ATHENS -- The simple question of “What’s wrong with the Georgia men’s basketball team?” seems answerable in one sentence: Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie are gone, and Marcus Thornton is hurt.
But it goes further than that. Georgia enters Tuesday’s game at Florida with a 9-6 record, and the Bulldogs have been defeated soundly in several games.
Most recently, Alabama rolled over the Bulldogs in Saturday’s SEC opener. The fortunes may not turn around quickly. Georgia visits Vanderbilt, a preseason top-10 team, on Saturday, making its first 0-3 start in several years seem likely.
“We’ll have to play extremely mistake-free and extremely well to win,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “Because both teams have groups that return from a year ago, when they had obviously very good teams.”
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The Bulldogs, meanwhile, expected this to be a transitional year once Thompkins and Leslie decided to go pro. But it has been a bit rougher than expected.
The injury to Thornton, who was leading the team with 5.8 rebounds per game, didn’t help. The 6-foot-7 forward was the team’s most experienced low-post player
But Thornton’s impact can be overstated a bit. He didn’t play consistently as a freshman last year and was only averaging 2.8 points per game. The Bulldogs’ problems run deeper and several can be traced to the backcourt.
The team has been too dependent on 3-point shooting. That can be understandable given the lack of low-post scoring, but the Bulldogs haven’t developed much in the way of frontcourt scoring and aren’t forcing enough turnovers to make transition scoring a huge factor.
Senior guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware have been inconsistent. The two were supposed to form the backbone of the team, along with freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has been about as good as advertised. But Robinson got off to a slow start and was benched, and once he turned his play around, Ware began to slump.
Opposing teams are shooting 40.9 percent beyond the arc against the Bulldogs. The first half of the Alabama game was emblematic of the problem. The Crimson Tide do not have a good 3-point shooting team, but they made six 3s in the first half as they jumped out to a 15-point lead.
Throw in the problem with rebounding, and any progress the Bulldogs made in the non-conference portion of the season seems to have been stunted.
“We’re a new team now,” Fox said. “With Thornton’s injury we’ve had to change so much.”