Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
Tonight, the Wildcats are back home in Rupp Arena for a rematch with the Georgia Bulldogs, a team they faced in Athens, Georgia only 14 days ago. Kentucky came out with the 78-69 victory in that game, and even though they are deservedly favored tonight, one can’t help but be nervous going into this game.
I was asked at the dentists the other day what I thought about Kentucky this season. I responded that I thought we’d be looking at nail-biters all season long, and that while Kentucky has a pretty high ceiling, almost any team Kentucky is likely to face from January on out has a fair chance to get the win over them.
My comments were informed by losses to Evansville, Utah, and Ohio State at the time (those last two I had the honor of attending in person), but also narrow victories over Louisville and Georgia in Athens.
The last-second loss to South Carolina and narrow victory at Arkansas under the duress of a cruel whistle and ejected coach have actually done more to give me hope than frustration. South Carolina is always tough against Kentucky in their building. We are 2-3 against USC in the last five games in Colonial Life Arena, and 4-4 in the Calipari era. It is a tough place to play for us, and dropping the game on a buzzer-beating three is not the worst way to go down.
But it is the Arkansas victory that gives me the most hope. If you’d told me two UK starters fouled out and Calipari had been ejected, I would’ve assumed a double-digit loss in Fayetteville. For the ‘Cats to come away from that debacle with a victory was... unexpected, to understate the matter.
So perhaps we are seeing this team emerge from adolescence just a little bit. EJ Montgomery is playing better, if not particularly well, and the two freshman forwards, Keion Brooks Jr. and Kahlil Whitney are starting to show signs of enough maturity to play some reliable minutes. Johnny Juzang even made a couple of shots, and if we can somehow wind up with reliable shooting from him to go with his hustle and rebounding, Kentucky will be on a good path.
Versus Georgia tonight, the glaring statistic is Georgia’s defense. In SEC play, they are allowing 1.16 points per possession — dead last in the league. Their offense is also loathsome at only 0.99 points/possession, which makes this look like an easy game.
But what Georgia does have is a prodigious young talent in Anthony Edwards, who is easily capable of hanging 40 on the Wildcats. If Rayshaun Hammonds can come out of his funk and play well, UK may need to score 80 just to have a chance. But Kentucky is actually leading the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (league play only), and if that continues, we should be in a good place at home against a defensively struggling Bulldog team.
Tweet of the Morning
Kentucky is a 11.5 point favorite tonight versus Georgia— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 21, 2020
Seems strong to me, but...
- CBS’ football analyst Dennis Dodd ranks Louisville ahead of Kentucky for next season. Based on what? No idea, but to me, that’s insane.
- Lynn Bowden Jr. brings smiles to Hoptown.
- UK target Jaden Hardy compared to NBA star and former Florida Gator Bradley Beal.
- Kentucky’s game plan against Georgia in Rupp will look a lot like the one in Athens.
- Kentucky 2020 commit Devin Askew is actively recruiting Cliff Omoruyi and Greg Brown, two highly-ranked uncommitted big men, to Kentucky.
- Nate Sestina named a candidate for senior CLASS award.
- Dick Vitale thinks we have the pieces to be dangerous in March. Yes, but do we have what it takes to put those pieces together?
Other Kentucky sports
- Kentucky tennis wins 5-2 at Notre Dame.
- Cheerleading takes national 3rd place. Not our usual spot, but everyone has an off year. Sounds funny, but 3rd is definitely off Kentucky’s average.
- Hoops upset by LSU.
- College basketball has been wild this season, so SI analyzes the losses of top 25 teams to see if perception stands up to statistical reality.
- One AP voter ranks four Big Ten teams, but Michigan State (14-4, #9 in KenPom) is not among them. Seems... questionable.
- Indeed, happy birthday, coach Chaney.
Happy 88th birthday to John Chaney. And please many more— Dana O'Neil (@DanaONeilWriter) January 21, 2020