Tag Archives: UGA

The Great Debate: Georgia vs. Alabama

Tyler Andrews (@TylerAndrews92)
Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355)


UGA Run vs. Bama D

A: I think we can both agree that the game will be won and lost in the trenches with the front sevens of each team trying to stop the opposing team’s running game. Nick Chubb is great and all, but has he faced a defense like Alabama’s? The answer is no. Sorry, but the Tide is a little better than Vanderbilt, who is the best team the Dawgs have played all season…seriously.

Alabama might not have the vaunted defense it once had, but it is still pretty darn good. Through four games this year the Crimson Tide has allowed just 56.8 yards per game on the ground – that’s a miniscule 2.0 yards per carry! Alabama hasn’t given up over 120 yards per game on the ground over a season since Nick Saban’s first year in 2007.

The best defense UGA faced last year was that of the lowly Florida Gators. As a team the Bulldogs rushed for 141 yards on 32 carries; that’s not going to cut it against Alabama. And do I need to remind Georgia fans of how that game turned out? Florida won 38-20 and gashed the pups’ defense for 418 yards with two slightly above average running backs. What is Derrick Henry and a healthy Kenyan Drake going to do?

G: When you think of SEC football you think of ground and pound offenses and hard-nosed defenses. This matchup displays power against power. Georgia has Nick Chubb who has managed to run for 100 yards in 12 straight games. He can beat you in physicality, speed, and even as a receiver. And don’t forget about the change of pace back in Sony Michel who may be Georgia’s most dangerous player on offense. Together they have combined for 822 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in four games. The physicality of Georgia’s offensive line coupled with their two-headed monster in the backfield is something that cannot be stopped. A defense can only hope it can be maintained, especially when this isn’t one of Saban’s of old. And never forget about Keith Marshall.

 

Bama Run vs. UGA D

A: That “devastating” Bulldog defense people in Athens are trying to sell you on doesn’t even measure up to Bama. The Tide have played two ranked teams in current No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 3 Ole Miss. In those games the Badgers rushed for 40 yards on 21 carries while the Rebels gained 92 on 32 totes.

Georgia allowed 174 yards on 39 carries to South Carolina and even Vandy eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Henry rushed for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In his last healthy season in 2013, Drake gained 694 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. So far this season the duo has combined for 637 yards and nine scores. Last year UGA allowed 166.8 yards per game on the ground and heading into Saturday they have given up twice as much as Alabama has with 107.3. Good luck wrapping up the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry. By the way, last time these two teams met, in the 2012 SEC Championship, the Tide rolled for 350 yards rushing.

G: The days of Georgia having an underperforming defense are no longer thanks to the leadership of second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Last year the team showed glimpses of greatness and this year has been all about sustaining that greatness. The Dawgs have given up only three rushing touchdowns all season and runners are averaging only 3.1 yards/attempt against a team that has had the opportunity to play a ton of second and third-string players in their blowout wins. On the opposing side, Alabama’s Derrick Henry is a great back. Henry is averaging 6.3 yards/carry and has eight rushing touchdowns. But, when Alabama faces a good defense like Georgia and they are in a third-and-long situation with a below-average quarterback, their running game cannot bail them out. I look for Georgia’s defense to set the tone early against the run and force Alabama to beat them through the air, which is something I don’t believe the Tide can do. I also expect a breakout game from middle linebacker Jake Ganus.

 

QB Comparison

A: With Alabama loading the box on defense, Greyson Lambert will be forced to beat the Tide. The bullets haven’t started flying against Lambert yet and he has never seen a defense quite like Alabama. He started 0-for-7 against Vanderbilt and was yanked for Brice Ramsey. The South Carolina game was an aberration, an outlier, a fluke. I have a sneaky suspicious the real Greyson Lambert who was a turnover machine at Virginia will rear his ugly head in this big game. Jake Coker has proven he can be competent against good competition, going 15-of-21 against Wisconsin for 213 yards and a touchdown. He threw for three touchdowns and ran in a score against Ole Miss, but was marred by two interceptions. The rumor on campus however was that Coker was running a 102 degree fever all day.

