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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Alabama: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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Kentucky Wildcats guard Rob Dillingham celebrating against LSU.
Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

After one of the biggest wins of the season, against Auburn, the Kentucky Wildcats suffered a tough loss on the road to LSU after going up as much as 15 points in the second half. As frustrating of a loss as that was, attention quickly turned toward Alabama who will come into Rupp Arena on Saturday.

In his fifth season at Alabama, head coach Nate Oats has put the Crimson Tide atop the SEC standings and in a position to win their 3rd SEC regular season in that span. Given they have just twelve in program history, that is an impressive feat.

Saturday’s matchup is almost certain to be an offensive showcase, with both teams having two of the best offenses in the country, Alabama 2nd and Kentucky 9th in KenPom offensive efficiency. Looking deeper, this year’s edition of Alabama excels in areas that can really give Kentucky fits with their perimeter shooting, rebounding, and physicality.

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That said, it is an opportunity for the Wildcats to get another quality win and regain some momentum with March just days away. Let’s dive into the matchup.

Defend the Three Point Line

A few weeks ago, John Calipari talked about this Kentucky team’s excellent three-point shooting and needing to guard the three better to have the advantage. “We gotta guard the three-ball better,” he said. “We shoot it so well, that should be our advantage. We can’t be even.”

There will be no bigger test of that than Saturday.

Both teams are top 15 in three-point percentage, Kentucky 1st (40.5%) and Alabama 15th (38%), and both have three players in the top ten of the SEC in three-point percentage, but they differ in how many they shoot. Kentucky averages 23.7 three-point attempts per game, which is above average, but Alabama averages more than 30 attempts, the fourth most in the country.

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With Alabama shooting such a high percentage from three, on a lot of attempts, they are going to make their share. However, Kentucky has to make those shots difficult and key in on top shooters like Mark Sears, Latrell Wrightsell, and Rylan Griffen who shoot 39% on five or more attempts per game.

Be Physical

For much of the season, Auburn was known to be a “bully” team, leaning into their physicality. Against Kentucky last weekend, the Wildcats were the more physical team, with Bruce Pearl going as far as saying he would be turning some plays in the SEC. That is the Kentucky team that needs to come out against Alabama.

The Crimson Tide are physical and one area that shows up prominently is on the boards, as they are a top ten rebounding team in the nation. It’s not just an Oscar Tshiebwe type of player doing most of the work, it is a team effort. Each Wildcat on the floor must box out.

In general, “Do what other teams do to us,” as Adout Thiero has said this season. Get into the guards and make them uncomfortable on the perimeter, don’t allow easy drives to the basket. Be the aggressor.

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Make Your Free Throws

Given Alabama’s physicality, they foul A LOT, amongst the highest rates in the country. That means Kentucky is not likely to get a lot of clean looks at the rim.

Fortunately, this one of Calipari’s best free throw shooting teams, shooting nearly 76 percent from the line, ranked top 50 nationally. In what is expected to be a close game, Kentucky can’t leave points on the board, as they did in losses to Florida, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. Aim to shoot 75% or better from the line.

Opposing Players to Watch

G Mark Sears 6-1, 185 lbs

  • 20.4 PPG (1st in SEC)
  • 4.1 APG (5th in SEC)
  • 43.9% 3P (8th in SEC)

F Grant Nelson 6-11, 230 lbs

  • 12.3 PPG
  • 5.6 RPG
  • 1.7 BPG (4th in SEC)

G Aaron Estrada 6-3, 190 lbs

  • 13.1 PPG
  • 5.0 RPG
  • 4.3 APG (3rd in SEC)

Kentucky Basketball vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Time: 4 PM EST on Feb. 24th
  • Location: Central Bank Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • TV Channel: CBS
  • Online Stream: CBS Sports and the CBS Sports app.
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: CBS Sports app check local listings.
  • Rosters: UK | BAMA
  • Stats to Know: UK | BAMA
  • KenPom: UK | BAMA
  • Team Sheet: UK | BAMA
  • Odds: The odds for the game have yet to be released, but check out SportsBetExpert for your picks. ESPN’s matchup predictor is the harshest on the Cats, giving them just a 38.2% chance at victory. Followed by KenPom at 43%, EvanMiya at 45.4%, and BartTorvik at 49%. DRatings is the one projection that is in favor of Kentucky, at 53.5%.
  • Predictions: All the projections expect a score game. DRatings has Kentucky winning narrowly, 88-86. Bart Torvik picks Kentucky to lose 92-91. Haslametrics and EvanMiya have them losing 89-88 and 90-89. KenPom expects a 90-88 loss for the Cats.
  • Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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