Pick – Analysis
This might be Kentucky’s toughest remaining Game before the NCAA Tournament, SEC Tourney included. Georgia has been rolling as of late and gave the Wildcats a scare a month ago in Lexington.
Kentucky won the first Game 69-58, but was never really able to pull away from the Bulldogs. Even without starting senior forward and leading scorer Marcus Thornton, Georgia pulled within five points with two minutes to go, but the home team was eventually too much.
Georgia has won three straight Games since a couple sketchy losses and look to be back in form. Obviously, it doesn’t really matter how well a team is playing when it goes against Kentucky, but the fact that the Bulldogs stayed close in the first Game should give them some confidence in addition to playing at home.
The bad news for every other team in the country is that Kentucky has continued to improve through the season. They’ve really turned it up the last few weeks, winning five straight Games by at least 17 points, including Saturday’s 84-67 win over the SEC’s second-best team in Arkansas.
With Thornton back, things could get pretty interesting in this Game. Not only is he Georgia’s leading scorer, but he’s also a presence in the paint that should help against Kentucky’s size. And that’s exactly where the Bulldogs caused trouble for the Wildcats the first time around, with Nemanja Djurisic and Yante Maten (both forwards) combining for 30 points and 16 boards. Thornton is an improvement in the starting lineup and one has to think Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines can’t play any worse than the previous meeting (combined 3-of-19 from the field, 7 turnovers).
Of course, there’s also a chance Kentucky gives Georgia more respect this time around. There’s no doubt John Calipari wasn’t happy about getting outrebounded by 12 in the first Game. The Wildcats have won their last two road matchups by large margins, but those were against weaker teams. In recent road Games at Florida and LSU, both home teams had their chances to win late in the Game. The same could happen for Georgia in this one.
A lot of people like Kentucky’s 29-0 record, but they are only 15-13-1 against the spread, whereas Georgia, often underrated early in the season, is 16-9-2 ATS on the year.
The Wildcats have the edge, there’s no doubt about that and they are playing extremely well at the moment. Thornton and Djurisic will have their hands full with Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns has been playing so well that some draft predictions even have him going No. 1 in this summer’s NBA draft, and No. 2 at the least.
The size of the Kentucky guards will once again be problematic for Georgia, though. The Bulldogs have a solid core of guards, but they really struggled in the first matchup and improvement is needed if they want to be within striking distance late.
Whether the Wildcats are looking forward or not, it doesn’t really matter. They have the best roster in the nation. Georgia will pose a real threat if Kentucky takes its foot off the pedal, even just a little.
Our Pick – When we run Our model with full season stats, Kentucky comes out on top by 13. However, the fewer Games we use, the less the margin becomes. That indicates Georgia is playing well above their season rating. In otherwords, Georgia is hot. We’ll go out on a limb in this one and call for this one to be MUCH closer than the current line. Georgia +10