After winning four straight, the latest against Kentucky in Rupp, South Carolina has worked its way into the "others receiving votes" category in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Polls. The AP, which is typically less resistant to change, has us a little higher at 31 to the ESPN/USA Today's 34. Everyone's favorite The State employee, Ron Morris, actually voted us at 21. Joe Lunadi now has us as a 12 seed taking on UCLA. That would certainly be exciting, although I honestly believe we can play ourselves into a higher seed if we win the games we're supposed to down the stretch.
With games at Florida and hosting UGA, we'll have two vastly different types of tests this week. At Florida, we'll again play the underdog role. I'd love to see us win that game because it would probably get us ranked next week and would help our NCAAs seeding, but it's going to take a monumental effort to beat Florida in the O'Connell Center, and you have to wonder how many more of those kinds of games we're going to be able to muster. Against UGA, the main question is whether or not we can avoid a letdown, especially if UGA comes out playing over their heads.
We've played the Gators, so you know what to expect. Florida loves to jack up the threes, and you'll have to expect more of them to fall than did in a rocking Columbia. The Gators also have a size advantage over us, although their young frontline hasn't played up its potential yet. Defensively, the Gators will likely make us rely on our shooters, which should be par for the course.
One thing to keep in mind in this game is that Tennessee provided something of a blueprint for beating the Gators. The Vols' strategy was to go straight at Gators star Nick Calathes and get him in foul trouble. The Vols were succesful, and the Gators looked lost offensively without Calathes in the game. Tennessee would win handily. I say we do the same thing. If we can isolate Calathes underneath the basket, we should go straight for him. If we can draw charges, make it happen. Florida has a lot of weapons, but Calathes is the one that makes the wheels turn. If we can get him out of the game with foul trouble, we've got a great chance of sweeping the Gators. If not, we'll either need to shoot the lights out or force lots of TOs like we did against Kentucky.
The Dawgs, who are coachless and have lost eight straight (although with a close game or two sprinkled here and there), shouldn't give us too much trouble. As with any game, though, we've gotta be ready in case the Dawgs bring their A-game. Georgia relies on freshman forward Howard Thompkins, a player that can score both inside and on the perimeter, and senior swingman Terrance Woodbury, who is more of a slasher. Although the Dawgs don't have too many other weapons, these two tend to provide matchup problems for opponents. Defensively, the Dawgs will try to slow us down a bit, a strategy they've had some success with so far. However, UGA has given up a lot of TOs in some of its losses, so there's hope that we can quickly blow this game wide open if our press is successful. That's what we should try to do, as UGA lacks the firepower to dig out of a big hole. If, on the other hand, we allow them to hang around, we could have a fight on our hands.