Alabama against Central Florida.  The matchup that we have all been waiting for.  Well…kind of.  The Tide of Alabama travel to Orlando tonight for a non-conference matchup against the Golden Knights.  Unfortunately for some, they will be playing basketball, not football.

Both of these teams are coming off solid wins.  Alabama outlasted Murray State at home 78-72, while UCF beat Northern Kentucky 66-63.  These teams met last season in Tuscaloosa, where a B.J. Taylor-less UCF team beat a ranked Alabama team 65-62.  This time around, Alabama will play in their first true road game of the season against a Knights team that has an average scoring margin of 13 points per game behind 7’6″ center Tacko Fall and senior guard B.J. Taylor.

Under Avery Johnson, Alabama has struggled on the road, as shown by their 7-14 record over the last three seasons.  I expect those struggles to continue tonight, as UCF is simply a bad matchup for Alabama.  UCF is a very efficient defense, allowing only 86.9 points per 100 possessions, which is good for 23rd in the country.  They hold their opponents to 62.3 points per game on 37.8% shooting.  Furthermore, thanks to UCF’s size, they are able to limit opposition to 41.1% shooting inside the three point arc, good for 16th in the country.   The way to beat UCF is to out-shoot them from beyond the arc.  The issue is, Alabama is not a shooting team.  They rank 285th in the country in three point shots attempted per game (19.2), and only score 24.7% of their points from behind the arc, which ranks 307th.

Defensively, Alabama has struggled to prevent the opposition from scoring, allowing 97.3 points per 100 possessions.  They allow their opponents to shoot 51.1% (194th) from inside the arc and 34.3% (203rd) from behind the arc.  UCF has four players that average double digit points, so the defense is going to have its hands full tonight.  Alabama’s tallest player is Donta Hall at 6’9″, which gives them a huge disadvantage in the paint against Fall.

Alabama only has one senior in their rotation, and because of their inexperience, they foul a lot (20 times per game to be exact).  UCF is very good at drawing fouls.  They average 23.3 fouls drawn per game, which ranks 14th in the country.  Central Florida’s roster is full of experience, as five of their top six players are juniors or seniors. I expect Alabama’s freshman guard Kira Lewis, Jr. to struggle to get into a rhythm against UCF’s defense, especially against Taylor and junior guard Terrell Allen.

Prediction

Tacko Fall is a lot to handle in the paint and B.J. Taylor is a lot to handle on the perimeter.  Alabama has not seen a team quite like this yet.  Because Alabama struggles to score from the perimeter, I do not see them having success against UCF’s efficient defense.  Alabama is a guard heavy team that likes to drive the ball and finish at the rim.  They are going to have to make major adjustments and play outside of their comfort zone in their first true road game of the season.  That does not sound like a recipe for success.

I expect UCF to control the ball, find good shots, and control the glass in this matchup.  While I am concerned with UCF’s poor free throw shooting so far this season, I expect them to wear down Alabama, gain an early lead, feed off their home crowd, and not look back. I am laying the points with the Golden Knights and taking the -5.

Central Florida 74 – Alabama 64

 

Key Trends

UCF:

5-1 ATS L6 as favorite

4-1 ATS L5 non-conference games

19-9 ATS L38 games at home

Alabama:

1-5 ATS L6 games

12-18 ATS L30 non-conference games

0-6 ATS L6 games following a straight up win