G: Both UGA and Alabama entered the season with quarterback questions. Since Week 2, the schools have gone in completely different directions. Alabama switched starting quarterbacks before their game against Ole Miss and it turned out to haunt them. Georgia questioned whether Greyson Lambert could lead them after two below-average performances. His 24-of-25, 330-yard performance against South Carolina erased that doubt. Not only would I give the edge to the quarterback that is hot right now in Lambert, but I also give the edge to the team that has their guy and not a circus with two cowboys.

 

History

A: They say history repeats itself. If that’s true, it’s not a good sign for Georgia. We all remember the SEC Championship and of course, how can we forget the “Blackout” gimmick UGA used in 2008? That one really worked well between the bushes. The Dawgs entered the half down 31-0 and limped to a 41-30 loss. Overall, Bama has taken the series 37-24-3. Since 1960, the Crimson Tide has gone 14-7 against UGA. Oh and by the way, Alabama has 15 National Championships to Georgia’s one.

G: Since 2008, the last time these two played in the regular season, their stories have been vastly different. Alabama has won three national titles and three SEC titles. Georgia has lost twice in the SEC title game and had a 6-7 season. The last time these two played in the 2012 SEC title game, Georgia came within four yards of winning and going to the National Championship. When they were blown out at home in 2008 in the blackout game it was much of the same misery felt by all Dawgs fans. But, that’s why I am confident in their task this weekend. Georgia is due for a big win. Georgia is due for a good performance against Alabama. A good team like Georgia who always recruits well and is always hovering in the top ten is due to finally breakthrough and play up to their potential against a big-time opponent.

 

Coaching Comparison

A: When it comes to the sidelines, I’ll take Nick Saban, his four national championships, Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart over Mark Richt’s goose egg in the cabinet, Brian Schottenheimer and Jeremy Pruitt. Just look at Richt’s debacle against Georgia Tech. He inexplicably pooch kicked with 18 seconds left up three. Then he left fans aghast with his decision to call a timeout with 4 seconds left and the play clock at 3 seconds when Georgia Tech was lining up for the tying kick. Instead of a 58-yarder, Harrison Butker attempted a 53-yarder and the rest is history.

G: It’s hard to say a coach that has won four titles is not as good as one that has yet to win one or even play for one as a head coach, but I am going to say that anyway. In his 15th season, Richt has already compiled 140 wins, a .745 winning percentage and nine 10-win seasons. He won a national title as offensive coordinator at Florida State. But, most importantly he is the ultimate players coach. His good deeds, devotion to faith, and loyalty to his players has to pay off some day. I see him as a Bowden or an Osborne who just takes longer to win that first title. Richt has proven that he is great and nobody can take that away from him.

Home Field Advantage?

 A: In terms of hitting the road against UGA, there isn’t much to worry about. Since ’07, Bama has nine wins on the road against ranked teams. Included in that is wins at Death Valley (LSU) three times, Sanford Stadium (UGA), Ole Miss, Arkansas, Beaver Stadium (Penn State), The Swamp (Florida) and Kyle Field (Texas A&M).

G: The wounds of 2008 are still fresh in the minds and hearts of UGA. Nobody in recent memory has done what Alabama did to the Dawgs on their home field. Not only is redemption on the minds of the UGA faithful, but their 35-year title drought is too. UGA is 74-15 at home under Richt and I would bet on that even facing a team like Alabama.

Prediction

A: 31-21
G: 38-28

*UPDATE*

Alabama won 38-10.
UGA QB’s combined to go 11-of-31 for 106 yards and 3 INTs.
Jake Coker: 11-of-16, 190 yards and 1 TD.
Derrick Henry: 26 carries 148 yards 1 TD (Long of 30).
Nick Chubb: 20 carries 146 yards 1 TD (Long of 83).

NCAAFB: Take The SEC or Take The Field?

The 2015 college football season begins in a month and the USA Today Coaches Poll has come out with a Top-Five of: 1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Alabama, 4. Baylor, 5. Oregon. In total there are eight SEC schools in the Top 25, six Pac-12 schools and three apiece from the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC.

So who is the best conference? Do you pick a team from the SEC or do you take the field? Last season’s implementation of the College Football Playoff was a great success and left controversy on who should be the final team in. Ohio State stunned Alabama with its third-string quarterback and then thumped Oregon in the title game 42-20.

