I made mine in Alabama...And found mine down in Dixieland...

So singeth the great Bocephus.  The question is, can the Kentucky Wildcats find theirs in Alabama - namely a way to get an SEC road victory against Mark Gottfried's Crimson Tide when they limp into Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa?

Well, we'll have to wait until today at 3:00 or so to start getting our answer, but meantime, let's take a look at the Tide.  Alabama was highly though of pre-season, having a total of 3 players named to the All-SEC team, while Kentucky managed a bagel.  Athlon sports picked Alabama to reach the Final Four, and Alabama was picked a close second in the Western Division behind LSU.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the accolades - Alabama's reality didn't quite live up to their expectations, and like LSU, have left many an SEC observer scratching their head.  At times, Alabama shows the kind of brilliance that would justify picking them to play in late March, like their first half against Florida in Gainsville this past week.  Then there are games like the 88-61 drubbing they took at the hands of Arkansas earlier in the year.

In a way, Alabama's season has been much like Kentucky's.  Neither team has done much against ranked competition, with slumping LSU the only ranked (at the time) victim for Alabama.  Beyond that, the Crimson Tide has had a home loss to Arkansas and is only 3-9 on the road this year.  Like the Wildcats, the Tide has mostly beaten who they was supposed to beat this year, and lost to those they were supposed to lose to.  The road has been notoriously unfriendly to the Tide over the years, but this one is at home and they are smarting from a loss.

Alabama by the numbers

Alabama returns 3 out of 5 starters from last year and has no freshmen or transfers in the starting lineup.  Junior Ronald Steele (6'3"/185#/9p/2r/4a) is Alabama's all-American point guard who is the focus of their offense.  Steele is an excellent outside shooter and loves to get in the lane, where his two favorite targets are senior Jermareo Davidson (6'10"/230#/15p/9r/3b)  and Richard Hendrix (6'8"/265#/15p/9r).  Both Davidson and Hendrix are long and strong, and Davidson has a nice face-up game to go with his post play.  Hendrix is mostly a low-post player, but is huge, strong and athletic.

On the wings, 'Bama starts two sophomores, Alanzo Gee (6'6"/215#/13p/5r) and Brandon Hollinger (5'11"/170#/4p/2a).  Gee is an athletic freak with a fantastic vertical leap and excellent finishing ability, but he struggles a bit with his perimeter game.  Hollinger is a glue guy with a good perimeter game, but he is a bit undersized against Kentucky's big guards.

Off the bench, the Tide bring slasher Demetrius Jemison (6'7"/225#/3p/3r), three-pont bomber and JC transfer Mykal Riley (6'6"/185#/12p/4r/2a), center Yamene Coleman (6'9"/230#/2p/3r) and freshman guard Mikhail Torrence (6'4"/185#/2p).

Neither UK nor Alabama players have made a huge impact among the top 5 individual leaders in the SEC.  Hendrix and Davidson are 3rd and 5th respectively in total rebounding, Hendrix is 4th in OR and Davidson and Morris are 3rd and 5th respectively in DR.  Hendrix and Morris are 1 and 2 in FG%, and Davis and Morris are 3 and 5 respectively in blocked shots per game.

Below, we can see the statistical categories in which Alabama and Kentucky are significantly different (if they are within 1 place of each other in that statistic in the standings, I have discarded it):

SCORING DEFENSE
## Team                  G   Pts Avg/G
--------------------------------------
 4.Kentucky............ 25  1648  65.9
 6.Alabama............. 25  1690  67.6

SCORING MARGIN
## Team                  G    OFF   DEF Margin
----------------------------------------------
 4.Kentucky............ 25   73.7  65.9   +7.8
 7.Alabama............. 25   74.6  67.6   +7.0

FREE THROW PERCENTAGES
## Team                  G    FTM   FTA   Pct
---------------------------------------------
 2.Alabama............. 25    363   510  .712
 6.Kentucky............ 25    343   500  .686

FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGES
## Team                  G     FG   FGA   Pct
---------------------------------------------
 2.Kentucky............ 25    665  1384  .480
 6.Alabama............. 25    670  1443  .464

