Since losing at South Carolina, UK has reeled off three quality wins, all by double digits. Two of those have come against solid teams in Vanderbilt and Mississippi. Then Saturday, UK just dismantled LSU on the road, even with John Wall having his lowest point total of the season. Tuesday night the Alabama Crimson Tide roll into Rupp. When I looked at the roster, I thought I had the wrong team because for the first time in what seems like a decade, Ronald Steele was not part of the team.
Alabama surprised a lot of people early in the season, coming out of the gate 11-4 including a couple of quality wins over Baylor and Michigan (the Michigan win doesn’t look as good now). They also played Purdue tough. The Tide have hit hard times though losing 6 of their last eight. So, they are a team coming into Rupp in desperate need of a quality win. Unfortunately, I think they are hitting the Blue at a bad time. I think UK is playing as well now as they have all season. They are in the middle of conference play and have responded well to the loss at South Carolina.
Like most teams, Alabama doesn’t have enough horses to win a game at Rupp. They’re outmatched at every position, have a new head coach and are not playing great ball right now. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the game.
Biggest Threats – Alabama’s two best players are Mickail Torrence and Jamychal Green. Torrence is the top scorer and is capable of putting up some big numbers. He averages 15 points and 5.6 assists per game. He’s a decent 3 point shooter and will let it go if you give him space. I don’t expect him to have a huge game because he will have his hands full on the defensive end with Wall. Trying to keep Wall under control, takes a lot of effort. The same goes with Green who will be completely overwhelmed by Demarcus Cousins. Cousins will have his way, just as he has with pretty much every other team in the conference. Green averages 15 and 7 in 27 minutes compared to Cousins’ 16 and 10 in 21 minutes. I expect Green to get in foul trouble early and having to sit a good portion of the first half. Boogie has been able to get opposing front lines in foul trouble in conference play by being aggressive early in the games.
Alabama will shoot alot of 3 pointers if left open and have several guys that can be streaky from outside – Torrence, Charvez Davis and Anthony Brock. UK has had trouble clamping down on the three several times this year, so this really is the key defensively for UK. If Alabama has any chance of winning this game, it will be due to them getting hot from outside. UK is going to dominate this matchup in the post, both scoring and rebounding so Alabama will have to do it’s damage from the outside.
There are always a few themes I am interested in for each game. Here is what I’ll be paying attention to on Tuesday night:
– How aggressive Patterson is offensively. It’s been 10 straight games without P-Pat getting a double double. He’s played well, but I know Calipari has been working with him on being more aggressive, particularly on the glass.
– Will Darius Miller show up? Miller is in a real slummp. I actually think he has played better coming off the bench than he did when he was starting. It hasn’t translated to more scoring, but he seems to be more involved in the game. Darius needs a confidence boost and a strong outing against Alabama could help.
– If the Blue gets out to a big lead, can they extend it to put the game away early, like they did against LSU?
In the end, I just don’t think Alabama can compete with UK. I think they surprised some teams early in the year, but they were playing ahead of schedule. Anthony Grant is a great coach and will have Alabama challenging in the West division in a year or two, but they aren’t ready yet. I expect Cousins to come out strong in the beginning again. Wall will have a bounce back game after scoring his career low 6 against LSU, and Patterson will be his steady self. I think UK wins by 16. Bet on it.