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Kentucky Wildcats at Alabama Crimson Tide: Game Preview

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The Crimson Tide are a dangerous team this year, especially at home.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats hit the road to Tuscaloosa today to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in Coleman Coliseum. Kentucky is fresh of a thunderous win over the Missouri Tigers that had everybody buzzing, and the Tide are returning home from a tough 68-66 loss at South Carolina.

The trip to Tuscaloosa is traditionally one of the toughest for the Wildcats. It’s hard to explain why, but Alabama under Anthony Grant has been a very tough defensive team, and when they play at home, they are very, very hard to beat. The Tide have yet to suffer a home defeat this season, and last lost in Coleman to a Tennessee team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen last year.  Alabama has now won their last 14 straight in Tuscaloosa. Two of the last three Kentucky teams venturing into Coleman Coliseum have come away with a loss.


Season so far for Alabama:

Season record: 12-4, 2-1

This season, Alabama is playing their best basketball in years. They didn’t have a brutally tough pre-conference season, but they had some quality teams on there including Iowa St., Xavier, Wichita St. and UCLA. Unfortunately, they only managed to beat the Bruins, but did come very close against the Wichita St. Shockers, losing that game due to very poor play down the stretch.

Series history

Kentucky is 103-37 against Alabama but the Tide have been among the more successful SEC teams against Kentucky during the John Calipari era, as we already discussed. Historically, Alabama has had moments of success and failure. Perhaps their most successful decade was between 1980 and 1990, when the Wildcats went 16-11 against the Tide. In the John Calipari era, the Wildcats are 6-2 against Alabama with both losses coming in Tuscaloosa.


Alabama Roster:

No. Name Status Pos. Ht./Wt. Year Hometown (Last School)
3 Michael Kessens S+ F 6-9/223 SO Nyon, Switzerland (Longwood University)
10 Jimmie Taylor S** F 6-10/240 SO Greensboro, Ala. (Greensboro)
2 Ricky Tarrant S+ G 6-2/190 JR Pleasant Grove, Ala. (Tulane)
20 Levi Randolph S** G 6-5/208 SR Madison, Ala. (Bob Jones)
21 Rodney Cooper S** G 6-6/218 SR Hurtsboro, Ala. (Russell County)
1 Riley Norris MR G/F 6-7/207 FR Albertville, Ala. (Albertville)
5 Justin Coleman MR G 5-10/160 FR Birmingham, Ala. (Wenonah)
11 Shannon Hale MR* F 6-8/226 SO Johnson City, Tenn. (Christ School)
4 Jeff Garrett R F 6-7/206 FR Gadsden, Ala. (Oldsmar Christian School)
23 Devin Mitchell R G 6-4/182 FR Suwanee, Ga. (Collins Hill)
32 Retin Obasohan R* G 6-1/208 RS JR Antwerp, Belgium (K.A. Redingenhof)
35 Dakota Slaughter R* F 6-6/220 SR Fishers, Ind. (Fishers)
41 John Gibson R@ F 6-7/220 SO Marietta, Ga. (Xavier (La.) University)

Ole miss basketball
S Starter
MR Major reserve
R Reserve
* Returning player
** Returning starter
+ Eligible transfer/red shirt
- Ineligible
@ Walk on
& Injured, not available


Team Comparison

Rank and Records UK Bama
RPI #2 #43
Strength of Schedule #5 #78
Overall 16-0 12-4
Conference 3-0 2-1
Home 12-0 10-0
Away 2-0 1-3
Top 25 4-0 0-2
RPI Top 50 6-0 1-3 #2 #37


Four Factors

kentucky-alabama four factors

Alabama Team Notes

  • Alabama is a very good defensive team, but struggles somewhat offensively. They are much better defensively than last year, but no better on offense.
  • The Tide does not turn the ball over a lot, but forces almost 22% turnovers from their opponents.
  • Alabama is a surprisingly poor offensive rebounding team. They are only an average defensive rebounding team.
  • Alabama gets to the line very well, slightly better than Kentucky.
  • The Tide this year takes significantly more 3-pointers than they have in recent years. Almost 40% of their shot attempts are from outside the arc.
  • Alabama is mostly a man-to-man team historically but they will play some zone and have been playing a lot of it this year. I expect to see quite a bit of zone against Kentucky.
  • Alabama is aggressive on defense and has almost as high a steals percentage as Kentucky.

