The Georgia Bulldogs. Picked to place SIXTH in the Eastern Division of the SEC.
The Georgia Bulldogs were the pre-season picks last year to finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Division. Led by five veteran players, they went 16-15 overall and 9-7 in conference play, for third in the east. A tough pre-conference schedule produced wins over Pepperdine, Utah, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and Villanova. The Bulldogs were upset by LSU in the first round of the SEC tournament and lost a cliffhanger to Missouri in the first round of the NCAA. Gone from that team is leading scorer D.A. Layne (16.8 ppg), who also led the team in assists (73) and steals (43). Layne would have had another year of eligibility but decided to enter the NBA draft and was not taken. Also departed are four seniors: 6'7" Anthony Evans (11.5 ppg and 7.5 rebounds) did the heavy-duty work near the basket; 6'6' forward Shon Coleman (10.0 ppg, 5.3 rebounds); 6'5" guard Adrian Jones (4.7 ppg); and 7'1" Robb Dryden (6.8 ppg, 3.9 rebounds). Dryden and Evans took with them a lot of weight, 260 and 265 lbs respectively. Coach Jim Harrick brings in the maximum of five players (two of them transfers) to go with six returnees (two of them walk-ons), but he has a big job to replace five of his top seven leading scorers from last year.
Helped along by Layne, 6'0" sophomore point guard Rashad Wright did a surprisingly good job last year. He averaged 4.7 ppg, had a good assist to turnover ratio (103 to 68), hit 31.9% from three point range, but badly needs to improve his free throw shooting (50.7%). He will be backed up by 6'1" freshman Jarrod Gerald, an all-stater from Muliins SC. Shooting guard is well-manned by 6'4" junior Ezra Williams (12.0 ppg, 4.2 rebounds), who is likely to become the teams's top scorer if he can improve his shooting (29.7% from three-point range, 41.9% overall). 6'2" freshman Michael Liggons, a high scorer from Rome, Georgia, will help out Williams, along with 6'4" junior walk-on MIke Patrick (1.5 ppg).
6'6" sophomore Jarvis Hayes is the likely starter at wing forward. He averaged 17.1 ppg and 5.4 rebounds two years ago at Western Carolina University before transferring. He was Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in 1999-2000 and should be a valuable acquisition. His twin brother, Jonas Hayes, also 6'6" and a sophomore, transferred aloong with him. He averaged 8 ppg and 5 rebounds as a reserve at Western Carolina, and is likely to back up his brother and also play some at shooting guard. Chris Daniels, 6'7", 210 lbs, sophomore should start at power forward. He averaged 3.5 ppg and 2.6 rebounds, and showed some real flashes of ability last year. So too did Steve Thomas, 6'8", 230 lbs, who averaged 2.1 ppg and 2.9 rebounds, who will probably divide his time between power forward and center, in a reserve capacity. Walk-on Ryan Pevey, is a 6'5", 230 lbs senior, who may help out at forward, but played only 12 minutes last year.
Harrick recruited Larry Turner, 6'11", a 230 lbs freshman from Milledgeville GA, who will proably start right away. Turner is quick and should develop into a good defensive center and rebounder, but more slowly as an offensive threat. If he isn't up to handling starting duties at once, then Steve Thomas can be called upon.
After running off a bunch of players the summer before, Harrick settled down and showed that he can still coach. Williams, Jarvis Hayes, and Liggons are the main outside threats.
There are plenty of those, starting with a lack of experience. Except for the two senior walk-ons, and junior Ezra Williams, who had to sit out his freshman year because he failed to qualify academically, the team will consist entirely of sophomores and freshmen. Georgia will struggle to stay on the boards with other SEC teams. There are only nine scholarship players, making the team exceptionally vulnerable to injuries.
A winning season in the SEC looks to be very unlikely. The Bulldogs could finish fourth or fifth in the east only if several of the young players have good seasons AND one or two other teams disappoint.