Friday, Georgia Travels to Atlanta for SEC Tourney
March 12, 2014
About the Game
Georgia begins play in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday night at approximately 9:30 p.m. (EDT). The Bulldogs enter this tournament as its No. 3 seed and as such, has earned a "double bye" through the first two rounds. They must wait until the tournament's 10th game before taking the floor, facing the Game 6 winner, which will feature Ole Miss and either Vanderbilt or Mississippi State.
Georgia arrives in Atlanta this week with an 18-12 overall record, 12-6 in SEC play, having earned a second-place tie in the final conference standings. For the Bulldogs, that's heady and historic stuff, considering where they stood as their pre-conference slate concluded on Jan. 3. Georgia had just dropped an 18-point decision at George Washington, with a record of 6-6 and an RPI rating in the mid-260s. Since then, the Bulldogs have won 12 of 18 games and have improved their RPI to its current standing in the low 70s.
Georgia enters the week as winners in four of its final five games, and eight of its last 10 contests. Most recently, the Bulldogs concluded the regular season with a 69-61 victory at LSU last Saturday. Seasonal scoring leaders Charles Mann (22 pts.) and Kenny Gaines (21) led the way offensively while Mann completed his first career double-double with a team-high 10 rebounds. The win marked Georgia's fourth sweep of its five SEC home-and-home series this season.
Mann Tabbed Coaches' All-SEC 2nd Team...
Sophomore guard Charles Mann was named this week by the league's 14 head coaches to their post-season All-SEC 2nd team. It marks the second consecutive season in which the coaches bestowed post-season honors upon the Alpharetta, Ga., native. Mann was named to the Freshman All-SEC team in 2013. He leads the Georgia squad in the following categories: scoring (13.4 ppg), minutes (30.0/g), assists (3.2/g), steals (1.1/g), FTA (246) and FTM (170).
Here's some historical perspective to Georgia's performance in the SEC season. This is the 81st year of competition in the SEC. The 2014 season marks just the 10th time that Georgia has managed to win at least 10 conference games. All 10 of those years follow in descending order:
In that same 81-year span, Georgia has finished second or higher in the SEC standings just four times:
Georgia has had a modicum of success in this mammoth hoops facility called the Georgia Dome. Bulldog teams have played 22 total games there, 14 in previous SEC Tournaments, eight others in various regular-season events. Georgia has an 8-14 all-time record at the Dome. It is 5-9 in SEC Tournament games there. For any newcomers reading this, the 2008 Georgia team was awaiting its second-round game (having defeated Ole Miss in OT the previous night) when a tornado struck the Dome. The resulting damage forced the tournament's remainder to be moved nearby to Alexander Memorial Coliseum at Georgia Tech, where the Bulldogs won the championship with three wins in two days.
Georgia participated in the first-ever basketball event in the Georgia Dome, the 1992 Kuppenheimer Classic, a one-day, two-game affair that featured Georgia Tech vs. Louisville in the opener and Georgia vs. UCLA in the nightcap. Georgia played in the same event for the six years that followed before it was moved next door to Philips Arena.
Road wins in conference play are prized possessions, for sure, but road wins by double digits are rarer still. Georgia has two of them on its resume -- by 20 at Miss. State and by 17 at South Carolina -- for the first time in 17 seasons, going back to the 1997 campaign, Tubby Smith's second in Athens.
Another landmark related to Smith's brief tenure at Georgia: the current team now owns seven wins by double digits in SEC play. That's the most by a team at UGA since Smith's first team did it in 1996.
The 2014 Bulldogs went 8-2 in their last 10 games. Included in that 10-game span were three road victories and a perfect 5-0 mark at home. The average victory margin of the five home wins was 12.4 points; for the three road wins, it was 15.3 points.
The 2014 team swept four of its five home-and-home series in SEC play. That's the first Georgia team to sweep four regular-season series in 24 years, going back to the 1990 season, when the conference played an 18-game, double round-robin schedule.
