If you haven't already done so, please consider checking out Kyle's characteristically entertaining preview at Dawg Sports.
This weekend brings the Georgia Bulldogs to the Colonial Life Arena. UGA is currently 16-7, and while the Dawgs have fallen off the map a bit over the past couple of weeks, they're still undoubtedly ahead of schedule in Mark Fox's second year. The Dawgs enter the game favored by a point, so prepare yourself for what should be an exciting game of basketball with our rivals to the west.
Implications: Both UGA and Carolina come into this game needing a win. UGA is currently precariously on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and it can't afford to lose to a team from the bottom half of the SEC if it hopes to make the field. Carolina, on the other hand, has struggled mightily since its ugly loss to Auburn a couple of weekends ago, and a loss here could signal that this season is running completely off the tracks. Carolina needs a win just to stay solidly in the running for an NIT bid. In other words, this is a big game.
Players to Watch: Going into last weekend's game against Vanderbilt, I expressed my belief that Carolina stood a good chance to win if it shot the ball well, as it had at LSU. Well, Carolina has played better offensive basketball and has shot the ball more or less well for two straight games, and both have been blowout losses. The problem for Carolina now seems to be poor defense in all phases; we're getting killed on the inside, and "killed" doesn't even begin to describe our 3FG defense. Outside of Trey Thompkins, UGA doesn't have the kindof elite offensive talent that Vandy and Florida have, but UGA is no slouch. Dustin Ware is a great outside shooter, and Travis Leslie is a dangerous player off the dribble. UGA is also a team that could kill us if we're not careful in our full-court defense. Stronger defensive performances from guys like Ramon Galloway and a return to shot-blocking glory for Sam Muldrow will be key.
Why USC Could Win: We're due? Carolina has to be hungry after the way the past couple of games have gone, and Darrin Horn and his team certainly know what losing both games in this homestand could mean for the season as a whole. If we can channel that sense of having our backs to the wall into continued offensive and renewed defensive focus, we could certainly win this game.
Why UGA Could Win: The Four Factors favor UGA by a mile.
Even with it begin a home game, those numbers suggest that Vegas is being generous by only having us as one-point underdogs. The truth here is that UGA has been a much better team than us this year. While our records are somewhat similar, the paths the two teams have taken to get there are very different. UGA has lost most of its close games and has otherwise generally won convincingly, while Carolina has won its close games and lost its others convincingly. That tells us that Carolina has overachieved and that UGA has underachieved, which means that the gap between these teams is probably larger than the records indicate.
Prediction: six-point UGA victory.