Saturday, January 09, 2016

Game Preview - Kentucky

After a tough loss at Ole Miss to open conference play, Alabama will return home for their conference opener against the Kentucky Wildcats. The Cats are currently ranked 9th in the AP Top 25, but are expected to drop in the poll after receiving an 18 point beatdown at the hands of LSU in Baton Rouge on Tuesday night. The game will be televised on the SEC Network at 5:00 PM. Kentucky is a 6.5 point favorite, but Alabama is a trendy upset pick. I will be unable to watch this game live as I will be performing the role of "Husband" in a stage production of "Married Man Pleases Wife By Attending Social Function." My hope is to come home and watch a DVR replay of Avery Johnson's first SEC win. Also hoping Tide fans turn out in force in Coleman, the Monday night game be damned. This team and coaching staff are competing like hell. Tide fans have got to start showing more enthusiasm for what these guys are doing.  

Stats


Alabama
Kentucky



66.4 PPG 77.6
65.6 OPP 67.2
.435 FG% .469
.391 OPP .408
.340 3PT% .316
.345 OPP .305
.667 FT% .651
.696 OPP .705
34.2 RPG 39.3
37.4 OPP 33.2
14.6 TOPG 13.0
13.5 OPP 13.9

Tyler Ulis is the leader of this team, and one of the best point guards in the league. If he plays well this Kentucky team typically follows. Ulis has been asked to score more for this team, and he has responded with a 14.2 average. He's also averaging 3.2 rpg, 5.5 apg and 1.4 spg. Jamal Murray leads the team in scoring at 17.1 ppg. He's also the best 3-point shooter on the team at 38%. In order for Alabama to upset Kentucky, they must limit the effectiveness of Ulis and Murray. Isaiah Briscoe is the other double digit scorer for this team at 10.5 ppg. He's an athletic guy who likes to get to the rim, primarily because he has really struggled to shoot the ball this season (19% from the 3-pt line, a staggering 35% from the free throw line).

I think the major key to this game will be which team gets the most production from their big guys. This Kentucky team has not been as imposing up front as they have been in recent seasons. For a team like Alabama that has struggled to rebound the ball, that offers hope. In the loss at LSU, UK's trio of big men, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere combined for a total of 7 pts, 8 rebs and 0 blks. LSU has arguably more talent up front than Alabama does, but those numbers reflect the inconsistencies that have troubled the UK big men all year. Alabama has had their own share of problems up front, which was in clear view on Thursday when Saiz for Ole Miss bullied our guys inside, racking up 16 rebounds and 21 points. Jimmie must avoid foul trouble and be a defensive presence, Mike must play with the passion he showed on Thursday (his best game of the season by far), Donta must produce in limited minutes, and Riley and Shannon must also provide help on the boards at the 4 (or 3, depending on the line-up). The paint is where this game will be won or lost.

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