Auburn plays its SEC home opener this afternoon against the Georgia Bulldogs. Auburn will look to bounce back after an 82-67 loss at Ole Miss on Wednesday. For a better perspective on Georgia, MaconDawg from Dawg Sports joins us to tell us more about Georgia basketball. My thanks to MaconDawg for taking the time to answer my questions!
1. I was at the Auburn-Georgia game in Athens last year and based on my observation that day, the team, and the fanbase had essentially given up on Mark Fox. After 9 years, it definitely seemed like it was time for change at that position. In comes Tom Crean and so to begin, what’s that transition been like for Georgia?
“It’s been up and down. Georgia has interspersed solid basketball (recent wins over UMass and Georgia Tech, a road victory over Vandy) with cripplingly inconsistent play (a blown lead against Arizona State, a 46 point loss to Tennessee) to open SEC play. Crean brought with him an up-tempo attack that is the antithesis of Mark Fox’s half court offense. It’s been an adjustment, and remains very much a work in progress.”
2. Looking at Georgia’s league schedule, I can’t help but wonder what did ya’ll do to tick off the SEC office that gave you guys road games at BOTH Tennessee and Auburn the first 2 Saturdays of league play, plus Kentucky after the Auburn game?
“Honestly we’re not sure either. Matchups with three top 20 teams and a road game against Vandy is a hard draw for a team picked to finish next-to-last in the SEC by league media. The 82-63 victory over Vandy was the best shot at a victory in this stretch. Is Georgia were somehow able to win one of the next two, fans (and likely Crean) would be pretty pleased.”
3. I enjoyed watching Yante Maten play and coming into the year, I wondered who would be able to pick up the slack with Maten no longer in Athens. So far, sophomore Nicolas Claxton has done a really good job of trying to fill that void. What does Claxton bring to the table compared to Maten and how has Claxton’s game evolved from his freshmen to sophomore year?
“Fox used the 6’11 Claxton as a traditional power forward/center. He struggled a little in that role, having come from a high school system in which he ran the floor more often than he posted up under the basket.”
“In a sense this season has Claxton playing a more natural role for him. We’ve even seen him bringing the ball up the floor, playing both in the post and above the three point line. The good thing is that the year in Fox’s system has helped the sophomore become a more physical, disciplined player down low.”
4. As I’ve tried to familiarize myself with Georgia, their scoring comes predominantly from their 3 forwards Claxton, Rayshaun Hammonds and Derek Ogbeide. Meanwhile in the backcourt, other than Tyree Crump, I’ve noticed the guards production pales in comparison. How do you see this backcourt faring against the likes of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper?
“True, so far the backcourt isn’t really showing out on the score sheet. But they have avoided one of the major hobgoblins of the Fox era, crippling turnovers. If this backcourt can just get the ball up court and distribute it to the talented bigs, I’ll be satisfied.”
5. Who is one guy on Georgia’s team that flies under the radar that Auburn fans need to know about?
“Junior guard Tyree Crump has a knack for getting hot in a hurry. He scored in double figures six times last season, with five of those games in SEC play. If he gets in the zone, especially from three point range, he can make things interesting, especially as a complement to Georgia’s front court scorers.”
6. Auburn has been really good at home, meanwhile Georgia is coming into Auburn Arena on the heels of a 19-point win over Vanderbilt. What does Georgia have to do on Saturday to pull the upset and do you have a score prediction?
“Georgia will need to take care of the basketball and, perhaps most important, stay out of foul trouble. When big men Nic Claxton and Derek Ogbeide got in early foul trouble against Tennessee it hamstring the Bulldogs at both ends of the floor. I’m sadly a little worried about a repeat on the Plains.”
Prediction: Auburn 85 Georgia 72