Monday, June 29, 2015

Phil Steele Previews The Dawgs

There has been a long hiatus from posting. A new job, coaching spring baseball, work trips, and vacations will do that to you. Apparently we've had a QB controversy and we're killing it on the recruiting trail. There... I've caught myself up with the spring. My college football season officially begins with a trip to Publix these days to pick up Phil Steele's preseason magazine. A buddy of mine got me hooked on Phil back in college and quite simply he's the most information packed, most accurate, and best preparer to get you squared away for the upcoming season. If you'd like more info on Phil please click here and look for him on ESPN in various facets this season.

Below is not his full preview, but a summation and some interesting tidbits I picked up on this year's roll through of the Dawgs.

Rankings & Predictions:

Preseason Rank (6). Noting that his is not a "power ranking" it takes into account all data to accumulate a projected team ranking finish. Key notes here are drawing the best west opponent at home, having only 3 true SEC road games, and riding the OL & RB corps to the Eastern title. Georgia falls behind projected finishers: Ohio St., TCU, USC, Bama, and then Baylor.

Power Poll Rank (7). This is more a true measure of team strength in his eyes. Not much of a different slot from the preseason rank, but UGA dips down one. Power poll ranks are Ohio St., TCU, Bama, USC, Baylor, and Oregon, with Stanford right behind us.

Bowl Prediction: Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor. Bama goes on to the playoff in his model, so obviously this predicts us losing to them in the SECCG.

SEC East: Champion (loss to Bama in Dome)

Schedule Ranking: 37th Most Difficult. That's the 3rd easiest in the conference according to him in front of Kentucky and Missouri. Bama ranks the #1 toughest schedule.

Unit Power Rankings:

QBs: N/A Apparently the Ramsey, Lambert, Bauta three headed monster didn't register.

RBs: (1) Ranked above Ohio State due to the caliber of Chubb, Michel, the up in the air Marshall, and then depth at #4/5.

WRs: (24) A certain question mark area where folks need to fill spots for UGA

O-Line: (3) Behind Michigan State & USC. Replacing the center, but experienced returners elsewhere.

D-Line: (29)

Linebackers: (9) The 3rd ranked corps in the SEC, behind Bama and Ole Miss. This will certainly be the tone setting element of the defense.

Defensive Backs: (30)

Special Teams: (19) This is a unit that showed a good bit of improvement last year with the threat of a return game and near the top of the conference in net PR and KR yards (even if we didn't boom it).

Projected All-Americans:

Nick Chubb - 1st Team RB
Greg Pyke - 3rd Team OG
Leonard Floyd - 1st Team LB
Jordan Jenkins - 4th Team LB
Isaiah McKenzie - 2nd Team PR

Random Nuggets:

During his 14 years, Mark Richt has never finished worse than 3rd in his division and during that span no other SEC team has accomplished that feat. That probably fans the flames of Mediocrichty, but also serves to bolster we've never been to the cellar.

Isaiah McKenzie is the leading statistical punt returner coming back to play this year (with the departures of Quan Bray & Andre Dubose) in YPR.

Over the last 10 years UGA has the 3rd best SEC record at 54-26.
Over the last 5 years UGA has the 3rd best SEC record at 28-12.
Over the past 3 years UGA has the 2nd best SEC record at 18-6.

Nick Chubb is the leading YPG RB returning to SEC play this year with 119 YPG. That's nearly 30 yards above anyone else returning (and was only 4 ypg from leading the conference last year).

Nick Chubb is currently 5th in his preseason Heisman poll behind Kessler (USC), Boykin (TCU), Elliot (Ohio St.), and Henry (Bama).

UGA was +16 in turnover margin last year. This was obviously a vast improvement from prior years, but a number Phil expects to go down.

UGA actually went 7-5 against the spread last year... which we never seam to be on the positive side of. Unfortunately looking back we were favored in every game we entered by Vegas last year. Did you know we only covered 3 times in 2013...granted there were two pushes.

More along the gambling lines... we're 60-64-5 over the last 10 years ATS. About the only time we seem to edge Vegas is when we are away favorites. Don't bet on us in conference as that's where our worst stats are, thanks probably to all those way too close UK, Vandy, etc. games.

UGA is 12-1 in it's last 13 SEC home games (Mizzou '13).

