Alabama Basketball Preview: Saturday at Auburn Tide Looks For 5th SEC Win

Will the Jimmie Taylor we saw in Gainesville return this year? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Will the Jimmie Taylor we saw in Gainesville return this year? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Basketball travels to Auburn Saturday afternoon. The Tide will be looking for its 5th win in SEC play.

The usual approach in a preview post is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the teams. Before delving into those details, I am compelled to remind everyone how much this game matters.

To me, every contest between Alabama and Auburn is a version of the Iron Bowl. I confess I do not give equal attention to every Tide sport.  But by God, I want every Bama team in every sport to ALWAYS beat Auburn.

How much does it matter to me? I badly want Alabama to always beat Auburn badly. In the case of men’s basketball, I want the Aubie’s slime-ball coach to lose every game. Normally in Auburn versus Tennessee contests, I root for both teams to lose. Since that is not possible, I hope for 0-0 scores.  I know, that is not possible either, but you can always hope.

My animosity against Auburn basketball is so great that I would now pull for the Vols to beat the Tigers. Why do I divulge the depth of my Auburn hate in a preview post?  Being so consumed by hate-Auburn passion, I may not see the strengths of their team clearly. But I will try.

The Crowd Could be a Factor

I know all basketball-version Iron Bowl games are played to big crowds, hostile to the opposing team.  Auburn at home gains more from this than the Tide does in T-Town, It is all about the difference in the two arenas.

The smaller Auburn building squeezes in more fans closer to the court. The 1960’s design of Coleman spreads out more than it does up and that puts many fans too far from the court. Because of better design, 12K in Auburn can sound louder than 15K in Tuscaloosa.

The impact of home crowds in basketball can influence a game.  Amped-up animosity can intimidate a visiting team. I also think officials unconsciously favor home teams. Auburn’s team is fueled by two things: knocking down 3’s and quick baskets started by creating turnovers.

Alabama has young players who may struggle in the Auburn arena.  If Alabama loses the turnover battle, Auburn will probably win.

Tide must be good defending Threes

Auburn relies on scoring from outside the arc. They are good at it. The Tigers have multiple players with long-range shooting skills. Alabama must stop the Tiger’s best trey shooter, Mustapha Heron.

At 6′ 5″, Heron has no problem getting off shots. From outside the arc, he’s hitting 41.3% of his attempts.  The Tide is not likely to shut down Heron.  A key to a Tide win will be making him take every shot under pressure and driving down his makes to maybe 33%.

It may seem odd but rebounding is also important.  Missed three typically result in long rebounds. Those long rebounds can be quickly dished to an open shooter, followed by another attempt from outside the arc.

Foul trouble and making Free Throws

The game may easily come down to points at the line.  Auburn hits the free ones better than the Tide.

Alabama’s first counter to this disparity should be playing tough defense without making many fouls. The Tide is a better defensive team than Auburn, but not always disciplined about defense with their feet.

Dont’a Hall needs to be patient and not try to block every shot taken on the inside.  He is needed on the court, not the bench. And Alabama needs to minimize their free throw misses, particularly on the front end of one-and-ones.

Next: Saban is a Lightning Rod for Hate

I think Alabama is the better team and should win.

If it goes the other way, I can promise I will not accept the loss graciously.