Preview: Georgia searches for first SEC win against Tennessee

Brent Wilson

After going on the road and defeating Memphis, who was then ranked 9th in the AP Top 25, the Georgia Bulldogs have hit a rough stretch losing their last two games to Kentucky and Auburn, currently ranked 10th and 4th in the country respectively. The good news for Georgia is that those two losses don't necessarily hurt their tournament chances. Now, they'll have a chance to prove they belong in the bracket against Tennessee, which would qualify as a "Quadrant 2" win.

As the match-up approaches, this game is stacking up to be a close one. While ESPN's Basketball Power Index gives Georgia just a 41.8% chance to win, Vegas' odds have Georgia as a 2.5-point favorite. 

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Freshman guard, Sahvir Wheeler drives towards the basket.

As mentioned earlier, Georgia has lost its last two games. On the other side, the Tennessee Volunteers have won their last two, beating Missouri on the road and South Carolina at home. The Vols certainly can not afford to play complacent, considering the Bulldogs will be looking to avenge a 46-point loss from just a year ago. With Tennessee losing playmakers from last season's team like Admiral Schoefield and Grant Williams, it is doubtful this game's outcome will be anything like the last.

So, what kind of game can you expect to see?

Almost every inter-conference match up, especially in the SEC, is decided within the last 5-10 minutes. You can certainly expect that type of game here with Georgia and Tennessee.

Looking at the makeup of these two teams, you will see a formidable Georgia offense battle with a Tennessee defense that is allowing just 59.3 PPG, good for 10th in the nation. Georgia's is scoring 78.7 PPG and that is 32nd best in the NCAA. While Georgia's offense has been the main reason for the 10-5 start to the season, you shouldn't count out their defense. In the last 5 games, Georgia is allowing just 66.8 PPG. With Georgia's defense seeing some improvements, they need to regain their offensive identity to win big SEC match-ups, like the one they'll play in tonight.

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Junior forward, Rayshaun Hammonds

Statistical Leaders:

Points: Anthony Edwards (UGA)- 18.7 PPG, Santiago Vescovi (UT)- 14.3 PPG

Rebounds: Rayshaun Hammonds (UGA)- 8.7 RPG, Josiah-Jordan James (UT)- 6.0 RP

Assists: Sahvir Wheeler (UGA)- 5.0 APG, Lamonte Turner (UT)- 7.1 APG

Projected Starting Lineups:

Georgia:

G- (Grad.) Donnell Gresham Jr.  

G- (Senior) Tyree Crump OR (Freshman) Sahvir Wheeler

G- (Freshman) Anthony Edwards 

F- (Freshman) Toumani Camara  

F- (Junior) Rayshaun Hammonds 

Tennessee

G- (Freshman) Josiah-Jordan James

G- (Junior) Yves Pons

G- (Senior) Jordan Bowden

G- (Freshman) Santiago Vescovi

F- (Junior) John Fulkerson

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Freshmen, Christian Brown and Toumani Camara contest a shot.

Keys to the game:

1. Find an offensive identity.

Georgia started out hot against Auburn, going on a 14-5 run. That was mostly due to Georgia's ability to get out in transition and find good shots early into the possessions. However, when Bulldogs struggled in their half-court sets and they seemed to become stagnant, lacking movement, which led to many horrific possessions. Georgia needs to control the pace of play and run the floor. In being aggressive and attacking, they can get back to producing numbers they're used to.

2. Own the battle on the glass. 

During that early 14-6 run for Georgia, the Bulldogs grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, leading to second-chance scoring opportunities. As the game went on, the Bulldogs allowed the Tigers to grab 13 offensive rebounds and lost the overall rebound battle 41 to 33. More rebounds lead to more possessions, and playing in a game that could have serious postseason stakes, Georgia has to out-rebound Tennessee. The Bulldogs come into this one averaging around 3 more RPG than the Vols, suggesting that they should win this battle, statistically speaking. 

3. Get Anthony Edward going.

In the past few games, we have not seen Anthony Edwards play to the full extent of his capabilities. Part of the reason is because of the stagnant offense. When there's little ball movement or the players aren't moving without the ball, it's harder to create open looks. Tom Crean could potentially utilize more high ball screen combinations with Edwards to help him create, get open looks from deep, or attack the rim and find open teammates when the help comes.

When Edwards starts to score consistently, the defense keys in on him, opening up better opportunities for other scorers, like Rayshaun Hammonds and Sahvir Wheeler. Edwards offensive performance has a huge impact on key #1, and if that key is in check, it will be hard for Tennessee to beat Georgia inside Stegeman Coliseum.

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