The Kentucky Wildcats will return to Rupp Arena for the first time in a week on Saturday to host their first ACC opponent of the season.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets come into town with a 4-3 record, looking to add to the chaos of 2019 college basketball by knocking Kentucky off at home.
The Yellow Jackets are 0-2 against the SEC already this season, having lost to both Georgia and Arkansas. In their most recent game, Georgia Tech was defeated by Syracuse 97-63.
Prior to that surprising home shellacking by the Cuse, Georgia Tech was having a promising start that included a road win over NC State and a beatdown of Nebraska at home. And their two SEC losses were by a combined five points, as they’ve looked dramatically improved after going 14-18 last season.
Georgia Tech is led in scoring this season by Michael Devoe, who is putting up 21.4. He takes the most shots of anyone else on the team by a significant margin, and he is hitting an astounding 52.9% from behind the three-point line.
Kentucky fans may also remember Bubba Parham, the former VMI star that put up 35 points in Rupp Arena last November. Parham is just averaging 7 points in 31.3 minutes per game this season while only shooting 26.7% from deep.
But, obviously, Kentucky’s coaching staff and returning players know exactly what he is capable of. The good news is Kentucky has one of the best defensive backcourts in the nation, which could ultimately decide who wins this contest.
While the guards get the attention, the Yellow Jackets are also getting great production from big men Moses Wright and James Banks III, who are averaging a combined 23.4 points, 16.7 boards and 5.4 blocks per game. Banks actually has four games of 5+ blocks, and Georgia Tech ranks No. 5 nationally with 6.6 blocks per game. This will likely be the biggest test of the season so far for the Wildcats’ front court.
Fans may remember Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner, who was briefly an assistant under John Calipari at Memphis. When Calipari was hired to lead the Wildcats, Pastner was set to join him in Lexington, but Memphis ultimately hired him as the school’s next head coach, where he served from 2009-16 before becoming the head man at Georgia Tech.
Kentucky will be looking to continue the momentum that has been growing in the last few weeks. Don’t look now, but Nick Richards leads this team through eight games with 14 points and eight rebounds per game. Many have waited for him to fall off, but the junior continues to impress.
Another emerging star has been EJ Montgomery, who is averaging 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in his last two outings. The word from all analysts in the preseason was that, if Kentucky can get Richards and Montgomery going, they will be hard to beat in March.
Well, at least in December they are going indeed. Can they continue to improve moving forward? Our next chance to find out will be Saturday in Rupp Arena.