Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3) at Kentucky Wildcats (4-6)
- Game Time: 9 pm EST on Tuesday, January 12th.
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
- TV Channel: Today’s game can be seen on ESPN.
- Announcers: Karl Ravech and Dick Vitale will call tonight’s action.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN and fuboTV (free trial).
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington and on the UK Sports Network.
- Satellite Radio: XM - 192 | Internet - 963
- Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | BAMA
- Last Game Box Scores: UK | BAMA
- Stats to Know: UK | BAMA
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a one-point favorite, and the line is now three as of Tuesday evening. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 52.2% chance at winning. KenPom gives the Cats a 53% chance of winning.
- Prediction: TeamRankings has the Cats winning 75-72, while numberFire is projecting the same score. KenPom is predicting a 73-72 victory for Kentucky.
While we wait for tonight’s action, check out Kentucky’s all-access look at the win vs. Florida.
The Kentucky Wildcats are 3-0 in SEC play after a blowout win at Florida on Saturday. It was a win that nobody expected and was more impressive than we could have imagined.
But have the Wildcats turned the corner? Are they ready to show that they are a contender?
Tuesday’s matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide may be a good measuring stick.
Alabama comes into the game with a record of 9-3. They have looked very impressive at times, and they are also undefeated (4-0) in conference games. They have impressive wins over Tennessee and Florida, but they also have losses to Stanford, Clemson, and Western Kentucky.
The thing about Alabama is that head coach Nate Oats allows them to live and die by the three-point shot. The Crimson Tide have attempted 351 three-pointers this season, which is more than twice as many as Kentucky’s 167. They have the second-most attempts from deep in the conference and the third most makes (113), where the Cats have made the third-fewest in the SEC (52), though they have hit 19/47 (40%) over the last two games.
If Alabama comes out shooting well, it may be a long day for Kentucky. Bama has four players averaging 12 or more points per game, and all of them shoot better than 32% from three. Their leading scorer, Jaden Shackelford (13.1), shoots nearly 35% from deep and he leads the team with 69 attempts.
Jahvon Quinerly (13), Herbert Jones (12.9), and John Petty Jr. (12.3) round out the top scorers for the Crimson Tide. Petty’s numbers are actually down from his 14.4 ppg average last season, including a 16-point, seven-board, four-block performance in close loss to Kentucky in Lexington.
Jones, meanwhile, is having his best season, as the senior forward has six games of 16+ points this season while also registering a team-high 6.5 boards per game.
Alabama’s most recent win was a 94-90 shootout at Auburn, which saw the debut of Tigers guard Sharife Cooper, who scored a game-high 26 points. But Alabama was able to come away with a hard-fought win thanks to all five starters scoring in double figures, including a season-high 20 from senior forward Jordan Bruner. The former Yale star transferred to Tuscaloosa this offseason and is averaging 7.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks. The 6-10 big man is also shooting 32.3% from deep, so he’ll be a very tough guard for Kentucky’s frontcourt.
One other player to watch is starting guard Josh Primo, a highly-touted freshman averaging 7.7 points and just scored 22 (albeit on 5/17 shooting) at Auburn. He also had five boards, three assists and two steals. Most of the 6-6 guard’s field goals come from deep, where he’s shooting 34.8% for the season. His role has grown because Jahvon Quinerly has missed the last two games due to injury, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to go Tuesday in Lexington.
The Tide are one of the best in college hoops at forcing turnovers, as they currently rank 30th in steals per game (8.4). Kentucky ranks 162nd in steals allowed per game (6.4) and 221st in turnovers per game (14.5). The Cats had 14 turnovers in their recent win at Florida, another team that likes to pressure teams up and down the court.
It goes without saying the Tide have a very balanced attack that will require Kentucky to pay attention to every player on the floor on the defensive end.
Kentucky has also become a balanced team with five players putting up double digits every game. And that does not include Dontaie Allen, who is averaging 14.3 points in the last three games since he entered the regular rotation.
Keion Brooks Jr. made a splash in his season debut. Brooks brought much-needed energy to the floor and put up 12 points, six rebounds, and four points as the Wildcats dominated Florida on Saturday. I have a hunch that he will replace Lance Ware in the starting lineup moving forward, but that may come a few games down the road.
There are still questions with Kentucky’s roster. Will Terrence Clarke be available? Cam’Ron Fletcher is back with the team, but he has not appeared in either of the last two games. What will the allocation of minutes look like if either of those guys picks up minutes now that Allen and Brooks have made themselves necessary pieces of the rotation?
It is a shame that Kentucky is still figuring out so much about their team in mid-January, but in this COVID-19 season it is what it is. If the Wildcats look anything like they did in Gainesville on Saturday, Big Blue Nation has to feel good about their chances against Alabama on Tuesday.