UGA is 17-1 since '97 in Sanford Stadium openers (SC '11). Sure most are normally cupcakes but that does include Boise State, Oklahoma State, and Clemson. The last time we played La Monroe was 2005 where we won 44-7.

Jeb Blazevich is our leading returning receiver. Noteworthy here of course were last year's injuries to Malcolm Mitchell and Scott-Wesley.

Southern actually went to the SWAC championship last year. UGA is 8-0 in their most recent FCS games, while Southern is 0-8 all time vs. FBS. Average UGA win margin was 39ppg during stretch.

UGA is 8-1 in their last 9 SEC West regular season games (Auburn '13), but 0-2 in the SECCG. I didn't believe it either until I verified it.

Georgia has won 5 in a row versus the Vols. Can't remember the last time that held true. I assume it was before I was born.

UGA is career 21-3 versus Kentucky. I was in school for one of the 3...

Lastly... He predicts Brice Ramsey as our starting quarterback.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

In My Opinion - Nothing to Worry About Regarding the Bubble

Some pundits have moved Georgia to a "bubble position" since the loss to Arkansas. More commonly we've dropped to a 10 seed. I don't think there's anything to worry about as the last major conference at larges get in as 12's.

With the A&M and Ole Miss one and dones in the tourney we saw our top 50 RPI wins become non top-50. That being said I don't think the committee should have that much difference in viewing wins vs. #49 or #53. The top 100 marks still looks good, plus we played a good non-conference schedule.

UGA finished 3rd in the SEC. Furthermore the SEC "bubble teams" A&M, LSU, and Ole Miss all slipped in the tourney. They should have much more bubble worry than we should.

The win / loss columns look good. Getting over the 20 hump and staying under the 12 hump in the loss column bodes well for us (complimented by that decent non conference resume).

Finally, the eye test. After the Kentucky game at home where we finally played at full strength, I think it was apparent to everyone we were one of the 65 best teams in the nation (or top 25 at large). Luckily for us it was on a national stage and ESPN gave it enough attention.

All that being said as many have noted it may serve us better to be a 10/11 seed. Avoid the numbers ones in the second round and have statistics / history more in favor for an upset. In the end winning one game in the tourney would be wonderful, and making the Sweet 16 would be a better than expected ending to the season.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dawgs Bracketology Update: Locked In

Due to a Kenny Gainless hard fought victory in Auburn, you'll be able to see Georgia in your office bracket pool this year for the first time since 2011. While officially not set in stone, for all intents and purposes Mark Fox will be leading his second UGA team to the big dance.

ESPN considers it a forgone conclusion. They actually moved the Hoop Dawgs to "lock" status before the Auburn game which I saw as a little iffy. Now that is even more solidified.

Furthermore, Joe Lunardi has the Dawgs pegged as an 8-seed. CBS currently has us a 10 for some reason. The key factor to look at in Lunardi's bracket as well is that the Dawgs would be considered a high-8. They are currently listed in the West / Villanova bracket. We can assume that Villanova is the last number 1 seed of the four (relegating them far away from home), so one could view that per his perception the Dawgs are getting a little easier slot being on that side. We'll look to see if that fourth number one changes over the coming week.

Another nuance from the weekend is that the Dawgs notched the 3-seed in the SEC tournament earning the double bye. While at first I didn't know if it would be better for them to have an earlier / easier win in the tournament to bolster the resume, with the Auburn win they are now better positioned. At this point it's likely they won't suffer a bad loss assuming Ole Miss (somewhat on the bubble themselves) is their first opponent. If not the Rebels they would face either Mizzou or South Carolina (who seems to be our nemesis this year). Losing to Arkansas or Ole Miss in games one or two wouldn't hurt the Dawgs, but could potentially serve to help them. Any further seeding movement would probably come only from reaching the SEC final, but I still see that maybe not being enough. On the flip side if SC, Mizzou, or Vandy (who is on fire right now) beat us you could see movement downwards to a 9.

Regardless, from a bracket perspective, any outcome wouldn't be enough to drop the Dawgs 3-4 seeds which is where the last major conference at-large teams get in.

While the record isn't as pretty as some other recent locks or on the fence teams currently sit, the body of work is. UGA has also done what the committee has asked in playing a tough non-conference schedule and playing well in league action. RPI currently sits at 39, with a 9-8 record vs. the current RPI top 100, and an 11-7 conference record further the cause. In what was certainly a confusing and roller coaster season at times, the end result is one that gets the job done. While inexplicable home losses to Auburn and South Carolina were ugly, those key road wins at Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Alabama proved icing on the cake down the stretch.

