Featured Video from Scott Steehn
Alabama vs. No. 4 Kentucky
When and Where: Friday, March 15, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn., 7 p.m., EST.
Fourth-ranked Kentucky looks to start making its case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Nashville when it faces an Alabama team continuing its late push to get on the right side of the bubble for the field of 68.
Alabama clinging to bubble hopes, seeks second win in two days
The 10th-seeded Crimson Tide (18-14) saw their season on the brink after 20 minutes Thursday when they trailed 38-24 at halftime to Ole Miss. Alabama erased a 16-point second-half deficit with a 19-3 run and then took the lead for good on a follow shot by John Petty with a minute to play, advancing with a 62-57 victory over the sixth-seeded Rebels.
— Alabama Athletics (@UA_Athletics) March 15, 2019
Tevin Mack hit four 3-pointers and finished with 21 points off the bench, but the Crimson Tide won the day with defense as they held the Rebels to 19 second-half points and scoreless for a 3:57 stretch when they used a 13-0 run to get back in contention.
The win helped Alabama’s chances on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but its non-conference schedule is a mixed bag with wins over automatic bid winners Liberty and Murray State and losses to potential NCAA Tournament teams UCF and Georgia State. That makes getting a second win over Kentucky — the Tide opened SEC play with a 77-75 victory over the Wildcats at home Jan. 5 — vital for any chance to be in the field whether it be the First Four or directly into the final 64.
Mack had another big game in that upset victory but as a starter. He hit 6 of 8 from beyond the arc and finished with 22 points as all five starters finished in double figures. Alabama offset 17 turnovers by connecting on 10 3-pointers while holding Kentucky to 5 of 18 from deep.
Alabama is seeking its second straight trip to the SEC tournament semifinals after getting there last year as a No. 9 seed and upsetting top-seeded Auburn in the quarterfinals before losing to Kentucky. The Crimson Tide have not been to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments since a five-year run from 2002-06.
Wildcats try to play their way onto top line for NCAA tourney
With the potential for three ACC teams to be top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, fourth-ranked and second-seeded Kentucky (26-5) would appear to have an inside track to the remaining No. 1 if it can navigate its way through Nashville and win its fifth consecutive SEC tournament.
We are 16-2 vs. Alabama all-time in the #SECTourney but remember the Crimson Tide got the better of us in the lone matchup in the regular season, winning 77-75 in Tuscaloosa in January.
Let's see what round 2 holds in store for us tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/Rst42kdf9v
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 15, 2019
Much like the regular season, the Wildcats have dominated the SEC tournament. They have won it 31 times — no other school has done so more than Alabama’s six. Kentucky is trying to become the first team to win five straight SEC tournaments since it had a seven-year stranglehold on the event from 1944-50.
Kentucky will also be at full strength for this game as starting forward Reid Travis has been cleared to play. The senior, who averages 11.3 points and 6.9 rebounds, missed five games with a sprained knee. While the Wildcats did go 4-1 without him after closing the season with a 66-57 victory over Florida on Saturday, they were far from the elite team touted as a Final Four contender and possible NCAA Tournament champion.
Cal said Reid Travis will play tomorrow. Has been surprised by where he’s at, further along than he thought. Not sure yet if he’ll stick with him playing in 5-7 min spurts pic.twitter.com/AKZdeUTOTw
— Eli Gehn (@EliGehnLEX18) March 15, 2019
Kentucky is 16-2 all-time in the SEC tournament versus Alabama and has a chance to eliminate the Tide for the fourth straight year. The Wildcats won the previous three tourney matchups by a combined 54 points, but the January loss in Tuscaloosa ended a 10-game winning streak in the overall rivalry.
- 18-8-2 ATS in its last 28 neutral site games.
- The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the last eight games between the teams.
- The over is 4-0 in its last four games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The over is 6-2 in its last eight neutral site games.
- 2-7 ATS in its last nine games vs. SEC opponents.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games vs. above-.600 teams.
- 2-6 ATS in its last eight games vs. Kentucky.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The over is 4-0 in its last four games vs. Kentucky.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The expectation is Calipari will use Travis off the bench in short spurts and likely wind up near 20 minutes. While everyone will be looking to see how in sync the Wildcats are with Travis in the lineup, the other expectation is that Alabama will run out of gas in the second half given Kentucky’s ability to challenge on the perimeter with its length. Tyler Herro and PJ Washington are a potent offensive combo and have the ability to exploit the Tide’s tired legs.
Prediction: Pick: Kentucky -10.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Again, this is about Kentucky’s fresh legs and Alabama likely to have tired ones for the last 10-12 minutes. The Wildcats also did put up 75 in losing in Tuscaloosa and have scored at least 75 in seven of the last eight meetings between the teams. In the SEC tournament, Kentucky has averaged 83.3 in its last three wins over the Tide, making the over a strong play.
This line has dropped 1.5 points during the overnight, which makes it a stronger play than at 138. If you held out and shopped around, now is your chance to dive in and potentially make some scratch.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 136.5 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
Though the previous two picks are Kentucky and the over, the hedge here is Alabama is able to clear 62 points, especially if the game becomes a blowout and the teams trade baskets in the second half. The Crimson Tide did score 77 in stunning the Wildcats and have scored 62 or more in five of their last six games.
Prediction: Pick: Alabama OVER 62 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The Wildcats trailed after 20 minutes in their last four games, and though Travis is returning, the question of the cohesiveness and flow with him back makes Alabama worthy enough to hang around in the first 20 minutes without the expectation the Tide will lead at the break.
Prediction: Pick: Alabama +7.5
Half-Time Total Bet
The teams combined for 78 in the first half in Tuscaloosa, and while Kentucky may have some spotty play reintegrating Travis into the lineup and the offense, there is no reason to believe this game will devolve so far by both teams it will end up 17 points fewer than the previous matchup.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 62.5 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
Well-rested, ready to go and out for revenge, the expectation is Kentucky will cruise past 35 points with Travis back in the fold. The Wildcats scored 40 in the loss at Alabama and has scored 35 or more in 12 of their 18 conference games.
Prediction: Pick: Kentucky OVER 35 points