Bulldogs to take bite out of Bruins?

Bulldogs to take bite out of Bruins?

The NCAA selection committee decided against including Georgia in the field of 68 for the second straight year, but there’s still much for which to play tonight in Athens.

Fresh off an impressive showing in the SEC tournament, the Bulldogs (19-13) battle Belmont in the first round of the NIT. Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI list the host squad as a 7.5-point favorite for the 7 p.m. ET tip.

UGA’s three-game losing streak in February seems like a distant memory now, thanks largely to last week’s events in Nashville. Back-to-back victories over Mississippi State and South Carolina preceded a 93-80 defeat to Kentucky that wasn’t sealed until the waning minutes.

Guard J.J. Frazier inflicted a lot of the damage as Georgia momentarily rekindled its Big Dance hopes. Unfortunately, he may not be at head coach Mark Fox’s disposal this evening. In addition to his team-leading scoring average, the junior posts 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per outing.

Yante Maten thus inherits an even larger role in the paint. The 6-foot-8 center, plus versatile secondary threats Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, will likely enjoy tremendous success vs. a Belmont outfit that ranks 305th in the country in points allowed per contest.

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What is the Bruins’ ace in the hole, then?  They’ll undoubtedly push the tempo and distribute the basketball quite well with Austin Luke (6.3 assists) at the controls. Rick Byrd’s group also edged Marquette in the season opener and captured nine in a row at one juncture.

The final leg of the Ohio Valley Conference schedule, however, exposed Belmont’s glaring defensive deficiencies. Expect UGA – with or without Frazier – to prey on those same tendencies and advance to face either St. Mary’s or New Mexico State.

TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: GEORGIA -7.5

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