Alabama survived a bit of a scare from Mississippi State who brought it’s best effort Saturday evening. We all expected it to be a trap game and for State to bring it-but as Bobby stated in our recap...their best wasn’t enough. The Tide will next welcome Kentucky into Coleman Coliseum for a rematch of the manhandling Alabama handed the Cats in Rupp. Tip is set for 6:00 Tuesday night on ESPN2.
The Opponent: Up until this past weekend, Kentucky just hasn’t been a good team offensively. They’ve exhibited very little threat from the perimeter and haven’t yet developed a go to guy when a bucket is needed. Enter the abysmal LSU defense to provide a remedy and allow for Kentucky to find some offensive rhythm just in time for the trip to Coleman. Freshman Brandon Boston came out of his shell a bit to rack up 18 points against LSU. Calipari has stressed the importance of rebounding and limiting teams like LSU and Alabama to single opportunities on offense. Freshman and former Bama recruit Isaiah Jackson responded like a champion with 15 rebounds Saturday. Rest assured that Cal and the Cats will be set on that same mentality. Defense and rebounding will be the focus for Kentucky as they simply can’t outscore Alabama unless it has a very off night...or the Coleman officiating plague creates extra opportunities for Kentucky at the stripe.
Players to Watch: The 2 Cats mentioned above will be key to Kentucky having success against Alabama, as will Olivier Sarr. It’s freshman PG Devin Askew that I’ll have my eyes on, however. Calipari has stated that he will put a minutes cap on the talented freshman whom has seemed to struggle a bit once he reaches the 20 minute mark. Askew is a talented scorer and I expect he and Boston to try to go right at the Tide defenders in order to possibly create some foul trouble for an already thin Bama frontcourt.
Alabama will need contributions from the usual suspects but this will be a leadership and effort game. John Petty and Herb Jones will need to stress to their younger teammates just how important effort and energy are here. Having said that, Jaden Shackleford has been somewhat quiet of late despite having made some clutch shots. I expect him to be back to his hot handed ways Tuesday.
My Thoughts: It’s very hard to beat a good team twice. Kentucky will be the first team to get a crack at Alabama after having a chance to see themselves on film against them and make adjustments to counteract the things the Tide does so well. It’ll be up to Alabama to respond to those adjustments the best way possible-energy and effort. If Alabama does manage to come out and control this game then it’ll be official...the DNA has changed permanently. Alabama is much better and more experienced than Kentucky but the streak can’t last forever can it? I just have an awful feeling that we get an anomaly Tuesday night. Kentucky will shoot way over their heads and get as many trips to the stripe as they want. They’ll be desperate and playing to win whereas Alabama could find itself in a mindset of playing not to lose. KenPom only gives Kentucky a 19% chance to win. All of this gives me an eerie feeling. Let’s get it out of the way and regroup in time to face what will likely be a ranked Oklahoma team. We’re a better road team anyway.
Prediction: Kentucky 74, Alabama 73