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Mark Story: Is Alabama's Nate Oats coming to Kentucky for a job rehearsal?

Mark Story, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s a good time to be Nate Oats.

When the Alabama men’s basketball coach brings the No. 13 Crimson Tide (19-7, 11-2 SEC) to Lexington to face No. 17 Kentucky (18-8, 8-5) Saturday at 4 p.m. at Rupp Arena, Bama will carry a one-game lead over No. 5 Tennessee (20-5, 10-3) in the Southeastern Conference standings.

The Crimson Tide are pursuing their third SEC men’s hoops regular-season title in the past 4 seasons.

Since Alabama made the hire of Oats, 49, before the 2019-20 season, the former Buffalo Bulls head man has done something no one could have foreseen: He has made Bama — Nick Saban’s Alabama! — the SEC’s most-successful men’s hoops program.

Since Oats moved to Tuscaloosa, overall wins by SEC programs are: 1. Alabama 111; 2. Arkansas 108; 3. Auburn 107; 3. Tennessee 107; 5. Kentucky 100.

Regular-season conference wins by SEC programs since Bama hired Oats: 1. Alabama 60; 2. Kentucky 57; 3. Tennessee 54; 4. Auburn 53; 5. Florida 46.

 

Since 2019-20, Alabama has won more SEC regular-season crowns (two) and more SEC tournament titles (two) than any other league program.

That Oats’ success at Alabama has come via a metrics-oriented, high-octane offensive style — Alabama is first in NCAA Division I in scoring (90.1 points a game) and No. 2 in 3-pointers a game (11.8) — has only enhanced the level of intrigue in the coach.

Though neither Kentucky nor Louisville presently have head coaching vacancies, that has not stopped frustrated segments of the fan bases at both UK and U of L from turning wistful eyes toward the Alabama coach.

A thread on the CatsIllustrated.com premium message board proposing Oats as a future UK coach had 95 replies as of Thursday morning. Meanwhile, over at CardinalAuthority.com, enthusiasm for Oats as a possible replacement for Kenny Payne seems to be accelerating.

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