Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports
With Saturday’s win over South Carolina the Crimson Tide moved solely into second place in the Southeastern Conference standings, but Alabama has several key games remaining on the SEC schedule. Anthony Grant and his staff would love to hang on to a top four spot in order to receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament, but that may be easier said than done with two of the top three teams in the conference remaining. So, with that said, let’s take a look at Alabama’s remaining conference games and potential of a first round bye.
2/20 vs. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are having a down year to say the least. Mississippi State currently holds the worst record over all (7-17) and is tied for the worst record in conference play (2-10) with South Carolina. Alabama was able to blow out Mississippi State on their home court earlier this year in what was easily the Crimson Tide’s greatest offensive performance of the season. In their last meeting, Levi Randolph finished a with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Look for Alabama’s physical guards and scrappy defense to once again wreak havoc on a young Mississippi State team that has been unable to find their game all year long. This should be an “easy” win (by Alabama’s standards), especially at home.
2/23 at LSU
Alabama will hit the road for a quick one-game road trip before returning home for a big game against Auburn. The Tide was able to pull out a narrow 60-57 win over the Tigers earlier this month in Tuscaloosa. Look for Alabama to focus on controlling the inside against LSU’s talented forward Johnny O’Bryant III. O’Bryant III preyed on Alabama’s weak inside game in their last meeting. He finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists. Look for Anthony Grant to focus more on zone defense if Johnny O’Bryant III continues on his scoring frenzy. Moussa Gueye could be the difference maker in this one. He’ll have to make sure to stay out of foul trouble and protect the rim at all costs.
2/26 vs. Auburn
In what could have been the most bizarre basketball game in human history, Alabama lost their third conference game at the hand of the hated Auburn Tigers. Look for the Crimson Tide to rebound after a horrendous offensive performance to start the month. Guards like Andrew Steele and Levi Randolph provide mismatch issues for the Tigers on the outside.
3/02 at Florida
After a quick home stand against Auburn, Alabama hits the road for what could the four hardest days of the year. Their first stop is at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators are a perennial number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and have been firing on all cylinders throughout the season. Florida has been the leader of the pack all year in SEC play. With their only loss coming on the road to Arkansas, it’s an understatement to say that the Gators are hard to beat. But, they will be coming off a tough three-game stretch against Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee before Alabama comes to town. Let’s hope the Gators are worn down from their previous three games, because they matchup well against Alabama at every position. They have two guards averaging at least 12 points a game and two forwards averaging at least 6 rebounds. A little Anthony Grant magic against his former boss? Can’t count it out of the equation.
3/05 at Ole Miss
The Tide wraps their away conference schedule with a trip to Oxford, Mississippi to visit Andy Kennedy and the Ole Miss Rebels. Ole Miss has been riding their electrifying scorer Marshall Henderson all year and this game will be no different, although the Rebels have been struggling as of late. They are 8-4 in SEC play and have lost two out of their last three games. Look for Anthony Grant to try and counter Henderson with one of his great defensive guards like Levi Randolph or Andrew Steele. Beating Ole Miss is simple. They’re the fifth-best scoring team in the nation. Stop their scoring and you will more than likely win. Alabama won’t outscore the Rebels, but if they keep them under 65 points, they’ve got a great shot to win.
3/09 vs. Georgia
Alabama’s final regular season game will be a rematch of another ugly contest from earlier in the conference schedule. The Georgia Bulldogs will travel to Tuscaloosa to conclude regular season play. Alabama was able to control most of the first meeting between these two teams, but inconsistent play late in the game made it close. Hopefully the Tide will be fueled by an upset against Florida or winning against Ole Miss.
So, can the Tide hang on to a top four position to get a first round bye in the conference tournament? The answer is yes. Alabama has at least one game to give and that’s if Missouri and Ole Miss don’t lose another conference game. A first-round bye gives the Crimson Tide a chance to get a much needed signature win late in the SEC Tournament.
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