At least that's what Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried believes. Last year Bama was a 75-47 winner over the Bulldogs, but that was a different Alabama team and that was a game played in Tuscaloosa. On Wednesday the Crimson Tide will be at Georgia where Bama (11-7 overall and 4-2 in SEC play) will take on the ‘Dogs (11-7 overall and also 4-2 in league games) at 7:30 p.m. EST (6:30 central time).
Gottfried said, "Georgia is a much improved team from a year ago. They're a lot better, and their guards are terrific and they've got depth. They are playing nine, ten, or 11 guys–a lot more guys than we are. They've got great depth and terrific quickness around the perimeter. They can make threes, they can score the ball, so they have gained our respect watching them on tape. They're a lot better than they were a year ago. So we know what kind of challenge we have to go play over at Georgia."
The part about Georgia playing more men than Alabama is certainly true. The Crimson Tide is down to seven scholarshipped players and is desperately attempting to get the final eligibility forms completed on a former student manager in hopes of having him available to help.
Obviously, a couple of quick fouls can put Alabama in a precarious situation. Gottfried knows that better than anyone. As a result, he said, Bama planning includes having to play without various players, and all Tiders knowing they may have an unusual defensive match-up on occasion. Gottfried said, "We know fouls are going to happen, but we don't want our guys playing tentative; not to foul."
Gottfried pointed out that Georgia returns top players Levi Stukes (6-2, 11.8 points per game), Sundiata Gaines 6-1, 11.2 ppg), and Channing Toney (6-4, 9.3 ppg) from last season, and added three other good perimeter players this year in Mike Mercer (6-4. 11/1 ppg), Billy Humphrey (6-2, 8.9 ppg), and Terrance Woodberry (6-6. 6.1 ppg).
Alabama counters with a starting line-up that includes two true freshmen, one of them the SEC Freshman of the Week. Richard Hendrix had that honor as he had 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds (including 10 offensive boards) in the win over Mississippi State.
Gottfried said, "He's really playing well and we're proud of Richard. I think what's happening is his conditioning is getting better. He's able to play more minutes that are productive minutes, and then I think his confidence is growing. I think he's just doing a very good job for us. He's rebounding the ball well–I mean 10 offensive rebounds in a game is really something. And I think a lot of that has to do with his conditioning because I think early on maybe he wasn't in great condition to sustain minutes. I think that's getting better. He's just doing a nice job."
Hendrix, a 6-8, 265-pound forward, is averaging 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Alabama has a good post presence with Hendrix joining junior Jermareo Davidson, 6-10, 220, who is averaging 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The other freshman in the starting lineup is point guard Brandon Hollinger, 5-11, who is aveeraging 2.4 points per game. Ron Steele, 6-3, who also plays point but is working much of the time at the off guard spot as a sophomore, is averaging 11.6 points and 3.6 assists per game. Evan Brock, a 6-9 senior, rounds out the starting lineup and averages 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.
A third true freshman who has been a starter and who gets a lot of playing time is Alonzo Gee, a 6-6 wing player Gottfried pointed out that one problem for Bama is that scoring has to come from somewhere besides Davidson, Steele, and Hendrix. It wasn't from Gee and Hollinger against Mississippi State. "They were 0-for-Saturday night," Gottfried pointed out.
The coach said Gee "is a good shooter who just isn't shooting well right now."
In addition to Gee, Bama has only Jean Felix off the bench. The 6-7 senior hit a couple of crucial shots and had five steals against Mississippi State.
Alabama perimeter shooting has not been good, but Gottfried said he is not going to rein in his outside shooters as long as they are taking good shots. And he said thus far he has no problem with shot selection. Davidson, an Atlanta native, and Brock, Roswell, are Georgia players who will be headed to their homestate this week. Jermareo Davidson, Junior, Center, from Atlanta on returning to home state to play Wednesday night: "It's pretty cool since a lot of my family and some of my (former) coaches get to come and see me play. So for me it's fun to go there to play because I get to see a lot of friends and family."