Kentucky at Alabama: Open Game Thread

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This is the official A Sea of Blue open game thread for the Kentucky Wildcats @ Alabama Crimson Tide basketball game this afternoon at the Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa , January 24th @ 3:00 PM.

Particulars of this game are as follows:

 

So it really comes down to this game.  Win and we're most likely in.  Lose, and we don't get to leave purgatory.

The last several weeks, UK fans have craved, some desperately, to get back into the top 25 national rankings.  UK's absence from that poll has been a long one, and getting over the hump to get back in has been a major challenge this year because of the relative weakness of the SEC and one very bad loss to VMI at home.

The Crimson Tide are talent-rich but underachieving, as they have been much of the time under coach Mark Gottfried.  This year, Gottfried is really on the hot seat, especially after the unexpected and enigmatic departure of star point guard Ronald Steele.  Mikhail Torrance has taken over the point from the now-departed Steele.  This team is a mix of the young and the experienced, and has tremendous athletic talent.

Things Kentucky needs to do well to win:

  1. Keep the pace high.  Kentucky is comfortable at a much higher pace than the Crimson Tide, and Alabama has a solid half-court defense.  Points in transition will be available if the 'Cats can run.
  2. Take care of the defensive glass.  One of the things Alabama does very well is offensive rebound.
  3. Force Alabama to run half-court offense.  UK is one of the best in the country in half-court offense, and Alabama shoots the ball poorly.  If UK challenges every shot, the Tide will most likely struggle.

Things that will make it hard for Kentucky to win:

  1. Taking a bunch of challenged shots.  Alabama is very solid defensively, and if UK can't get out in transition, they must be efficient on offense.
  2. Fail to get back in transition.  Alabama doesn't run that much, but they are tough when they do.
  3. Let Alabama get off to a hot start.  Nothing endangers a Wildcat victory more than letting the Tide find a rhythm early.

Alabama doesn't hustle as much as Auburn, and they won't out-quick UK.  But they do have big, long, powerful players who can do what Auburn could not -- mix it up inside with the 'Cats, and score in the paint.  This bears repeating -- Alabama is very talented, arguably more talented than Kentucky top to bottom.  They may be underachieving now, but that could stop at any time, and if the 'Cats give them an early infusion of hope, it could be today -- and we don't want that.

Go, Cats!

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