Late last season marked a shift of power from the once mighty SEC to the rest of the nation. The ‘Bucks stunned the Tide, but at least it was a close game, 42-35. Georgia Tech from the SEC’s “little brother” conference the ACC, stomped Mississippi State 49-34 in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. The Peach Bowl was even more embarrassing with TCU humiliating Ole Miss 42-3. Elsewhere, Florida squeeked past East Carolina 28-20, LSU fell to Notre Dame 31-28 and Wisconsin edged Auburn in overtime 34-31. The SEC did pick up wins in the lesser bowls, but the conference’s marquee programs struggling with teams from perceivably “weaker” conferences was eye opening.

So here we are, 2015, in a brave new world with an even playing field. Once again SEC teams load the polls, but who will be the top dog when it’s all said an done? Alabama is always a favorite and opens up at No. 3. Gone is Amari Cooper, gone is T.J. Yeldon, gone is Blake Sims, gone is Landon Collins, the list goes on and on. Last season Alabama had a one-dimensional passing game. Every single target was going to Cooper. Now that he is gone, will it open up more of the offense and also allow the Tide to run the ball more with Derrick Henry as the lead back? Time will tell. Alabama goes into the season with an inexperienced quarterback; a problem many SEC teams will have yet again this year.

Auburn enters at No. 7 in the polls but also has question marks under center. Jeremy Johnson threw just 37 passes last season but already is being compared to Cam Newton. Leading rusher Cameron Artis-Payne is gone after a 1,608 yard season and the top returning rusher is wide receiver Ricardo Louis who gained 226 yards on the ground. Jovon Robinson steps in as the lead back after being ruled ineligible coming out of Junior College last season. In 2013 at Georgia Military College, the current day junior ran for a NJCAA single-season record 2,387 yards. If Johnson can get a grip of the offense at quarterback and Robinson can stay on the field, Auburn has a chance to make a playoff push.

My first pretender out of the top five SEC schools is Georgia who ranks No. 9. Year-in and year-out the Bulldogs enter the season overrated and are nothing more than a second tier team in the SEC. No quarterback and a one-dimensional offense will sink the Dawgs again. Either Brice Ramsey or Greyson Lambert will start at quarterback. Ramsey threw 39 passes last season as coach Richt and staff refused to get the potential future of the team some much needed snaps in blow out games last year. Greyson Lambert joins the program after starting at Virginia in 2014. Picturing the former Wayne County star in the SEC is a scary thought. Lambert routinely made bad decisions with the Cavs and was a turnover machine. Multiple games he would split time with Matt Johns under center and failed to make a convincing statement that he was the true QB1. He threw 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and failed to make easy throws. If he starts for UGA, expect the Bulldogs’ running backs to have to carry the load 45-60 times a game. It doesn’t matter how good Nick Chubb is, if the quarterback can’t alleviate pressure on the run game and keep defenses honest, eight men in the box will be zoned in on No. 27 every play.

LSU at No. 13 is primed to emerge from the SEC if Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings can put together a consistent season at quarterback. Nine offensive starters return including sophomore Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,034 yards and 10 scores his freshman campaign. All of coach Les Miles’ top receivers return and enough is back on defense to be another Top-10 unit.

The mercurial play of Bo Wallace will not be an issue for No. 15 Ole Miss, but they still will be inserting an inexperienced SEC quarterback with whoever gets the job. JUCO-transfer Chad Kelly should have the inside track on the job after throwing for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns last season. The defense will carry the Rebels this year as they search for their first double-digit win season in 12 years.

So with all that said, the SEC should be a lock to have a team win the National Championship, right? Sadly, I have to go against the grain in the south and pick against the beloved conference yet again.

Defending champ Ohio State returns all three quarterbacks with Braxton Miller making the switch to wide receiver. Coach Urban Meyer has been drooling about Miller’s athleticism and will surely find a way for the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year to make a massive impact outside. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones both continue to battle for the starting job, giving Ohio State an embarrassment of riches and three guys (including Miller) that would instantly become the best quarterback in the SEC if they had transferred.  Ezekiel Elliot burst onto the scene after rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore and will continue to terrorize defenses. If the Buckeyes can survive an early suspension of First-Team All-American defensive end Joey Bosa (13.5 sacks) and others during their rematch with Virginia Tech in the first game of the season, Ohio State could easily roll to another College Football Playoff.

