During conference play, there were two teams Kentucky played too close for comfort: Georgia and Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, the Cats are starting the SEC Tournament with the Georgia Bulldogs, the team that should have beaten Kentucky twice in the regular season. They say it’s hard to beat a team three times. Right now, I fearfully believe that cliche for five reasons.
Of all the opponents Kentucky has faced this year, Frazier is arguably the one that has given Kentucky the most problems. In Athens, he could draw a foul at will, providing a steady stream of scoring to keep Georgia in the game, even when he wasn’t knocking down three-pointers.
He scored 59 in the two matchups with Kentucky. However, he entered today’s game cold. Yesterday’s 17-point performance (4/13 FG) snapped a five-game streak with 20 points or more. Georgia can’t win if Frazier stays cold against Kentucky.
Defending the High Ball Screen
Kentucky’s struggles against the high ball screen have been well-documented, but it feels even worse against Georgia. They probably have other plays, but it seems like this is all Georgia does against Kentucky. When the ball is in J.J. Frazier’s hands, it works.
“He gets to his left hand and because of his size, he really accelerates on layups,” Calipari said. “It’s a hard thing for a big guy to guard when you’re trying to move your feet to stay in front. The other thing is he can shoot that three behind it (the screen).”
In Athens, Kentucky made a decisive stop in the last-minute after trapping but the ball screen, but they can’t trap every single ball screen. If Kentucky can’t find a reasonable solution, it could be a long afternoon in Nashville.
Maten is Back
The All-SEC power forward wasn’t at 100% in his return against Tennessee, yet he still came off the bench for 26 minutes to record 12 points and 5 rebounds. Without Maten, Georgia had Kentucky against the ropes at home. Defending the four-position has been a weakness for Kentucky all year long. With a game under his belt, Maten is poised to get his groove back just in time for the Cats.
Playing for the Postseason
As easy as it is to dismiss Joe Lunardi and his 8,782 brackets, Lunardi is pretty good at one thing: figuring out who is in and who is out. Currently he has the Dogs as the fifth team on the outside looking in. A win over Kentucky is exactly what they need to get over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky faced a lot of zone defense early in the season, but it’s been awhile since they’ve been tested by a zone. John Calipari said Georgia only ran zone on two possessions against Kentucky earlier in the season, but that’s all Georgia played against Tennessee. Isaiah Briscoe must be at his best to break down the zone from the inside.
But is Georgia really that scary?
They say it’s hard to be a team three times, but Kentucky is 33-9 all-time (.786) in the SEC Tournament against teams that they defeated twice during the regular season. If that record doesn’t help, this one might: the Cats are 17-2 (.895) when the SEC Tournament when it is played in Nashville.