I have to admit; some days it would be hard to be a die-hard fan of the Lady Bulldogs. They're a historically great team and, unlike Auburn, are still very, very solid with a real shot at the SEC title. They have a great hall of fame coach in Andy Landers who is a terrific poster boy for women's basketball and college sports in general. Yet they're seemingly doomed for second fiddle.
In their own school, the Lady Dogs are second to the gymnastics program in terms of women's athletic success. In the conference, they're second to the Lady Vols because, well, Pat Summitt. In the NCAA tournament, they've made the final game twice and finished - second - to Old Dominion in 1985 and to Tennessee in 1996. They even managed to be win number 1,000 for Summitt's career. Sometimes the difference between being historically great and historically legendary is location, and their location has just happened to keep them watching the success of their neighbors.
But that's as far as sympathy goes.
|G-F||Anne Marie Armstrong||Jr||6-3||10.8||5.7||3.3|
Georgia has put together a nice season so far, though they really haven't had a chance to test my prediction of disappointment. They have a good collection of talent across the board and nobody really stands out as the key figure for the team (sound familiar?). Jasmine Hassell is the leader in points and rebounds largely because she's the interior presence but Jasmine James is the one who tends to set up the offense and make things tick. But my concern over Georgia came down to one thing: commitment. They're certainly committed in terms of desire to win, but last year they lacked the willingness to take risks for greater rewards, and they tended to hesitate at times. That's the reason I thought they might disappoint, and the next few weeks will tell the story on these Lady Dogs.
But even if Georgia turns into a disappointment this year, they could very well beat the Lady Vols. Tennessee is on their third game in five days, and the Chattanooga game largely prevented them from spending a lot of time preparing for Georgia. Meanwhile, Georgia has been keenly focused on the Ladies for several days and will have an advantage in terms of prep time. Fortunately, Tennessee was able to keep the starters rested as the Chattanooga blowout afforded lots of bench time, but they're still a team that could have benefitted from some schematical practices and focus sessions.
Yet the short turnaround is good news for Tennessee, in a way. Much like some of the earlier nonconference games, facing new opponents so quickly does mimic tournament play. If Tennessee can impose their will and force the action to their style, they will show us some readiness for the tournament that we didn't see at this time last year. If they let Georgia outscheme them on the floor, it may very well signal the need for some toughening up, pose haste.
With Taber Spani out and Kamiko Williams in, we should see an entirely new rotation; Stricklen will likely play the 3 all night long and Kamiko will rotate with the guards in Stricklen's old place. For this reason, Kamiko's return may be the best thing to happen to Tennessee's rotation in a long time; Stricklen won't be asked to direct traffic (a task she can do but prefers to avoid), and Simmons won't have to play the point as frequently. Also, if any guard gets into foul trouble, they don't have to immediately move Stricklen to the point or the 2 to cover.
Of all the uncertainty in this game, we do know that Tennessee is a much better team at home than on the road. Hosting this game is a huge advantage, and Tennessee should come out on top. The only question is whether Georgia disappoints or makes a game of it.
Prediction: 78-65 Tennessee
BassWatch™: 5 minutes left in the second half.
Chris: I didn't warn Hooper that I was doing this. Still, it's Georgia, who I'm more than happy to see play second fiddle to anyone, especially us. That being said, this game worries me - not because it's Georgia, but because of what Hooper said. Any other season that any of us can remember, getting outschemed would be laughable. This year? Well, I'm left to hope that shifting Alicia Manning into the starting 5 will work; lord knows she's earned her shot at starter's minutes. Rotation has been my major concern; the staff still is kind of unsure what to do with Vicki Baugh (who in turn has been more foul-prone than necessary), which I think has prompted some of the rotation uncertainty with the 3-4-5 spots.
Fortunately, the 1-2 is now much, much easier with the return of Kamiko. That came out of nowhere; sure, this is a bit of a step up from UTC, but guard depth matters. Anything that keeps Stricklen off the point and where she's comfortable is a good thing, and although the Ladies can't get Spani back soon enough, it'll have to work. (Heck, Briana Bass's surprise turn as a three-point specialist might come in handy; Spani's absence has really hurt the ability of the Ladies to hit from deep.) For what it's worth, Spani is on the bench again, but I wouldn't expect anything.
Tennessee should be able to hold the Lady Dawgs to around .400 from the field at best; the question is what they do with it when they get the opportunity. Keep in mind this is Georgia's sixth game on the road this year, and they lost their only roadie to a ranked opponent by 8 points. We haven't heard too much from Glory lately; let's change that, shall we?
76-59 Tennessee. Bass is in with 5 minutes to go in the first half. Bonus prediction: Tennessee rips off a 14-0 run to open the second half.