Alabama Crimson Tide at Kentucky Wildcats: Game Preview

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A road-hungry Alabama comes into Rupp Arena looking for their first SEC victory away from home.

So here we are, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation — waiting for the game in which Kentucky tries to break a 2-game losing streak and return to form. The Alabama Crimson Tide ride their pachyderms up to Rupp Arena tonight to try to deny the Wildcats bid to get back on the winning track.

General

About Alabama:

  • Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Conference: SEC
  • Head Coach: Anthony Grant (since 2009)
  • NCAA Appearances: 20
  • Most recent NCAA appearance: 2012
  • Most recent NCAA win: 2006
  • Founded: 1831
  • Enrollment: 23,592
  • Last season's record 23-13 overall, 12-6 in conference

Source: Basketball State

Season so far for Alabama:

  • Season record: 12-17 (6-10 SEC)

Trevor Lacey's departure from Alabama after last season, along with the loss of prized sophomore Devonta Pollard to a domestic criminal proceeding related to his mother dealt a significant blow to this Alabama team, and they have foundered this season. Trevor Releford and Levi Randolph have done yeoman's work to try to get the Tide wins, but they have been few and far between even in the "down" SEC.

Alabama's best win to date has been against Missouri at home three games ago. They have zero road wins so far this season, and have been blown out several times be weaker teams, although they gave the Duke Blue Devils, Wichita St. Shockers and Florida Gators all quite a tussle in the comfy confines of Coleman Coliseum.

Series history

Alabama and Kentucky have a very long history going all the way back to the early 1920's in basketball. Alabama is the second most successful program against Kentucky, with Tennessee being the most successful.

Alabama has never had any sustained success against the Wildcats. They did win out of 4 games between 1999 and 2002, and 4 out of 5 between 1989 and 1991, but most of the victories against Kentucky have been sporadic, but not that uncommon. Alabama's last win against the Wildcats was last season in Tuscaloosa, 55-59.

Source: BigBlueHistory.net

Stats

Team Comparison

Rank and Records Bama UK
RPI #116 #19
Strength of Schedule #4 #10
Overall 12-17 21-8
Conference 6-10 11-5
Home 12-4 15-2
Away 0-10 5-4
Top 25 0-4 1-3
RPI Top 50 1-9 3-4

Courtesy of Statsheet.com

Alabama Roster

# Name Status Pos Height Weight Class Hometown Games PPG RPG APG
10 Jimmie Taylor S F 6-10 240 Fr. Greensboro, AL 29 2.6 3.1 0.2
11 Shannon Hale S F 6-8 220 Fr. Johnson City, TN 28 8.5 3.6 1
12 Trevor Releford S** G 6-0 190 Sr. Kansas City, MO 28 18.8 3.5 3.1
20 Levi Randolph S** G 6-5 205 Jr. Madison, AL 29 9.6 3.8 1.3
21 Rodney Cooper S** G 6-6 215 Jr. Phenix City, AL 29 7.8 5 2
0 Algie Key MR+ G 6-4 195 Jr. Decatur, GA 29 3.9 2.3 1.5
4 Carl Engstrom MR* C 7-1 265 Jr. Ystad 28 1.7 2.2 0.3
15 Nick Jacobs MR@ F 6-8 245 Jr. Atlanta, GA 25 8.4 3.5 0.3
32 Retin Obasohan MR+ G 6-1 205 So. Antwerp, Belgium 27 9.7 3 1.7
33 Isiah Wilson R* G 6-3 185 Sr. Troy, AL 3 0.3 1.3 0.3
35 Dakota Slaughter R* F 6-6 215 Jr. Fishers, IN 10 1 0.6 0.2
2 Ricky Tarrant R- G 6-2 190 Jr. Pleasant Grove, AL.



