Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats head down to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. This is the one and only game UK will play against Alabama in the regular season, and Kentucky has more than once found it tough going down south.
Here's a quick look at how the two teams seasons compare so far:
More after the jump.
Alabama Crimson Tide Basketball Roster
|Jason Carter||11||F||Minor reserve||230||6-8||freshman|
|Charvez Davis||24||G||Starter, only 3-point threat
|Kendall Durant||14||G||Minor reserve||185||6-3||junior|
|Ben Eblen||10||G||Major reserve||191||6-1||sophomore|
|Carl Engstrom||-||C||Minor reserve
|JaMychal Green||1||F||Starter, leading scorer, 2nd leading rebounder, steals ldr
|Charles Hankerson Jr||2||G||Major reserve||210||6-5||freshman|
|Senario Hillman||21||G||Major reserve, frequent starter, 2nd leading assists
|Hunter Jeffery||15||G||Rarely plays||185||6-3||sophomore|
|Justin Luquire||50||F||Rarely plays||225||6-7||senior|
|Tony Mitchell||5||F||Starter, 2nd leading scorer, leading rebounder
|Trevor Releford||12||G||Starter, leading assists
|Andrew Steele||22||G||Major reserve||230||6-4||sophomore|
As you no doubt know from Matt's Q&A earlier, Alabama is not a good 3-point shooting team at all, but they are an outstanding defensive team, particularly inside the paint. JaMychal Green Tony Mitchell and Chris Hines are very tough inside, and may be the most formidable defensive front line Kentucky has faced all year.
The Tide may not shoot it well from three, but they definitely shoot it fine from inside the arc, and they are a good offensive rebounding team. They have a very athletic player in Senario Hillman, who will arguably be the best pure athlete on the floor tonight for either team.
Kentucky has no injury problems at all.
For the tide, reserve guard Kendell Durant is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
The Four Factors
These two teams are fairly even in all but two areas -- Kentucky gets to the line more, and handles the ball much better than Alabama.
Do not be fooled by their rather pedestrian overall record and early losses to good teams -- Alabama is a very dangerous team that cannot be taken lightly, and are in the same league with the Georgia Bulldogs. JaMychal Green is an inside presence the likes of which we haven't faced much this year, and Alabama is much more skilled and athletic at every position than either of our most recent SEC foes. Alabama also has better depth than Kentucky, and if this becomes a foul fest, it could be a very tough game for the Wildcats.
Scoring is also going to be an issue for Kentucky. Inside post-up scoring is going to be really hard to come by. Alabama has good shot-blockers and athletes that do a very good job helping in rotation. Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson will not be able to jump over these guys, they are going to have to find open shooters and get their points on dribble-drive defensive rotations.
Kentucky is going to need their 3-point prowess against the Tide, as that is their one really huge advantage. Another thing that UK will need to do well is get into the lane off the dribble. Alabama does not foul a lot, so the penetration will have to be designed more to draw the defense than to score at the rim.
Finally, there are turnovers, of which the Tide are relatively fond. Alabama is allowing 9% steals per game on average, and that number is likely to rise versus Kentucky, particularly if Kentucky can get the tempo up a bit. But the Crimson Tide are also an experienced team, starting only one freshman and with older players seeing most of the bench play.
This is a game that Kentucky should win, fairly narrowly, on paper. But the Wildcats cannot afford another clunker like they threw in against the Georgia Bulldogs -- they must stay aggressive both on offense and defense.