When Xavier and Georgia last crossed paths, XU was coming off a staggering loss to Charlotte and a lack-luster win over St Louis at home. With the A-10 season in full swing, the Muskies needed a good road win over a decent opponent to not only show that they had righted the ship but also to take their last chance to bolster the ol' March resume. X knocked off Georgia 65-57 then and never looked back, rattling off seven more wins to wrap up the regular season. This year, the Bulldogs will come to Cintas to fulfill the home-and-home.
Coach and style:
Georgia is coached by Mark Fox, who will begin his third year at the helm of the Bulldogs this season. Fox came over after five straight winning seasons and three single-digit NCAA tournament seeds with Nevada, and he is just now starting to make his mark on Georgia. His squads at Nevada were characterized by slightly above-average tempos, good shooting, and smothering defenses (three times in the top 25 in eFG%, never below 95th). While the Bulldogs have played at a below average tempo in his tenure, their defense was 17th in the nation in eFG% last season.
Which isn't to say that Xavier will be seeing that this year. Trey Thompkins - who accounted for 1.7 of the teams 5 BPG last year - jumped to the draft, taking his 16.4/7.6/1.4 on .481/.311/.689 with him. Ten picks after the Clippers took Thompkins 37th, they picked up Travis Leslie as well. The 6'4" guard was second on the team in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (7.2) and third in assists (2.9), and he put up a very good .492/.302/.801 shooting line to go with it. Forwards Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price graduated; they had combined for 40+ MPG and 12.6/8.7/1.0.
The cupboard isn't entirely bare for the Bulldogs though. Rising senior Gerald Robinson is back, and the 6'1" guard brings with him his line of 12.2/2.7/4.0 on .442/.301/.710, though he also average 3 TO per game last year. Noted gunner Dustin Ware is back as well; he hit 57 3FG and put up a line of 8.0/2.9/3.5 on .442/.435/.806 last season. He only turned it over 1.2 times per game last year and figures to run the backcourt with Robinson this season. From a team that was 56th in the nation in effective height last year, Georgia returns no noteworthy big men.
With so much talent going out the door in the offseason, Fox and his staff also brought in some noteworthy players. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is an ESPN 100 shooting guard known for his excellent jumper and solid defense. Caldwell-Pope needs to improve his ball-handling, but the greatest threat to his playing time right now is a developing eligibility issue. Tom Dixon is an interesting big man whose length and athletic ability show the makings of a dominant shot blocker, but he needs to put some beef on his 6'10", 200 lb frame to be able to hang near the rim in college. Nemanja Djurisic and John Cannon are both bigs with good skills around the bucket and limited athleticism. Djurisic is noted for his ability to be an effective offensive presence on the outside as well. Finally, JuCo seven-footer John Florveus comes in to provide some much-needed defensive ability for the Bulldogs in the paint; he averaged 2.7 BPG last year at Hillsborough Community College in Florida.
The roster overhaul Georgia experienced makes it tricky to prognosticate what kind of team Xavier will face this season. If Caldwell-Pope is on the floor, the Bulldogs should have the perimeter offensive firepower to make for a good and entertaining matchup. Regardless of his eligibility status though, it's hard to see Georgia's interior play being anything but below par this coming season. Florveus should go a long way towards shoring up the defense, but he's a fairly limited offensive player. With Xavier boasting a strong and veteran backcourt, they should be able to handle anything UGa throws at them in Cintas.