Tonight, in the late game on the Worldwide Leader, the Kentucky Wildcats travel down to Stegeman Coliseum to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in their sixth SEC tilt of the season.
The Bulldogs have lost four of their last five games, with the sole win being a victory over the Tennessee Volunteers at home two games ago. Their most recent game was a loss against the Mississippi Rebels in overtime at home, a game which saw the Dawgs come back from a 10-point deficit with 47 seconds remaining to tie the game, primarily due to world-class ineptitude shooting free throws by Ole Miss. Georgia just missed finishing off the dramatic comeback in OT when Gerald Robinson's last-second three clanged harmlessly off the rim.
The Bulldogs have been a study in shooting ineptitude this season, weighing in at only 279th in NCAA Division I in effective field goal percentage. Georgia's offensive struggles are second only to that of LSU in futility, and unlike the aforementioned Bayou Bengals, the Dawgs simply don't have the bite on defense to back up their troubled offense. Ergo, the Red Clay Hounds sit uncomfortably and unhappily at 1-4 in the league.
|Vincent Williams||Maj. Res.||Jr.||G||19||15.8||1.6||3.5||44.8||0.6||1.7||36.4||0.6||0.9||70.6||0.2||1.2||1.4||1.7||0.7||0.7||0.1||1.4||4.4|
|Marcus Thornton||*6th man||So.||F||14||22.4||0.9||3.9||23.6||0.1||0.6||11.1||0.6||1.1||56.3||1.6||3.6||5.2||1.1||1.1||0.3||0.3||2.8||2.6|
*Third game back from arthroscopic knee surgery
Lest you think the Dawgs are without talent, don't. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a McDonald's All-American just like Anthony Davis & Co. at UK. Georgia has genuine talent, but they just seem to lack the commitment to defense and consistent offense that is required to succeed in the SEC. Much of their real talent is either raw or young, and so far this year, they just haven't been able to assemble the talent they have into a cohesive whole.
Georgia Strengths vs. UK
- Georgia is a very good 3-point defensive unit, and good 3-point defense has caused UK to struggle to score against packed-in defenses.
- Georgia blocks a fair number of shots. Not as many as UK, but they are in the top 100 in that stat.
- Georgia takes good care of the basketball, and is one of the better teams in the SEC in that area.
- Home court advantage is always a factor in the SEC.
Georgia Weaknesses vs. UK
- Shooting. The Dawgs shoot it poorly from everywhere, and Kentucky has one of the best defenses in the nation.
- Offensive Rebounding. Georgia does not get on the offensive glass. 232nd in Division I in that stat.
- 3-point percentage. The Bulldogs are better than Alabama, but that's about it. Which means they'll probably make them all against UK.
- Defense. Georgia is allowing .93 points per possession, and Kentucky is scoring 1.17/possession.
Kentucky Strengths vs. Georgia
- Shooting from everywhere.
- Getting to the line. UK gets there a lot, and Georgia puts teams there a lot.
- Defense. UK's shooting defense, from 2 in particular, looks really intimidating against Georgia's offensive percentages.
- Almost every statistical category you can name.
Kentucky Weaknesses vs. [Team Here]
- Playing teams at home is always an issue.
- It will be hard for Kentucky to force many turnovers against Georgia, they take good care of the ball.
- Georgia will probably switch defenses on UK a lot, and Kentucky has been lousy at identifying defenses.
Key Matchups for Kentucky:
- Kentaviious Caldwell-Pope is a tough matchup for anyone, even Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Caldwell-Pope can shoot the ball inside and out, and is very skilled.
- Gerald Robinson will be a tough matchup for Teague or Lamb. He is very quick and athletic off the bounce, as is his backcourt-mate Dustin Ware.
Key Matchups for Georgia
- Georgia has no answers for Anthony Davis. They'd just better hope he has an off night, or gets in foul trouble, which is possible if Georgia decides to have their perimeter people attack the rim all night.
- Terrence Jones is another matchup challenge for the Dawgs due to his combination of size and skill.
This game looks like a mismatch on paper, but don't be fooled -- Georgia's players are much more talented than their success would indicate. I can't really be sure what has held Georgia back from a better record than this, but in many ways they remind me of Tennessee -- a team that has all kinds of good parts, but just seems to run very rough.
Kentucky will try to take advantage of difficult matchups on Davis and Jones. While Caldwell-Pope is a great player, he is pretty conventional -- he isn't a freak athlete and he isn't huge for his position. He's just exactly what you'd expect a McDonald's All-American wing to be, which means that UK will be able to have some success guarding him.
Georgia has not done well at all this year against teams that get to the line a lot, and UK is definitely one of those, which makes for an interesting problem for the Dawgs. Georgia has also really been poor against strong defensive teams. If Kentucky is able to assert their will defensively, Georgia will really have to do something unusual to win, like shoot a high percentage from the perimeter.
Overall, the biggest hope for Georgia tonight is if the officials call the game really closely, because of the two teams, Kentucky is slightly more vulnerable to fouls than Georgia is. It isn't as though Mark Fox spreads the minutes out a lot, but Georgia does go about nine deep, and has plenty of size available on the bench, whereas UK really doesn't.
With all this said, this will be a big game for Georgia. They really need a win to entertain any remote hopes of a post season. You can never count out a team coached by Fox, and combine a cocky Wildcat with an angry Dawg and you could get a tougher game than you expect. The Wildcats need to be ready.