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Kentucky vs. Alabama: Analysis, expert picks & predictions

How oddsmakers and experts view Kentucky vs. Alabama.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

A new year is here, but head coach John Calipari plans to keep his team’s recent success intact, as the Kentucky Wildcats travel to the Alabama Crimson Tide for their SEC opener.

At 10-2, the Wildcats are only a game ahead of the 9-3 Crimson Tide. However, Kentucky boasts a 11th NCAA net ranking compared to Alabama’s 69th ranking.

On Saturday, the two teams will collide in Tuscaloosa, where the Wildcats will play their third consecutive game away from Rupp Arena. While Kentucky is playing their best basketball of the season, emphasis on maintaining their quality play will be significant.

Analysis

Kentucky has won games via contributions from all five starting positions. Ashton Hagans, defensively, willed the Wildcats to victory over North Carolina before the Christmas holiday. At Louisville, it was his backcourt teammate Tyler Herro who earned the game MVP.

Amidst Kentucky’s early-season struggles and into their elevated production, freshman sensation Keldon Johnson has been the team’s go-to star in crunch time minutes.

In the front court, Calipari’s duo of PJ Washington and Reid Travis have single-handedly denied the “position-less” era of basketball by man-handling opponents inside the painted area.

While the Wildcats are far from the “platoon” team many experts and fans expected them to be, winning games and developing players who want to put in the work are the only two tasks on Calipari’s agenda.

For Alabama, Avery Johnson’s club lost Collin Sexton last summer to the NBA draft. With veteran contributors around him, Sexton willed a Crimson Tide squad to an impressive SEC tournament performance as well as a NCAA tournament berth.

This season, it’s mostly been a 1-2 punch of guard Kira Lewis Jr. & forward Donta Hall. One of the two has been Alabama’s leading scorer in 10 of Alabama’s first 12 games, which will require a defensive-focus from Hagans as well as Kentucky’s front court.

Alabama does have some questionable losses (Georgia State and Northeastern), but they do have five wins over KenPom top-80 teams.

Betting Trends

Kentucky opened as a 4.5-point favorite at Alabama. The Wildcats are 3-0 against the spread over their last two games, including as a 2.5-point underdog to North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic.

Here are some more recent bettings trends for both teams:

  • Kentucky is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games
  • Kentucky is 10-1 SU in its last 11 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Kentucky’s last 7 games
  • Kentucky is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
  • Kentucky is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games on the road
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 6 games on the road
  • Kentucky is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing Alabama
  • Kentucky is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Alabama
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 5 games when playing Alabama
  • Kentucky is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Alabama
  • Kentucky is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Alabama

Expert Picks

A 8-0 sweep through the A Sea of Blue roundtable favors none other than the Wildcats, with the predicted scores averaging a victorious margin of more than 12 points.

Ryan of Topbet.eu is in unison, predicting a 78-63 victory by the Wildcats.

Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated appears to also be around that 12-point margin, prediction a Wildcats score of 83-70.

Prediction

Three consecutive road tests would seem tough for a mostly-freshman lineup. However, by judging Kentucky’s mental composure against North Carolina and Louisville, Calipari should have a more than favorable chances of adding another tally to his win column this Saturday.

Defense has been an area of significant improvement since the addition of Hagans to the starting lineup, as his efforts seem to be contagious across all positions.

Offensive usage of both Travis and Washington has slightly declined, but the movement favors a more balanced attack in Kentucky’s offense that is less predictable.

Alabama is well-coached and should strongly contest early but Kentucky should pull away in the second half for their 11th victory of the season.

Final score: Kentucky 81, Alabama 69