Where to watch: No. 15 Kentucky (19-5, 9-2 SEC) at Alabama (14-9, 7-4) – Today Noon Central, Coleman Coliseum, CBS
Who to watch: Braxton Key. Alabama may only have one player right now with enough raw talent to blend in with UK’s star-studded lineup, but that’s one more than they’ve had recently. Even as a freshman, Key leads the team in scoring, rebounding and minutes played and is second in assists. His struggles have matched the team-wide issues of fouling too much and being careless with the ball. But he has often raised his level of play against stronger opponents, something the Tide could really use out of him today as it tries to find a way to keep with the Wildcats, who average precisely 20 more points per game than Bama. Key’s six points at South Carolina snapped a streak of six consecutive games in double figures. But on the bright side, he should be more rested than most of his teammates after fouling out before the four overtime periods began.
What to watch for: The rebounding battle and what Alabama sacrifices to win on the glass. The Wildcats (40.3 rebounds per game) and the Tide (40.0 per game) are both in the top 20 nationally, and for Bama it is a vital way to shore up an anemic shooting game. But much of Alabama’s success on the glass comes from single-minded big men like Bola Olaniyan and Donta Hall who aren’t built to keep up with the breakneck pace Kentucky loves to play. Avery Johnson may face a hard choice between a bigger, plodding lineup that can’t match the Cats on defense or a faster lineup that struggles to produce enough second chance points.
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