Georgia’s inability to prevent opponents from lighting them up on the perimeter, but Georgia will have more shot attempts, force turnovers, and get to the line enough for a win that is neither ugly nor glamorous.
Prediction: Georgia 88 North Carolina Central 73