NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: Georgia/Tennessee Preview

by Big Al Staff

Georgia won their third straight game on Saturday with a 73-70 victory against Vanderbilt as a 4.5-point favorite. Samir Wheeler made eight of ten shots to lead the team with 16 points. The sophomore added nine assists. Wheeler leads the team with a 13.6 points-per-game scoring average while adding 7.4 assists-per-game. Virginia Tech grad transfer P.J. Horne added 14 points after making four of his five shots from 3-point land. Horne’s 9.2 points-per-game scoring average is seventh on the team in what is a balanced scoring attack for third-year head coach Tom Crean.

The Bulldogs made 58.7% of their shots against the Commodores. That effort overcame 21 turnovers. Georgia is second-to-last in turnover rate in SEC play and their 22.5% turnover rate overall is 316th in the nation. Crean has his team create additional scoring chances by forcing turnovers in 22.6% of their opponent’s possessions, 36th in the nation. The Bulldogs also crash the glass by pulling down 35.8% of their missed shots, ranking 14th nationally. These second-chance opportunities help Georgia make 52.9% of their shots inside the arc, 66th in the nation. Crean also has his team play aggressively on the fast break off their opponent’s misses but this tactic leaves them vulnerable with these opponents getting second-chance opportunities of their own in 34.3% of their missed shots, 336th in the nation. In conference play, the Bulldogs allow their opponents to rebound 39.1% of their misses, last in the SEC. Georgia ranks 72th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 123rd in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom.

Crean lost his top-two scorers, including the number one pick in the NBA draft, Anthony Edwards, from a team that finished 16-16. Six other sophomore from a top-15 ranked recruiting class returned including four four-star players. Crean added three grad transfers in Andrew Garcia from Stony Brook, Justin Kier from George Mason along with Horne from Virginia Tech.

Georgia enters this game with a 12-6 record along with a 5-6 mark in the SEC. They have victories again Auburn, Kentucky, and twice against Ole Miss. Yet none of their wins are against a team ranked higher than 59th in the kenpom rankings. The Bulldogs’ six losses against South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, and Mississippi State are all ranked 81st or better at kenpom.

Tennessee won their third game in their last four contests with their 82-71 victory at Kentucky as a 3.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Volunteers’ trailed by 10 points with 12 minutes left to go before going on a 12-0 run to take the lead before going on a second 12-0 run to seize a 10-point lead with under four minutes left to cruise to the victory. Keon Johnson scored 17 of his team-high 27 points in the second half with fellow freshman five-star freshman phenom Jaden Springer adding 23 points. Tennessee has five players scoring at least 9.2 points-per-game with Springer leading the way with a 10.5 points-per-game scoring average and Johnson adding 10.1 points-per-game. Senior big man John Springer scores 10.4 points-per-game with Oregon graduate transfer Victor Bailey adding 10.4 points-per-game.

The Volunteers rank 16th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 13-4 record. They are 6-4 in conference play with losses to Ole Miss, Missouri, Florida, and Alabama. Tennessee has wins against Missouri and Arkansas in the SEC along with impressive non-conference victories from their non-conference schedule.

Head coach Rick Barnes returned four starters from the group last year that finished 17-14. He added a top-five recruiting class led by Springer and Johnson. The Volunteers are the top-ranked team in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They rank 15th in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and they also rank 15th by forcing turnovers in 23.5% of their opponent’s possessions. This team can struggle to score baskets. They rank 163rd nationally an 11th in the SEC in effective field goal percentage. Tennessee is 61st in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom.

BookMaker lists the Volunteers as a 12.5-point favorite with an over/under of 140.5. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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