My personal No. 1 ranked team, who slides in at No. 2 in the Coaches Poll is TCU. A whopping 10 offensive starters return to a Horned Frogs offense that averaged 46.5 points per game in 2014 — second-best in the entire nation only to Baylor who stunned the Frogs and kept them out of the Playoffs with a 61-58 victory. Trevone Boykin enters his senior season as a Heisman front-runner. He threw for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns while gaining 707 yards and eight scores on the ground. Josh Doctson is Boykin’s favorite target after snagging 1,018 yards worth of passes and 11 touchdowns. Senior back Aaron Green also returns to the backfield after gaining 922 yards and nine scores on a 7.1 yard per carry average. The defense takes a hit with the loss of Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet but the Horned Frogs still have free safety Derrick Kindred (80 tkls, 4 ints) and defensive end James McFarland (7 sacks) and are reloaded for another run. Last year’s Playoff picture and results could have been very different if TCU has somehow snuck in.

Nov. 27 will decide the Big 12 and will determine who makes the College Playoff with No. 4 Baylor visiting TCU. Seth Russell is the favorite to replace Bryce Petty at quarterback. Petty is a massive blow, but nine starters return on both offense and defense. Shock Linwood ran for 1,252 yards and 16 scores as a sophomore and will be asked to carry the load again while Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon seek back-to-back 1,000-plus yards receiving. The defense will be anchored by the massive Shawn Oakman, who stands 6-foot-9, 280 pounds. Oakman will continue his meteoric rise up draft boards after collecting 11 sacks last season.

Two teams I am high on come out of the Pac-12 and will likely knock one of themselves out of contention on Nov. 21. USC ranks No. 10 and Oregon slots in at No. 5, although I place USC at No. 3 and Oregon at No. 4. The sanctions have lifted off of USC and the program finally looks ready to not disappoint. Seven starters return on both offense and defense led by Cody Kessler. The senior threw for 3,826 yards, 39 touchdowns and just five picks as a junior. He will have new running back behind him in Justin Davis and plenty of new faces at receiver after the loss of Nelson Agholor, but Kessler is good enough to make inexperienced players around him better. The defense will need to hold up its end of the bargain after allowing 25.2 points per game last season. Leonard Williams is gone from the defensive line, but Rasheem Green is a highly touted prospect and Iman Marshall is one of the best defensive backs in this year’s class.

Both the Trojans and the Oregon Ducks will need to survive Stanford who is ready to compete for the Pac-12 Title again. Oregon loses 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota but Vernon Adams has been a star for years with FCS Eastern Washington and has mind boggling totals of 8,477 yards passing and 90 touchdowns over his past two seasons. Head coach Mark Helfrich has refused to speak about the transfer recently though, as apparently he has yet to officially enroll. If that is the case, it will be a huge blow for the Ducks and Jeff Lockie will be pegged as the starter. Oregon’s top five receivers return as well as running back Royce Freeman, so weapons will be aplenty for whoever takes over.

With a rundown of all the top teams in the nation in my opinion, I feel like the balance of power and the playing field has become level and no longer shifts in the favor of the SEC. I like TCU going into the season and the quarterback concerns with every single SEC school will come back to haunt them once they play the best-of-the-best from other power conferences. It’s tough to accept in the south, but there has been a changing of the guard and the race for the National Championship is wide open with the roads most likely running through the Big 12 and the Big Ten, no longer the SEC.

Who’s The King Of The South?: A State Of Georgia NCAA Football Preview

The state of Georgia remains in flux regarding who really is the team to beat. In total there are four FBS schools in the peach state: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.  Both UGA and Tech are established programs with rich histories and a national title to their name. Georgia Southern just completed its first year as an FBS program after dominating the FCS and winning six national championships. After three seasons in the FCS, Georgia State joined the big boys in 2013 and has struggled mightily compiling a 1-23 record. The Panthers didn’t have much success in the FCS either, finishing just 10-23.

Georgia Tech won the state championship last year with wins over hated rival Georgia and a nail-biter over upstart Georgia Southern, but will the guard shift back over in favor of Georgia, or will Georgia Tech once again remain atop of the state? Or maybe Georgia Southern, who is now bowl eligible, will steal the show.

