basketball Edit

UK-Bama Predictions

Cats Illustrated staff members offer their thoughts and predictions before Kentucky's road contest against Alabama.

What are you most interested to see in the game?

Jeff Drummond: I think everyone is interested to see "which Alabama" shows up for this one. Will it be the Crimson Tide with wins over the likes of Gonzaga, Baylor, Houston, and LSU or the Crimson Tide that lost to Iona, Memphis, Georgia, and Missouri? Alabama has the most bizarre resume in college basketball, and Saturday is another opportunity for Nate Oats' team to make a statement. The matchups favor Kentucky in this one, but if the Tide get hot from the outside, they have shown can take anyone down.

Travis Graf: Alabama is one of if not the hardest team to scout in all of college basketball due to their offensive philosophy and inconsistent showings. The bad news for Kentucky is that they’ve seemed to play their best basketball against the best competition this season. The Tide might have the most impressive collection of wins in the entire country, having beaten Gonzaga, Baylor, LSU, and Houston. They shoot the 9th most three-pointers per game, so if they’re hitting at a high rate, they’re tough to beat.

David Sisk: Another Saturday, another marquee matchup that is as big as there is in the country. This time it is a trip to Tuscaloosa for a date with the Alabama Crimson Tide. There is no mystery about a Nate Oats coached team. It will be an up-tempo affair with a premium on three-pointers and finishes at the rim. Kentucky has the offensive weaponry to thrive in this type of game. I believe it will come down to which team can outlast the other. Any fears or nervousness about playing in another white-out should have been erased after last Saturday's convincing win in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. I fully expect two teams to play high quality basketball in Coleman Coliseum.

Justin Rowland: How will Kentucky handle those final eight minutes in a hostile road environment where Alabama has only lost one game this year? They're 10-1 at home, where this game is played, and 1-5 on the road. So it's as simple as Kentucky has to expect to play the best version of Alabama. How much poise will we see from Kentucky's players down the stretch there?

Will Keion Brooks do it for a fourth straight game? If he does, I'll be tempted to think he might be turning a corner. That would be a huge story. And finally, what about TyTy Washington? Does he get back on track?

I'm just excited for what should be one of the most fast-paced and fun games of the season.

Who needs to step up for Kentucky?

Drummond: TyTy Washington has been laying low of late, partly due to his sprained ankle in the Auburn game. He has not scored in double figures since netting 28 in the blowout of Tennessee (shooting 9-for-30 in his last four games) so I think the time is right for a big offensive night by the talented freshman.

Graf: This projects to be a high scoring basketball game and should set up for a fun pace of play. I have a feeling that Sahvir Wheeler is going to thrive in this setting and in this matchup. Wheeler gets to the rim and gets his teammates going with assists in and up and down contest.

Sisk: There are two names that stick out to me Saturday. The first is TyTy Washington. We all have seen the difference in Kentucky with and without their lead guard. Alabama is very top heavy in the backcourt spots with studs like Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, J.D. Davison, and Keon Ellis. Washington needs to be at his best, and to do that he must be healthy. The Wildcats' perimeters do not have to be dominant, but they do need to be really good to let the big men eat.

That brings us to Oscar Tshiebwe. Alabama is coming off an SEC Championship, and has underwhelmed to the extent of 14-8 overall and 4-5 in league play this year. The big difference in my humble opinion is the absence of Herb Jones. He could take over a game on either end of the floor, and was a rim protector second to none. It ain't the same this time around. Charles Bediako gives them the tallest, most athletic big, but at 7-foot, 225 pounds, he isn't ready for the physical specimen that is Oscar Tshiebwe. I understand there will be a lot of long rebounds because of all of the Alabama three's. But I also look for the Kentucky center to feast on the offensive boards.

Rowland: I like Jeff's TyTy pick. Kentucky has played at a very high level even when he hasn't done much in the way of scoring but if he can get back to 12 or 15 points at least then it's a different Kentucky team and you'd have to feel good about their chances.

What's your prediction for the game's outcome?

Drummond: Kentucky 89, Alabama 79 - Barring an alarming barrage of 3s from the Crimson Tide, the Cats have the edge nearly across the board in this matchup. Defensively, Bama should not be able to slow the Cats down.

Graf: Kentucky 85, Alabama 80. Alabama hits shots from the outside, but Kentucky hits their fair share as well. The backcourt duo of Wheeler and Washington lead the way with Grady and Mintz both hitting a few three-pointers.

Sisk: We know what Kentucky can do on the road with a full deck. If Washington is not at a high rate of health then there could be trouble. If he is good to go I think Kentucky is just too good from top to bottom. A wild home court will make it interesting, but Alabama isn't Auburn or Kansas. Kentucky 86 Alabama 80.

Rowland: Kentucky 84, Alabama 78. I do think this will be close for much of the game but the way the Cats have started to play on the road just recently it feels like a team that's taking on a mission away from home. They get back on track offensively in a much cleaner game, too.