Once again the season has been quite refreshing as the barometer for success in the UGA Hoops world right now is merely making the dance. Some may want more, but it's a key step for now. Kudos to Mark Fox and company for getting the job done.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dawgs Bracketology Update

This season has been an absolute roller coaster. Every game is tough, and we've yet to truly blow someone out. I was joking today with a friend that when we looked at the schedule forecast about a month ago, it now seems every game we thought we'd win we've lost and vice versa. After the absolutely deflating losses to Auburn and South Carolina at home, we have somehow rallied with gutcheck road wins at Alabama and Ole Miss. However with three games to go we now know trying to calculate anything as a surefire win or loss is a meaningless task. Here's how we currently stand / are perceived...

Joe Lunardi Updated Bracket Seed: 8
RPI: 29
BPI has us in the mid 20s, which actually takes into account injuries and the like
SOS: 33

Record: 18-9 (9-6)

It seemed after the non-conference 20 wins would be the magic number and 10-11 SEC wins depending on the opponent would get the job done. It's been a strange path to get there but we are certainly on target.

Solid Wins (RPI):
at Texas A&M (34)
Ole Miss (x2) (46)
Seton Hall (68)
at Alabama (78)
Tennessee (85)
at Kansas State (86) thanks for the big win over Kansas
Florida (89)

These are some teams to root for down the stretch hoping they help to solidify their top 100 RPI marks and don't slip outside.

Bad Losses:
South Carolina (x2) (104)
at Georgia Tech (109)
Auburn (136)

The good thing is no losses outside the top 150. Also the non conference slate didn't have an abundance of patsies but was sprinkled in with the likes of Minnesota, Colorado, etc. We're 3-4 vs. the RPI top 50 and 8-5 vs. the RPI top 100.

At this point with Mizzou, Kentucky, and at Auburn remaining there are a few likely scenarios...

W,L,W seems to be the most hopeful. That would be 20-10 (11-7). Pretty much a shoe in for the tourney and definite with an SEC tourney victory. Keep an eye on keeping that first round bye in the tourney (not the double bye).

W,L,L. Would need a victory in the tourney to feel any sort of safety.

I keep tricking myself into assuming a Mizzou win, but you could argue based on our up and down performance we're just as likely to lose to both Tigers and beat Kentucky.

The Kentucky game is all about seeding. Beating them (though unlikely) could be the only trigger other than a deep SEC run that moves us off the 8/9 mark. Nevertheless we're close to where we want to be, as my barometer for Hoop Dawgs success rest solely on making the tourney.

Don't play the what if game about potential wins it will just make you mad. You could do the same for some of the wins like Alabama.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dawgs Tournament Chances Update

Every Monday it seems we get a better glimpse of how the Dawgs bracket chances are shaping up. After another 2-0 week, we inched a little closer. We're now past the half way point of the season so we can have a better scope on our chances. Another 2-0 week starting with a must win Tuesday night at home vs. Vandy and then a tough road test would only serve to further our chances.

First the vitals. 13-5 (4-2 in SEC play, current RPI is 24/25 depending on who and when you examine. Still no awful losses, however some of our key wins took a little nose dive this week.

Seton Hall who was our biggest win to date (and only ranked team) has lost 3 straight and fallen quickly out of the top 25. Colorado seems to be tumbling a bit in the Pac-12.

Kansas State who was another big road win has been plugging away however in the Big-12 notching key wins, however they've really avoided the big boys of the conference. There's a good few tests heading their way which with a few key wins could further bolster the Dawgs resume.

Georgia Tech is slowly becoming our worst loss, and I'm sure we'd beat them if we played them right now. They're still yet to beat an ACC foe.

The new AP Top 25 was released today. The Dawgs are slowing climbing up the vote ladder nabbing 28 votes which essentially puts them tied as the 31st team in the voters eyes. Meanwhile in the rankings you have 5 teams with 5 or more losses including Butler with 6 and Oklahoma with a lackluster 7 losses. Only one SEC team resides in the top 25 (obviously Kentucky). Arkansas sits right outside at an effective 27th ranking. With two wins this week you could see UGA crack the top 25, just in time for ESPN to hype us up before a potential beat down in Lexington.