Georgia State Panthers

Georgia State (1-11) will likely suffer through another rough season. In 2014 they snagged an exciting 38-37 season opening win against Abilene Christian, an FCS school, but lost 11 straight to end the season and still search for their first win ever against an FBS school. The Panthers rely on gun-slinger Nick Arbuckle who threw for 3,283 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Arbuckle is back for his senior season and already holds multiple school passing records. Wide receivers Donovan Harden and Robert Davis will remain top targets outside. Harden caught 60 balls for 885 yards and seven scores last year and is a pre-season All-Conference First Team selection. The running game suffered after freshman Krysten Hammon was dismissed from the team early in the season and led to a rushing attack that averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. Joel Ruiz was recently ranked as a top five tight end prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft and will be a bright spot on the team.

Georgia Southern Eagles

Georgia Southern (9-3) rolled in their first season in the Sun Belt, winning nine games but were unable to make it to a bowl since it was their first season. The Eagles finished a perfect 8-0 in conference and have established themselves as the team to beat in their new home. Southern easily could have finished 11-1, but late game letdowns led them to a 24-23 season opening loss at North Carolina State and a 42-38 loss at Georgia Tech in a thriller. Quarterback Kevin Ellison returns to run the triple option under center and orchestrates the nation’s No. 1 rushing attack which averaged 381.1 yards per game – 39 more than Georgia Tech. Ellison and running back Matt Breida both rushed for over 1,000 yards and breakoff big plays regularly. The defense will be the deciding factor while playing out of conference teams. The Eagles will be able to outscore all their Sun Belt opponents but once they play the likes of West Virginia and Georgia, their defense will need to hold the powerful athletes of the Big 12 and SEC. Eight defensive starters return including four players who racked up three sacks apiece in 2014.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech stunned and stung opponents en route to an 11-3 season and a blowout Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State on New Year’s Eve, 49-34. Quarterback Justin Thomas was masterful running the triple option but he will now be without backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days. Also departed are wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. The Jackets will need to find a way to replace their stable of veteran backs and also find big play wide receivers. Juniors Marcus Allen and Dennis Andrews should get a bulk of the carries while senior Broderick Snoddy returns with the most experience after a gruesome leg injury a year ago. Sophomore Ricky Jeune may be the next in a long line of big receivers to make an impact out wide. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds he has size similar to those who have starred at the position before him. Defensively, eight crucial starters return. Leading tackler PJ Davis is back at linebacker after a 119 tackle campaign his sophomore season. KeShun Freeman brings back his 4.5 sacks that led the team a year ago at defensive end and should see even more success after his Freshman All-American season.

Georgia Bulldogs

UGA (10-3) won 10 games last season but lost in overtime to Georgia Tech, 30-24. Nick Chubb returns and will carry the ball as much as possible. Chubb exploded onto the scene with a 1,547 yard season in the absence of Todd Gurley. Georgia will remain one dimensional on offense unless a quarterback steps up. If one doesn’t the Dawgs will fail to win the SEC East yet again. Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta have all battled for the job. Hutson Mason was a game manager last year and the Dawgs likely won’t have strong quarterback play again. Lambert was prone to head scratching mistakes at UVA and now will face SEC defenses that cause major concerns. Ramsey is the favorite to start and has the most upside but his mettle has yet to be tested. UGA will be without last year’s top two tacklers but have a talented linebacking corps and the nation’s top ranked player in Trent Thompson coming in to anchor the defensive line. Lorenzo Carter, UAB transfer Jake Ganus and Leonard Floyd highlight the linebacker position. Junior Tim Kimbrough is expected to see a lot of time and the talented true freshman Roquan Smith will likely get a shot as well.

What Does The Future Hold?

It will be interesting to see what happens this season. The Dawgs always come in as the prohibitive favorite, but they will be tested in back-to-back games to end the season, hosting Georgia Southern and then visiting Atlanta for a rematch. Much like they did with Tech, don’t be surprised if the Eagles push the Dawgs to the brink with their offensive onslaught. Georgia allowed 399 rushing yards to the Jackets in last year’s defeat and will need to find a way to stop the bleeding this year when they face the two best running teams in the nation. If UGA is able to survive it would surely benefit them as they face the Jackets’ triple option the following week.

