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KENTUCKY

Alabama vs. Kentucky preview: Betting trends, advanced stats analysis

Alabama will travel to Lexington to face Kentucky in a top-25 matchup on Saturday afternoon.

This game has major SEC regular season title implications for Alabama, as the Tide are just 1 game up on Tennessee entering Saturday’s slate. Kentucky also still has plenty to fight for in regards to seeding for the SEC Tournament.

Let’s dig into this matchup:

Alabama vs. Kentucky Betting Odds

Spread: Kentucky -2.5 (DraftKings)

Total: Over/Under 175.5 points (DraftKings

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Betting trends to know for Alabama

Alabama is…

  • 16-10 against the spread
  • 4-3 against the spread on the road
  • 2-4 against the spread as an underdog
  • 2-2 against the spread as a road underdog
  • 9-4 against the spread in SEC games

Betting trends to know for Kentucky

Kentucky is…

  • 15-11 against the spread
  • 8-8 against the spread at home
  • 11-10 against the spread as a favorite
  • 8-8 against the spread as a home favorite
  • 5-2 against the spread after a loss

3 notes for the game 

Kentucky’s defensive improvement will be tested

Kentucky’s defense has surged over the past couple of weeks, but the Wildcats’ improved focus on that end will be put to the test against Alabama. The Crimson Tide enter this game with the No. 1-ranked offense in the country per KenPom, BartTorvik and likely any other model you can find. Alabama has accomplished this without having a single surefire NBA prospect on its roster (the Tide didn’t have any players included in ESPN’s latest 2024 NBA mock draft). Instead, Alabama relies on a hyper-efficient offensive system that produces high-quality shots on nearly every possession.

A couple of weeks ago, I would have told you this is a nightmare matchup for Kentucky. That may still prove to be true — Alabama has been a nightmare for a lot of teams this season — but the Wildcats have shown legitimate defensive improvement in their past 3 games. Since Feb. 13, they’ve held Ole Miss and Auburn to under 0.9 points per possession. The loss to LSU appeared to be a bit of a setback, as the Tigers scored 1.06 points per possession in that win. However, that offensive output from LSU came with an unusually-strong shooting performance (9-of-20) from 3-point range. A normal 3-point shooting performance for LSU would have resulted in a third consecutive game for Kentucky’s defense of allowing under 1 point per possession. There’s still reason to believe that UK’s defense has turned the corner since its mid-season swoon from Jan. 13 through Feb. 10.

Elite offenses playing at a fast tempo

Alabama’s offense gets a lot of attention, but Kentucky is no slouch on that end either. The Wildcats rank in the top 10 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. Of the Wildcats’ 9 primary rotation players this season, 8 of them have a true shooting percentage of at least 54%. Antonio Reeves, Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham have all been particularly efficient on pretty high volume this season — a trend that has continued despite ShotQuality expecting regression for the past few weeks.

Both of these teams like to get out in transition and play fast. Alabama and Kentucky rank 14th and 18th, respectively, in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. Nate Oats’ teams always play fast, but this is abnormal for the Wildcats. UK hasn’t been inside the top-100 in adjusted tempo, let alone the top-20, since 2017. But given that both teams like to play at a rapid tempo, it’s safe to assume there will be a very high number of possessions in this game. Both the Tide and ‘Cats average more than 73 possessions per contest entering this matchup (the D-1 average is 68.6).

It should be no surprise, then, to see such a high total for this game at 174.5 points. Even still, this number has come down a bit from its peak — it was at 179.5 at one point in the day on Friday. The over is 18-8 in Kentucky games so far this season and 19-7 in Alabama games. And while Alabama has struggled a bit offensively in road losses to Tennessee and Auburn, the over is 4-0 in games where the Crimson Tide are a road underdog this season.

Want to bet on this game? Make sure you’re ready to get in on the action by signing up with one of the top Kentucky sports betting apps. Multiple books are currently offering welcome bonuses for new users! 

Both teams have some uncertainty

Alabama will be without reserve big Mohamed Wague as he was suspended 1 game for an “act of fighting” against Florida in the mid-week. Wague hasn’t been in Alabama’s starting lineup since early January, but he has been a consistent presence off the bench for the Tide. Statistically, Wague has been Alabama’s best offensive rebounder this season (by rate, not volume) and also has been productive in limited minutes on both ends of the floor. 

Latrell Wrightsell may also be forced to miss Alabama’s game vs. Kentucky with a head injury. Wrightsell didn’t play in the Tide’s mid-week win over Florida due to the injury, which coach Nate Oats said occurred on Monday of this week. Wrightsell’s absence would be significant if he’s unable to go — he’s a 44% 3-point shooter who averages 9 points per game on pretty modest usage (15%).

Kentucky is also dealing with some uncertainty as Tre Mitchell is questionable with a shoulder injury. The ailment has caused Mitchell to miss 4 of UK’s last 5 games. Adou Thiero, who is coming off of an injury of his own, has stepped in for Mitchell and played well, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. As of Saturday morning, Mitchell’s status for this game is unclear.

1 pick for this game

Kentucky under 88.5 points (-110 on DraftKings). I respect Kentucky’s shot-makers, but I think this number is too high. As the Wildcats have settled things defensively over their past 3 games, there have been some trade-offs on the offensive end. UK has scored under 1.05 points per possession in each of its last 3 games — perhaps a direct result of missing Mitchell and playing Dillingham in a slightly-lesser role. To get to 89 points, Kentucky would need to average at least 1.22 points per possession if they get to their season-average of 73 possessions. It’s also possible this game is played at a slightly-slower pace — as UK has preferred lately. The overall total has gone under in each of Kentucky’s last 3 games as the Wildcats have been playing at a slower tempo (under 67 offensive possessions against Auburn, most notably). I’m buying Kentucky’s stylistic adjustments and I don’t think the market has adjusted enough yet.

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Spenser Davis
Spenser is the news manager at Saturday Road and covers college football across all Saturday Football brands. Follow on Twitter.

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