We're also trending upward in Joe Lunardi's projections, the most accurate prediction. He currently has us as a 9 seed, but more importantly has moved us off the last four in or last four byes list.

I keep pegging a 20-10 record as getting us in hopefully with the right combo of wins and losses. 21-9 prior to SEC play should certainly do the trick. Looking at the remaining schedule we need to at minimum garner 7 victories. You hope to hold serve at home vs. Vandy, Auburn, South Carolina, and Missouri (who is tanking), The next hopeful win comes with a home game vs. Tennessee. You then need to hold serve with road victories found somewhere in South Carolina, Ole Miss, Bama, and Auburn. I'm counting the two UK games as losses at this point.

The Vandy game is big (and a must win), but getting that all important steal win at Carolina this weekend could prove to be huge. The good thing is based on our play, other than the Cats we have the ability to beat anyone we match up against. Get behind the Hoop Dawgs, it will give you something to do until they start throwing that misshapen ball around again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Couple Differences Helping This Year's Hoop Dawgs

Last year's team showed signs of improvement, but still had those lulls and bad losses that doom tourney chances. I'm not saying we're headed to the big dance, however we're taking the necessary steps with a unique team to enter the conversation.

In my eyes, there have been a couple key differences in the development of this team helping that cause...

First is the development in confidence of JJ Fraizer. Last year he looked at times like a high school freshman thrown into the first action he'd ever seen. This year his ball handling and shot stroke show vast signs of improvement. We couldn't handle the press at times and teams exposed it. Looking at games like Florida you could see this development in the way he confidently handled the ball. He's shown it in his stepped up role in the offense. Even though we've struggled at the charity stripe, this young guy has quietly asserted himself as the guy you want with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

A healthy Marcus Thornton has led to the emergence of an inside game. He's leading the team in points and rebounds, and at the same time creating attention from opposing defenses. He's sucking up the minutes and energy of opposing big men, getting to the line, and becoming a stalwart on this team. He's been hobbled by injures which are much noted, but this year we are seeing what Marcus and his full potential can do to positively impact the team.

Nemi's confidence and ball-handling have created a solid inside-outside offensive threat. We aren't incredibly sexy on offense, and Nemi isn't necessarily the sexiest basketball player when you watch him play. However, his ability to penetrate and dish underneath as well as clean up on high percentage shots around the basket provide the constant glue this offense needs. Add to this the scrappiness on defense and the hustle to get the 50/50 balls and you see the emergence of yet another confident player we've seen grow over the past few years.

Overall, the team is the culmination of what can be good in today's college basketball landscape. In an era of one and dones and constant turnover, you're seeing the fruits of what a non highly recruited unit can do as they gel with a few years experience. The guys who have the most skill (Gaines and Mann) aren't having the greatest statistical years, but are becoming part of a more balanced team. I'm glad Mark Fox has built it the right way and that we're now getting to enjoy some of that effort.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

There's Fight Left in the Hoop Dawgs

When Vandy narrowed the lead down to 2 with time on the clock I thought "not again". It would have been another 10+ point lead evaporated in the 2nd half. It would have decimated our season. The end wasn't pretty, but the victory was one of the best performances I've seen from a Mark Fox team.

It was clear to see we were missing 3 guys who see significant playing time, mainly because you were seeing faces you're not accustomed to on the court. We were playing in that godforsaken gym that seems to be a death trap to the Dawgs when they play there. We were coming off two utterly deflating losses. That being said the Dawgs came out from the jump and executed well.

You can say Vandy had a ton on turnovers and didn't hit shots, but at some point that has to be a reflection of the defense. We saw Kenny Gaines come back to life from behind the arc. Marcus Thornton reestablished himself after some woeful games. Charles Mann redeemed himself at the free throw line down the stretch. Actually the whole team did going 7-8 during the waning moments of the game. Taylor Echols came in and did absolutely everything asked of him, maybe earning himself a little more PT.

Look I'm not saying that this is a great team, but it's one we should get behind until they're out of the mix. We've got a decent little stretch of games we need to take advantage of. The wonderful thing about UGA basketball is the barometer for success is only making the tourney, not absolute perfection. It was a gutsy effort Wednesday night and I hope it ignited what fight may be left in the team.