Kenny Gaines averaged just 3.7 points in 10.3 minutes as a freshman last year, playing primarily behind the SEC's MVP, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This season he has scored in double figures 20 times, including team scoring honors in five of the past seven games. Most prominently, Gaines has found his range from the 3-point arc. Over the Bulldogs' past five games, he has made 21 of 36 shots from 3-point range (52 percent). Gaines' stat line over those past six games follows:
Charles Mann's knack for frequent trips to the free-throw line is no secret. As a freshman last season, he had the fifth most free-throw attempts of any SEC player (170). He surpassed that mark this season in the 22nd game, and this year he's second in the SEC in that category behind Auburn's Chris Denson. Mann now has the third most FT attempts in a single season in UGA history. He also has the fourth most FT makes in a single season in UGA history. He's a long shot to break both records, but he could pass one or two more people, depending on how many more games Georgia plays.
Mann was named this week to the Coaches' All-SEC 2nd team, following his appointment in 2013 to their SEC All-Freshman squad. It hasn't been long since a Georgia player enjoyed such honors. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was also named as a Freshman All-SEC player in 2012 before winning the league's MVP award in his final season of 2013.
Free throws aren't the sexiest stat around, but it sure explains a lot behind Georgia's 18 wins this season. The 2014 team already has the second most Free Throws Made & Attempted a single season in UGA history. Depending on how many more games the Bulldogs play, they will likely break the record for FT attempts and could come close to breaking the record for FT makes.
Were there to be a Comeback Player of the Year award in the SEC, Marcus Thornton would certainly be a worthy candidate. The native Atlantan has been a key factor behind Georgia's landmark SEC season. He is Georgia's top rebounder (6.9) and its third-leading scorer (9.2) in league play. He's scored in double figures in four of the Bulldogs' past five games. All this after undergoing three knee surgeries -- and taking a medical redshirt season in 2013 -- over the past two years.
Amidst their up-and-down performance on offense and defense, the Bulldogs' one virtual constant in SEC play has been their rebounding. Georgia outrebounded 15 of its 18 league opponents this season. The three exceptions? Florida, which it tied with 34 boards apiece, Tennessee on Feb. 18, which outrebounded Georgia 37-30, and Missouri on Feb. 25. The Mizzou game, in fact, marked the only time all season Georgia won a game in which it was outrebounded. Highlights in the league schedule were a +15 ledger vs. Ole Miss, +9 in a win at Missouri, +8 vs. Miss. State, +7 & +9 in wins over LSU, as well as a +22 margin in beating Arkansas.
Georgia began this season amidst low expectations...externally, anyway. The Bulldogs were picked by the media that cover SEC basketball to finish 11th in the 14-team league, ahead of only South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were picked 1-2-3 in the same poll. Additionally, no Bulldogs were selected to the 16-player pre-season All-SEC lists.
The internal expectations, however, -- at least by the head coach -- were considerably higher. Coach Mark Fox is the SEC's representative as a voter on the weekly USA Today Coaches' Top 25 poll. He included his own team on his pre-season ballot, as well as the first couple of weeks into the season.
Georgia survived the 2014 season (thus far) with relatively few injuries. The most signficant ones included:
Sophomore Brandon Morris missed the 2nd half of the finale at LSU after a collision caused him to get stitches around his left eye. In a game two weeks before vs. Missouri, he took a seat briefly when his left calf muscle cramped. After getting fluids and a Rice Krispie Treat -- yes, a Rice Krispie Treat -- he rejoined the fray less than two minutes later.
It wasn't an injury, but a mid-season stomach virus infiltrated the Georgia team and laid several players and staffers temporarily low. The illness began its trek through the program in the second week of February, as Georgia prepared to travel to Miss. State. As a precaution, most of the travel party wore surgical masks on the plane and bus rides, as well as at the two practices in Starkville.
Georgia begins the post-season with an RPI in the low 70s. That's a long, steep climb from its rating in the low 300s in late Novembe. Georgia began the SEC schedule on Jan. 8 with an RPI of 256.
Georgia shot over 60 percent in the second half on five occasions this season, including three SEC wins. The Bulldogs shot 73.9 percent in the second half Feb. 12 at Mississippi State, the program's best-shooting half since 2001.
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