Indiana opens the Legends Classic in Brooklyn this afternoon with a semifinal game against Georgia. The Bulldogs are only two years removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, but a major backslide last year and losses to Youngstown State and Southern Miss this year seem to have created some concern about the direction of the program.
This is the fourth meeting between Indiana and Georgia. The previous meetings were in Bloomington (twice) and at the Sugar Bowl tournament in New Orleans. One fun fact about the series. IU's prior games against UGa were in December 1940, December 1975, and December 1976. This means that in each of the three prior meetings, IU either was the defending NCAA champion or the eventual NCAA champion. That's of no predictive value, but still interesting.
Fox's last three Georgia teams, both the good 2011 team and the other less successful units, have tended toward a defensive orientation. In each of the last three seasons, Georgia's offensive efficiency has been outpaced by its defensive efficiency. Georgia would fit in well in the Big Ten with its low-to-mid 60s possessions per game figure. This season, the Bulldogs have been pretty respectable defensively (#58 in defensive efficiency per Pom) but a trainwreck on offense. Georgia is #186 in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Bulldogs are shooting 42 percent from two point range, 29 percent from three point range, 68 percent from the line, turn the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions (24.8, #278 nationally), and grab only 27.2 percent of offensive rebounding opportunities. On defense, the picture is a bit prettier. As bad as Georgia's offensive turnover numbers are, they are in the black, because they force turnovers on 28.8 percent of their opponents' possessions. The also are holding opponents to 29.1 three point shooting. The defense hasn't been enough to overcome the offense, obviously.
By far, the Bulldogs' leading scorer is sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Pope, a five star recruit who was #12 in his class per Rivals, is averaging 20.3 points per game, and no other Georgia player is in double figures. Caldwell-Pope isn't exactly a model of efficiency--he is taking 17 shots per game and shooting 35 percent overall and 30 percent from deep--but obviously he's a dangerous and talented player. He is averaging 4 steals per game as well and leads the team with 6 rebounds. Also worth watching is Nemanja Djurisic, a 6-8 sophomore who appears to be Georgia's most potent three point threat (40 percent this year, 36 percent as a freshman). Senior point guard Vincent Williams leads UGa with 3.3 assists per game.
Obviously, this is a game that a top-ranked team should handle with ease. Still, the Bulldogs have some talent, much more talent than any team IU has faced to date, so it will be interesting to see how IU measures up. And, of course, what Bob Knight has to say about it.