Show Me My Opponent: Georgia


Lotta missed shots, including missed threes

For all the flaws Tom Crean brings with him to a program, rarely can you call his offense out-and-out bad. Six of his final seven Marquette offenses ranked in the KenPom top 50, including four top 30 finishes. He tossed out second, fourth, sixth, and eighth-ranked offenses at Indiana. At Georgia, it’s not gone exactly to plan – last year’s offense barely beat the national average, and this one currently ranks 72nd on KenPom – but it’s still the slightly superior side of the ball.

Oddly enough, Crean’s offense at Georgia mirrors a bit of what his successor at Indiana, Archie Miller, is going through: nobody can shoot a deep ball or make a free throw. Georgia ranks 287th in 3PT% a year after ranking 282nd, with a 64.7% FT% (317th) to pair with it. When reading this, you might say: “Wait a minute, Will. Didn’t Tennessee just play a program that couldn’t shoot the basketball? Wasn’t it a miserable viewing experience?” To that, I would simply reply: yes.

Tons of attempts at the rim

However, Georgia does offer a lot more inside the perimeter than South Carolina could. The team ranks 14th in 2PT%, largely driven by hitting nearly 70% of their rim attempts and getting tons of said attempts. The Bulldogs are getting an absurd number of points off of basket cuts, along with attacking hard and fast in transition.

They’re also a good offensive rebounding team, so don’t be surprised when Georgia has some success on the offensive glass.

Anthony Edwards and his counterpart, Rayshaun Hammonds

The offense is led by Anthony Edwards, who you’ve certainly heard a lot about, as well as Rayshaun Hammonds, who you probably haven’t. Edwards is a near-lock to be a top five draft pick at this time next year, an electric 6’5” guard/forward that can and will score from just about anywhere 25 feet in. Crean’s willing to let Edwards do his thing, and while that does mean some pretty ill-advised pull-ups from deep (29-of-95, 30.5%):

That also means some hard, rewarding drives to the rim, along with smart plays off the ball.

Hammonds is similarly unspectacular from downtown (15-of-48, 31.2%), but is utterly dominant at the rim (converts 73.9% of attempts). All of Hammonds’ time is spent at the 5, where he helps Georgia spread the floor. You’ll see Georgia try to find various ways to get the ball in his hands, whether that’s in transition, a basket cut, or a post-up.

Neither Edwards nor Hammonds are wildly efficient – Edwards sits at a 102.8 Offensive Rating, Hammonds 104.2 – but they combine for nearly 63% of Georgia’s shots when they’re on the court together.

Not much else on offense, really

As such, there’s not much left to focus on. Georgia does make a lot of basic mistakes with turnovers that aren’t often forced by the opponent.

No one really takes a ton of mid-range twos, though Edwards and Hammonds take a few per game. The only guy with 10+ three-point attempts that tops 1 PPP is Donnell Gresham at 37%.

Otherwise, well, there’s a lot of fruitless deep balls launched.

Pretty similar to most Crean defenses, though with more turnovers and 3PT prevention

Not terrible, not great, just kinda there. As mentioned in the offensive section, Tom Crean’s offense has almost always been ahead of his defense, though the split isn’t as wide this year. The hallmarks of a Crean defense are all there – low assist rates allowed, faster-than-average defensive possessions, mediocre defensive rebounding, oddly poor two-point defense. Pretty much every Crean team from that phenomenal home Kentucky win (2011-12) onward has had the same defensive footprint, with minor tweaks here and there.

This year’s edition, despite worse shot defense, is actually a bit better than the one Tennessee dumped 96 on last year. Despite getting worse outcomes at 2PT%, 3PT%, and Block%, they’re forcing significantly more turnovers than they did before. A somewhat interesting parallel, if you’ll allow it, is Crean’s final Sweet Sixteen team at Indiana: very unspectacular results, but with quality three-point prevention, a healthy amount of steals, and an aversion to fouling. Georgia barely tops the national average in opponent TO%, but that’s a huge improvement from last year’s 327th-place finish.

Interior defense, FINALLY, is not a strong suit

Fun fact: despite ranking above the national average in block percentage, Georgia’s just-okay interior defense is somehow the second-worst left on the Tennessee schedule. I can’t believe it’s true either, but listen to this: of Tennessee’s 31 games this year, ten are against teams in the Top 25 of block percentage nationally. Ten more are against teams in the top 100. Georgia, a team that ranks 156th in this stat – again, above the national average! – is Tennessee’s 25th-toughest interior defense they’ll play. Can you believe that? Anyway, Georgia ranks 282nd in opponent FG% at the rim.

They’ve had a whale of a time stopping post-ups of any kind, have been abysmal in transition defense, can’t stop drives to the rim, and give up plenty of points off of basket cuts.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, etc.

Georgia forces and blocks a better share of non-rim twos, and, as such, possesses a pretty solid mid-range defense.

Few opponents have really harmed them from this area, though Auburn did make seven of their 11 non-rim twos. (Of the other games I watched to prep for this: Kentucky 7-of-26, Memphis 4-of-14.) This is more about Tennessee getting quality looks than it is anything else.

Perimeter D fairly flimsy

While Georgia does a solid job of preventing threes in the first place, they decidedly haven’t done a great job of defending the actual shot. Synergy has them at a 43/57 Guarded/Unguarded split on 230 catch-and-shoot attempts in half-court, a terrible number to be at. They’ve been pretty lucky that opponents haven’t hit more threes on them. I know the last you saw of Tennessee was them shooting 6-of-31 from three, but they’re a better shooting team than that allows. To me, there’s basically no difference in the below two shots, other than Achiuwa hits one and misses the other.

(SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT FOOTNOTE: 1. Don’t forget they literally just got done making 24-of-50 threes against LSU and Missouri. 2. All of those are very selective stats. First 10 games: 55-of-185, or 29.7%. Last 5 games: 43-of-125, 34.4%. Given the shooters shooting said shots, I am *ever* so slightly leaning towards the latter being a better representation of Tennessee’s skills than the former. Which is to say that they’re probably gonna end up being around the national average.)

NEXT PAGE: The last time I went to McKay’s in Knoxville, there were at least 30 copies of R.E.M.’s Monster for like 40 cents each

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