Alabama Basketball: Bad matchup looming in SEC Quarterfinals?

Alabama v Florida
Alabama v Florida / James Gilbert/GettyImages

Alabama Basketball was able to avoid a complete collapse to end the regular season, fighting off an upset bid from the Arkansas Razorbacks in improbable fashion

A hypothetical loss would’ve given the Tide a three-game losing streak to close out the regular season, and would’ve cost it the invaluable double bye in the SEC Tournament. However ugly as it may have been, Bama escaped and secured the no. 3 seed in the tourney.

With the field set, Alabama knows it will face either 14-seed Missouri, 11-seed Georgia, or 6-seed Florida on Friday night. While nobody can be taken lightly in postseason play, only one of these teams presents a clear matchup issue for the Tide. 

The Florida Gators seemingly had Alabama’s number this year, much more so than the 1-1 season split between the two teams would indicate. With the exception of top-seeded Tennessee, who became the first SEC team to knock off Bama at home in two years, and Arkansas, who took the Tide to overtime after leading for the entirety of regulation, Florida played Alabama closer than any other SEC team in Coleman Coliseum this season. 

In a game that had a lot of parallels to the win over Arkansas in the regular season finale, Florida controlled much of the game in Coleman. Per ESPN, the Gators actually had an 85 percent chance of winning the game when they took a double-digit lead with under nine minutes left, and held an 87 percent chance to win with just six minutes remaining. A late flurry from Alabama, led by guard Mark Sears, sent the game into overtime where the Crimson Tide would never trail en route to a 98-93 victory. 

When the Tide went to Gainesville just two weeks later, a lot of Bama fans’ worst fears came to fruition. After looking like the better team for much of the night in Tuscaloosa, Florida proved it wasn’t a fluke, winning in dominant fashion on its Senior Night. The Gators built a double-digit lead late in the first half and stretched that lead to as much as 23 in the second. Alabama never threatened the home team in an eventual 105-87 loss. 

Although Alabama has the more impressive overall resume, any reasonable basketball mind would look at these two head-to-head results and conclude that Florida is the better team. At the very least, they are a nightmare of a matchup for the Tide. In some ways, the teams are mirror images of each other. Both take an up-tempo, high-scoring approach and are fueled by elite guard play, which they pair with long, athletic, switchable bigs. 

Florida’s starting backcourt of Walter Clayton Jr., Zyon Pullin, and Will Richard put up impressive numbers in both games against Alabama and arguably outplayed the Tide’s guards. Sure, Mark Sears went for 33 in Gainesville, but he didn’t get much help as Bama struggled to compete. 

If Alabama draws a third matchup with the Gators, Nate Oats will have to devise a plan to slow this backcourt trio, which combined for over 60 points in each of the previous two matchups.

The return of a healthy Latrell Wrightsell Jr., and what should be a well-rested Crimson Tide team in general, should certainly help.