How Did We Get Here?
In the transfer portal era, long-term rebuilds are a thing of the past. After a disastrous 6-26 season ended Tom Crean’s tenure at Georgia, former Florida coach Mike White came in, immediately stabilized the roster, and went 16-16 in his first season. The 6-12 SEC mark was good for 11th place, sure, but taking a team from disaster to merely mediocre is a thing you can accomplish pretty quickly with the portal.
Things have been down for a while in Athens. The Bulldogs haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2015 — the longest drought in the SEC. They haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2002 — again, the longest drought in the conference. And they haven’t made it to the second weekend since 1996, tied with Mississippi State for the longest drought.
I’m not expecting any of those droughts to end this season. The bad news for the near term is that Georgia’s top three scorers from last season are all gone. They do bring in the 15th-ranked high school recruiting class in the 247 Sports composite, which will help in the long term but probably won’t be a big deal this year. Their transfer portal haul this year should help fill out the rotation, but none of them are game-changers. Avoiding Wednesday night at the SEC Tournament is a reasonable goal, but the NCAA Tournament might still be a year away.
|Player||ORating||Min %||Poss %||PPG||RPG||APG||How left|
|Player||ORating||Min %||Poss %||PPG||RPG||APG||How left|
|Terry Roberts||93.8||67.7||28.7||13.2||3.8||4||turned pro|
|Jusaun Holt||94.2||47.1||10.8||3.2||3.3||0.5||transfer/Kennesaw State|
|KyeRon Lindsay||97.7||15.6||18.5||6.2||5.2||0.3||transfer/Texas Tech|
Georgia didn’t particularly get raided by the portal, but they did experience the old-school sorts of player losses: turning professional or just plain old running out of eligibility. The latter describes four players, including the team’s third-leading scorer, Braelen Bridges, and the former describes leading scorer Terry Roberts, who simply elected to just get a salary rather than NIL money.
The exception: Kario Oquendo, the team’s second-leading scorer, is now at Oregon (where ironically he’ll play Georgia in the season opener.) Oquendo wasn’t particularly efficient but he was one of the few guys in Georgia’s team who could reliably create his own shot. Also gone is promising freshman KyeRon Lindsay, who left the team at midseason and resurfaced at Texas Tech. The end result of all this is that only four players return from last year’s team. That might not be the worst thing for a team that was, after all, 11th place in the SEC, but it also halts some of the momentum from last year’s improvement.
The lone returnee from last year’s backcourt is 6’0” senior Justin Hill (8.6 ppg/2.7 rpg/2.9 apg), who went from a 14-point scorer for the Big South champs from Longwood to basically a middling SEC guard. (If you want to know why I’m always skeptical of up-transfers from mid- and low-majors, well, this is why.) Hill’s assist rate was good enough at 28.6 percent to keep his Offensive Rating above water, but his shooting was a disaster, making 42.5 percent on twos and 29.7 percent on threes.
And, well, Georgia’s biggest addition from the portal is another high-scoring guard from a low-major. 6’3” fifth-year Noah Thomasson (19.5 ppg/3.8 rpg/3.5 apg at Niagara) is now at his fourth stop after playing his freshman season at Houston Christian, sophomore year at Butler Community College, and two seasons at Niagara. He did shoot 38.6 percent on threes last season, which does usually translate — particularly since he likely won’t be attempting 15 shots per game here.
The bench will likely consist of two freshmen, both ranked in or just outside the top 100. 6’4” Silas Demary Jr., the #102 player in the 247 Sports composite, is the point guard of the two, while 6’5” Blue Cain, ranked 72nd, is the shooter. There’s no particular reason why that might not end up being Georgia’s starting backcourt down the stretch.
(Note: Georgia has a bunch of wing players 6’6” and taller that they list as guards on the roster who really aren’t.)
There are three returnees up front: 6’8” senior Jabri Abdur-Rahim (7.1 ppg/2.7 rpg/0.2 apg) was Georgia’s most efficient offensive player last season, with a 120.0 Offensive Rating. 6’8” Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (5.5 ppg/5.1 rpg/0.8 apg), also a senior, is a classic banger power forward (zero three-point attempts, 50 percent at the foul line.) 6’10” senior Frank Anselem-Ibe (2.9 ppg/3.3 rpg/0.3 apg) is an offensively-challenged rim protector who shot below 50 percent from the field and averaged 0.7 blocks over 14.6 minutes per game.
In different ways, the four portal additions are speculative. In the case of 6’9” junior Jalen Deloach (9.7 ppg/6.9 rpg/1.0 apg at VCU), who averaged 1.4 blocks per game, it’s the ability to provide more of an offensive punch than Anselem-Ibe while not sacrificing much in terms of rim protection. 7’0” fifth-year Russel Tchewa (11.1 ppg/5.9 rpg/0.9 apg at South Florida) isn’t a rim protector in spite of his size, but at South Florida he developed into a reasonably effective offensive option down low (60.9 percent on twos last season.) 6’7” junior RJ Melendez (6.0 ppg/3.5 rpg/0.9 apg at Illinois) is a bet on talent, a former four-star recruit who was a role player at Illinois last season. 6’8” sixth-year RJ Sunahara (18.9 ppg/5.4 rpg/2.5 apg at Nova Southeastern) ... transferred from a Division II school — but he was the Division II National Player of the Year and won a championship.
Two freshmen will provide depth: 6’8” Dylan James was ranked 78th in the 247 Sports composite, and 6’6” Mari Jordan ranked 108th. There are enough bodies among both the returnees and the transfer class that neither figures to play big minutes right away.
I’m not really sure what to do with the frontcourt — I assume Abdur-Rahim and Moncrieffe will start, but a lot of this is simply not knowing what the newcomers will provide. I could see Melendez and Sunahara being starters, but in different ways they’re unknowns. The same, really, is true at center, where Deloach probably has the best balance of offense and defense, with Tchewa not being a rim protector and Anselem-Ibe being way too limited offensively.
The backcourt? I don’t love the pairing of Hill and Thomasson, and the freshmen could overtake them, but Georgia at least will probably start the season with the experienced guys running things.
Georgia will play six power conference teams out of conference, four of them away from Athens: Oregon in Las Vegas on November 6, Miami and either Kansas State or Providence in the Bahamas (November 17-19), and a trip to Florida State for the ACC/SEC Challenge (November 29.) They also have Wake Forest (November 10) and Georgia Tech (December 5) coming to Stegeman Coliseum. The rest of the nonconference schedule isn’t worth writing about (seven home games, six of them against teams outside the KenPom top 200), but Georgia could pile up some losses early without playing all that poorly.
Georgia does draw LSU and South Carolina (the teams I have picked 13th and 14th) twice in SEC play, but they also double up against Arkansas, Auburn, and Florida.
Mike White did well to stabilize Georgia in his first season. This season, though, probably isn’t going to provide much of a jump.
Georgia’s incoming freshman class, assuming it stays together (never a good assumption in the transfer portal era), should be good for the program long term, but these aren’t five-stars who would be expected to immediately change their fortunes. And the Bulldogs’ transfer portal acquisitions are more the sort that will plug holes on the roster and buy some time to develop those freshmen than they are game-changers.
I could be wrong about this, of course, but I still see Georgia as a team that’s building for next season.
Projected record: 14-17 (5-13)