Kentucky is in dire need of a win in the midst of a Four-Game losing streak, the worst in John Calipari’s career as the team’s head coach. Sitting with a losing record in SEC play (6-7), the Wildcats may soon be on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, something not many could’ve predicted at this point. On the positive, only one Game was at home during this losing streak and that’s where they’ll be for this Game.
Alabama has won eight of its last 11 Games, but it’s been far from reliable in road Games, losing at both the Mississippi schools. Thrown in there, they also randomly won by 18 points at Florida. Kentucky is struggling and this is far from a freebie for a team that doesn’t have the top-end talent as previous versions for Calipari.
Don’t expect a lot of points in this Game between two of the worst rated offenses in the SEC. Most of Alabama’s damage comes from inside the arc with just a 30.9 shooting percentage from three to go with a turnover on more than 20 percent of possessions. Kentucky is similarly bad shooting just 28.2 percent from three, while turning it over almost as much. Neither offense will be helped much in this Game as the Tide lead the SEC in defensive efficiency and effective FG% allowed, while the Wildcats have the best three-point defense in the conference.
The funny thing is that Alabama probably has the most talented player in this Game in Collin Sexton, who is an expected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Sexton runs the show for the Crimson Tide with 18 points per Game and 3.5 assists, although he’s been dishing it out more in recent Games. He usually steps up his defensive Game when faced with a fellow high-end recruit and that’s what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green are.
Alabama has a chance for an upset, but it will need everyone else to play well with Dazon Ingram and John Petty in the backcOurt and Braxton Key and Donta Hall down low. Key and Hall get the task of dealing with Kevin Knox, Kentucky’s leading scorer. Knox has scored 37 points the last two Games and is the biggest threat on the team even though Gilgeous-Alexander has been extremely important at point guard. Knox has the ability to shoot from deep, but also work down low against smaller bigs and that’s what Alabama has.
The problem for the Wildcats this season has been inconsistent play from everyone else but those two guys and even then Knox doesn’t always show up. Green hasn’t found his role in the offense since returning from injury, PJ Washington rarely finds a good shot, Hamidou Diallo has disappointed and Wenyen Gabriel hasn’t figured out that he’s not a good shooter at just 32.8% from three and 56.1% from the free-throw line.
The only reason to back Kentucky is that it’s much better in Lexington. The Wildcats have lost twice at home, but both of those came by two points against what is believed to be better teams in Florida and Tennessee. Sexton could easily keep this Game close, but the rest of his team needs to help out. There’s a reason the Tide have lost by double digits on the road against Ole Miss and Georgia. If Hall and Ingram can’t get going against a team that’s similarly built, the advantage goes to Kentucky, simply because it’s at home.
Our Pick – Alabama +4.5