Coming off what was arguably the best overall game of the season, the Kentucky Wildcats will head back to Alabama tonight to take on the Crimson Tide. Alabama comes into the contest 11-6 (3-1) and fresh off of a win against Texas A&M. Trailing 26-15 at halftime, Anthony Grant’s team shot 55% in the 2nd half and took the win 50-49. The ‘Cats are now 12-5 (3-1) and share 3rd place in the SEC with Alabama. While the Tide have shown to be a 2nd half team, a good indicator for a ‘Cats win is who leads at halftime. The ‘Cats are 12-0 when leading at the half, and 0-5 when behind.
Alabama plays a very unique 4 guard, 1 center lineup. John Calipari says their guard play is the reason why they are 3-1 in the conference. Those guards recorded nine steals in the 2nd half vs. Texas A&M, and could reek havoc on the Kentucky perimeter if they are careless with the basketball. The Tide have also held their opponents to under 50 points in three straight games. If Kentucky looks to walk out of Tuscaloosa with the win, they will need to run up the score. Alabama will look to clamp down hard on their defensive pressure and make every point count.
The shot altering ability of the Wildcats concerns Alabama head coach Anthony Grant. He knows that he cannot match the size Kentucky will throw at them. Grant noted the ‘Cats have a unique attack of size and speed that not a lot of teams could come at you with. That size and speed should negate any speed advantages the Tide may have from starting those four guards. Calipari recruits big, long, and athletic guys for his dribble drive motion offense. Tonight, those unique skill sets may be the difference maker.
When it comes to the numbers, the ‘Cats are favored by 6. The Crimson Tide are 228th in the NCAA in points per game (65.5), 287th in rebounding (32.1), 253rd in assists (11.8), and 92nd in field goal percentage (45%). The ‘Cats are marginally better in every listed category, and are no worse than 37th (assists) in any ranking. The Tide also have lost to teams such as Dayton, VCU, Mercer, and Tulane.
How does a team that starts 4 guards be listed 253rd in assists? Some of those losses for the Tide are a little mind-boggling as well. If the ‘Cats can continue the climb up the mountain, they should not be going back to Lexington with a loss. For the 2nd straight game, the ‘Cats will be without Willie Cauley-Stein, who did not make the trip to Alabama. Calipari tweets WCS had a great treadmill workout but stayed in Lexington for precautionary measures. Run up the score, keep turnovers at a minimum, and be prepared for a close battle.