#144 Georgia Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Georgia Bulldogs
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #144
Conference Rank: #13 SEC
Georgia had an up and down 2016-2017 season. A late NCAA tournament push was hindered by an injury to star big man Yante Maten. Maten missed four games late in the season after going down in the first few minutes of a crucial home game versus Kentucky. Without Maten in the lineup, Georgia could not pick up the marquee win they needed to qualify for the NCAA tournament and ultimately bowed out in the first round of the NIT in a game played without their star big man. Georgia returns most of their team including Maten, who put his name into the NBA draft before ultimately returning to the Bulldogs. The crushing blow for Georgia is the loss of JJ Frazier who had a great four year career in Athens. Frazier’s departure leaves a huge hole in Georgia’s backcourt in terms of scoring and facilitating and raises significant questions. Where will Georgia get perimeter scoring? Who will replace Frazier at PG? Will Georgia have enough outside shooting to give Maten space to be effective? If they cannot answer these questions and solve these problems than Georgia will tumble to the bottom of the much improved SEC.
2016-17 Record: 19-15, 9-9
2016-17 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Mark Fox
Coach Record: 145-118 at Georgia, 268-161 overall
Who’s Out:
Losing JJ Frazier is catastrophic for Georgia. The loss is magnified because there is no one who can realistically step in for Frazier in terms of creating offense and hitting big shots. The diminutive scoring guard was the only perimeter scoring threat and averaged 18.8 points per game in his senior season. Frazier was less efficient last year, but only because he had to play such an enormous role offensively and often had to take bad shots at the end of the shot clock. He only shot 40.6% from the field and 30.4% from three, but was excellent from the free throw line at 88.6%. Frazier had a knack for getting to the free throw line since he got there over 6 times per game and he also led Georgia in assists at 4.1 per game. His loss cannot be overstated for the Bulldogs. Kenny Paul Geno has graduated after playing sparingly in his senior season. The 6-6 wing played a much larger role as a junior, but lost his role to younger players last season. Houston Kessler also saw his role decrease from his junior to senior season, but provided frontcourt depth and rebounding to the Bulldogs front line. Geno played 9 minutes per game while Kessler averaged 6.3 minutes per game in their final seasons.
Who’s In:
The biggest addition for Georgia is top 50 recruit Rayshaun Hammonds. The Georgia native is a 6-8 combo forward who can score at all three levels and can push the ball in transition. He may start the year as the sixth man, but Hammonds is a future star at Georgia and could break into the starting lineup by the time conference play starts. Hammonds might be the best candidate to provide perimeter scoring and help offset the loss of JJ Frazier. Freshman guard Teshaun Hightower has a chance to contribute immediately in a reserve role and should crack the rotation. The 6-4 Hightower can play both guard positions and can shoot from deep, two skills that Georgia desperately needs. Nic Claxton is a very promising long term prospect who will need to add strength before being able to compete in the SEC and should provide depth at both forward positions. Claxton is 6-9 and weighs 185 pounds. His game resembles former Auburn/Providence/NCST forward Tyler Harris. Harris and Claxton are both lanky lefties with a similar versatile game and like to use their height to score over smaller defenders in the mid-range. Harris was a double figure scorer at both Auburn and Providence and now plays professionally in Europe. If Claxton has that type of success, he will be extremely valuable for Georgia. Isaac Kante is a late blooming big man from Putnam Science Academy. Kante will provide depth at the center position for Georgia this season, but should play a significant role as an upperclassman.
Who to Watch:
Georgia’s biggest asset is their frontcourt, which is one of the deepest and most experienced in the SEC. The leader of the frontcourt is star PF Yante Maten, who averaged 18.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. The Bulldogs try to get Maten a post touch on every possession and he has proved to be one of the best interior scorers in the entire country. Without Frazier, expect Georgia to play through Maten on the low block even more frequently. Georgia likes to use Maten at PF rather than center so he does not have to bang with the biggest and most physical player every night, but playing next to a true center clogs the paint at times. Maten can shoot the ball from deep although he is more effective inside. If Georgia and Maten are to be successful, they need the guards to hit outside shots which would give Maten that much needed space down low. Mark Fox usually splits the center position between juniors Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards, with Ogbeide getting the start and the majority of the minutes. Ogbeide is a good defensive big man and an excellent rebounder who can score opportunistically around the rim. Ogbeide is not the most fluid big man and does not have great touch in the post, but he gets a fair amount of touches on high low plays and plays where he tries to seal off his defender. He averaged 7.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and just over one block per game. Mike Edwards is the backup center, but actually plays with Ogbeide for stretches. Edwards does not provide rim protection, but he is mobile and can rebound well. Edwards also lacks touch in the post, but his size and mobility are important to Georgia. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Georgia returns senior Papa Diatta and junior E’Torrion Wilridge to the frontcourt as well. Both players carved out a consistent role last season, but they will challenged by incoming freshman Rayshaun Hammonds for minutes which puts their new role in question. Diatta is a 6-7 athletic combo forward who can defend multiple positions and is a better shooter than his 29% three point percentage would indicate. Wilridge is a 6-6 combo forward who started when Maten went down with an injury last season. He also provides value as a multi positional defender and struggles to shoot the ball. It will be interesting to see how both players are used in this upcoming season.
