Alabama Basketball: Can John Calipari outcoach Nate Oats?

Alabama Basketball has a big game at noon on Saturday. For the Kentucky Wildcats, it is an even bigger game. Think about it Alabama Crimson Tide fans, when was the last time any Kentucky-based reporter wrote, Can UK earn a signature win with an upset at No. 7 Alabama?

The answer is almost never. In the series between the Cats and the Crimson Tide, Kentucky leads 116-40. The Cats have won 14 of their last 17 games against Alabama. Despite the history, depending on the oddsmaker, the Crimson Tide is favored by five to seven points.

Why Alabama Basketball is the Favorite

The reason Alabama is favored is simple. Nate Oats has more talent on his roster than John Calipari has on the Kentucky roster. Not that the Cats don’t have plenty of talent, and probably will have the game’s best player in Oscar Tshiebwe. But Nate Oats has talent that goes deeper into his bench than Kentucky.

In many seasons, Calipari has relied on so much youth, his teams need several weeks to gel. This Kentucky team has four seniors in its top six scorers.

Even with an experienced roster, Kentucky has not been proficient in scoring. Kentucky fans are riled up about the Cats’ offensive production, with some claiming Calipari’s offensive style is outdated.

Speaking about the complaints from Kentucky fans, Nate Oats said,

They’re spoiled. It’s probably like Alabama football fans, to be honest with you. We’re not in the College Football Playoff, and everybody’s upset and acting like it’s a bad year.

Whether the Big Blue Nation has a legit gripe or not, John Calipari has not forgotten how to coach. His teams have won 820 games, giving him a winning percentage of 77%. Nate Oats and the young Alabama team must be prepared. Tshiebwe is the SEC’s most ferocious rebounder and the Cats might neutralize the Tide’s normal rebounding advantage.

Calipari will look to take something away from the Tide.  A guess is, the choice will be Brandon Miller. As good as Tshiebwe is, he is only 66.1% from the foul line. Nate Oats has extra fouls to use by playing Bediako, Pringle and Clowney against the Kentucky big man. But Oats will have to guard against Clowney getting into foul trouble. If Kentucky is able to slow Miller’s scoring, Clowney’s points will be important.

In a surprising role reversal, this season, Kentucky has shot threes better than the Crimson Tide, at 14th in Division One compared to the Crimson Tide at 144th. Alabama though has played a more difficult schedule. According to the ESPN BPI, the Tide’s SOS is No. 4, compared to Kentucky at No. 70.

Note: Team and Player stats from Sports Reference

Nate Oats might have been outcoached in the Tide’s loss to Gonzaga, but Oats does not have to outcoach John Calipari to win. Alabama Basketball just needs to take advantage of its talent advantage.