Preview: Georgia starts off the 2019 Maui Invitational with Dayton

Brent Wilson

For the first time this season, the Georgia Bulldogs will walk onto the floor as underdogs. 

Georgia (4-0) takes on Dayton (3-0) today at 2:30 P.M. EST on ESPN2. Tom Crean's team comes in as a 2.5 point underdog and is only given a 34.2% chance to improve to 5-0 according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index.

While the odds may not be in Georgia's favors, a win here would do justice for the team's NCAA Tournament hopes. 

In college basketball, it's all about building a résumé, and a win versus Dayton would certainly look great on it. The Flyers have made the tournament four times since 2014, and are currently listed as an #11 seed in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology.

While Georgia has already played one power five conference team, Dayton hasn't, making this their first true test of the year. 

Even with the mediocre schedule to start, it's clear to see the Flyers have talent. 

They're led in scoring and rebounding by sophomore power forward, Obi Toppin (23.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG). Standing at 6'9 220 lbs., his size and stats are similar to Georgia's Rayshaun Hammonds (17.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG). Setting up a battle between the two in the post.

Both teams have a similar amount of talent down low, and it will come down to who can outperform the other. For Georgia to have a shot at pulling off the upset, guys like Hammonds, Amanze Ngumezi, and Rodney Howard have to clean the glass.

Georgia cannot afford to give Dayton a lot of second-chance points.

Much like Georgia Tech, Dayton matches up against Georgia very well. Like we discussed last week, these games come down to how each team can take advantage of their strengths.

For Dayton, they have three efficient three-point shooters in Toppin, Ibi Watson, and Rodney Chatman. Each is shooting above 40% from deep, and with Georgia's tendency to allow a good amount of three-point attempts, that could spell trouble.

For Georgia, they'll be up against a solid backcourt from Dayton, but with the production we're seeing from Georgia's ball handlers right now, they may be able to outplay them. 

The Bulldogs currently have three guards averaging double digits on offense in Anthony Edwards (19.3 PPG), Tyree Crump (12.3 PPG), and Sahvir Wheeler (10.0 PPG). These guys know how to score, and can also find opportunities for others. Between the three, they make up 62% of the team's total assist.

Edwards, Crump, and Wheeler are getting it done defensively as well, accounting for 47% of the team's steal totals. With the on-ball defensive presence they bring, the Flyers will be on guard. 

Nonetheless, this game against Dayton will serve as a benchmark in terms of showing how far Georgia has progressed from last season. It's up to Tom Crean and his crew to decide if they're ready to establish themselves as a competitor in the SEC.

Keys to the game:

1. Stay with what works

Georgia knows their best offensive options are Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds. They'll need to keep the ball in their hands as the foundation of Georgia's offense.

2. No cold starts

As we saw against Georgia Tech, this team can get off to a cold start, shooting 0-for-9 in the first 4 minutes and 44 seconds of the game. Luckily, Georgia Tech started out cold as well, but Georgia can't count on the other team doing so every game. They need to find some heat on offense early if they want to have a shot at an upset.

3. Rebound

As an underdog, the worst thing you can possibly do is give your opponent a second chance to score after coming up with a stop. Georgia has had success on the glass so far this season, so they'll need to keep that going to beat an aggressive team, like Dayton.

Depending on the outcomes of the first round of the tournament, Georgia will either face Virginia Tech or Michigan State on Tuesday.

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.