Georgia’s backcourt is very inexperienced and roles seem to be in flux. Every returning player is in line for a bigger role in the offense since Frazier took 490 shots and 211 free throws in his senior season. Junior PG William “Turtle” Jackson II looks to be the favorite to start at the PG position. Jackson started most of the season playing alongside JJ Frazier and would often take over the PG duties to allow Frazier to come off screens and get a shooting opportunity. Jackson has great size for the position at 6-4, which should make him a really effective and versatile defender. He averaged 4.1 points in 17.5 minutes per game. A bigger role should allow Jackson to be more productive, but he will need to improve his outside shooting to flourish as the starting PG. Redshirt senior Juwan Parker is a steady glue guy and defensive stopper for Georgia. Parker missed the end of the season with an achilles injury and there is no timetable for his return, but when he is healthy he should rejoin the starting lineup. Parker was an abysmal three point shooter at 15.7%, but a surprisingly excellent free throw shooter at 85.6%. Parker was the team’s third leading scorer and rebounder at 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, respectively. If Parker is healthy and can become even a below average three point shooter, then he could score 12 or 13 points per game and really jolt Georgia’s struggling offense. Sophomore guard Jordan Harris is a candidate for the starting lineup due to his long range shooting prowess. The left handed Harris had a sporadic freshman season where he shot the ball really well (44.9% from three), but struggled mightily with turnovers (1.9 per game in 16.5 minutes). Harris had a large role in the middle of last season, but his minutes dropped off drastically toward the end of the season. In Georgia’s last nine games, Harris only scored in two games and only had one game where he played more than ten minutes. However, he seems to be the best candidate to begin the season in the starting lineup because his shooting is much needed. Sophomore combo guard Tyree Crump is another candidate for the starting lineup. Crump has potential to be a double digit scorer and could make that jump this season with additional minutes. Crump is undersized for a SG at 6-1, but is more of a scorer than a lead guard. Both Crump and Harris ran the offense at times when Georgia wanted to get Frazier some looks off the ball as well. Even if Crump does not start, he should be in line for a major boost in minutes.
Final Projection:
If Georgia can find answers at the PG position and improve their perimeter shooting, they could definitely return to the postseason and finish higher than 13th in the SEC. Georgia also has one of the best players in the SEC, Yante Maten, and his interior scoring ability should keep his team competitive. However, it looks more likely that Georgia struggles to create offense without Frazier and gets passed in the standings by teams that have made multiple major additions and return many key players. The Bulldogs could generate a more potent offensive lineup by going small and using Hammonds and Maten at the four and five respectively, but Mark Fox seems to like playing two big men at once. Georgia also looks to be a victim of a surprisingly strong SEC which is much deeper than years past. The conference looks so deep that you could make legitimate arguments for 10 or 11 different teams to make the NCAA tournament and don’t be surprised if the conference as a whole gets 6 or 7 teams in the field. The X factors for Georgia are the inexperienced guards who need to make major improvements and step into larger roles for Georgia to be successful.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT/V16
Projected Starting Five:
William Jackson II, Junior, Guard, 4.1 points per game
Jordan Harris, Sophomore, Guard, 4.4 points per game
Juwan Parker, RS Senior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Yante Maten, Senior, Forward, 18.2 points per game
Derek Ogbeide, Junior, Center, 7.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.6 (213th in nation, 10th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.4 (123, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.9 (203, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.1 (38, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.1 (332, 14)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.8 (286, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 75.7 (30, 3)
Rebound Margin: 2.1 (116, 5)
Assists Per Game: 12.6 (232, 9)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (175, 7)