Welcome to the Bulldawg Illustrated Hoops Report. This week’s report feels about as much fun as removing a wad of bubble gum from your hair.
The Dawgs lost one of the biggest games of the year this past Tuesday in Athens to a good Arkansas team. This is a really tough loss for a number of reasons. First, 23rd ranked Arkansas has been the worst road team in college basketball the last three years based on difference of winning percentages of home and away. So it was a good chance to beat a ranked team. The second reason this hurts so bad is we gave the game to them. For the last three or four years, we’ve said UGA’s magic number for turnovers is 10. If we can keep the turnover total at 10 or lower, we usually win. We had 17 Tuesday night and almost all of them were self inflicted. Another fly in our ointment since 2012 is missing point blank layups. That might as well be a turnover. So make that total 22 because we missed five attempts right at the rim. Third is the schedule. The next three games we’re at LSU, at Vandy, and then have Florida at home. All three of those games are difficult. I would think if you played those three games a hundred times, 1-2 would be the majority of the outcomes. So we could easily be 1-3 after the first four. I said last week we really needed to be at least 2-2 to put ourselves in position for the tournament. Obviously 0-1 in the SEC doesn’t mean we’re out, but we did just make things harder on ourselves. Now to quote the outstanding Alice Cooper, welcome to my nightmare that was Tuesday night.
The Dawgs had every chance in the world to win Tuesday and squandered it. We played a good team that’s well coached and has one of the best players in the country. Bobby Portis is his name and he single handedly kept Arkansas in the game through the first 20 minutes. They had 37 at the half and I believe he had 15 of them. That’s with sitting on the bench about six minutes as well. In the second half, the rest of his team helped him out and we went ice cold. This was the second time we’ve had a bad second half offensively and given up a double digit lead. The first was K-State, but we were able to come back there and get the late win. I felt pretty good here as well. However, no one could make a big basket down the stretch. We had five guys in double figures lead by Nemi Djurisic with 16. However, turnovers, blown layups and a small dose of missed free throws were our undoing. Again, this is so frustrating because we really played an overall solid game, but just gave it away in the second half. Now, this gets even tougher.
We head to LSU for a 9 p.m. tipoff down on the bayou. LSU was the third most talented team in the SEC last year in my opinion and we throttled them twice. How we did it, I’ll never know other than they underachieved all year. But I’m sure it’s fresh in their minds and they’re just as desperate for a win as we are because they lost to Missouri to open their SEC season. A lot of people are picking both of these teams to make the Big Dance. Whoever loses is 0-2 and may only be able to limp, not dance, at the end of the year. So while I agree it sounds absurd to say this is a must win game, but the loser’s odds of making the tournament with an at-large bid fall below 10% in my opinion. The loss on Tuesday dropped UGA’s chances from 57% to 44%. So to follow that with another loss would be devastating.
Well here we are. We had a chance to get the band wagon loaded on Tuesday night and we blew it. That’s a major negative going forward because the crowd was rocking. The only ways I can see to lure them back are free burritos to the first 1000 fans or a 2-0 road trip. I don’t think free foods is going to happen with what we just shelled out to coaches. Going 2-0 is possible, but it’s not going to be easy. And you can’t win them both if you don’t win the first one. So let’s focus on LSU. Take care of the ball and make those layups. We are a solid team with lots of experience. We don’t get rattled on the road. So I think if we can keep it close, we can win. It’s definitely a big challenge and I’m fired up. We’re going to start grilling out and icing beer at the casa around six outside by the fire pit. We’re bringing the party inside at 9 pm and turning on the TV. For dessert that night we’re having blueberry turnovers. I promise they’ll all be gone by tipoff. Go Dawgs!