In just under 24-hours, Kentucky will continue their long-standing series with the Georgia Bulldogs inside the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. Throughout history, this series between Wildcats and Bulldogs has proven to be one of the most lopsided in all of collegiate basketball – with Kentucky holding a commanding series lead of 115-26. This year’s contest doesn’t look to be much different than it’s historical counterparts as the Bulldogs enter Lexington as heavy underdogs. Regardless of the clear talent and skill differential between the two squads, Mark Fox’s Bulldogs will look to their strengths on both offense and defense to try and take down the program who has owned them throughout history.
In terms of their basic offensive profile, Georgia is very similar to Kentucky. Much like the Cats, the Dawgs struggle from the perimeter and take a low volume of shots from outside as a result. Additionally, they like to get after it on the offensive glass and get to the free throw line as a result. They’ve even had their struggles from the charity stripe this season as well. However, that’s where the similarities start fading away. Fox’s squad really struggles with turnovers as evidenced by the fact they lose the ball on 19.6% of offensive possessions – good for 247th in the nation. While both squads haven’t been very strong from Treyville throughout the season, Kentucky has made up for it with the ability to score in the post, a luxury which Georgia doesn’t have. Georgia currently ranks 138th in the nation on two point attempts – connecting only 49.3% of the time. Even more unfortunate for Fox’s squad, the previously mentioned traits they share with Kentucky – offensive rebounding, free throw rate, and free throw percentage – aren’t done at the rate in which Kentucky does them. The Dawgs currently find themselves ranked 46th, 10th, and 304th in those categories respectively – a contrast to UK’s 1st, 2nd, and 255th place rankings. The below chart shows their other vital statistics.
Georgia’s offense probably won’t be much of a test for Kentucky – even with our defensive woes. This is mainly due to the fact that they take a high percentage of shots inside the perimeter, and Kentucky, for the most part, is excellent at defending the rim. If Georgia can create issues for Kentucky, it will likely come from their outstanding interior defense. On the season, the Dawgs are only allowing opponents to connect on 42.9% of interior attempts – largely because of their length and shot blocking prowess. Georgia is collectively swatting 5.1 per contest which is good for 45th nationally. Donte’ Williams and Marcus Thornton – 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-8 respectively – are leading the individual effort with nearly 1.5 blocks per game a piece.
The Georgia defense doesn’t stop at shot blocking either, they also excel at shining the defensive glass – pulling down 70.4% of defensive misses. This is accomplished with their overall team length and a bit of philosophy from Coach Fox. First, Fox’s Dawgs rank 32nd nationally in total team height which certainly aids them in the rebounding department. But their high ranking in defensive rebounding mainly comes from Fox’s rebounding and anti-transition beliefs. On the season, fewer than 17% of Georgia’s field goal attempts have come in transition – a very low total when you consider teams like Arkansas and LSU who take more than 25% of their field goal attempts in transition. Kentucky, for reference takes 22% of field goal attempts in transition. Fox likes his teams to limit second chance shots on defense, even at the expense of transition buckets at the other end of the floor. Fortunately for Kentucky however, our offensive rebounding prowess is likely enough to overpower this philosophy.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s system, the Cats are projected to win tomorrow’s contest 79-63 with a 93% chance of victory. Pomeroy isn’t alone with that prediction either as Jeff Sagarin’s ratings anticipate the Cats to win by sixteen as well. In terms of the game’s flow, I’d anticipate it to be very similar to the Texas A&M game just a few nights ago. Like the Aggies, Georgia likes to slow the tempo and gets to the foul line often. However, Kentucky’s talent should prove to be too much for a Bulldog team struggling to find their identity in a post-Kentavious Caldwell-Pope world.