The Alabama men's basketball team will make a brief return to the comfortable confines of Coleman Coliseum for a Tuesday night home contest against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers before road games to Texas and Oregon. The trip to Las Vegas made it clear this team has much room for improvement. The hope is that the guys can use this game to work out some of the kinks.
Alabama Charleston Southern
My Two Cents: The season through five games has been a mixed bag. This team hasn't looked as good as I thought they might, but it is obvious that the potential is there for this team to improve. Unfortunately, for a fanbase starved for a return to the NCAA Tournament, can this Alabama team improve enough between now and March to pick up enough quality wins to nab an at-large spot? First and foremost, our guys need to take care of business in this game. They just barely missed what would have been a resume-crushing loss in Vegas vs Saint Louis, and a struggle on Tuesday won't do much to quell the nervousness that has developed about this team's prospects.
Players to Watch: After dropping 14 points in the opener (including 3-5 from the 3-point line), Riley Norris has been somewhat quiet offensively. This team doesn't need Riley to be a big scorer every night, but they must get better scoring production than the 1-5 performance in the Saint Louis game. Braxton Key may have emerged as a go-to player in the Saint Louis game; he certainly saved the team's bacon with his performance down the stretch of that game. But it was one game. Now that he appears to be part of the starting line-up moving forward, can he consistently produce in the manner he did this past Wednesday?
Christian Keeling leads the Buccaneers in points at an average of 16 per game. He's also a 41% 3-point shooter. This team rebounds well, averaging a total of 41 boards per game despite only one player 6'8 or taller averaging double figure minutes. That would be Jarvis Howard (10.4 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 bpg, 61.1% FG).
Prediction: I'm hesitant to predict a blowout, simply because Alabama has not been sharp on either end of the floor; however, this Charleston Southern team has also compiled their three wins against Columbia International, Abilene Christian and something called Toccoa Falls so you have to take their game stats with a grain of salt at this point. In their lone game against a power 5 team (Florida State), they lost by 21 points, with shooting averages of 40% FG, 28% 3-pt and 15 turnovers against a FSU team that has been less than thrilled with the concept of defense in the last two seasons. If our guys bring some defensive intensity to this game, a similar result should follow. Alabama - 78 - Charleston Southern - 54