David Cloninger

Previewing SEC basketball: Georgia

J.J. Frazier
J.J. Frazier The Red and Black

Other previews

Oct. 29 Alabama

Oct. 30 Arkansas

Oct. 31 Auburn

Nov. 1 Florida

Men

Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Mark Fox (126-103 Georgia, eighth year; 249-146, 13th year)

2015-16 record (SEC finish): 20-14 (10-8)

2015-16 postseason: Second round, NIT

Roster

Schedule

2016-17 media predicted finish: 4

DC’s predicted finish: 3

He’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Charles Mann (10.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Kenny Gaines (13.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg), F Osahen Iduwe (0.5 ppg, 0.4 rpg, transferred to Arkansas-Fort Smith)

He’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): G Tyree Crump, G Jordan Harris, F Pape Diatta (Jr., transferred from College of Southern Idaho, eligible this year), G Christian Harrison (transferred from Troy, ineligible this year)

Top returners: 5-10 G J.J. Frazier (16.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg), 6-8 F Yante Maten (16.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg), 6-8 F Derek Ogbeide (4.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

As a South Carolina writer, I’m stunned that Georgia isn’t better than it looks at times (specifically, against the team I cover). J.J. Frazier has cooked the Gamecocks’ goose (or other bird pun) four straight times and while it’s hard to say he’s the only guy that kept them out of the NCAA tournament last year – it’s not hard to think that he dealt the decisive blow.

I guess that’s kind of the rub with Bulldog basketball – they’re good, even great in some years, but they still can’t quite get over the hump. They’ve been to three straight postseasons, with an NCAA appearance in the middle, and before that was one NCAA appearance in four years. Still no tournament wins, though, and they can’t consistently finish in the top four of one of the country’s weakest basketball leagues.

As much as Georgia renovates the inside of Stegeman Coliseum, it’s still a giant turtle shell in the middle of the campus that I can’t imagine gets kids amped up to play in it. Yet with all that, as long as they’re not bottom of the barrel, does anybody really mind?

Perhaps we’ll find out what athletics director Greg McGarity thinks. He is the guy that ran off Mark Richt after a similar vein of success as Mark Fox, and Fox returns a terrific high-low combo that could push Georgia to just under Kentucky in the SEC this year …

While I think Fox has done more than enough to not fear for his job this season (and he just got a contract extension in 2015), not producing with this lineup may start McGarity thinking.

The Dawgs will hand the ball to Frazier and tell him to go be him, which is a lethal scorer that somehow gets the shot to go despite being double- and triple-teamed and often a foot shorter than the opponent. He’s a guy that could mimic a Devan Downey or Marshall Henderson in leading the conference in per-game scoring, especially with no Charles Mann or Kenny Gaines around to help him out.

Yante Maten will handle the paint and could be a first-team all-SEC player. With him and Frazier, that’s two big steps toward the NCAA tournament, but Georgia will need more. Does that come from Derek Ogbeide or some of their other 6-foot-6 to 6-8 players? Or perhaps the two freshmen guards who will fill in as Frazier’s supporting cast? The SEC is right there for the taking.

Of course, it has been for many years. Georgia has never been great about grabbing it.

Women

Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Joni Taylor (21-10 second year/overall)

2015-16 record (SEC finish): 21-10 (9-7)

2015-16 postseason: NCAA tournament

Roster

Schedule

2016-17 media predicted finish: 10

DC’s predicted finish: 13

She’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Terryuana Godwin (DNP last year), G Tiaria Griffin (14.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Merritt Hempe (9.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg), G Shacobia Barbee (12.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg), G Marjorie Butler (5.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G Hannahkohl Almire (0.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg)

She’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): F Stephanie Paul, C Bianca Blanaru (RJr., transferred from Washington State, ineligible this year), G Taja Cole (RSo., transferred from Louisville, ineligible this year), G Ari Henderson, G Kortney Eisenman

Top returners: 6-0 F Mackenzie Engram (8.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), 5-1 G/F Caliya Robinson (8.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg), 6-3 F Pachis Roberts (7.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

That’s what Georgia expects.

The Bulldogs again reached the NCAA tournament last year, putting a nice bow on coach Joni Taylor’s first season. While former coach Andy Landers will always be revered, it was clear the program needed a fresh start, and Taylor, an SEC lifer, supplied it.

Georgia could have been even better had Shacobia Barbee not suffered a second straight season-ending injury, but won 21 games and finished above .500 in the SEC. What’s in store for Year 2?

It may be rough.

The Lady Bulldogs lost four starters, including their top three scorers. While they landed a couple of key transfers (including Taja Cole, from Louisville), they’re each ineligible this season. Georgia will enter the season with 10 players.

Mackenzie Engram is a likely candidate to lead the team, but she was sidelined in January due to pericarditis. She’s still not fully practicing (although she and Taylor say she’ll be 100 percent). Georgia will have to wade through its non-conference season trying to find a complete team effort to score and rebound, and it’s not the kind of non-con slate that yields wins when trying to take baby steps.

Taylor is also set to have her first child on Nov. 11, the day of the Lady Bulldogs’ season-opener. She’s said she’ll either be in the hospital or on the sideline and won’t miss significant time, but that could be another obstacle – having to adjust to an interim coach during the start of the season.

Georgia restored some of its luster last season and will reclaim what it lost. It will be better.

Perhaps not this year, but soon.

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

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