Game Preview: Alabama vs No. 4 Baylor
When: Saturday, January 29 at 4:00 pm ET on ESPN
Location: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, AL
After dropping their mid-week contest on the road in Athens, Alabama returns home to face the defending national champion Baylor Bears in one of the headline games for this year’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
As mentioned previously, the Crimson Tide suffered their fourth loss of SEC play on Tuesday night as Alabama fell at Georgia 82-76. Despite receiving a game-high 20 points from leading scorer Jaden Shackelford, the Crimson Tide also struggled in a few key areas as well, most-notably going 9-for-34 from three and committing 19 turnovers.
Now sitting at 13-7 on the year (4-4 in SEC), Alabama will begin a tough three game stretch here against the Bears, one that also includes Auburn and Kentucky, but two of those three come inside Coleman Coliseum where the Crimson Tide are 9-1 this season. Averaging 81.1 PPG for the year, the Crimson Tide have been solid offensively aside from recent three-point shooting woes, but have to be better defensively against the talented offensive teams on Alabama’s upcoming schedule.
Leading the Crimson Tide’s rotation is the previously mentioned Shackelford at 17.1 PPG, while guards Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, and JD Davison round out Alabama’s leading scorers. With it currently unknown if Juwan Gary or Darius Miles will be available due to injury, the play of Alabama’s bigs will be key against the versatile Baylor frontcourt, with Charles Bediako, Noah Gurley, and James Rojas all likely seeing extensive minutes.
Defending 2020-21 national champion Baylor comes to Tuscaloosa having won three straight after dropping their lone two games of the season, a stretch that includes a dominant 74-49 win over Kansas State on Tuesday night. An all-around impressive showing, the Bears shot a phenomenal 56.9% from the field in the contest, as well as having four players in double-figures.
The top ranked team in the country for a majority of this season, the Bears are currently ranked No. 4 at 18-2 (6-2 in Big 12), and are a perfect 5-0 in true-road games this season. A Top 10 team nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency according to KenPom, the Bears average 78.7 PPG offensively, as well as allowing only 59.3 PPG to opponents, which ranks among the fewest of any team in the country.
The Bears are a strong three-point shooting team at a combined 36.5%, and are led by a talented group of guards in LJ Cryer, James Akinjo, Adam Flagler, and star freshman Kendall Brown, each of whom average in double-figures. In addition to that group, Baylor’s frontcourt is headlined by versatile forwards in Matthew Mayer, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and Jeremy Sochan, as well as experienced starter Flo Thamba.
Yes, Alabama has struggled at times in recent weeks, as well as having a tough matchup coming off a loss against a Top 5 team. However, don’t necessarily count out the Crimson Tide in this one.
For what will-be a special environment inside Coleman Coliseum on Saturday, the Crimson Tide will certainly have some advantages on their homecourt, but will also likely be considered the underdog against Baylor. On paper, Baylor should win this game, but an upset for the Crimson Tide on Saturday would not surprise me either.
Prediction: Alabama 72, Baylor 75