Game Preview: Alabama vs No. 1 Auburn
When: Tuesday, February 1 at 9:00 pm ET on ESPN
Location: Auburn Arena, Auburn, AL
With both teams coming off wins in the 2022 SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Alabama travels to face rival Auburn in a rematch of what-was an 81-77 Tigers win in Tuscaloosa back on January 11, the Crimson Tide’s lone loss at home this season.
After falling to Georgia last Tuesday night in Athens, the Crimson Tide bounced-back in a big way on Saturday when Alabama defeated then No. 4 Baylor 87-78 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s third win this season over a Final Four team from a year ago, the Crimson Tide shot a phenomenal 59.2% from the field against one of the nation’s top defensive teams, as well as going a combined 22-for-26 from the free throw line.
Ranked just outside the Top 25 entering the week, the Crimson Tide come to Auburn at 14-7 on the year, as well as 4-4 in the SEC. Averaging 81.4 PPG offensively while allowing 74.9 PPG, Alabama is also ranked No. 22 in the NCAA NET rankings with six Quad 1 wins, which is among the most in the entire country.
While the Crimson Tide were without Darius Miles against Baylor, Alabama did get Juwan Gary back who added 15 points on 7/8 shooting, one of five scorers in double-figures. In addition to Gary, Alabama’s bigs such as Charles Bediako, Noah Gurley, and James Rojas will be key in this matchup once again, as well as the Crimson Tide’s backcourt group of Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, and JD Davison also all playing key roles.
Auburn on the other hand is the hottest team in the country having won 17 straight, a streak that continued with an 86-68 win over Oklahoma at home on Saturday. A game in which the Tigers never trailed, Auburn also shot an impressive 22-for-26 from the free throw line, as well as receiving 20+ points apiece from the frontcourt duo of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler.
Entering their second week this season ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, the Tigers currently sit at 20-1 overall (8-0 in SEC), and are a Top 10 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency according to KenPom averaging 79.7 PPG and allowing 65.4 PPG. Undefeated inside Auburn Arena this season, the Tigers have also amassed an impressive six Quad 1 wins, and are ranked as the No. 6 team in the NCAA NET rankings.
Leading the Tigers in scoring is the previously mentioned Smith at 15.6 PPG, as well as KD Johnson, Wendell Green Jr, and Kessler also averaging in double-figures. The Auburn rotation also has multiple other key contributors such as Allen Flanigan, Jaylin Williams, Devan Cambridge, Zep Jasper, and Dylan Cardwell, as well as Lior Berman and Chris Moore also potentially seeing time.
For what will be one of the toughest road environments that the Crimson Tide will play in all season, it will be key for Alabama to not fall behind early by a sizable deficit, as well as to not let Auburn go on runs to build a big lead (aka keep the crowd out of it as much as possible).
Alabama should keep this game close, and if they play the way they did against Baylor on Saturday, the Crimson Tide very well could win this game. However, based on the game being in Auburn, it’s hard not to pick the Tigers going into this contest.
Prediction: Alabama 76, Auburn 80