For Georgia, this game has importance beyond Senior Day. The Bulldogs most likely will need an SEC Tournament title to make the NCAA Tournament, but their at-large hopes got a boost when they won at South Carolina on Thursday night. Another win on Saturday vs Bama, and they have a chance to get into the discussion next week.
Georgia has a trio of guards in J.J. Frazier (16.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 41% 3-pt), Kenny Gaines (13.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 40% 3-pt) and Charles Mann (10.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.7 apg) that are as good as any in the conference. Bama's strength has been perimeter defense, but these three guys will stress that defense. If Alabama's offense continues to falter, it will be up to the Bama defense to contain the Georgia guards if Alabama is to have a chance to win this game. Yante Maten (6'8, 240) has blossomed in his senior year (15.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg). Alabama has struggled against the better post players in this conference, but the hope is that Maten, who, at 6'8, is undersized at the 5, will struggle with the length of Jimmie, Donta and Mike. If the guards are forced into double team situations because the post defenders can't guard Maten, that opens the floor to the Georgia guards, and it's game over. Donta has been playing well. He needs Jimmie and Mike to help him.
The last two weeks have been tough for this Bama team. It's fair to say that they wilted in the face of increased expectations. A return to the favored underdog role is expected in this game, and perhaps where this team thrives best. Both teams are very similar in their efficiency ratings on both ends of the court. That suggests a close game. Alabama has struggled in those close games in recent weeks (their losses to Mississippi State and Arkansas were by a combined 7 points). This Georgia team is a veteran, well-coached team that will not be easily defeated on their home court. For Alabama to win, others will have to step up to assist Retin on the offensive end, be it Shannon, Art, Riley, Justin or a surprise participant. At this point I don't care as long as someone is willing to come to play along with Retin.
There is much to celebrate in this first season under Avery Johnson, but most only remember how the season ends. How will Alabama choose to end the season, with a bang or a whimper? The early results have not been promising, but I don't think this team has it in them to quit. Let's hope that determination is enough to help this team close out the 15-16 season in style. There is still much to play for.