The Kentucky Wildcats will be back in action for another Sunday afternoon tip-off as they look to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Kentucky and Georgia Tech are set to battle at 5:00 pm EST inside Atlanta’s State Farm Arena for the 2020 Holiday Hoopsgiving. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Finding a way to knock down some shots and get a win has to be the only things on the mind of most UK fans. The sluggish 1-2 start has prompted some to reach for the panic button.
I’d say it’s definitely still too soon to form any definitive opinions on this young team, but there is no question that they’ll need to start showing some expedited improvement before getting into conference play.
The good news?
John Calipari and his staff won’t have to deal with an opponent quite the caliber of Richmond or Kansas.
After a 17-14 record and a fifth place finish in the ACC last year, the Yellowjackets are off to a rather horrendous 0-2 start to the 2020-2021 season. Their record includes a four-overtime loss to in-state rival Georgia State and a 10-point defeat to Mercer.
It’s fair to say that they will be as desperate, if not more so, for a win as Kentucky.
However, despite their poor play, Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner will have nearly 10 days to regroup and prepare his team to challenge a stingy Kentucky defense on national television.
Normally, UK would likely have a strong fan presence in this type of game since it’s being played in Catlanta. However, no fans will be permitted to this game, so it’s the second-straight fan-less game the Cats will play in.
It’s pointless to look at an early season stats for the Yellowjackets because of how the four-overtime game impacted the data.
However, senior forward Moses Wright is a bonafide scoring threat at over 25 points and 12 rebounds per game. He’s made 17/34 field goal attempts on the season. Wright followed up his opening-night 31-point, 19-rebound performance by scoring 20 in a 10-point loss to Mercer last week.
John Calipari saw Georgia Tech in Rupp Arena last season but will have to game plan for an even more familiar name on Sunday.
Bubba Parham will play in his third game against Kentucky in as many years. The senior guard is averaging 14 points a game for the Yellowjackets while coming off the bench to play considerable minutes.
You might remember his memorable 35-point performance back in 2018 when he played for VMI.
Parham knocked down 10 three pointers in that game but has only made three of his twelve attempts to begin the year. Regardless, he should be viewed as a scoring threat on Sunday when he likely comes off the bench.
But for most Kentucky fans — focus will be solely centered on the play of the Cats — specifically putting the ball in the basket.
UK’s 9/47 start from three-point range is becoming a legitimate cause for concern and it will be greatly exasperated with another cold shooting night on Sunday. John Calipari even joked Friday that the Yellow Jackets will probably play zone defense for 40 minutes Sunday to force the Cats to beat them from deep, though he continues to stress he believes his guys can shoot. It’s just a matter of doing it in actual games.
“So I would expect they’re going to play 40 minutes of zone and think at some point, we’re not going to make open shots. It’s a little bit dangerous because if you’ve watched us in practice we can make them and hopefully we’ll be in that mode,” Calipari said.
The sample size is still far too small to make any drastic predictions or to write this team off as a non-contender.
Freshman phenoms Brandon Boston and Terrence Clarke have yet to make a three-point basket and Kentucky’s shot selection has been awful. You can only assume that those two things change over time and the woes from behind the arc will begin to even out.
As terrifying as the offensives struggles have been the promise of this team’s defense is equally intriguing. Holding Kansas to 29% from the field and only allowing two players to make field-goals in the second half is incredibly impressive. But it still remains unclear if the offense will be able to catch up enough to capitalize on the dominance this defense that’s anchored by Isaiah Jackson.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-2) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (1-2)
Game Time: 5:00 pm EST on Dec. 6, 2020.
Location: State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA
TV Channel: ESPN
Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
Odds: ESPN’s match-up predictor is almost dead heat with Kentucky getting a slight nod at 52% chance of victory. KenPom gives the Cats a 71% chance of winning.
Tickets: No fans will be permitted at this game.
Predictions: KenPom projects a 74-68 victory for Kentucky.