Alabama will close out a brutal three game stretch tonight when John Calipari’s 5th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats visit Tuscaloosa. The ‘Cats gave the rest of the league a bit of a reprieve last season with their worst winning percentage in nearly a century, but they are back with a vengeance this season.
An Alabama team that was dominated on Tuesday by Auburn 7-footer Walker Kessler now gets to tangle with West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe. The powerful 6’9” 250 pounder has been a terror on the glass this season, leading the nation with a 28.5% total rebounding percentage. He averages five offensive and 10 defensive rebounds in 30 minutes a game, to go with his 16.1 points and 1.5 blocks. The Tide will have to do a much better job on the interior if they are to have a chance in this one.
While he is on the short list for National Player of the Year honors, Tshiebwe is hardly a one man band. The backcourt tandem of soon-to-be lottery pick TyTy Washington and Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler is among the best in the nation. Wheeler has been the key distributor at over 7 assists per game. On the wings are sharpshooter Kellan Grady, who boasts a cool 44% from three on high volume, and long defensive stopper Keion Brooks. Davion Mintz is the first man off the bench and shoots 35% from three, and we’ll also see backup bigs Jacob Toppin and Daimion Collins, and sophomore forward Lance Ware has been coming on lately.
Kentucky isn’t a great three point shooting team overall and they don’t try to be, taking only 18 attempts per game which ranks 306th in the nation. They do score the basketball, however, and Tshiebwe often cleans up when they don’t. This won’t be an easy task by any stretch, but it’s also not impossible. In fact, Alabama is actually favored by 1.5 according to DraftKings sportsbook. If we see the version of Alabama that we have seen in most of the bigger games, with defensive effort and decent shooting, then the fans in Coleman will likely go home happy. If not, look out.
Hope for the best.
Location: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, AL
Date: February 5, 2022
Time: 7pm CT
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.