Georgia beat Vanderbilt 78-62 in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Scottrade Center, and the Bulldogs now face a tough challenge: They must scout a Missouri team that no one has really seen.
Star freshman Michael Porter Jr. will play when No. 5 seed Mizzou and No. 12 seed Georgia face off around 2:25 p.m. Thursday, in the tournament’s second round, and it is unclear how he will impact the first game he will play in since undergoing back surgery in November. He is 6 feet 10 and capable of playing anywhere on the floor.
“The challenge is I’m not even sure what position they’ll play him at,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said of Porter, who has played just two minutes for Missouri this season. He’s a very versatile player. … I remember watching him in high school. He’s as complete of a player as there was at that level.”
Fox said his team will have to take a “somewhat generic” approach to preparing for Missouri.
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“Until we see what they’re doing with him, we really don’t know,” Fox said.
Mizzou knows that the key to stopping Georgia is containing senior forward Yante Maten, who earned conference player of the year honors from the Associated Press earlier this week.
Maten is 6-8, 240 pounds. He can score inside and hit open threes. Against Vanderbilt, he had a game high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including a 2-for-4 performance from three.
But there’s a reason Georgia went just 7-11 in conference play during the regular season: The Bulldogs don’t have enough talent around Maten. So if Mizzou can contain him, then the Tigers should advance to the quarterfinal round to face Kentucky.
Missouri has stopped Maten once this season. MU held him to a season-lows of nine points and two rebounds during the Tigers’ sole meeting with the Georgia this year, on Jan. 10 in Columbia. Freshman Jontay Porter was the primary defender on Maten in that game.
When Maten was asked Wednesday what he would need to do differently when he faced the Tigers again, Fox cut him off from answering.
"Let me answer this for him," Fox said. "He has no idea. We haven’t talked one second. He has no idea. I hate to speak for you, stud. But he won’t know until I tell him later.”
Fox might figure out how to help Maten.
The question of what to do about Missouri's newest scoring threat will be harder to answer.