Bowl games get underway today, but don’t forget about the college basketball action on the hardwood. Friday night brings us a very light slate and not a whole lot of games of consequence, but Saturday’s card is simply loaded to the gills.
Our focus on December 20 will be the battle in Athens between SMU and Georgia. The Bulldogs opened a five-point favorite, but overnight activity dropped this line as low as 3.5 in the marketplace with the total bet up a full point to 147.5.
As things currently stand, the jury is out on these two teams. SMU has played one of the worst schedules in the country according to both Bart Torvik and Ken Pomeroy. In fact, SMU just played its first top-180 opponent and lost by 17 at home to Georgetown, as the Hoyas racked up 1.319 points per possession in the blowout. This is a second straight top-100 test for SMU.
This is the third true road contest of the year for Tim Jankovich’s team. SMU was victorious over Evansville 59-57 and UNLV 72-68 prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Those are the only two road tests and the Evansville game was SMU’s worst offensive performance of the season, going 5-of-21 from 3 and managing just .906 points per possession.
Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs have three losses, but there is no shame in any of them. UGA lost to Dayton and Michigan State on successive days during the Maui Invitational and then lost last time out in Tempe against Arizona State by 20. Crean’s best win came at home against Georgia Tech on November 20 in the annual rivalry game. Does having a better strength of schedule matter if you get blown out in the games when you stepped up in class? Georgia did play Michigan State tough in the 93-85 loss, but had an out-of-body shooting experience going 12-of-31 from deep in that one. To this point, Georgia has not made more than nine treys in any other game.
SMU won 30 games in 2017 and went 17-1 in AAC play. That was with Semi Ojeleye, Shake Milton, and Sterling Brown. All three are long gone and it shows. SMU won 32 games over 2018-19. So far, SMU is off to a great start, but they haven’t really played anybody of consequence except for the team that they lost to last time out. A big problem is that quality recruits like Ethan Chargois and William Douglas haven’t developed well. Sophomore Feron Hunt looks promising, but TCU transfer Kendric Davis has been one of the team’s most consistent players. Duquesne transfer Isiaha Mike is shooting 48.6% from 3, but he was already a solid freshman player back in 2017 in Pittsburgh. Tyson Jolly transferred in from Baylor.
Jankovich hasn’t been able to recruit well and hasn’t been able to develop in-house. Transfers have an impact at programs across the country year in and year out, so that isn’t the issue. The issue is that Jankovich keeps having to go the transfer route. SMU grades well in a lot of stats this season, in particular ORB%, but the Mustangs haven’t played a schedule of consequence. Let’s see what happens when they do.
Something that is a real head-scratcher about this game is the total. SMU has played one game of 70 possessions this season. They are not a fast-paced team at all and haven’t been during the Jankovich years. They’ve played a few high-scoring games that may have skewed the total a bit, especially the 165 points last game.
Crean’s Bulldogs will, however, push the tempo, as they’ve already played three games to the tune of 80+ possessions. Georgia is 10th in 2P%, but 288th in 3P%. The Bulldogs don’t hit a lot of outside shots, but they get a lot of putbacks on offensive rebounds. We could see some second-chance points in this game, which could also explain some things about the total.
Freshman Anthony Edwards isn’t lighting up the scoreboard as of yet, but he was one of the highest recruits in the country and will be a pretty early lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Under the wings of Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump, and Donnell Gresham Jr., Edwards and fellow freshman Sahvir Wheeler blend a good mix of young and old on the Bulldogs roster.
This isn’t a great team by any means and the Bulldogs have had some major issues defensively, as opponents are shooting 50.6% from 2 and 34.9% from 3, but this is the type of team that can rip off an upset or two in conference play. The margin for error is small, though. Georgia has been mostly solid on the offensive end, but only has a couple of really good defensive performances and they have come against really bad opposition in Delaware State and NC Central. SMU, for all of the problems that the Mustangs have, should be able to put up some points.
The question on this total is whether or not SMU will play at Georgia’s pace or not. In just about every game, SMU was able to dictate the pace because of the caliber of opponent. The Mustangs even slowed Georgetown down, but the Hoyas just made too many shots.
The standout game on the card might be the toughest one to handicap, but I have to go against the grain of the line move and take Georgia here. The Bulldogs have more talent and this is a true road environment for SMU. It will be a subdued one with so many students on break, but SMU is also coming off of a 13-day break since that loss to Georgetown. The layoff is only six days for Georgia.
The consensus number in the market at time of writing is 4, so that’s what we’ll go with.
Pick: Georgia -4