This is the official A Sea of Blue open game thread for the Kentucky Wildcats @ Georgia Bulldogs basketball game tonight at Stegeman Coliseum, Tuesday, January 18th @ 12:00 PM.
Particulars of this game are as follows:
- TV: Raycom
- Gametracker live stats
- Audioo (Requires Microsoft Silverlight)
- Yahoo! audio
- Game preview
This is what I like to call a "validation game." Kentucky had a killer outing against the Tennessee Volunteers, and largely because of a historic game by Jodie Meeks, burst once again into the national discussion. Now, nobody is talking about UK as a Final Four contender or anything, but the names "Kentucky" and "Meeks" were in stark evidence everywhere yesterday on the lips of college basketball commentators. Everyone has noticed. Now, UK needs to validate their ticket as a contender for a top 25 national spot.
A let down at Georgia today would be a huge deflation for both the team and the fans, who have been starving for national attention after wandering in the desert of obscurity and semi-malaise, hoping against hope, for the last 18 months. Even making the tournament last year created a kind of negative dialog around the Wildcats, with many wondering if perhaps Gillsipie was not up to the job, and facilitating an avalanche of negative scrutiny over the summer.
All that can change this week, and this game is the key. Lose this, and Kentucky gets returned nearly to where it was pre-Tennessee. Win it, and it will cement the perception that at 3-0 in the SEC, Kentucky is ready to return to the top of the conference it has owned for so many years. Lose this, and the questions will return. Win, and the Wildcats will wind up at or near the top 25 for the first time since some pre-season polls last year.
The Tennessee game was the lever that moved national opinion. This game is the proof it was not just a hot night for an average team.
Things Kentucky needs to do well to win:
- Continue to manage turnovers. This stat has been going Kentucky's way a bit lately. It is a particularly important stat on the road.
- Get the ball to Patterson. Georgia is a great team defensively, particularly against the three. To loosen that up, the 'Cats need to get the ball to Patterson in the post. Georgia almost never zones, so UK should have the opportunity to do so.
- Take care of the defensive glass. Georgia is not a great rebounding team, but they are not bad, and UK can't be giving them second shots.
Things that will make it hard for Kentucky to win:
- A slow start. That has killed Kentucky too many times.
- Taking too many threes. Georgia is a really good 3-point defensive squad, and open threes will be rare.
- Allowing Georgia to physically dominate the game. Georgia is one of the most physical teams in the country, and UK must match that. The Dawgs under Felton have sometimes been able to push the 'Cats around, and the 'Cats can't have that today.
Georgia is not a strong team this year, but any SEC team is capable of handing the best team an L, especially in the cozy confines of their home arena. The Dawgs will be well prepared and will attempt to manhandle Kentucky. UK must be much stronger physically against the Dawgs than they were against the much less physical Volunteers. This is a big game and a huge opportunity for UK to punch its ticket back into the national conversation.