It will be a three team race for the battle of state supremacy. There will always be bad blood when Georgia Tech plays Georgia. The Eagles want to start a rivalry with both big schools and not be viewed as a little brother or a non-factor in the state and last season’s game with Tech was a good starting point. If Southern can continue its ascension into elite status in the Sun Belt, they very well could blossom into a BCS buster much like Boise State and Northern Illinois in the past. If that happens, the shift of power in Georgia could greatly change if the Eagles are competitive with both the Jackets and Dawgs. Expect the last weeks of November to be can’t miss action in the state of Georgia and an interesting turning point for the future of football in the south.

Peach State Players to Watch for During March Madness

The peach state has given the nation some big name players over the years and this season is no different. As we enter March Madness, here are a few key players on their respective teams that played high school ball in Georgia.

The Virginia Cavaliers have dipped into the south and have found themselves some gems from some winning programs. Greater Atlanta Christian has been a feeder school for Tony Bennett lately as he has plucked Malcolm Brogdon and now Isaiah Wilkins. For a second consecutive season, “Uncle Malcolm” has been named to the All-ACC First Team and has helped UVA to a second straight ACC regular season title. Not a lot of flash in his game, it’s Brogdon’s grown man strength that helps him get past defenders and get to the rim at will when he wants to. Wilkins plays sparingly for the Cavs but when he enters he gives the team great energy. Wilkins comes from rich ‘bloodlines’ of stepfather Dominique Wilkins. The athletic forward also has a winning pedigree after finishing his senior season undefeated with a state title at GAC. Evan Nolte has seen more playing time as of late since Justin Anderson went down with a broken finger and an appendectomy. Nolte is a state champion from Milton and provides the Cavaliers with great hustle and streaky three-point shooting.

Atlanta’s own Georgia State Panthers will try to be this year’s Cinderella story and will rely heavily on former Walton Raider Ryan Harrow to do so. The free-scoring guard averages 18.7 points and passed the 1,000 point mark in his career this season while helping lead the Panthers to their first tournament appearance since 2001. Harrow has dealt with numerous injuries this season and did not play in the Sun Belt title game due to a strained hamstring. When healthy, Harrow teams up with R.J. Hunter to form one of the highest scoring backcourts in the entire nation. Another former Walton standout, Karl Cochran, paces the Wofford Terriers.

Cochran started his prep career at Wheeler before finishing across town at Walton. He has averaged double figures his entire career at Wofford and is the Terriers’ leader in all categories including scoring (14.6), rebounding (5.8), assists (2.7), steals (1.8), and blocks (1.1) this season.

The Georgia Bulldogs feature a plethora of in-state talent led by Charles Mann (Milton), Marcus Thornton (Westlake), Kenny Gaines (Whitefield Academy), and J.J. Frazier (Faith Baptist Christian). These players highlight four of UGA’s top five scorers on the season, all averaging over nine points per game. Thornton is the eldest of the bunch and is a senior while Mann and Gaines are juniors and Frazier, just a sophomore. This pack of Dawgs has helped Georgia reach the tournament for the first time since 2011.

Dominant Miller Grove big man Tony Parker won four state titles as a Wolverine before shipping out west to UCLA. It was a slow start to his collegiate career, but Parker has since trimmed up into shape and has turned himself into a major contributor for the Bruins. The big man is averaging 17.2 points over his last five games as UCLA has slowly begun to gain a head of steam heading into the tournament, winning four of its last five games.

Tekele Cotton of Wichita State might not light up the score board but he contributes in many other facets. The senior is one of the toughest defenders on the perimeter for the Shockers. Though he is having a down year shooting the ball (40% down from 45%), Cotton has averaged a career high in assists. The experienced veteran has already made one trip to the Final Four and will lean on that journey to try and get there again in his final season.

Senior Shannon Scott won a state title at Milton but has yet to taste the same team success at the college level with Ohio State. He is the Big Ten leader in assists per game (5.9) and also ranks third in steals (1.8). Scott’s main objective is to run the show on offense and limit turnovers. He has played a key role in the Buckeye’s backcourt for three seasons now.

Tim Quarterman has been a jack of all trades for LSU since graduating from Johnson, Savannah. The sophomore has exploded onto the scene for the Tigers and is a major reason why LSU has made the tournament for the first time since 2009. At 6-foot-6, “Puncho” uses his length to frustrate opponents and score in a multitude of ways. His versatility allows him to guard many positions, and his play making ability is helped out by his vision over smaller defenders. He averages over 11 points, five rebounds and nearly four assists per game.

