Alabama Basketball: Tide and Gators in equivalant of NCAA ‘play-in’ game


Alabama basketball takes on Florida in Tuscaloosa Tuesday night. The outcome will have a tremendous impact on NCAA bids for both teams.

Technically the mid-week games that begin the NCAA Tournament are no longer called ‘play-in’ games. They are now described as the ‘First Four’ for the four, early games that constitute the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Lose and go home can occur to some teams even earlier. Alabama basketball has one of those games on Tuesday night.

A loss to Florida on Tuesday night will not immediately bounce the Tide from the NCAA field. A road trip to College Station and one or more SEC Tournament games will follow. Lose to Florida and Alabama basketball will need to win at least three games in a row. The Tide has not won three consecutive games in over a month. So whether the Florida game is a literal ‘play-in’ or not, the Tide cannot afford to lose to Florida.

The Gators are almost in the same position. Florida has found renewed hope after knocking off Auburn on Saturday. Florida is a difficult team to categorize. After opening the season 6-4, the Gators won eight of their next nine games, including beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Then they collapsed to a 4-6 run, including home losses to South Carolina, the Tide and Georgia.

Tide won big in Gainesville

Alabama basketball embarrassed the Gators in Gainesville. The Tide outscored the Gators 41-17 in the second half for a 68-50 victory. The Gators had lost three straight before upsetting Auburn.

Auburn dominated the backboards and the Gators were terrible at the foul line but neither mattered. The Gators forced 16 Auburn turnovers while committing only 13 fouls. Even though Florida was only 7-16 from the foul line, that was negated by Auburn only shooting 10 free throws.

Senior Chris Chiozza had 12 assists, eight points and five rebounds. KeVaughn Allen came off the bench to score 24 points. Going into the game, Allen was 4-13 on threes for the season. He was 6-10 against the Tigers. The Gators best offense is on the perimeter and they are one of the nation’s best teams (No. 11) in turnover margin.

The Tide’s defense was superior in Gainesville, holding the Gators to 33.3 percent shooting, including only 20.8 percent from outside the arc. The Tide also won the rebounding battle 43-25.

If looking to pick two teams who can beat anyone or lose to anyone, the Tide and the Gators would be good choices. Alabama will have no excuse for coming out flat as it did against Arkansas. Even if no one else agrees, the players must approach this game as a ‘play-in’ game.

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The game has an early, 6:00 PM tip-off. Hopefully, a strong and vocal crowd will help pull the Tide to victory.