1. Not the start they hoped for
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have had a nightmare start to the season through two games. You could say that Kentucky is in a similar position, but Kentucky’s two losses are against two tournament teams, one being a top 10 team. Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, their two losses have come in games that people would’ve penciled in as relatively easy wins before the season began. The opening game to start the year had Georgia Tech facing the Panthers from Georgia State. A near double-digit underdog, Georgia State took Tech to a whopping four overtimes, before leaving with a three-point victory.
The second game of the season had the Yellow Jackets as a 12-point favorite over Mercer, but Georgia Tech never led for the entirety of the matchup and the Bears took home the easy victory. The final in the scorebook shows just a 10-point loss for Tech, but the game was not as close as it seems. They were down 17 with one minute remaining in the game. Georgia Tech has some talented offensive players, but an 0-2 start to the season is not where they thought they’d be heading into the game against Kentucky this evening.
2. Smaller lineups around one solid big
While Georgia Tech definitely has the size to match up with Kentucky’s starting five, they don’t necessarily keep that opening lineup on the floor for extended periods of time. With usual starters measuring in at 6’0″, 6’5″, 6’7″, 6’9″, and 6’10”, this actually looks like a relatively even matchup on paper with Kentucky’s starters. However, the Yellow Jackets only play their 6’10” starting center, Rodney Howard, just about 10 minutes per game. For a team that has played four overtimes on this short season, that’s a very small amount of playing time. Instead, four-man Moses Wright will be the largest player on the floor for Georgia Tech for most of the game, at 6’9″ and 233 pounds.
Wright is the best player on this Georgia Tech team, finishing with 31 points and 19 rebounds in the four-OT loss to Georgia State while following that performance with 20 points and five rebounds against Mercer. He has hit 3 of 5 attempted threes this season, but just 14 of 23 free throws. Kentucky will most likely try to force mid-range jumpers from Wright, rather than allowing him to establish a post presence. The senior forward scored 13 points and pulled down 10 boards against Kentucky last season.
3. Shooting guards or scoring guards?
One of Coach Cal’s favorite lines when facing a young roster early in the season is when he alludes to having a lot of shooters, but says they are shot takers rather than shot makers. What we’ll see with Georgia Tech today is a group of guards that certainly aren’t shy about letting shots fly. While some of the offensive numbers are skewed due to the four overtimes played in the season opener, just looking at the numbers shows that Kentucky will need to be prepared for a bunch of shots from any guard in the game.
The four guards that play the primary minutes for Georgia Tech have combined to take 107 of the 160 shots attempted this season for the Yellow Jackets. Those guards aren’t just shooting, they’re scoring as well. Starting point guard, Jose Alvarado, is averaging 18.5 points per game while starting shooting guard, Michael Devoe, is scoring 19 points per game. The third guard in the starting lineup is Jordan Usher, who scores 13 points per contest. The fourth guard comes off the bench to play a ton of minutes is a name Kentucky fans may be familiar with, Bubba Parham, who nets 14 points per game this year. Parham etched his name into the memory of UK fans when he scored 35 points on 10 made threes against the Cats when he played for VMI in 2018.
4. Teacher vs Student
Manning the sidelines for Georgia Tech in his fifth season as Head Coach is Josh Pastner. Pastner was an assistant at Memphis under John Calipari before taking over as Head Coach when Cal headed north to Lexington. After seven years as the lead man in Memphis, Pastner left the program and headed to Georgia Tech to take over starting in the 2016-17 season. Coach Cal was extremely complimentary of Pastner, who when he was named Head Coach at both Memphis and Georgia Tech, used the phrase “perfect fit”.
Tonight will be just the second time that Pastner has faced off against his mentor with the first coming last year, Kentucky taking home the 67-53 victory. Pastner hasn’t had the easiest of times in his first few seasons in the ACC. Heading into this season, Pastner sits at a 65-67 record overall, with a 31-43 conference record. While the ACC is probably the toughest conference in the country on a yearly basis, the Yellow Jacket faithful has to be hoping for a winning record in the near future.
5. An early SEC opponent
Out of all the non-conference opponents we’ve seen Kentucky play over the years, the Wildcats have the most all-time matchups against Georgia Tech. Kentucky sits as the leader in the all-time series with a 57-15 record overall. As a lot of our readers may know, the primary reason for this many matchups over the years is that Georgia Tech actually used to be a part of the Southeastern Conference, being one of the 13 founding members of the conference. Tech left the SEC in 1964 and remained independent until helping to form the Metro-6 Conference in 1975 and eventually moving to the ACC in 1978.
Tonight’s game will be just the 11th matchup with Georgia Tech as a true non-conference opponent. Since leaving the SEC, Georgia Tech has just two wins over Kentucky, for a 2-8 record. Today will be the first time that Kentucky has faced Georgia Tech with a losing record in the non-conference era of the all-time series. The Cats sit as a six-point favorite for tonight’s game, looking to get back on track after back to back losses in the past week.
Go Cats. Beat the Yellow Jackets.