James Webb III has jumped around from school to school but has found a home in Idaho. He ended up at North Idaho College after starring at Curtis Baptist High School and now calls Boise State home. Webb scores both inside and out as the Broncos’ second leading scorer (11.3) and top rebounder (7.9). Madarious Gibbs out of East Coweta now leads Texas Southern in his final season. Gibbs averaged 26.3 points per game his senior season at East Coweta and now as a senior at Texas Southern, has begun to find his explosive scoring ability leading the Tigers at 14.1 points. Gibbs has struggled from deep this season (25%), but has done damage at the foul line taking 164 attempts. He will hope to leave behind a legacy at Texas Southern and be a part of the first team in school history to win a tournament game.

The wealth of talent in Georgia will not be drying up anytime soon as more and more highly touted prospects are coming through the pipelines. Next year we will be treated to the likes of Jaylen Brown, Malik Beasley, and Tookie Brown who will all try to be the missing piece of their school’s puzzle to bring home a national championship.

Let the Madness Begin

It’s time for the madness to ensue and for brackets everywhere to be nearly worn to shreds with the amount of filling in and erasing as the NCAA Tournament has finally arrived. This year’s edition of March Madness has a clear cut favorite that the entire country feels is the team to beat with Kentucky entering undefeated at 34-0. In what has become a rarity; some local schools in Georgia have made the big dance and will try to become the latest Cinderella stories in Georgia and Georgia State. Let’s take a quick preview of both games before setting our sights to the national stage.

No. 14 Georgia State v. No. 3 Baylor

            The Panthers won an ugly rubber match against Georgia Southern 38-36 to win the Sun Belt automatic bid and head to the dance for the first time since 2001. If they want to have any chance at winning, getting healthy would be a good start. Second leading scorer Ryan Harrow did not play in Sunday’s championship after straining his hamstring. Harrow has missed six games and if you count games where he has left early the total is up to eight, but Georgia State is a perfect 8-0 in those injury marred games. Another key injury occurred after the game on Sunday. Head Coach Ron Hunter tore his achilles while celebrating the title and will be wearing a cast for Thursday’s game.

As far as those who will be on the court Thursday, Baylor poses a tough test. The Bears are the best offensive rebounding team in the nation and are led by the burley Rico Gathers who averages 11.6 boards a night. It will be strength vs weakness as the Bears rank 13th in the nation in total rebounding while the Panthers come in at 247th.  Baylor is balanced on offense with six players averaging over seven points per game compared to just four from Georgia State. Junior forward Taurean Prince leads the way scoring 13.8 points on average. The backcourt duo of R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow will need to carry the load for the Panthers and do it in an efficient manner. Harrow finished the season shooting over 50 percent, but Hunter struggled at 39 percent. Hunter, Head Coach Ron Hunter’s son, is the school’s all-time leading scorer and has the ability to get hot. Before a 3-of-15 shooting performance in the Sun Belt final, Hunter scored 35 and 32 points in consecutive games. Georgia State will need its role players to shoulder the load in Kevin Ware and Markus Crider. Both schools have played Iowa State this year with Baylor beating them twice while Georgia State lost by 23.

No. 10 Georgia v. No. 7 Michigan State

            Michigan State has had a down year, but still the tough Tom Izzo coached bunch will be a tall task for the Dawgs who enter the tournament for the first time since 2011. Georgia hangs its hat on strong rebounding and balanced scoring. Five players average over nine points per game and give coach Mark Fox reliable options. Senior big men Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic are tough players inside that also have the ability to hit the open jumper. Junior guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines score in different ways. Gaines leads the team in 3-pointers made with 54 and Mann leads the team in free throws made with 141. Sophomore J.J. Frazier can be an x-factor if he gets hot. He dropped 37 in a win over Mississippi State on the road when he went 7-7 from beyond the arc.

The Spartans are an unselfish team that averages 17.1 assists per game, fourth in the nation. MSU had a chance to win the Big Ten tournament but collapsed down the stretch and fell to Wisconsin in overtime. Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine power the Sparty offense. Branden Dawson is a defensive stalwart and leads the team in rebounding at 9.1. Two key stats entering this game is the fact that the Spartans shoot just 63 percent from the line and UGA gives up no easy looks allowing just 39 percent shooting on the season. The Dawgs will have to grind out a physical game if they want to advance to the next round.