But this game may have some important differences. For one, it will be played in Atlanta, which has at tournament times, often been referred to as "Catlanta." "This tournament is one that we've had success in the past," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, "We feel very confident and feel prepared as we come into this venue. It's always a good venue to play in here at the Dome."
Alabama is also facing some injuries with two of its star players. Big manJermareo Davidson and guard Ronald Steele are fighting injuries and may not play, or may play limitedly. "I think Ron is going to try to play," said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, "And like I've said recently, he's battled through this whole season. I know he wants to play. I don't know, and he and I have talked about this, I'm not sure that during this particular season he'll get to 100%. But if he can be effective, and I think he can, then he's going to be a contributor for our team."
Steele had 15 points and seven assists against Kentucky. He is shooting over 40% from 3-point range and nearly 90% from the free throw line for the year. His loss would undoubtedly be a high impact one for Alabama if he was not able to play.
"There is no tomorrow," Gottfried added, "You know, Ron will do whatever he can, and we'll be wise with that, with him. He hasn't practiced, obviously, and done a lot in 10 or 11 days. So, you know, he might be a little rusty, maybe his conditioning, you know, those things could be factors, too."
It is obvious that the Tide are not heading into the game overconfident because they had beaten the Cats earlier, "I think when you get to the SEC Tournament, you throw out who beat who," said Steele, "You know, it is a different environment. Teams are getting a lot better, and teams understand what's at stake. We're not going to dwell on, you know, we beat them in the regular season. This is a new game, a new beginning."
"I think that they're (Kentucky) still very, very good," added Gottfried, "What we did in one game sometimes doesn't have a whole lot to do with what happens in the next game."
Davidson, who averages 14 points and 8.4 rebounds for the team this year, hurt himself Monday and is also questionable for Thursday's game, "My back is bothering me a little bit from the Mississippi State game," Davidson said, "but that's up in the air, I've just got to go with how I feel."
Another difference between now and the first time Alabama met Kentucky is senior Bobby Perry who caught fire for the Wildcats at the end of the regular season. Perry played just 10 minutes, scoring only two points in the first meeting between the two teams. But in the Wildcats' last three contests, the senior from North Carolina has averaged 20 points per game shooting a sizzling 62% from the field in the process.
"You know, obviously I'm shooting the ball well right now," Perry said, "But it just comes from, you know, again, open looks and my teammates finding me and being ready to shoot the ball. It's nothing new that I've changed, you know, around tournament time to, you know, magically start shooting the ball better. I've just been focusing more on the rim, and just been ready to shoot the ball. I'm looking to carry it over into the tournament and postseason play."