Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. -- Confucius
This week has been interminable, and now that game day is here, I am content for the first time all week.
The Kentucky Wildcats fans I have talked to recently have unanimously asked me if they thought we could "get revenge" or "get some payback" on the Georgia Bulldogs for the defeat they handed us back on January 8th in Athens. While I answered in the affirmative, it occurred to me that revenge is not what the Wildcats need. What the Wildcats need is a victory in order to stay in touch with Florida in the East, and the Louisville Cardinals can keep all the thoughts of revenge. They'll be gravediggers for some time, seems to me.
But enough Redbird-jibing. Let's take a look at the season comparison, courtesy of Statsheet.com:
|3||South Carolina||12-6||3-2||Conf Away||1-2||0.333||1-1||0.5|
The Dawgs are coming off an excruciating double-overtime loss to the Florida Gators down in Athens, a game that is likely to affect the Dawgs coming into this game. It will surely test their mettle, because Georgia really needed that game to avoid falling too far behind in the SEC East, especially considering that they were about to go on a two-game road trip to Kentucky and then to Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks.
For more on the Georgia Bulldogs' points of view, be sure to visit the home of the Red and Black on SBNation, the outstanding Dawg Sports. Kyle King, MaconDawg & Co. have been doing a good job on basketball this year, and that's exciting to see. Check out their game preview a day or two back here.
More after the jump.
If you don't know the personnel on Georgia's team by heart at this point in the season, I worry for the intensity of your fandom. But just in case you have been covered up by work and are just accessing the Internet for the first time this month, here we go:
Georgia Bulldogs Basketball Roster
|Chris Barnes||4||F|| Key inside reserve banger, 2nd most blocks
|Sherrard Brantley||23||G||Major reserve||190||6-2||sophomore|
|Matt Bucklin||12||G||Rarely plays||170||6-0||junior|
|Travis Leslie||1||G||Starter, 2nd leading scorer and rebounder, sick athlete||205||6-4||junior|
|Connor Nolte||20||G||Major reserve, good 3-pt shooter||205||6-7||senior|
|Jeremy Price||50||F||Starter, big tough body down low
|Gerald Robinson||22||G||Starter, speedy, slashing off guard, leading assist man
|Howard Trey Thompkins||33||F||Starter, leading scorer, rebounder, all around stud
|Marcus Thornton||2||F||Impact freshman, major reserve||225||6-7||freshman|
|Dustin Ware||3||G||Starter, quick point guard, leading 3-pt shooter, 2nd leading assists
|Vincent Williams||11||G||Major reserve||160||6-0||sophomore|
|Donte Williams||15||F||Minor reserve||210||6-9||freshman|
As you can see, the Dawgs are a deep team with talent on the bench. In fact, Georgia is a very talented team overall, and the addition of Gerald Robinson has made them much more dangerous this year than last. See my piece on Robinson earlier this week for why.
No injuries to report for either team.
Kentucky has a small advantage in shooting and a big advantage in ballhandling. Georgia has a small offensive rebounding advantage. The two teams get to the line virtually the same amount, but Kentucky is a slightly better free throw shooting team.
Kentucky is a much better offensive team than Georgia, overall, and a significantly better defensive team. But past statistics aside, Georgia brings a toughness and energy to their games, particularly against Kentucky, that make this game very dangerous for the Wildcats.
As far as who needs this game more, there is no clear winner. Georgia needs it badly, but UK needs it arguably just as badly, and because it is a home game for Kentucky and UK is ranked, it's the kind of game that the NCAA tournament will be looking closely at. Kentucky is undefeated in Rupp Arena this year, and has generally shot the ball much better in Rupp, which really make a Dawg victory tough today on paper.
The problem for Kentucky is their inconsistency, particularly in road games. Kentucky handled the Dawgs on the glass in Athens, but sent Georgia to the line to shoot a staggering 34 free throws to the Wildcats' 16. Not only that, the 'Cats were unable to put the ball in the basket, managing only 42% from the field and allowing Georgia to shoot 48%. UK should shoot better today, but the Dawgs have more than enough weapons if the Wildcats don't defend well.
Fortunately for Kentucky, they are coming off arguably their best defensive performance of the year against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. Calipari's teams traditionally start to "get" defensive play around this time every year, and if Kentucky brings the defensive effort today that they brought last Saturday in Colonial Life Arena, the Dawgs have little chance of overcoming it. Georgia isn't exactly offensively challenged, at 109.1 points/100 possessions (1.09 PPP) but they are playing the #9 offensive team in the land, averaging 118.3 points/100 possessions (1.18 PPP) in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted statistics.
Overall, my Magic Eight Ball says the outcome looks favorable for Kentucky in this one, but not without difficulty.