College basketball fans hoping to see the Kevin Knox vs Michael Porter Jr. match up have had their hopes spoiled three separate times this season. The first time Kentucky played Missouri, Porter was hurt. The second, he warmed up, but he never checked in. The potential third was thwarted by the Georgia Bulldogs who pulled off the big upset yesterday over the Tigers. Instead, fans are treated to at least one more game for Georgia’s Yante Maten, who has been an absolute force for nearly his entire career in Athens.
For Kentucky, the loss of Jarred Vanderbilt due to an ankle injury makes today’s game a tad more difficult. The first time Kentucky played Georgia this season, Vanderbilt was still sitting out with the injury he suffered before the season started. The Wildcats were able to pick up the win, but it was definitely not easy, as they were down going into halftime and had to battle back behind a huge game from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a double-double from Hamidou Diallo.
Let’s take a look at the potential starting lineup for the Bulldogs in today’s game.
#1 Yante Maten, Senior Forward, 6’8″
Yante Maten was named the AP SEC Player of the Year earlier this week, but was not given the award by the SEC coaches. A three year starter for the Bulldogs, Maten has been one of the best players in the Southeastern Conference for all three years. He was named to the First-Team All-SEC this year, keeping his slot after being named to the 2016-17 All-SEC First Team.
Along with being the leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker on this Georgia Bulldog team, Maten is putting up stats with the SEC’s best. His 19.5 points per game rank first the in conference, while his 8.7 rebounds are second in the conference. He’s giving the Bulldogs 1.6 assists, 1.5 blocks, and half a steal per game. Maten is a big body, but can hit shots from all over the floor, hitting 34.2% of his threes and 81.2% of his free throws. He had 17 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Kentucky in December.
At 6’8″ and 240 pounds, Maten is a load to handle in the post, but has the ability to step away from the basket at any point. His ability to move well on the perimeter probably makes him a match up for Kentucky’s PJ Washington, but don’t be surprised to see Nick Richards defending Maten at multiple times throughout the game. Maten’s was too much to handle for Richards and Washington in the first match up, forcing Wenyen Gabriel to play 34 minutes compared to their combined 18 minutes.
#0 William Jackson II, Junior Guard, 6’4″
William Jackson II was a starter for about half the season last year, but returns as the leading ball-handler for Georgia this season. Jackson is the team’s best perimeter defender. He averaged under 5 points per game last season in under 18 minutes per game, but has seen a huge increase in his statistics, given that he is a full-time starting guard this season.
Outside of Yante Maten, the scoring on Georgia falls to a very evenly-keeled team. Jackson is the second leading scorer at 8.5 points, and he leads the team with 3.7 assists per game. A good perimeter shooter, Jackson is making 33.1% of his shots from three-point land this season, and is also knocking down 76% of his attempts from the charity stripe. He finished with 5 points and 5 fouls in the first match up, struggling to contain Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
As the starting point guard, Jackson draws the match up of Kentucky’s Quade Green and Gilgeous-Alexander. While the paint may be dominated by Maten today, Kentucky has a strong advantage in their two point guards over the backcourt for Georgia.. Gilgeous-Alexander and Green combined for 36 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals in the first game, so look for their play to dictate Kentucky’s play today.
#3 Juwan Parker, Senior Guard, 6’4″
Juwan Parker started 31 games last season, but has only started 21 this season. Parker is a redshirt senior, who missed the entire 2015-16 season with an achilles injury, but has used his time in school to earn an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, and is currently working on a second master’s degree. Parker has been one of the best free-throw shooters in Georgia history throughout his career, sitting in the top 5.
In the first game against Kentucky this season, Parker didn’t start, but gave Coach Fox 5 points and 2 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. He’s currently averaging 8.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. He’s one of the better shooters on the team, with his 36.6% from three leading the team and 85.5% from the charity stripe ranking fifth in the SEC.
The senior is the second starting guard in the lineup for the Georgia Bulldogs. With how well the three Kentucky guards played in the last game against Georgia, expect Parker’s contributions on both ends to be keys in today’s game. Diallo was able to score 10 points and grab 10 rebounds in his match up with Parker at the two spot, so hopefully his energy will be there again, especially with the absence of Jarred Vanderbilt on the boards.
#34 Derek Ogbeide, Junior Forward, 6’8″
Derek Ogbeide has been a starter for Mark Fox for the past two seasons, returning as a third-year starter this year. He was a top-5 SEC rebounder last season, taking a bulk of the load when Yante Maten went down with a knee injury during conference play. Ogbeide went to high school in Atlanta, but was born in Lagos, Nigeria.
A blue-collar type player in the paint, Ogbeide won’t have the stats that jump off the page at you, but Coach Fox knows what he’s going to get out of him night-in and night-out. He’s currently giving the Bulldogs 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and blocking 0.9 shots per game. He is a back to the basket type player who won’t step away to shoot jumpers too often. Ogbeide had 13 points and 6 rebounds in the last game against Kentucky.
Ogbeide’s defender will be the opposite of Yante Maten’s. If Coach Cal chooses to use PJ Washington on Maten, for his ability to defend on the perimeter, then Nick Richards will be defending Ogbeide. Richards takes a 3-inch height advantage in that matchup, but Ogbeide could more than make up for it with his ability to out-muscle a lot of bigs in the SEC. Look for Wenyen Gabriel’s athleticism to cause issues for Georgia to match up with.
#20 Rayshaun Hammonds, Freshman Forward, 6’8″
Rayshaun Hammonds is the only non-upperclassmen starting for Mark Fox this season. A native of Norcross, Georgia, Hammonds was a big-time recruiting get for the Bulldogs. The freshman was ranked as a four-star caliber recruit, and was a consensus top-50 player in the class of 2017.
Stepping into an immediate starting role as a freshman is never easy, especially when you aren’t a top-10 player. Hammonds has adjusted well, becoming a steady contributor for the Bulldogs. He’s currently averaging 6.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per contest. While he doesn’t shoot a ton from the perimeter, he has hit 15 of his 55 attempted treys on the season, as well as knocking down 71.4% free throws. Hammonds had 12 points and 5 rebounds in the game on New Year’s Eve.
In my projected starting lineup for the Bulldogs, Hammonds plays the 3 position. Depending on the lineup at the time, Hammonds does move to the power forward position at times, as well. If he starts at the 3, he draws the tough defensive assignment of guarding Kevin Knox. Knox had an off day on the offensive end against Georgia the first time, and everyone knows that Kentucky will only go as far as his scoring can take them.
Go Cats. Beat Bulldogs.