From now on, the game previews are going to be somewhat abbreviated, as they will be coming thick and fast for the most part, and these are all teams we have played before in the regular season.
After a remarkable comeback yesterday against the Carolina Gamecocks, the Alabama Crimson Tide win the prize -- a game versus the SEC regular-season champs, the Kentucky Wildcats in the second round of the 2010 SEC Tournament.
Yesterday, Alabama used strong defensive pressure to force the Gamecocks into nine second-half turnovers that helped them erase an 18-point South Carolina lead built up by the Gamecocks with 11:39 remaining in the game. In just over 9 minutes, the Tide turned a large deficit into an 1-point advantage and won the game.
The Gamecock-Tide game yesterday perfectly illustrates the difference between tournament time and the regular season. During the regular season, coming back from such a large deficit is common, but winning the game after doing so is comparatively rare. Usually, the energy required to overcome the lead is too much to sustain. In a one-and-done scenario, though, teams always seem to find extra energy, as the massive rash of upsets we have seen around the country in the early rounds of the conference tournaments emphatically demonstrate.
More after the jump
As usual, we have our game dashboard:
Four Factors Analysis
For this analysis, I am only going to look at the last four games, starting with efficiencies. Move your left-hand slider to the right until you see only four data points to follow along.
For the last four games, Alabama is trending negative on offensive efficiency, but improving defensively. That defensive trend continued last night against the Gamecocks as South Carolina was held to only 38.9% eFG%. Alabama's offense was typically anemic at only 42%.
Versus the Wildcats, Alabama will have to be very good defensively to have a chance, and improve somewhat offensively against the leading defensive club in the SEC. Kentucky averages 1.09 points/possession versus SEC opponents, and the Tide manages just under 1 P/P, and they are facing a defense that holds teams to just over .9 P/P. This looks like a tough spot for the typical Tide OE.
Moving on to the Four Factors, over the last four games the Wildcats have shot better, handled the ball better, and gotten to the line just as often as the Tide. The Tide has done a better job than UK recently on the offensive glass. This slump is somewhat noteworthy, because Kentucky is on a definite downward trend in OR%, and has been rebounding comparatively poorly defensively. UK cannot afford to continue this trend against the Tide.
The defensive Four Factors favor Kentucky only slightly. Both teams have been excellent at holding opponents under 50% eFG%, both teams force turnovers at a decent 18+% clip, and UK has been taking better care of their defensive boards and sending foes to the line less, but the margins are small.
Much has been made of Alabama's 3-point shooting percentage, but they are only shooting 34% in SEC competition, which is better than the Wildcats' 30%, but not much. Kentucky also takes more threes per game than the Tide does. Three point shooting is important for Kentucky, but the trend for the last two Wildcat victories has been positive, and I expect that to continue today. Alabama plays their bench more minutes than UK, and likes a lower tempo. If the Wildcats can get the tempo up in this game, the Tide will be in for a long day.
Crimson Tide Roster
Alabama Crimson Tide Basketball Roster
|JaMychal Green||32||F||Usually a starter?||220||6-9||sophomore|
Crimson Tide Player Stats
As before when we played the Crimson Tide, shooting will be the major factor. Kentucky significantly outshot Alabama in their last meeting in Rupp Arena, 49% eFG to 36.5%, and got to the line against them at a prodigious rate. If these trends continue today, the result is likely to be very similar.
What will decide the game for Kentucky today is defense. The Tide are going to hold UK, most likely, to under 50% eFG -- they are a solid defensive squad. If Kentucky can hold the Tide under 40%, it will be very hard for Alabama to win this game absent a turnover fest or surrender on the boards by the Wildcats.
The main guy the 'Cats must focus on in this game is Mikhail Torrence -- he is the ice that chills the Alabama cocktail and is also their leading scorer. But like John Wall, Torrence's game is penetrate and get to the rim or dish, and if he is able to do that against Kentucky, he could wind up getting UK's big people in foul trouble besides getting points and assists. It is critically important that Torrence be contained, and if UK can do that, it will be tough for the Alabama team to generate enough offensive pressure to score consistently on Kentucky.
For Kentucky on offense, the game is the same as it has been all year -- get the ball to the big people and let them do damage, or kick it out for three point shots. Alabama is decent in transition defense, but not good enough to stop early offense opportunities by the Wildcats if they run the floor, and they will certainly try.
The 'Cats are a 12-point favorite for this game, and I believe that will be about right. Kentucky 82, Alabama 70.