The Crimson Tide has not defeated a number one ranked team at Coleman Coliseum since Arkansas, the eventual national champion, was vanquished 66-64 back in 1994.
Now, the number one Kentucky Wildcats come to town with a slew of NBA prospects, a couple of seven foot players, and a deep bench. The Wildcats usually have at least two 6-10 players on the court at all times, and even their outside guards, at 6-6, are big.
Kentucky is 16-0 and has mauled many of its victims, including last Tuesday, an 86-37 win over Missouri. Still, Alabama has hope. The Wildcats are big and deep, but young. Most of Kentucky’s roster is filled with freshman and sophomores. Alabama has some four-year veterans in Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper, Ricky Tarrant, and Retin Obasohan.
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, has had trouble winning road games in the past, but his squads are 31-4 in SEC play at home since 2011, and 11-0 overall this season. Saturday’s game against the Wildcats has been a sell-out for several days. The home crowd could make the difference in what should be a close game.
Perhaps the most encouraging words for Alabama, concerning Kentucky, came from Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. At a recent press conference, Pearl said Kentucky was good, but vulnerable, while the SEC as a whole, is better than it has been since he has been involved in the league. Pearl is in his first year at Auburn, but spent several seasons at Tennessee.
“We have 12 teams with RPIs inside 100,” Pearl said. “From top to bottom, the league looks stronger than at any other time I’ve been involved in it.”
Pearl said he believed five or six teams from the SEC could make the NCAA Tournament this season. He cited the conference’s overall efforts to improve non-conference scheduling as a reason the SEC is getting more respect. While not addressing the Alabama game specifically, Pearl said Kentucky is good, but can be defeated.
“They couldn’t dominate two middle of the road SEC teams,” Pearl said. Kentucky is 3-0 in SEC play, but was taken to overtime in Lexington by Ole Miss and to double overtime on the road versus Texas A&M.
After just three conference games, only two teams, Kentucky and Florida, sit at 3-0. Out of 14 teams, 11 SEC teams have at least 10 overall wins. Alabama is fourth in the league in overall wins, sitting at 12-4, and 2-1 in SEC play.
That’s a little bit better than “middle of the road.” Hopefully with the help of a vocal crowd, and its usual stingy defense, the Tide can take down a number one team again.