KENTUCKY WILDCATS (12-5)
at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (11-6)
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Kentucky -4, Total: 129.5
SEC foes looking to extend modest win streaks will meet Tuesday night Tuscaloosa when Alabama hosts Kentucky.
The Wildcats have won two straight since their surprising loss to Texas A&M, topping Tennessee by 10 points at home, then scoring a 22-point victory at Auburn on Saturday. Alabama has won three straight SU, with home wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee sandwiches around a 32-point road win at lowly Mississippi State last Wednesday. Although Kentucky has won the past two meetings and is 14-6 SU in the past 20 matchups in this series, Alabama stunned the 'Cats the last time they met in Tuscaloosa in 2011, winning 68-66 as a five-point underdog.
Which team will extend its winning streak on Tuesday night? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts are 7-5 ATS (58%) in the past two days and have a collective 52.0% ATS mark (251-232-8) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who sits at 58% ATS (57-42) for the season, while StatFox Dave is 11-8 ATS (58%) in the past six days and 54.4% ATS (93-78-3) on the year. Dave is 7-2-1 ATS (78%) since Nov. 24 when he mentions the word "hammer" in his analysis, including 5-2 ATS (71%) when he uses the term "Hammertime." StatFox Brian is 9-7 ATS (56%) since Jan. 12, while StatFox Scott is 2-0 ATS in the past two days.
Kentucky ranks among the nation's top-40 teams in all major offensive categories, shooting 48.9% from the floor (13th in D-I), scoring 77.1 PPG (30th in nation) with 38.9 RPG (36th in D-I) and 15.7 APG (37th in nation). But the Wildcats have struggled a bit away from Lexington with a 2-4 ATS mark and just 67.0 PPG. Five players score in double-figures for UK, led by SG Archie Goodwin (15.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.4 APG), who has cooled off since his 22-point outburst at Louisville with just 11.4 PPG on 39.6% FG, including 1-of-13 threes. PF Alex Poythress (13.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG) has been much more consistent with a sparkling 62.0% FG clip (23rd in nation), which includes 9-of-19 threes this season. But after starting the season with four 20-point games in his first five contests, Poythress has failed to surpass 16 points in any of the 12 games since. SF Kyle Wiltjer (11.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG) scored a total of two points in the first two SEC games this season, but he has netted 17 points in each of the past two victories, adding 4.5 RPG and 3.5 APG for good measure. C Nerlens Noel (10.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG) has scored in double-figures in all four of his conference tilts, averaging 12.5 PPG and 9.0 RPG during this stretch. But the more impressive number is his 20 blocks (6.7 BPG) in the past three games alone. PG Ryan Harrow (10.4 PPG, 3.8 APG) continues to score with great consistency, tallying at least 12 points in eight straight contests, averaging 15.1 PPG and 4.4 APG during this streak.
Alabama is not a good offensive team by any stretch (65.5 PPG, 228th in nation), but it makes a respectable 45.2% of its shots. This rate dips to 43.6% at home, but the Tide also does a great job of defending in front of their home fans, allowing only 56.8 PPG on 39.7% FG. Junior G Trevor Releford (16.2 PPG) has really come into his own as a shooter, knocking down a career-best 49% FG and 41.2% from three-point land this season. He missed last Wednesday's trip to Starkville with a sprained ankle, but returned on Saturday with 15 points (5-of-8 FG, 4-of-5 FT) in the 50-49 home win over Texas A&M. Releford has at least a dozen points in 13 of 15 games this season, and also pumped in 17 points (6-of-8 FG) in Alabama's lone meeting with Kentucky last year. PG Trevor Lacey (12.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.6 APG) also had a strong effort in Lexington last season with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, numbers similar to what he posted in Saturday's win (14 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast). Lacey has been money from behind the three-point arc, sitting at 45.5% after going 7-of-10 from long range in the past two games. Two other key players for Alabama that will try to combat Kentucky's great size and athleticism are sophomore swingmen Rodney Cooper (11.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG) and Levi Randolph (8.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG). The 6-foot-6 Cooper failed to get a single rebound on Saturday and needs to improve his 43.2% FG clip for the season. Randolph also struggled versus the Aggies with just two points and four rebounds in 31 minutes, which was a big letdown after his monster game of 18 points and eight boards in the win at Mississippi State.