Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 7:00 AM
As you map out the possible spots on the schedule that could provide a pothole for Kentucky’s ride to an undefeated season…Tuesday night’s road game at Georgia represents the biggest danger until possibly the Sweet 16 round of the Big Dance.
*It’s Kentucky’s last true road game of the entire campaign
*Kentucky will be prohibitive home favorites over disappointing Florida Saturday
*Kentucky may be double digit favorites in every round of the SEC tournament
*Kentucky will be HUGE favorites vs. a #16 seed in the Dance’s first round
*Kentucky will probably be double digit favorites vs. an 8-9 survivor
You can’t project out far in advance who they’ll be playing after that of course. If this year has as many upsets as last year, they may have an easy tournament. If they run into true spoilers capable of getting hot from long range, the Wildcats could go down surprisingly early.
Even though Kentucky is a clear favorite in Athens, THIS is the spot where the goose egg in the loss column cracks. Kentucky just has to play a little below par. Georgia just has to lift its game a little. A raucous crowd dying to storm the court after a historic win has to make its presence felt for a full 40 minutes. Stranger things have happened. Virginia Tech taking Duke to overtime is a much bigger surprise than Georgia scoring a home upset of Kentucky.
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about a game the whole country will be watching on ESPN…
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 118.7 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)
Georgia: 107.4 per 100 possessions (#68 in the nation)
The media keeps raving about Kentucky’s defense. It’s important to note that they also have a top 10 offense. That’s hidden by their slow pace. And, is conceivably polluted if college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy isn’t properly penalizing strength of schedule in the disappointing SEC. Still…big edge to the Wildcats here. Georgia doesn’t have a Dance caliber offense, and will be facing a fantastic defense. Note that the Bulldogs only scored 58 points in the first meeting in Lexington.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 84.9 per 100 possessions (#2 in the nation)
Georgia: 93.7 per 100 possessions (#33 in the nation)
If Georgia is going to steal a win, they will need their defense to force misses and grab rebounds. This is the strength of their team…so they do have a legitimate shot at that. Particularly if Kentucky comes in overconfident, nervous, or otherwise distracted by the hoopla surrounded by the winning streak. THIS is where it gets interesting. Georgia has to create a coin flip wrestling match, then hope the coin comes up Bulldog.
Georgia is average in tempo. In a way, that’s a good thing because they can adjust to anyone. But, it does speak to the fact that there’s not much special about this team. That’s why they’re having trouble establishing themselves amidst the collection of “others” behind Kentucky. And, that’s why it’s really hard to love them come tournament time. Georgia is just there. Won’t be good enough unless Kentucky fails to bring peak intensity.
Against the Spread
Though there have been some lemons, Georgia has been a money team all season. They were underrated out of the gate. And, they have a knack for getting results just as people are giving up on them. Hey, if inconsistency swings the right way Tuesday, you never know!
JIM HURLEY would love to make headlines with an upset call on the night the streak comes to an end. But, he won’t do that unless it’s truly justified. He’s been studying recent boxscores very closely. He reviewed the first meeting intently (which Georgia covered as a whopping 18-point road underdog in an 11-point loss). Maybe this IS the night. Maybe Kentucky’s playing so well that everyone should just cool their heels until the Sweet 16.
You can purchase the final word for Tuesday right here at the website with your credit card (we’re also looking at West Virginia/Kansas, Georgetown/Butler, Iowa/Indiana, and a possible sleeper in the MAC). If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about our full Dance package when you call.
Back with you tomorrow as our big game previews continue through the final week of the regular season. Here’s what’s on tap through Sunday…
Wednesday: College Basketball…Notre Dame at Louisville in the ACC
Thursday: College Basketball…Wisconsin at Minnesota in the Big 10
Friday: Early Look…Kansas at Oklahoma in the Big 12
Saturday: College Basketball…Duke at North Carolina in the ACC.
Sunday: College Basketball…Wisconsin at Ohio State in the Big 10
Monday brings the first of our major conference tournament previews. We’ll look at the ACC, Pac 12, Big 12, and Big 10 in that order next week. No reason to preview the SEC until somebody proves they can threaten Kentucky on a neutral court! Through the weekend we’ll cherry-pick some marquee matchups for close-up attention.
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