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Georgia Bulldogs at Kentucky Wildcats: The Haphazard Ill-Informed Roundball Preview

Lost a GREAT game -the feeling sucks! But we'll fight forward. Thanks for making a great atmosphere. Have to use the agony of defeat as fuel

Mark Fox

Following a three-game homestand marred by a pair of outings in which last-second miracle shots by the visitors led to gut-wrenching defeats, the Georgia Bulldogs head out this weekend for the first of six road games in their final eleven outings. Up initially are the Kentucky Wildcats, coached by the always classy John Calipari.

I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell of the Fox Hounds winning this game. Kentucky is ranked 14th in the nation, tied for the top spot in the SEC Hoops Power Poll, and projected as a four seed in the tournament. Georgia is coming off of a physically and emotionally draining double-overtime loss on Tuesday night in which all five starters played at least 32 minutes each and two played 47 minutes apiece, whereas the Wildcats are well-rested after having a week to prepare for the Red and Black. The Blue and White welcome the Bulldogs to Lexington, where they want to avenge their earlier loss in Athens, and the ‘Cats are only just beginning to realize their potential.

I’m sorry, but it just can’t be done. There’s no way a Georgia team can, in any season that includes an overtime loss to Florida, go on the road to Lexington on a Saturday and defeat a Kentucky squad that won a thriller over South Carolina exactly one week earlier.

Oh . . . wait.

All right, well, in that case, let’s give this a whirl, shall we? (Ignore the rule of opposites, if you would.)

Through 19 games, the Wildcats rank third in the SEC in scoring defense (62.1 points per game); second in the conference in scoring offense (78.6 points per game), rebounding offense (40.1 per game), and rebounding margin (+5.9 per game); and first in the league in scoring margin (+16.5 points per game) and blocked shots (6.8 per game). Georgia is in the top one-third of the SEC in assists (15.5 per game) and steals (7.1 per game), while Kentucky is in the bottom half of the league in both categories.

The Blue and White are the only team in the conference averaging more than 40 per cent shooting from beyond the arc, and, through Wednesday morning, the Wildcats were tied for first place in the league both in three-pointers made this season (151) and three-pointers made per game (7.9). The Bluegrass State Bobcats also lead the conference in points per possession. For what it’s worth, though, Georgia has a higher field goal percentage (.465, 2nd in the SEC) than Kentucky (.459, 5th in the SEC).

Saturday’s combatants do not yet share a common conference opponent, but their respective non-SEC slates contain some clubs faced by each. The Wildcats carded a 72-58 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and an 85-60 win over the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils; against those identical squads, the Bulldogs posted an 89-83 loss and a 72-70 win, respectively.

Given Georgia’s struggles on the road in SEC play, what are the odds that Kentucky’s 28-game home winning streak will come to an end? Would you believe . . . 6:1? That’s what Ryan Greene thinks, based on the Wildcats’ youth, previous flirtations with disaster at Rupp Arena this season, and membership in the volatile SEC East.

For all of Kentucky’s offensive firepower, the Blue and White claimed their most recent conference victory by playing well defensively. As concerned as the Athenians should be about the fact that Josh Harrellson leads the SEC in offensive rebounds, the Hoop Dogs ought to be even more concerned about Terrence Jones, who ranks first in the conference in defensive rebounds. (Harrellson, incidentally, is fifth in the latter category, one spot ahead of Georgia’s Trey Thompkins.) A strong inside game and solid free throw shooting allowed the Red and Black to win their previous meeting with the Wildcats, and that level of execution will be required if the Bulldogs are to repeat that feat on the road.

Saturday’s game will begin at 4:00 p.m. and be televised on ESPN.

Go ‘Dawgs!