Alabama Basketball ready for a high-scoring affair at Kentucky

Mississippi State v Alabama
Mississippi State v Alabama / Brandon Sumrall/GettyImages

Bama Hoops has produced the most potent offense in college basketball this season, and is set to take on a Kentucky team that uses a similar high-scoring approach. 

Neither the Crimson Tide nor the Wildcats are particularly imposing defensively, which has resulted in the highest scoring total betting line in college hoops since 2019. Both teams have improved on the defensive end of the floor, and will no doubt make adjustments to try to limit the explosive capability of each opposing offense. However, the scorers in this game are truly elite, and I believe offense will prevail as expected.

Kentucky's sharpshooting backcourt

Kentucky is led by its backcourt, which includes three of the most dangerous guards in the SEC. Senior Antonio Reeves is one of the best scorers in the conference, as well as in the country. He averages 19.7 points per game on efficient splits, connecting on nearly 50 percent of his field goal attempts and shooting over 44 percent from three-point range.

Reeves is a 5th-year senior who has scored well over 2,000 career points, including over 1,000 at two different schools (Illinois State and Kentucky). Even with all of this production on his resume, he is enjoying what has easily been the most efficient season of his career. The epitome of a polished backcourt scorer, he will be a difficult matchup for Alabama Basketball.

Crazy as it seems, Reeves may not even be the best pure scorer on his own team. Freshman guard Rob Dillingham is one of the best shot-makers in the sport, and can be virtually unstoppable when he finds a groove. Coming off the bench, Dillingham is equally efficient, shooting just under 50 percent from the field and over 44 percent from the perimeter. The freshman is also more natural as a creator, averaging nearly four assists per game to pair with his 15 points per night.

Fellow freshman Reed Sheppard has been a stat-stuffer, and a difference-maker on both ends of the floor. Sheppard averages just under 12 points and a team-high 4.1 assists per game. His shooting splits have been very impressive, particularly for a freshman. Sheppard doesn’t take a lot of shots, but connects on over 52 percent from the field and over 50 percent from three-point range. 

He is also a menace defensively, averaging an SEC-best 2.7 steals per game and adding 0.8 blocks per game despite being a 6’3” guard. 

Another freshman, guard DJ Wagner, averages 10.5 points per game and gives the Wildcats four backcourt players in double-figures. Wagner, however, is a volume shooter and is by far the least efficient of the bunch. 

What to make of Wildcats' sporadic frontcourt production?

The Kentucky frontcourt is deep and versatile, generating production using a committee approach. Senior Tre Mitchell (12.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG) is one of the leaders of the team and is easily its best offensive weapon in the frontcourt.

Sophomore Adou Thiero and freshman Justin Edwards give Coach Calipari the hyper-athletic forwards he likes to stockpile. Bama will have to keep Thiero and Edwards off the offensive glass, and should be wary of their disruptive defensive potential.

The X-factor in this game may be Kentucky’s pair of 7-foot youngsters. Sophomore Ugonna Onyenso and freshman Aaron Bradshaw give the Wildcats the length and shot-blocking presence that they will need to contend with Alabama. Onyenso and Bradshaw, however, have offered inconsistent contributions, similar in some ways to the Tide's own frontcourt.

In this matchup of high-level shot creators and elite guards, the game could very well be decided by which team’s bigs bring the most energy in Rupp Arena.