Late free throws, and an overall disparity in charity shots taken, made a difference when Alabama Basketball lost to Mississippi State in Starkville. But foul shooting was not the primary reason the Crimson Tide lost, 78-76.
Too many Crimson Tide players had poor games against the Bulldogs. After the game, Nate Oats bluntly said,
"It is disappointing. I thought we had a team that could compete for a league title. Just not quite as tough as we need to be to compete for a league title at this point. Maybe they’ll figure it, maybe it’ll come. We’ve gotta get tougher."
At times since, the Tide has been tough enough, but not to the level of competing for the league title. Fortunately, basketball is a tournament sport. Nate Oats’ team has two tournaments coming up in March and both are important.
To have an opportunity to do well in both, seeding is important. After factoring in the SEC tie-breakers, the Crimson Tide is currently the No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament. Holding on to that seed or moving up to No. 4 and possibly even No. 3, should intensify efforts in the six remaining regular-season games.
Most predictions have the Tide as a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Holding that should be the goal, and short of that, not sliding below a 7-seed is extremely important.
Job one on Wednesday night is beating the Bulldogs. In the first game, the Tide shot 28% outside the arc. Though Jaden Shackelford led the Tide with 17 points, he was 1-for-9 shooting threes.
Along with Shack’s struggles, Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Gurley and Juwan Gary were not productive. Only Keon Ellis, Charles Bediako and Darius Miles played well enough throughout.
To gain an edge on Wednesday, the Tide must defend well without too many fouls. The Tide was a superb 24-for-28 at the line in Starkville, but the Bulldogs shot 38 free throws. The Tide was also out-rebounded by 10 boards, with Garrison Brooks doing the most damage with 10.
Alabama Basketball Turnover Problem
After the turnover explosion against Arkansas, unforced floor errors cannot continue to be a problem.
Mississippi State’s Ben Howland teaches a deliberate and disciplined style of play. Playing against them, little things matter. In SEC play, Jahvon Quinerly is averaging three turnovers per game. The Tide guards, Quinerly, Shackelford and Davison had a combined 16 turnovers against the Razorbacks. That number is too high for an entire team.
Against a State team whose style limits possessions, the Tide must not have another high turnover game.
Alabama has more talent than the Bulldogs, but not so much more, that it can play poorly and win.