Alabama attempts to get its first road win of the season Saturday as it travels to Columbia for a matchup with the Missouri Tigers. The game is slated for 1:00 pm CT tip, and it is being televised by ESPN2.
The Crimson Tide (8-8, 2-1) is coming off a dominant victory over Mississippi State Wednesday night, 80-61. Trevor Releford continues to shine, scoring 28 points in the win. Saturday will mark a homecoming of sorts as Releford will be playing near his hometown of Kansas City. This is the second time in as many years Alabama has played Missouri in Columbia. Last year, Alabama played the Tigers tough for most of the game (sound familiar?) before falling.
The Tigers come into this game struggling a bit. They have lost two out of their first three SEC games, including a home loss to Georgia last week and a road defeat at Vanderbilt last night. Missouri does have an overall record of 13-3 despite the two conference losses, however they played a relatively easy non-conference schedule. They have beaten UCLA at home, however, something Alabama could not do on the road in December.
Alabama will need another great game from Releford, who is playing at an all-conference level right now. Shannon Hale continues to improve on both end of the floor, and he could be a mismatch for the Tigers. Contributions from Rodney Cooper and Retin Obasohan have been solid recently, if not spectacular. However, the person in my eyes that needs to step up is Levi Randolph. Coming into the year, Randolph was projected as a NBA draft pick in some circles. Frankly, he has been too quiet this year, averaging less than 10 points a game. If the Crimson Tide plans on making a late charge this year, Randolph will need to pick up his game.
As for Missouri, they have become known for taking transfer after transfer. This year is no different as their best three players, Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown, and Jordan Clarkson, are all transfers. Brown and Ross played very well against Alabama last year. Clarkson is a transfer from Tulsa in his first year with the Tigers who has a knack for scoring in many different ways. They may not be as talented as in years past, but they definitely have enough to make the tourney this year.
Containing Missouri’s three point shooters will be the key for Alabama. If Brown and Ross get hot, it will be a long day for the Tide. Similar to UCLA, Missouri has good size in the backcourt, but they lack speed and quickness. Releford and Obasohan could give the Tigers trouble with this. On the inside, there are no dominant players on either side. This may allow Nick Jacobs to establish himself in the post and have a productive game.
My prediction? As Alabama fans, we have seen this script before. Unfortunately, we get the same one Saturday. Alabama will keep it close, but until they show they are mentally strong enough to win on the road, I cannot predict they will. Missouri wins 74-67.