one more game and Hilton Coliseum should be a fun place to be on Wednesday night."> one more game and Hilton Coliseum should be a fun place to be on Wednesday night.">

'Madness' Underway For Iowa State

Let "The Madness" begin. OK, so it's NIT madness…instead of the REAL March Madness. But, so it goes. The Cyclones get to play at least <I>one</I> more game and Hilton Coliseum should be a fun place to be on Wednesday night.

Georgia (16-13 overall and 7-9 in the SEC) will visit Ames for a showdown with Iowa State in the first round of the NIT. If the Cyclones win, they may play host to the winner of Florida State vs. Wichita State on Friday night. Two more games at Hilton? Sounds good to me.

So, what's this Georgia team all about? You've probably already heard about the "exam" given in an actual University of Georgia class last spring by Jim Harrick Jr., an assistant men's basketball coach at the time, which included 20 questions such as "How many points is a 3-pointer worth?" Harrick Jr.—surprise, surprise—was released from his position a year ago amid allegations of academic fraud.

The apple rarely falls very far from the tree. (Suggestion for Harrick's next "exam"…What kind of fruit grows on an apple tree? Just a thought.) Can you just imagine what the conversations were like at the dinner table growing up in the Harrick household?

The Bulldogs hired Dennis Felton from Western Kentucky last spring after Coach Felton had guided WK to three straight NCAA Tournament invitations (yes…that other tournament). Felton was an assistant coach for six years under Rick Barnes, now the head man at Texas, while Barnes was running the programs at Providence and Clemson.

In his first season at the helm, Felton led the Bulldogs to victories over Georgia Tech (83-80), Kentucky (65-57), Kentucky again (74-68) and Florida (76-62). Talk about a nice string of quality victories. So just what the heck is Georgia doing in THIS tournament?

Well, there is the matter of losing games to the likes of Winthrop (80-60), Auburn (57-54) and Tennessee (89-65).

What really kept the Bulldogs from "dancing" in the NCAA Tourney this spring was the terrible stretch they had in the middle of the season. After starting off 8-3, including the victory over Georgia Tech, a close loss to Gonzaga and a loss to Pittsburgh, the Georgia team went into the tank to start the SEC schedule.

After a 22-point loss at Vanderbilt on February 11, the Bulldogs found themselves sitting with a 3-7 conference record and an 11-10 overall mark, after such a promising start to the 2003-04 season.

However, Georgia finished the year showing signs of life by going 5-3 against a pretty tough schedule, including a 1-1 mark against Kentucky and a 1-1 mark versus Florida.

So, the Dawgs can play. And they can play away from home, as evidenced by their victory at Kentucky (the top seed overall in that other tournament). But, they can also be defeated…or they wouldn't be making the trip all the way to Ames, Iowa this Wednesday night.

Much like ISU, Georgia doesn't have a ton of depth. Five guys play a majority of the minutes. For example, in the Bulldogs last game—a nine-point loss to Kentucky—each of the starters played more than 30 minutes. And only ONE reserve played more than seven minutes.

What does the Georgia lineup look like? Four seniors and a freshman. Here's a quick glimpse…

Guard: Rashad Wright (6-3, Sr) averages 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He's shooting 40% from three-point range (65 for 163).

Guard: Levi Stukes (6-1, Fr) averages 9.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. The rookie also makes 2.3 turnovers per contest.

Forward: Damien Wilkins (6-7, Sr) averages 12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Only shooting 40% from the field, including 28% from downtown.

Forward: Chris Daniels (6-7, Sr) averages 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds. He's Georgia's best offensive rebounder, by far, with 91 offensive boards.

Center: Jonas Hayes (6-8, Sr) averages 11.9 points and 5.2 boards.

Look for rebounding to be a crucial statistic on Wednesday…as well as three-point shooting. And clearly, neither team can afford any foul trouble.

It may not be EXACTLY the tourney the Cyclones were hoping to play in this spring, but the fact of the matter is that Iowa State is still playing in mid-March, which is a good thing. Even Jim Harrick Jr. can figure that out.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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