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Lady Vols vs. Georgia, 2 PM Eastern

Dismantling Georgia in women's basketball is a Lady Vols tradition.

Much as I'd like to dawg him, he's actually rocking that tie.
Much as I'd like to dawg him, he's actually rocking that tie.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

TV/Streaming: SECN / Seriously, just show the commercials and let people watch this thing.

Online Radio: Has any coach lost to UT more than Landers?

Potempkin Stats: If ESPN made their GameCast link available before the game started, it'd be here instead.

Last anybody saw the Lady Bulldogs, they were busy taking down Texas A&M 54-51 in Athens.  In a game labelled "Excruciating" by WBBState in that previous link (59 possessions for A&M, 60 for UGA), Georgia overcame a shooting deficit at the free throw line, hitting 13-18 compared to A&M's 1-2.  (It should be noted that A&M ran a man defense while UGA ran zone all game, which tends to skew the foul rates.  It should also be noted that the officials were Mattingly, Enterline, and Laura Morris, so anything could have happened out there.)  All in all, it is a win that will likely sound more impressive than it probably was:  36% shooting from the floor, a laborious game pace, and only two efficient players combined between the two teams, and it wasn't exactly the recipe for watchable ball.  Still, a win's a win, and given A&M's unique style of play, it's plenty good enough.

That win means it's a conference-undefeated UT vs. a conference 5-2 Georgia in a game that honestly means a lot more for the visiting team.  Tennessee's playing for an outside shot at an NCAA 1 seed, but a loss doesn't jeopardize either an NCAA 2/3 seed or a bye to the third day in the SEC tournament.  In short, this is just a regular rivalry pride game at home.  Georgia, meanwhile, could really use a win to help their hopes for that third-day start in the SEC tournament as well as an outside shot at a 3 seed in the NCAA.  (Aside: in WBB, being a 2 vs. a 3 is effectively irrelevant, but avoiding the 4 seed and an early game against a 1 seed is a rather big deal.)

Also, there's this.

There's also the fact that Tennessee is 14-1 over the last 10 years vs. Georgia (thanks, WBBState!), with the one loss a 53-50 dud in 2010 and an  average margin of victory of 16 points (75.6/game vs. 59.4).  It's safe to say that Tennessee has had Georgia's number for some time.

Still, here's Georgia in a nutshell:

  • Hello, football scholarship offsets. Personally, I don't like the idea of carrying the maximum of 15 players on roster.  It's unwieldy in practices and there's a guarantee that 3-5 players just aren't going to be factors in the season.  So it's rather nice of Landers to carry 15 scholarships, but it's likely more effective in balancing the books than it is in helping the team.  Of 20 games played, 5 girls have seen action in 10 or fewer, and 3 others have been in 15 or 16 (and averaging about 11 min/game at that).  So the actual rotation is closer to 8 players - the 7 who have played in all 20 (well, 1 at 19), plus whatever of those three middle-time girls sees the most action on any given day.
    All that is to say they're an 8, maybe 9 deep squad, which is plenty for a game that's likely going rival the speed of paint drying.
  • Georgia has 2 years to get there before this team explodes. Of the 7 main players, 2 are seniors, 4 are juniors, and the last is a freshman.  Of the 3 part-timers, 2 are sophomores and 1 is a freshman.  Of the 5 observers, 1 is a junior, 2 are sophomores, and 2 are freshman.  In other words, this team is very upper-classmen heavy in the rotation and will be for one more year.  After that, they'll have a boatload of players with little experience as regulars.  It doesn't matter today, however, other than to say that you'll see a lot of familiar names.
  • Expect a halfcourt game. As always, Landers emphasizes precision and set plays over the Kentucky-esque press and this new-fangled thing called "pace".  To be fair, their average pace is 69 possessions/game this year, but that's buoyed by high-pace games in nonconference play vs. overmatched opponents (83 vs. Morgan State and 85 vs. Georgia Southern, for example).  In conference, their fastest game was against Mississippi State with ... 70 possessions (and only 56 points; more on that in a bit).  They also had 70 against Alabama and Missouri, but MSU is the one of those three with a pulse, so it's more noteworthy. 
  • Decent, but not great, shooting. As for three-point shots, the highest percentage of merit is Tiaria Griffin at 36.5% on the year, and two others are in the 30s.  Fortunately for UGA, Griffin also leads in attempts with 104 on the year, while Barbee (27.6%) has a second-place 54 attempts.  So a typical game for Georgia rounds out at around 29% from three
    From within the perimeter, they're a decent-but-slightly-below-average 38%.  Barbee (guard), Donald (forward), and Engram (forward) lead with 40+% from two, and Griffin's three point shooting adds her to make four shooters with better than 50% True%. It's efficient enough, but it's not world beating when combined with their slow pace of play.
    Georgia does tend to make up some ground at the line, though.  They don't get many more calls than their opponents (16 fpg against Georgia vs. 17 fpg against opposition), but they're a slightly-better-than-average 70% from the line, and their halfcourt emphasis means they tend to draw shooting fouls more frequently than other teams.  It's probably good for about a 5 point/game difference for them.
  • Without offensive efficiency, Georgia is doomed. It's probably pretty obvious given all the above prose, but Georgia just doesn't win unless their O-PPP is north of 0.9 (exception: an O-PPP of 0.746 in a 49-29 win vs. Coppin State, which has an utterly hilarious box score).  But it's also only been above 1.0 three times: against Georgia Southern, Colgate, and Michigan State.  (In contrast, Tennessee has had an O-PPP north of 1.0 9 times and was at 1.23 vs. LSU on Thursday.)  If Georgia is held below 0.9 today, it's almost impossible for them to win. 

To win, Tennessee needs:

  • ... to show up, really. Not to put too fine a point on it, but whatever Summitt and Warlick do as coaches, it's kryptonite to a Landers-led team.  Unless Tennessee goes off the rails and pulls out their playing-in-Chattanooga game, they hold all the cards.  But more specifically,
  • Limit UGA's free throws. Georgia, as is fitting for a process-oriented team, is good at the line.  It's really their biggest strength and it's the sole reason they beat A&M.  Take it away.
  • Run a little.  Pretty please? There's nothing funnier than watching Georgia get flustered in an up-and-down sequence.  Tennessee is a halfcourt team and should focus on it, but they're also much better at transition ball than Georgia.  Carter and Middleton can play some serious wrecking ball here.
  • Mix up the defense a bit. This shouldn't be a problem, but Georgia's offense needs rhythm to work.  Tennessee will likely run man for a while and see how it goes, but the occasional zone - and maybe even a box-and-1 just for funsies - would keep Georgia from getting comfortable.
  • At least one of Graves and Harrison. If both of them go off on Georgia today, it's lights out.  But so long as at least one of them has a good game (say, 16+ points and 8+ boards), it should be enough.

Prediction: 76-59 Tennessee. Same margin of victory as it ever was.  Chris is going with 72-54, which is probably more likely give the pace these teams play.

More Time for Moore: She's actually averaging 12 minutes per game, so let's go with that.