Alabama Player notes

  • Senior Levi Randolph is the leading scorer and most efficient player on the team. He is the 61st most efficient player in Division I, takes great care of the ball, defends and generally does it all. He’s a solid, but not great, shooter from distance.
  • Junior Tulane transfer Ricky Tarrant is a dangerous slashing point guard who shoots a very high percentage inside the arc. He’s not a deadly 3-point shooter, but he can make them.
  • Michael Kessens is a transfer from Longwood who has solid skills inside, shooting 62.5%. He is the best reboundier on the team, and leads the team in blocked shots.
  • Jimmie Taylor is the size on the inside. He collects the garbage and is a good rebounder
  • Rodney cooper is a senior swingman who shoots a high percentage inside and out, and is the second most efficient player on the squad. He makes over 40% from the arc.
  • Shannon Hale is one of the first off the bench, and is the Tide’s best big defender.



  • Alex Poythress is out for the year with a torn ACL.
  • Last night, word came Hawkins may be out today:


  • Christophe Varidel is out for the season with an illness.

Likely matchups


  • Ricky Tarrant vs. Dominque Hawkins/Tyler Ulis — Tarrant has good size for a lead guard, is very strong and can get to the rim and finish. He’s not a great shooter, but he’s big and thick enough that Kentucky will have to respect his size. Hawkins is a very good defender, though, so he should be able to handle him. Offensively, Hawkins will be okay, but he’s not that big a threat anyway.

    Tyler Ulis will have to work very hard to prevent Tarrant from getting to the rim against him when he’s in. Ulis is perhaps quicker, but Tarrant takes very good care of the ball. Offensively, Ulis should be just fine.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Levi Randolph vs. Andrew Harrison/Devin Booker — Randolph is a very tough match-up for Andrew Harrison. Randolph is experienced, long, and a good shooter inside and out, although he’s a fairly reluctant 3-point shooter. Randolph is a good defender as well, and long enough to guard Andrew everywhere on the floor.

    The match-up against Booker is very similar, except Booker is not as strong, but can really shoot it. Randolph will not be able to help off him.

Advantage: Push

  • Rodney Cooper vs. Aaron Harrison/Trey Lyles — Cooper is skilled, and a dangerous shooter who can put up numbers, and has great size. He can shoot well from three and finishes really well inside. Aaron is big enough to handle him, but has no advantage in any aspect. Cooper shoots the ball better than Aaron does.

    Lyles is a different story. He’s so big that he’ll force Cooper to put it on the floor and face Kentucky’s size and length. Offensively, Lyles is too much of a load for Cooper either in the post or in midrange.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Michael Kessens vs. Willie Cauley-Stein/Marcus Lee — Kessens is a good rebounder, but against the size, length and athleticism of WCS, he is disadvantaged. Same is true of Marcus Lee. Lee is too quick and long for Kessens.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Jimmie Taylor vs. Karl-Anthony Towns/Dakari Johnson — Taylor is a big body, but lacks the skill necessary to deal with either Towns or Johnson.

Advantage: Kentucky


Riley Norris, Justin Coleman and Shannon Hale are all solid players, but none of them matches up well with any of their Kentucky counterparts. As is true of most teams, Kentucky has a deeper and more talented bench.

Advantage: Kentucky


Alabama is a good team and very dangerous at home. Kentucky is going to have to bring their best to this contest or face a very challenging game. Alabama is disciplined, experienced and fairly talented. They are not a great offensive team, but they can get hot, especially at home, and they have enough 3-point shooting this year to be a serious threat if Kentucky does not focus on guarding the perimeter.

Realistically, the Tide’s best chance is to find a way to get hot from the outside and force a high percentage of turnovers. The way they defend, it is possible for them to generate enough turnovers to make the game competitive. Their shooting hasn’t been great this year, but it has been there at times.

Kentucky must force the Alabama shooters off the 3-point line, or force them to shoot under heavy pressure, like they did to Missouri. If the Wildcats can force the Tide to under 35% 3-point shots, or force them to shoot 30% or lower, it will be hard for Alabama to win due to the lack of a serious interior scoring threat. Alabama is also not a very good transition defensive team, so if the Wildcats can get into transition, it would be very beneficial.

Alabama is a guard-dominant team who will try to beat Kentucky from the perimeter, and with pressure defense. If the Wildcats take care of the ball, get it into the post and wait for good, open looks while forcing Alabama to put the ball on the floor, they should be able to handle the Tide. But if Alabama can turn Kentucky over and make some outside shots, we could be in for yet another barn-burner.