We're almost back to gameday for the Kentucky Wildcats.
After a week off, UK begins postseason play Friday night as they open SEC Tournament play. With Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament next week, the Cats have this weekend to make one final push for a higher seed in the Big Dance if they can make it to the SEC Championship on Sunday.
It's been a long season for these Cats as they've endured many highs and lows en route to a 23-8 record and a share of the SEC regular-season crown. Though few expected UK to suffer eight losses before their first conference tournament game began, there's no denying the major strides this team had made to now looking like a Final Four contender.
Up next for UK will be Alabama in the SEC Quarterfinals after the Crimson Tide ousted Ole Miss on Thursday. As was the case in that game, Bama is in must-win mode as they sit on the tournament bubble. They'll remain there unless they either win the SEC Tournament or score a signature win.
Beating Kentucky would certainly be that. Thus far, the Tide's best win is over Texas A&M, who figures to make the Big Dance as a 4 or 5 seed. That's what UK is looking at with it more likely being the latter if they lose to Alabama. This won't be an easy game for the Cats, as is the case anytime you're playing a bubble team in March, but it's one they should be able to come out of with a victory.
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow this SEC Quarterfinal matchup.
When: Friday, March 11, 2016
Location: Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network.
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network (Tom Leach, Mike Pratt)
Series: UK leads 107-37
Odds: UK opened as a 9-point favorite with some sites having them up to 12-point favorites, per Vegas Insider.
Projected Bama Starters
#32 G - Retin Obasohan, 6-2, 210 lbs
#4 G - Arthur Edwards, 6-6, 210 lbs
#1 F - Riley Norris, 6-7, 201 lbs
#3 F - Michael Kessens, 6-9, 228 lbs
#10 F - Jimmie Taylor, 6-10, 248 lbs
Projected UK Starters
#3 G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs
#13 G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs
#23 G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs
#35 F - Derek Willis, 6-9, 220 lbs
#22 F - Alex Poythress, 6-8, 230 lbs
Prediction: With so many upsets in other conference tournaments that have seen a host of bid-stealers already make a thin bubble even thinner, this is probably it for Bama.
A win here pushes them into the NCAA Tournament, but a loss keeps them on the outside looking in going into Selection Sunday. They've shown they're a team that should be in the Big Dance, and even though UK smacked them around twice already, beating a team three times is very hard, as if their do-or-die approach won't make them a tough enough out.
But in the end, Kentucky is simply the better team all around and has too much balance compared to the Tide, who rely heavily on Obasohan and don't get enough support elsewhere. The Cats prevail in a hard-fought win that's relatively close throughout, but not enough to make UK sweat it out.
Final Score: Kentucky 75, Alabama 64