Today, the Kentucky Wildcats and Georgia Bulldogs get it on the SEC Tournament semifinal round to determine who the second combatant will be. As of this writing, the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers are still going at it.
Today, we'll combine a brief game preview with the live game thread and incorporate our previous preview of the one time Kentucky and Georgia met in the regular season back on January 25th. It's important to note that Georgia was without two of their better players — Juwan Parker and Kenny Gaines.
Georgia is a team that wins basketball games with good defense and getting to the free throw line a lot. They get to the line more than any other team in the SEC, even Kentucky. In fact, Kentucky is only 3rd in the SEC in free throw rate.
The Dawgs are one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the SEC with Kenny Gaines and Nemanja Djurisic leading the way in that department. Georgia is bigger in the back court than most SEC teams not named Kentucky, with 6'5" Charles Mann leading the team from the point. Marcus Thornton is the inside force, leading the team in overall rebounding. Brandon Morris is a 6'7" wing player who can shoot the three, but prefers to slash. Overall, the Dawgs have a good combination of size, athleticism and experience.
Off the bench, Cameron Forte, Juwon Parker and J.J. Frazier have been effective. Yesterday, Fraizer was particularly impressive in the game against the Ole Miss Rebels despite his diminutive size. Mark Fox, the Georgia coach, will substitute liberally against Kentucky, and he has Georgia playing really good basketball, to the tune of 9 wins in their last 11 starts.
To win this game, all Kentucky needs to do is repeat what they did yesterday. The zone defense is very susceptible to inside-out passing and the Wildcats have to both drive the ball and kick it out to force Georgia to pay for a zone. In the man-to-man, Kentucky should have advantages with Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and the size of the Kentucky back court.
Once again, turnovers will be key — Kentucky must avoid them. The other key will be to outrebound the Bulldogs like they did the LSU Tigers. In conference play, Georgia has been second only to Tennessee in defensive rebounding, but against Kentucky, it becomes much tougher, because the Wildcats are bigger, stronger, and taller.
The final piece to this puzzle is for Kentucky to force Georgia to put the ball on the floor. Georgia doesn't shoot a lot of threes — about the same as Kentucky — but they are pretty good at it, and the three ball is the one spot where Kentucky could be at a disadvantage. It's also important for Kentucky to avoid putting Georgia on the line, and they have gotten there a lot this season, although they don't shoot it great from there. The more Georgia handles the ball, the more likely they are to turn it over — Georgia is 12th in the SEC in turnover percent.
Unlike LSU, who has a lot of favorable matchups against the Wildcats, Georgia does not. In fact, they have very few exploitable matchups versus Kentucky, and that is going to make it very hard for them in this game. But if the Dawgs can hang in late, Kentucky has a history of losing focus at some point in the game and allowing opponents an opportunity to steal the victory.