Welcome to the Bulldawg Illustrated Hoops Report. It’s like Christmas in December! And after celebrating an early Christmas present this a couple of Saturdays ago, it’s time to start focusing on the Hoop Dawgs! I wish I could’ve been able to post more about the Hoop Dawgs this year, but I was out of the country and missed a number of games. I’m not missing any others the rest of the year though. First, let’s look at where things are.
Without the benefit of seeing many games live this year, I’m still trying to figure the direction Mark Fox is moving. Obviously, Yante Maten may be the best player playing in the SEC this year. We are also getting much better scoring from Turtle Jackson this year, which is a huge lift. Rayshaun Hammonds appears to be exactly as billed and is probably the best recruit Fox has gotten since KCP. Tyree Crump looks like he’s ready to have another big year, and Derek Ogbeide has proven he’s reliable. Plus, it looks like freshmen Nicolas Claxton has tons of potential and Teshaun Hightower is producing now. So I think those guys really look solid.
After that, we really have question marks. Will E’Torrion Wilridge step up? Can Juwan Parker give us double digits on occasion or have injuries slowed him down too much? Can Mike Edwards grow into an offensive threat? He’s already missed one game due to disciplinary reasons. That’s not the way to start of the year. He’s athletic and very explosive, but he plays out of control sometimes and has had problems at the FT most of his career. Although, I must say he was solid at the line towards the end of last year.
Another guy I was told to look out for last year was Pape Diatta. However, he never really had his moment. So can he produce? Lastly, and most concerning in my humble opinion, is Jordan Harris. This kid was starting last year as a true freshman. Then, halfway through the conference schedule he could barely get off the bench. Now, we’ve found out he got suspended at the beginning of the year and misses the first three games. This guy is a scorer that can make plays. We need his production. To produce, you have to be on the floor. I don’t know what caused the suspension and don’t want to speculate. I do know there’s more talent on the team this year and you’re going to have to work to get on the floor. Right now, he’s averaging six minutes of PT through four games. Let’s hope this is him knocking off the rust as opposed to personal issues because this guy can flat out play.
Right now, the Dawgs sit at 7-1 overall and 1-1 vs the Top 50. The last win was an 83-81 OT victory vs. #21 St. Mary’s on Sunday, Nov. 26th. We have four non-conference games left. We need to go at least 3-1. I think we’re looking at 10-8 or 11-7 in conference. So that would put us at a minimum of 19 wins heading into the SEC Tourney. With our schedule, I think 20 wins would get us in the Big Dance.
We need that. We were very unlucky last year. The Maten injury and ridiculous SEC schedule where we were the only team in the conference to play UK, Florida and that Final Four team from Columbia twice hurt us. We went 0-6 with five of the losses being overtime or less than six points. However, we also had two of the top five players in the SEC and didn’t make the Big Dance. So that’s a case of not taking advantage of the resources. We’ve got to do that this year.
Up next is (5-5) UMass on the road on Saturday, Dec. 16th at 3:00 pm ET. It’s on the NBC Sports Network. UMass is unbeaten at home with an impressive win against a solid Providence team. So this should be a good barometer as to where things are headed this year. I’m ready to grab a cold drink, put the chili on the stove and turn on some BBall. Let’s get to 8-1 and get some momentum rolling after the long break because the enemy heads to Athens on Tuesday. “Keep Chopping”, to borrow a phrase. And Go Dawgs!!!
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