Georgia will get its first dose of NCAA Tournament caliber basketball in Hawaii against Dayton in the Maui Jim Invitational.
The Bulldogs (4-0) play the Flyers (3-0) at 2:30 p.m. on Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui. UGA is an underdog for the first time this season with Dayton a 2-point favorite.
It’s Georgia’s first-ever appearance in arguably the most prestigious early season tournament, and as always, there’s a loaded field.
“The level of basketball that you have to be at in this, the level of competing that you have to be at — I’ll use that term urgency again,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “That urgency that you have to have in this is unlike anything these guys have ever been a witness to in this point in their career.”
Georgia freshman phenom Anthony Edwards and power forward Rayshaun Hammonds lead the Bulldogs.
Edwards, a projected NBA lottery pick from Atlanta, is averaging 19.3 points and 2.8 steals per game.
Hammonds, a 6-8, 240-pounder likely working his way onto the NBA Draft boards, has averaged 17.3 points and 11 rebounds through the first four games.
The Bulldogs also feature 3-point shooting specialist Tyree Crump, who has been the only Georgia player to score in double digits in every game and is averaging 12.3 points per game.
Dayton’s Obi Toppin a 6-9 forward from Brooklyn, N.Y., is averaging 23.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game and should provide a challenge for Georgia’s young team.
Crean has nine freshmen among the 10 newcomers on this season’s Bulldogs. The team is still working to find its offensive and defensive continuity.
A Maui field that includes Michigan State, Kansas, UCLA and Virginia Tech doesn’t figure to be forgiving.
Crean likes the idea of Georgia having an early measuring stick.
“It’s to be able to take your program to a prestigious tournament like that, and then be able to measure yourself against those programs that are there,” Crean said. “And then to see what you got to do against them to find ways to win, and see what you got to do to be able to win long-term, you leave there (better).
“I’ve left there losing by three or four in the championship game to Duke at Marquette, I left there 1-2, left there underdogs, left there favorites, it didn’t make any difference. When you get there, none of it matters. You have got to be at a high, high level of competition, of competability, if you want to succeed in that tournament. I’m looking forward to that.”
If Georgia wins the Bulldogs could face No. 3-ranked Big Ten powerhouse Michigan State on Tuesday, which would pit Crean against the coach who gave him his first big break, Tom Izzo.
The Spartans play Virginia Tech at 5 p.m. on Monday, with the winner playing the winning of Georgia-Dayton at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
If the Bulldogs lose to Dayton, they will play the loser of Michigan State-Virginia Tech at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
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