Kentucky vs. Alabama Odds, Picks, Predictions (1/7/23) NCAAB

The SEC will have some blockbuster games on the schedule this season, and one of the first is set for Saturday in Tuscaloosa. No. 7 Alabama will host a Kentucky team still looking to prove itself after a pair of ugly losses over the last month, while the Crimson Tide are hoping to move to 3-0 in SEC play.

Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday afternoon’s matchup.

Kentucky vs. Alabama Odds

Alabama enters as a 5.5-point home favorite, sitting at -252 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 151.5 points.

It’s somewhat jarring to see Kentucky as a decisive underdog after entering the year with such high expectations, but this Alabama team has only lost to Gonzaga and UConn to this point. The Tide have also won nine games by double-digits, so they’re not just skating by. A comfortable win at home would be another sign that Alabama is a national contender.

Kentucky vs. Alabama Prediction & Pick

Alabama had a bad tendency to play up and down to competition last season. The Tide were capable of beating the best in the country but also capable of losing to mid-tier SEC opponents. So far, Alabama has risen to the challenge against every team other than UConn, and home-court advantage along with their up-tempo pace should lift the Tide to a win on Saturday.

With that being said, there seems to be a sense of urgency surrounding Kentucky right now. John Calipari has shortened his rotation and seemingly unlocked Jacob Toppin. The results haven’t blown anyone away – even the Wildcats’ win over LSU this week had its share of awkward moments – but Alabama’s defense is shaky enough that Kentucky has a good chance to find a rhythm offensively and stay in the game.

Kentucky +5.5 is the safer pick, particularly given Alabama’s history of playing to its competition.

Kentucky vs. Alabama Key Matchups

Kentucky has been much more of a mess than its 10-4 record indicates, with a lack of impressive wins and a very shaky offense. That offense is the biggest issue. The Wildcats are a brutal free-throw shooting team and have scored more than 80 points only against non competitive teams (Howard, Florida A&M, SC State, Louisville, and North Florida).

The execution has been poor on the offensive end, even in some wins – the end of their win over LSU on Tuesday wasn’t pretty. That has prompted John Calipari to cut back on his rotation and give his starters even more minutes, but so far there just isn’t enough scoring outside of Oscar Tshiebwe’s work in the paint. Alabama’s defense hasn’t been terrific, but it looks like Sahvir Wheeler and Antonio Reeves have bigger issues to work out.

The wild card on Saturday will be Jacob Toppin, who bailed out Kentucky against LSU and is coming off back-to-back games of 20+ points. That doesn’t seem sustainable, but after playing 30+ minutes in each of the last two games, Calipari’s plan clearly revolves around letting him do his thing. In fact, Calipari said his new approach is to let this group play through mistakes rather than pulling a player for one mistake. So far, it’s worked out fine.

Alabama is all about offense, averaging 83.3 points per game. An up-tempo style allows the Tide to pile on the points despite not shooting especially well. Alabama is second in the nation in possessions per game, while Kentucky sits 193rd. That’s going to be a tough adjustment for the Wildcats’ defense, which admittedly has had a pretty solid year even in some losses.

Can Kentucky find someone to guard Brandon Miller? The freshman has size and a skillset that makes him tough to defend. He’s averaging 19.1 points and 8.6 rebounds, notably hanging 36 points on Gonzaga last month. Outside of Miller, this is a very deep Alabama team that can match Kentucky’s rebounding ability. It’s been tough at times to find a reliable third scorer behind Miller and Mark Sears, similar to Kentucky’s offensive issues behind Tshiebwe.

The Tide only shoot 44% from the field, partly due to the lack of a reliable scoring presence in the paint when the shots aren’t falling elsewhere.

Dan is a lifelong sports fan and graduate of Boston University. He’s covered several sports on Instagram since he was 12 and now writes about everything from betting trends to breaking news for Lineups.

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