College Basketball Odds & Picks for Alabama vs. Kentucky: Betting Guide for SEC Clash
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Oscar Tshiebwe.
- No. 4 Kentucky hosts No. 25 Alabama in an SEC showdown at Rupp Arena.
- The Wildcats are coming off of a blowout loss against Tennessee while the Crimson Tide have won three in a row.
- Shane McNichol breaks down the game and offers up his best bet.
Alabama vs. Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
There is simply no team harder to define in college basketball this season than this Crimson Tide club.
Nate Oats and his team have stacked a pile of impressive wins that can compete with any team in America. Victories over Gonzaga, Houston, Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas and Baylor make the Tide look like one of the elite teams in the sport. Losses to Iona, a streaky Memphis team, Davidson, Missouri, and Georgia offer some pause.
Alabama has played the single toughest schedule in college basketball, according to KenPom, which has boosted its ratings across the analytics space. KenPom has the Tide inside the top 20, the highest-ranking team with at least eight losses.
The Tide have swung between juggernaut and disappointment in large part due to a high-variance style of play. This season, 47% of Alabama’s field goals have come from long range, 19th-highest in Division I. The Tide, however, are shooting only 30.8% from deep and have been even worse in SEC play, managing only 27.9% on 3-pointers.
Oats has his guys push the pace; the Tide leading the SEC in tempo. Alabama wants as many possessions as possible, with each of those possessions concluding in a shot at the rim or a 3-point attempt.
For a team loaded with shooters, that’s a high ceiling way to play. For this streaky Alabama team, it creates a low floor. Just look to Alabama’s last meeting with Kentucky, when the Tide shot 3-of-30 from outside the arc and managed a measly 55 points on 0.74 points per possession.
This is not your prototypical John Calipari Kentucky team.
These Wildcats only have one freshman making major contributions and instead rely on a combination of returning talent and transfers.
The most critical of those transfers has been Oscar Tshiebwe, the former West Virginia big man who is among the contenders for National Player of the Year. Tshiebwe leads the nation in rebounding rate on both sides of the floor. When a shot is in the air, Tshiebwe has an unparalleled ability to track any missed shot and either grab the ball or tip it to himself in space.
Tshiebwe’s grunt work in the paint alleviates so many possible issues for Kentucky’s offense. His offensive rebounding creates both putbacks at the rim for himself as well as kick-outs for 3s. It also gives Kentucky a chance to reset and control the pace of the game.
Around Tshiebwe, Calipari has built an Avengers-like roster of veterans with complementary skills. Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler is a blur with the ball and penetrates into the paint. Davidson transfer Kellan Grady is a high-level shooter. Jacob Toppin, brother of Knicks forward Obi Toppin, is Kentucky’s most aerial athlete. Davion Mintz, a former Creighton Bluejay, is a steady backcourt presence.
The one freshman who does produce for Kentucky is TyTy Washington, a dynamic guard who can create in space. When he plays to his potential, the Wildcats look like one of the teams to beat in March.
In Kentucky’s 20 wins when he has played, Washington is scoring 14.2 points per game on 50% shooting. In the Wildcats’ five losses, Washington has posted just 5.6 points per game on 31% shooting.
Washington, however, is currently nicked up. He left Kentucky’s game against Florida with an injury and played in the Wildcats’ loss to Tennessee but left again.
Calipari has said publicly that he regrets playing Washington against the Vols. Washington’s status is uncertain for this game, though Kentucky did narrowly win the only game he missed this season.
Alabama vs. Kentucky Betting Pick
This game opened with Kentucky laying nine points. At that price, the Tide are an intriguing bet on the road. If Washington misses the game, Alabama could have the same kind of high-octane scoring performance that has fueled its wins over other top teams.
Now that the spread has shrunk to 6.5 points, though, Kentucky makes more sense as the side to support. Even if Washington does not play, Kentucky has some guard depth and Tshiebwe should dominate inside the paint.
Bart Torvik‘s models project this game as a 12-point Kentucky win, and Washington’s impact should not swing it by that many points.
Kentucky, laying less than three possessions-worth of points, should be the bet here at home.
Pick: Kentucky -6.5 or Better