|No. 17/18 Baylor (16-4) vs. Georgia (11-7)|
Jan. 30, 2016 | 5:00 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | Ferrell Center (10,284)
TV: ESPN2 and WatchESPN
Radio: ESPN Central Texas
This Saturday Baylor will be taking part in the Big XII -- SEC Challenge. This is the first year the conference face off has taken place during the conference season, for what I can only presume to be some archaic scheduling gaffe dating back to the times of the immortal Dan Beebe or for money reasons. Whatever the compelling factor, it is rather nice to take a break from the grueling Big XII to host a team that is not quite as achieved so far this year.
A quick recap of Georgia's season thus far: Mark Fox's team hasn't accomplished much. The Bulldogs lost their season and home opener in an overtime game against Chattanooga (90-92), lost 66-68 at home to Kansas State, but have since earned victories against Clemson and Arkansas, who are both top 60 teams in KenPom. They played LSU close on the road and earned their only road victory with a 60-57 win at Missouri in what I can only imagine to have been the most grueling of rock fights. Their worst loss of the season came in Athens hosting Texas A&M in a game where Georgia failed to break the half-century mark (*blinks*).
At 1-4 on the road with an average margin of defeat of 6.5 points, Georgia hasn't proven themselves to be much of a road threat. Further, despite so many home games, Georgia has yet to claim a top 100 KenPom victory after adjusting for home court. They are 0-6 in games against KenPom top 100 opponents, adjusting for home court. In comparison, Baylor has gone 5-4 in such games.
Yet, Georgia boasts the 31st rated defense by adjusted efficiency and has forced its opponents to a meager 43.8 eFG%. That percentage is the 12th lowest in the country. I haven't watched much (read: any, because I have principles) Georgia basketball this season, but considering a couple of other factors -- they foul at one of the highest rates in the country while forcing very few turnovers -- I would guess that Fox has his defense focus on taking away high-value three point attempts at the expense of allowing teams to get into the mid-range and driving towards the basket. Once the opponent gets into the paint, they rely on sophomore shot blocker Yante Maten to intimidate players into taking a short jumper. If the opponent doesn't bite and goes to the rim, they foul rather than giving up the layup. Over a quarter of their opponents points come from the free throw line. Prepare yourselves for a potentially ugly game with lots of time spent at the line.
Georgia relies on junior 5-10 guard JJ Frazier (16 points and 4 assists per game) to run their offense. He and senior guard Kenny Gaines are the only outside threats for the Bulldogs, although Gaines is mostly a spot-up threat rather than a creator. Maten and Charles Mann are the team's other scorers averaging double digits this season, after whom no other Georgia player averages more than 4 points a game.
Limiting Frazier should be Baylor's top priority. He's a dangerous scorer. He's gone off for 20+ points 6 times this season, has a season high of 35, and has scored 26 points in his last two games. Georgia has gone just 2-3 when teams have held Frazier in single digits.
For Baylor, the offensive game plan should be to go into the post against Maten or to draw him away from the basket with high pick-and-rolls. Involving Maten in the primary action of the play will limit his ability as a shot blocker, and forcing him to bang with Gathers and Motley down low should tire him out as the game wears on. Additionally, if the Bears can get him in foul trouble, shots should open up near the basket for Lester Medford and Taurean Prince. Georgia has lots of players in the 6-6 to 6-8 range to throw at Prince, so he will need to be patient and pick his spots. Georgia's minute distribution, however, suggests they prefer to play a three guard lineup. If that is the route Fox takes in an effort to juice his offense, Scott Drew might consider going big by playing Prince at small forward to punish Mann when he's on the floor with Frazier and Gaines.
Baylor should win this game. If they bring energy and have a crowd to feed off, the game should be well in hand by the 10 minute mark of the 2nd half. If the Bears don't come out aggressive on defense and Frazier is allowed to find his shooting rhythm, however, the Bulldogs could keep it close.
Let's have a great crowd tonight at the Ferrell Center!