FIELD GOAL PCT DEFENSE
## Team                  G     FG   FGA   Pct
---------------------------------------------
 2.Kentucky............ 25    609  1541  .395
 5.Alabama............. 25    635  1545  .411

3-POINT FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGES
## Team                  G     FG   FGA   Pct
---------------------------------------------
 8.Alabama............. 25    161   444  .363
10.Kentucky............ 25    169   474  .357

REBOUNDING OFFENSE
## Team                  G   Reb Avg/G
--------------------------------------
 1.Alabama............. 25   975  39.0
 6.Kentucky............ 25   937  37.5

ASSISTS
## Team                  G  Assists  Avg/G
------------------------------------------
 4.Kentucky............ 25      405  16.20
11.Alabama............. 25      338  13.52

ASSIST/TURNOVER RATIO
## Team                  G  Asst   Avg Turn   Avg  Ratio
--------------------------------------------------------
 4.Kentucky............ 25   405  16.2  368  14.7   1.10
 7.Alabama............. 25   338  13.5  331  13.2   1.02

OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS
## Team                  G   No.  Avg/G
---------------------------------------
 4.Alabama............. 25   333  13.32
10.Arkansas............ 25   266  10.64
   Kentucky............ 25   266  10.64

DEFENSIVE REBOUNDS
## Team                  G   No.  Avg/G       
---------------------------------------
 2.Kentucky............ 25   671  26.84
 5.Alabama............. 25   642  25.68

3-POINT FIELD GOALS MADE
## Team                  G   3FG  Avg/G
---------------------------------------
 9.Kentucky............ 25   169   6.76
10.Alabama............. 25   161   6.44

As you can see from the above, Alabama is much better on the offensive glass than the 'Cats are.  They are also a better free throw shooting team and a slightly better 3-point percentage shooting team.  Other than that, Kentucky is statistically superior in every category where there is a significant difference between them.

Offensively, Kentucky is slightly more efficient that Alabama, 23rd to 26th.  One thing contributing mightily to Alabama's efficiency is their 38.5 OR%.  This is 36th best in the land, compared to UK's 33.5% (172nd).  UK shoots the ball better from 2 and just slightly worse from 3, but Alabama makes up that disparity with offensive rebounding.  

Offensive efficiency correlations show us nothing special in Alabama's case.  They are more efficient when they have more offensive rebounds and a higher effective field goal %. Same for Kentucky, although the correlations between OR and eFG% are slightly weaker.

Defensively, the Tide and the 'Cats are rather more different.  Kentucky's defensive efficiency has taken a serious hit lately with losses to Florida and Tennessee.  Still, it stands as 22nd best in the land, much better than Alabama's 104th. Correlations in this case do turn up one interesting fact - Alabama's DE is significantly better when they keep their opponents off the line - something that isn't true for UK.

What it all means

Alabama beats teams by shooting a good percentage and rebounding the basketball.  They get the ball to their big people, and those guys put it in the basket, simple as that.  With Ronald Steele on your team, getting the ball in scoring position should not be too difficult, as he is adept at getting in the lane and getting the ball to Hendrix and Davidson.  As we saw in the South Carolina game at UK earlier this month, guard penetration is one of our biggest weaknesses, and Steele is outstanding at it.  He also shoots the 3 at a 40% clip, although Alabama as a team doesn't put up that many.

Defensively, Alabama is nothing special.  They surrender threes about as often as we do, and they don't defend the two as well.  They also do not put people on the line very much, which probably accounts for the FTR correlation I mentioned earlier.

In order to increase their chances of winning this game, UK must do three things well - rebound with Alabama, get to the line and keep Ronald Steele out of the lane.  Steele can shoot the ball, so defending him is going to be a chore.  Let's hope that Smith has found an answer for that after our recent experience with Tre' Kelly and Chris Lofton.

Alabama also doesn't seem to thrive at a higher pace, but pace doesn't kill them, either.  Interestingly, turnovers don't seem to help Alabama much, so if that trend continues, it is to our benefit.

Bottom line - Alabama is strong where we are weak, even though we are a statistically superior team.  Even so, the 'Cats don't want to even think about a three game losing streak.  This game should be a Kentucky victory, but I am not going to predict one.  Another nail biter that could go either way.

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