Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, it's time to welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide into Rupp Arena for some basketbawwwlll action! The Tide are a thoroughly dangerous team and without a doubt the most difficult foe Kentucky has faced during the SEC portion of the season, either on the road or in the friendly confines of Rupp.
Of course, most of you know at least a little about the Crimson Tide, and I'm not talking about their BCS champion football program (we all know a lot about them). Anthony Grant, former Billy Donovan assistant and close buddies with both he and Unforgettable John Pelphrey, has really made a name for himself since becoming the head coach of the Va. Commonwealth Rams, and then being hired by Alabama in 2006 to replace the fired and now-N.C. State Wolfpack coach, Mark Gottfried.
The Tide have had an interesting season. They started out 7-0, including victories over such worthies as the Purdue Boilermakers and Wichita St. Shockers, avenging their NIT finals loss of last year. But then they dropped a tough game vs. the Georgetown Hoyas and another one on the road to the Dayton Flyers, and another game later to Kansas St in a semi-road affair.
Alabama then went back to their winning ways until their most recent two games, where they narrowly dropped a road contest at Mississippi State, and then were brutalized in Tuscaloosa by the Vanderbilt Commodores on Thursday of this week. Needless to say, this is a team that is hungry for a win.
|Rodney Cooper||Maj. Res.||Fr.||G||17||16.4||1.3||3.7||34.9||0.4||1.8||22.6||0.9||1.1||78.9||1.2||1.6||2.8||0.5||1.2||0.5||0.2||1.4||3.9|
|Charles Hankerson Jr||Res.||So.||G||16||11.1||1.1||2.9||37.0||0.4||1.3||33.3||0.7||1.1||64.7||0.3||1.1||1.3||0.8||0.4||0.6||0.1||1.5||3.3|
|Keon Blackledge||+Walk on
njured knee - out for season Apparently recovered early from the knee injury, and will be available.
** Ankle sprain, questionable for UK game
+ Walk transfer on who no longer appears on official roster. Not sure what happened.
Alabama Strengths vs. UK
- Steals. Alabama forces a number of turnovers with their defensive pressure.
- Physicality. Alabama is a physical team, and pretty deep compared to Kentucky.
- Athleticism. Alabama is one of the more athletic teams in the SEC.
- Team defense. Alabama is a great defensive team.
- 3-point defense. They are among the best in the entire country, holding opponents to 26.9%
Alabama Weaknesses vs. UK
- Defensive rebounding. Alabama is a good offensive rebounding team, but not a great defensive rebounding team.
- Getting to the line. The Tide just doesn't.
- Three point shooting. It's just ugly at 26.9%, 341st in the entire nation out of 345 teams. That's as bad as it gets.
- Overall shooting. Alabama's eFG% is only 49.6%, barely in the top 50% of Division I.
Kentucky Strengths vs. Alabama
- Offensive efficiency. Kentucky is far more efficient than Alabama on offense.
- Kentucky is just as good as Alabama in team defense.
- Offensive rebounding. Kentucky is a little better and the Tide isn't a great DR team.
- Getting to the line. Alabama puts people there, and UK gets there plenty.
- Shot blocking. Alabama is good, Kentucky is otherworldly.
Kentucky Weaknesses vs. Alabama
- Turnovers. Alabama forces them, UK makes them often enough.
- Physicality. The Tide are so physical and strong, and Kentucky is known for not being particularly physical.
- Overall intensity. Alabama is intense, Kentucky is intense when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is in.
- Defensive pressure. Kentucky sometimes does well, and sometimes not. I include this because I'm not sure which Marquis Teague will show up yet.
Key Matchups for Kentucky:
- JaMychal Green. The Alabama leading scorer is beastly inside, and more physical than any of Kentucky's players. He is also spectacularly athletic and very strong. Terrence Jones can theoretically match up with him, but Anthony Davis will be disadvantaged, and so will Kidd-Gilchrist.
- Tony Mitchell. Mitchell is an athletic slasher in the mold of Kidd-Gilchrist. He can also shoot the three at a reasonable percentage.
Key Matchups for Alabama
- Anthony Davis. Davis' freakish combination of alien length, athleticism and soft hands create issues for anybody. He's much too quick and long for any of Alabama's defenders offensively.
- Darius Miller. Miller is everyone's fright-night. Is he a 2? A 3? A stretch 4? Who knows? If Miller does a good job of exploiting his matchup, he's a nightmare. Too quick for most 3's, too tall and strong for most guards.
UK is probably the only team that Alabama does not match up well with. To be honest, Alabama has a lot of good pieces, but is missing shooters, and shooters are absolutely necessary to success in college basketball. Alabama is one of the best defensive teams in the nation, but even so, they are technically inferior (although very slightly) to the Wildcats.
The Tide have no major advantages in this matchup, and several serious problems. Alabama has trouble scoring, they play at a deliberate pace which can disadvantage teams like Florida, who are at least somewhat pace-dependent, but cannot factor in at all against Kentucky, which is a completely pace-agnostic team, almost to an extreme.
To make this game really competitive, Alabama is going to have to make three point shots, like they did last year against UK in Tuscaloosa. In that game, the Tide shot 7-14 from the perimeter and escaped Kentucky by two. If Bama shoots a characteristic sub-30 percentage from three in Rupp, they will be faced with trying to score on the third-best two-point defense in America with the 56th best 2-point offense. That's not a favorable matchup, no matter how you count it.
With all that said, we cannot account for the intensity that Alabama almost always brings, and what kind of game the Wildcats will bring after an easy victory. These two teams are headed in opposite directions right now, and you have to figure that motivation will be on the side of the Tide.
If we were talking about a month ago, I would say that this game was a statistical toss-up. Right now, there is no reasonable doubt that UK has a significant advantage. So the Tide are going to start out in a big hole, and have to climb a long way to get out. Even if their motivation is off the charts, this is a very tough spot for them to try to recover from a two-game losing streak.