3 Michael Kessens R- F 6-9 215 So. Nyon, Switzerland




























Legend









S Starter









MR Major reserve









R Reserve









* Returning player









** Returning starter









+ Transfer – Eligible









- Transfer – Redshirt









@ Ineligible – Academics









Courtesy of Basketball State

Four Factors

Alabama: Team Notes

  • Alabama has suffered from a lot of attrition this season. Not only did they lose two of their best players before the season began, but major reserve Nick Jacobs was an academic casualty just a couple of weeks ago.
  • Alabama is a good shooting team despite their record, and they don't turn the ball over that much.
  • Alabama is a poor offensive rebounding team, and they have been dominated in the SEC by almost everyone.
  • Alabama does not shoot the three particularly well, and are a slightly below average free throw shooting team.
  • The Tide does get to the line well, just not as well as Kentucky.
  • Alabama is not an efficient offensive team, 11th in the SEC.

Alabama: Player notes

  • Trevor Releford is the ice that chills the Crimson Tide drink, and is shooting 40% beyond the arc as well as leading the tide in assists.
  • Jimmie Taylor is a pretty good shot blocker, 64th in shot block % in the nation.
  • Rodney Cooper is the team's leading rebounder.
  • Levi Randolph is a dangerous slasher who can occasionally hit the 3, and shoots a good percentage, although he doesn't take many.

Injuries

  • No injuries to report for either team.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Trevor Releford vs. Andrew Harrison — The cagey veteran versus the young lion. I like the veteran in this matchup, although Releford is not the super-quick kind of guard that gives Andrew trouble.

Advantage: Alabama

  • Levi Randolph vs. Aaron Harrison — This is a good matchup, with Randolph being slightly more athletic, while Aaron is probably a better scorer.

Advantage: Draw

  • Rodney Cooper vs. James Young — Young will have to work really hard to keep Cooper off the glass, but Cooper will have trouble with Young's length and range. If good James Young shows up, he wins handily. If it's the other guy, it's probably a push.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Shannon Hale vs. Julius Randle — Freshman versus freshman. Randle is much stronger and thicker than Hale, but they'll run people at Randle like they have all year. If Randle can find open shooters, he'll dominate this matchup. If he misses layups, not so much.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Jimmie Taylor vs. Dakari Johnson/Willie Cauley-Stein — This is another nice matchup with two big players. Taylor is mainly a rim protector who gets his points off of put-backs. He's not nearly athletic enough for Willie, or big enough for Dakari. But he is a talented freshman who can block and bother shots inside. Layups will be hard with him on the floor.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Alabama is very thin on the bench, but Retin Obasohan is a fearless player who finds a way to get points, albeit not very efficiently. Algie Key is a big guard who gets rebounds, and Carl Engsrom is a big center who doesn't get many minutes. Kentucky has better players off the bench, theoretically.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

Alabama has really struggled on the road this season, and despite playing a number of good teams close, hasn't really been able to get over the hump. The Tide just don't score the ball very well at all, and they give up a lot of offensive rebounds leading to extended possessions for opponents.

Alabama is ostensibly a man-to-man team, but this season, Anthony Gran has been using a match-up zone more and it has been very effective at times, including against Duke, Arkansas, and UCLA among others. It is just the kind of defense the slumping Wildcats would hate to see, but that's the lot they've drawn.

Alabama will try to score off drives and slashes to the basket, and Releford is very effective in that role because his passing enables him to hit open people for good shots. Because teams have to honor Releford from distance, he gets to the rim easily despite not being the quickest of guards, and his strong body allows him to finish at the rim when he gets there. He makes his free throws, too, which means it's a bad idea to put him on the line.

Alabama, it seems, is always a tough out for Kentucky, and this season it's likely to be that way again. Despite the 13-point line, unless Kentucky returns to form and starts making shots and taking better care of the basketball, this will be another grind-it-out affair they could well lose. Don't be fooled by Alabama's anemic season, they have played a lot of good teams deep into the game and manage to stay there mostly by virtue of their toughness. They haven't been good enough to win many, but Kentucky hasn't been good enough to win either at home or away recently.

To win this game, Kentucky needs to score efficiently and make free throws, of which the physical Crimson Tide will give them plenty. The zone is going to force some long possessions, where Kentucky has really struggled lately. If the Wildcats will be patient and locate good shots and/or driving lanes, not be too quick to take a challenged shot hoping to draw a foul, and focus on finding the open man, they will be fine. If they play like they did at South Carolina where every offensive possession was a head-down drive into the lane, it's going to be a long, long game.

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