Alabama Basketball: A little history of the Tide and the Cats in Lexington


The Wildcats have long been the ‘Alabama football’ of SEC basketball. Not this year though, and that is why Alabama basketball should win in Lexington.

Alabama basketball plays the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday in Lexington and any oddsmaker that does not favor the Tide is wrong. History of the rivalry is heavily on the side of the Wildcats. Over the last forty years, in 71 games, the Crimson Tide has only won against the Cats 20 times.

Fourteen of those wins have come in Tuscaloosa and only six in Lexington. The most notable of those road wins was in 1983. In an era when the SEC Basketball Tournament was held at campus sites, the Tide beat the Cats in Lexington to win the tournament championship. It was a shock to Wildcat fans but it should not have been. One of the Alabama basketball greats, Ennis Whatley was the best player in the tournament.

Alabama basketball was loaded with talent that season. Along with Ennis, the Tide had Bobby Lee Hurt, Buck Johnson, Mike Davis and Eric Richardson. Alabama football fans might recognize another member of the roster, Rex Jones. Rex’s son is Barrett Jones.

History will not matter Saturday

Of course, none of that history will matter Saturday. The Big Blue Nation will be frothing for its team to end a four-game streak of losses. Who could have dreamed when the season began in November this game would be more important for Kentucky than for Alabama? But it is. The Cats should make the NCAA tournament field but doing so is not guaranteed.

All Alabama basketball has to do to make the ‘Big Dance’ is win two home games and not lose to a weak team in its first SEC tournament game. At 17-9 now, the Tide should ‘dance’ with 19 wins and certainly with 20.

The Alabama basketball youngsters, playing in Lexington for the first time, may find it daunting. The crowd situation favors Kentucky. Like all SEC road teams, the Tide will also have to battle home-friendly officiating. Nothing else favors the Cats.

Coaching is not in the favor of the Wildcats. John Calipari is a skilled roster-builder, but only an average game coach. Alabama basketball is the better team. Better both defensively and at making field goals, twos, and threes. The Tide can struggle at the foul line but the Cats are worse. The Wildcats are also more turnover prone than the Tide.

As long as the Tide maintains composure and keeps Hall, Sexton and Key out of foul trouble, the Tide should win. Alabama basketball fans may not know the Tide should win Saturday. The same is not true for the Tide players. They will be tested and it will be interesting to see how they respond. But we believe they will step on the court in Rupp expecting to win.

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On a Thursday radio broadcast, former Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson said Auburn and Alabama are the two best teams in the SEC. We think he is correct.