Alabama Basketball: Why the Crimson Tide can beat Kentucky

Alabama Basketball can beat Kentucky on Friday. That statement runs counter to what every college basketball expert believes, but it is an attitude Nate Oats’ team must have to take down the Cats.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the game doesn’t matter to Kentucky. In the bluegrass state, failing to win an SEC Tournament is a cardinal sin. The Cats have won 31 of the championships and each one matters. The Crimson Tide is second among SEC teams with seven SEC Tournament championships. Alabama beat the Wildcats for one of the seven – in Lexington, back in 1982.

The Cats will also use the SEC Tournament as an opportunity to propel themselves from a currently predicted NCAA Tournament 2-seed to a 1-seed. Unlike the last game, John Calipari will also have his full group of regular players.

Because of these circumstances and because the Cats are the more talented team, they will probably down the Tide on Friday. But the Crimson Tide could pull off the upset and there are several reasons why.

Reasons Why Alabama Basketball Beats the Wildcats

  • The Wildcats, led by Kellan Grady shot 64.3% from three, while beating the Tide 90-81 in Lexington. Kellen Grady will not shoot 77.8% from outside the arc in Tampa.
  • Alabama will not shoot 40, 3-point shots as it did in Lexington. It will shoot plenty of threes but getting to the rim will be a priority. Too much reliance on perimeter shooting contributed to the Tide shooting only nine foul shots in Lexington.
  • Oscar Tshiebwe is an outstanding player. He is unselfish and does not force shots. Charles Bediako has shown he can bother Tshiebwe with the threat of blocked shots. There are two big ‘Ifs’ – if Bediako can block a couple of shots early AND stay out of foul trouble by not trying to block everything near him.
  • Alabama will not replicate the turnover explosion it has had in five of its last seven games.
  • Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackleford are due to be hot in the same game. When both are hitting threes, the rest of the Tide offense flows better and is more productive.

Admittedly, of the five keys for the Tide to beat the Cats, probably four are essential. Alabama must play one of its best games of the season to win. It is capable of doing that.

An average Crimson Tide performance will not be near enough to defeat the statistically superior Wildcats. Based only on SEC games, Kentucky is the much better defensive team; the better overall shooting team; the better 3-point shooting team. They are also better at defending the three-point shot and fewer turnovers per possession.

Alabama has a small statistical advantage at offensive rebounding and free-throw shooting percentage.

Note: Team and player stats from sports-reference.com and rolltide.com.

The Crimson Tide has some first game work to do on Thursday night against Vanderbilt before it can advance to playing Kentucky.