First scouting report: Kentucky men’s basketball vs. Alabama

A preview of the Kentucky Wildcats’ upcoming men’s basketball game:

The adversary

No. 5 Kentucky (18-4, 7-2 SEC) will face Alabama (14-8, 4-5 SEC) on Saturday at the Coleman Coliseum (15,316 capacity) on the campus of the University of Alabama to Tuscaloosa:

The SEC game will begin at 8 p.m. EST and will be broadcast by ESPN.

Coach Nate Oats’ Crimson Tide lost to Auburn 100-81 on Tuesday night.

Series history

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Alabama 114-40, but the Crimson Tide has won two straight and three of the last five.

Most recent meeting

Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford had 21 points and five rebounds and forward Herbert Jones just missed a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as the No. 9 Crimson Tide rallied late to defeat Kentucky 70-59 on January 26, 2021, at Coleman Coliseum.

AP21027087399898.jpg
Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford (5) had 21 points and five rebounds in the Crimson Tide’s 70-59 win over Kentucky last season in Tuscaloosa. It was Bama’s second of two wins against the United Kingdom in 2020-21. hunt vasha PA

Power ratings

In Tuesday’s games, the NCAA’s NET rankings had Kentucky No. 7 and Alabama No. 22.

The Kenpom Rankings ranked the UK No. 2 and Alabama No. 18.

Kentucky was No. 7 in the Sagarin Rankings with No. 20 Alabama.

Know your enemy

1. Alabama beat Kentucky twice last season, winning the tight game in Tuscaloosa (see above) just weeks after hanging an 85-65 win over the Wildcats at Rupp Arena.

Crimson Tide’s two wins over the Cats made Nate Oats the first Crimson Tide head coach to beat the Wildcats twice in the regular season since Wimp Sanderson did so in 1988-89.

Oats also became the first SEC coach to beat Kentucky twice during the regular season since Florida’s Mike White and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes each pinned a pair of losses to the Cats in 2017-18 (Barnes has also beat the UK twice in 2018-19, but one of those wins came in the semi-finals of the SEC tournament).

Overall, Oats is 2-2 against Great Britain.

Oats lost to the Wildcats 95-75 in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Round of 16 while chief at Buffalo and 76-67 at Rupp Arena in 2019-20, his first season as Alabama chief.

CalipariOats.JPG
Last season, Alabama coach Nate Oats, left, became the first SEC coach to beat Kentucky and John Calipari twice in the regular season since 2017-18. Marc Mahan

2. Alabama in 2021-22 has been the ultimate “play your opponent’s level” team.

On the plus side, the Crimson Tide picked up three victories in last season’s Final Four – then beating No. 3 Gonzaga 91-82 on Dec. 3 in Seattle; then no. 11 Houston 83-82 at Tuscaloosa on Dec. 11; and reigning national champion, then no. 4 Baylor 87-78 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge last Saturday.

Alabama also had wins with the SEC over the era. 14 Tennessee, 73-68 on Dec. 29, then-No. 13 LSU, 70-67 on Jan. 19, both at Tuscaloosa.

However, Bama also suffered defeats against struggling teams in Memphis, 92-78, on December 14; Missouri, 92-86, January 8; and Georgia, 82-76, on Jan. 25.

The Tide also lost to two major, albeit strong, foes in Iona, 72-68, on November 25 in Orlando; and Davidson, 79-78, December 21, in Birmingham.

3. Veteran guards Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis play the lead roles for Alabama.

Shackleford, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior, is Bama’s top scorer, averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and making 37.3 percent of his three-point attempts.

A transfer from Villanova, the 6-1, 175-pound Quinerly, a junior, is averaging 14.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg and a team-best 4.3 assists.

Ellis, a 6-foot-6, 175-pound senior, is averaging 12 points per game, 6.2 rounds per game and making 35.3 percent of his three-point tries.

Related stories from the head of the Lexington Herald

Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since August 27, 1990 and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I’ve covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every basketball game UK-U of L match but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
Support my work with a digital subscription

Amanda J. Marsh