Auburn (10-2) vs. Georgia (8-4)
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Auburn, Ala. (Auburn Arena)
After a solid performance in the non-conference schedule, Auburn enters SEC play at 10-2, one win shy of last year's total. We open conference play at home vs the Georgia Bulldogs Thursday night, and you have to expect the Tigers will have a home crowd waiting to erupt.
Georgia comes in at 8-4, and ranked very close to Auburn in most metrics and the RPI. One interesting note about the projections of these teams, is that Georgia is consistently projected to finish one or two spots in front of Auburn in the SEC, fighting for that 5th spot in the league. I say that to say, this is a game that can start to change the perception of this team. There is no Vegas line out at the time of writing this, but I would expect Auburn to be a slight favorite (-1.5) or a pick-em game. Both teams need this win badly if they are going to achieve their goals, so I expect a close hard fought game, barring a Coastal Carolina like shooting night.
Georgia isn't overly impressive in any way, no big wins, no overwhelming talent or size, and no awe-inspiring skill guys. What they do have is experience, chemistry, and solid talent at key positions, namely PG and PF. Almost all of their statistical leaders are juniors, red-shirt juniors and seniors. Their two best players are their point guard Frazier and their 4 man Maten. Frazier is a senior who was second team all SEC last season and is averaging 15pts a game as well as leading the Bulldogs in assists. He is a scoring point guard who has the ball in his hands a lot, how we defend him will go a long way to determine the outcome of this game. Georgia does most of it's damage from inside the arch (we have attempted 100 more threes than they have), and Maten is their go to guy in that department, averaging nearly 20pts per game. Overall they only average 72pts per game to our 80, otherwise we are fairly evenly matched the other primary statistical areas. To me the way to look at this game is which team has the ability to play above their average. I think it is Auburn. Considering the adversity we have faced over the last few weeks, I believe we can play better basketball than we have seen so far.
On to the match-ups, Georgia likes to run half court sets, with good ball movement and flex cutting. They incorporate a lot of high ball screens and frequently utilize the high-low post entry pass to Maten. Frazier is their best player at creating his own shots and also at creating for others. Due to his size (5'10'') and quickness, he can be a tough match-up if we switch those ball screens. Their primary post players have OK size at 6-8 240ish each, but only Maten is a real scoring threat. Wiley will be the biggest player on the court and should factor into the game with his defense. Harper and Johnson will have a tough task containing Frazier, but both have the tools necessary to frustrate him and force some bad shots, which he will take from time to time. They have been held to 60 or fewer points three times, and the most they have scored all season is 86. They are unlikely to present an offensive threat superior to what we have faced previously this season. We have the ability to limit what they do on offense, with heavy perimeter ball pressure, and good defensive rebounding effort.
Offensively, we will face a mixture of match-up zone and man defenses. Both of their posts are capable shot blockers and they do a good job of team rebounding. Teams have had success getting out and running in transition against them, and I would look for us to try to push the pace. They play 10 guys double digit minutes, but they play Maten and Frazier 30 minutes + each. They hold teams to under 40% from the field, but allow 34% shooting from three, so this may be a good night for our shooters, especially playing at home.
In the half court, I would expect us to pack in the defense, forcing them to shoot outside jump shots, possibly denying the entry. I would expect us to press at times, as Georgia will turn it over if you speed them up. On offense, I think we will try to push the pace and turn this into a shoot out. They have allowed 80 + points twice, losing both games.
We have the talent and skill advantage in this game, but they have the experience advantage by a large margin. They won't be afraid of a bunch of freshman and I expect them to emphasize an active match-up zone defense early. It will be tempting for our shooters to try and shoot them out of it, but we need to get the ball into Wiley and utilize the dribble drive to create kick out opportunities for in rhythm open three point shots. If shots aren't dropping points in the paint will be even more important. Brown is available, per Bruce Pearl, how many minutes will he get, and has he found his stroke? One match up to watch is Harper vs Fraizer, can Harper continue his good play when matched up with one of the better and most experienced points in the league. This also might be the game that Purifoy returns to his scoring form, as all of Georgia's 4 men are not very quick, and will struggle to guard him on step outs. He might be the key for our offense to get going tonight, using that mismatch to our advantage.
There are a lot of questions about this Auburn team right now, what are Brown and Spencer's roles, has the layoff allowed Wiley to improve conditioning and knowledge of the schemes, how will this team look with a full roster available, are there enough minutes to go around. I will be watching the developments in these areas closely leading up to the game.
We got a win even though we allowed UConn to dictate pace, we can't make that mistake again here and expect to win.
Go get'em. War Eagle.