Mark Prosser’s Western Carolina Catamounts take on Georgia in the season opener.
Media Day, practices, secret scrimmages, exhibition games, and season previews mean nothing. The season starts and the games count and matter. For Georgia, facing Western Carolina at Stegeman Coliseum, it is a game that serves multiple purposes even though it is a game that could prove devastating in the case of a loss.
Let’s meet the Western Carolina Catamounts
Western Carolina is coached by Mark Prosser, son of former Wake Forest and Xavier Head Coach Skip Prosser. Prosser’s coaching style is influenced by Skip Prosser (his father), Chris Mack (current Louisville Head Coach), and Pat Kelsey (current Winthrop Head Coach). Prosser is in his second year in Cullowhee, North Carolina having replaced Larry Hunter. Prosser’s squad went 7-25 in his first season at the helm. The Wheeling, West Virginia native is expected to turn up the tempo even more in Year #2.
- Full Court Pressure: Possible pressure on missed shots too like his father would.
- Man-to-Man Defense
- Dribble-drive heavy offense.
- 13.6% of shots last season were between 4 and 20 feet, expect this to continue.
Who to watch for?
Marcus Thomas – 6’3″ Guard (Junior)
Thomas is the lead dribble-driver on the team and he’s an average three point shooter. Thomas makes you respect his perimeter shot and finishes at the rim off the dribble-drive the most frequently of the Catamounts. Thomas can draw fouls as well, he is the top returning Catamount backcourt member in FTA/FGA from last season. Arguably, the toughest matchup for Georgia because he is so willing to attack the rim and he’s effective from three point range. Like all of his teammates, Thomas is very turnover prone with a turnover rate of 24% last season.
Kameron Gibson – 6’3″ Guard (Sophomore)
Gibson is the team’s best three point shooter and he may be the best three point shooter in this game. Gibson was a 41.3% three point shooter last season and he took 55.6% of his shots from three point range. Gibson is not afraid to take three point shots off the dribble and he also takes three point shots off catch-and-shoot opportunities. Gibson is not as much of a threat to attack the rim and he does not draw fouls. He’s a shooter and he’s a strong mid-range shooter as well. Running Gibson off the three point line is a key thing to do. He’s all offense and his defense is extremely poor.
Matt Halvorsen – 6’1″ Point Guard (Junior)
Halvorsen is the team’s leading distributor despite having a poor assist rate. Mason Faulkner, the transfer from Northern Kentucky, may be the best distributor on the team. Halvorsen is adept at drawing fouls unlike Faulkner and he is a strong Free Throw shooter at 85.3%. Almost all of Halvorsen’s shots are from three point range and he shoots 34.8%. Halvorsen is going to either dribble drive to pass and draw a foul or take a three point shot when given the opportunity. Halvorsen is not a threat to attempt a shot between the three point line and restricted arc. He defends without fouling, but then again, he really does not defend either.
Mason Faulkner – 6’1″ Point Guard (Junior)
There’s a bit of Point Guard competition in Cullowhee. Faulkner is a far better defender than Halvorsen and he has a stronger assist and steals rate. Faulkner transferred over from the more established Northern Kentucky program. Faulkner is a three point shooter to respect, but he doesn’t put much pressure on defenses off the dribble. He’s going to shoot a lot of threes and in that sense, he fits in very well with Western Carolina.
Carlos Dotson – 6’7″ Forward (Senior)
Dotson is the only interior threat that the Catamounts have. Dotson is no threat to shoot threes, he gets his work done on the interior. 80.7% of his shots were taken in the restricted arc. Dotson is a strong offensive and defensive rebounder possibly on the level of Reggie Perry at Mississippi State. Dotson is not a threat to block shots or force turnovers, but he is a threat to get himself into foul trouble. Watch out for Dotson’s ability to score at the basket, force fouls, get himself to the line, and miss half his Free Throws.
What Georgia Gets Out of This
Georgia’s perimeter defense is tested
How does Georgia’s backcourt and Toumani Camara guard the perimeter to run Western Carolina’s shooters off the line and keep Marcus Thomas’ dribble-driving exploits contained?
How will Amanze Ngumezi matchup against Carlos Dotson?
Carlos Dotson is an undersized post player who can rebound really well and has a nose for getting himself putbacks, layups, and dunks. Ngumezi’s challenge is to keep him out of the restricted arc and to deny him rebounds.
Western Carolina is a turnover-prone team, can Georgia force Western Carolina to turn the ball over at the Catamounts’ worst-in-the-country turnover rate from last season? Getting confidence in steals and forced turnovers is a big deal for a program that has not been doing this for a decade.
Western Carolina was the worst team in the country last season in turnover rate with a 25.3% turnover rate, can Georgia with the new pressure approach and coaching from John Linehan force Western Carolina to turn it over frequently? Can Georgia turn turnovers into points in this game?
Who to watch in this clash?
- Sahvir Wheeler: How well will he harass Faulkner and Halvorsen? Would Crean put him on Thomas or get him to switch onto Thomas?
- Amanze Ngumezi: Ngumezi needs confidence in his abilities in the paint and facing Dotson is a challenge for him. This is a confidence-boosting game for Ngumezi if he performs well.
- Jordan Harris: After two rough exhibition games, how does Harris perform in possibly a shut-down role at some point against Kameron Gibson? Can Harris force turnovers and deny Gibson opportunities to take three point shots? Will Harris re-find his comfort zone on the offensive end like he did toward the end of last season.
- Christian Brown and Toumani Camara: What is Crean’s approach with these two in this game against a team that is very undersized? Will this be an opportunity to test them on the perimeter or drop them down to face Dotson for the experience.
Defense is going to be the story for Georgia. Western Carolina’s defense is going to be poor and Georgia should be able to get second chance points and points off turnovers. The question is whether Georgia is going to let Western Carolina get hot from three point range, get second chance opportunities, and of course the containment of Marcus Thomas on defense.
Prediction: Georgia 92 Western Carolina 78