This is a big game, and not just because of the rivalry. Alabama sits at 1-3 in conference play. For a team hoping to scratch its way into postseason contention, they can't afford to fall too far behind the 8 ball. The schedule doesn't get any easier with LSU, a better-than-their-record Tennessee team, and a trip to South Carolina in the next three games. Not to mention, with both coaches having success on the recruiting trail, wins in this series take on a greater significance.
Two transfers have emerged as the go to guys for this Auburn team. Kareem Canty, a transfer from Marshall, leads the team in scoring (19.0), assists (5.5) and turnovers (2.8). I include that last stat to illustrate the high risk/rewards that Canty brings to the table. Yes, he will turn it over. Yes, he will take some questionable shots. But he will make just as many if not more plays with the ball in his hands, and will knock down a fair share of those questionable shots. Alabama must limits the rewards in this game. Tyler Harris, a graduate transfer from Providence, averages 15.3 ppg and 8.6 rpg. At 6'10, Harris is also a really good shooter, knocking down 41% of his 3 point shots. Alabama may have a scouting advantage in assistant coach Bob Simon, who recruited and coached Harris at Providence. Cinmeon Bowers, who really endeared himself to Alabama fans last season in the two games played, also returns, averaging 11.0 ppg and 8.9 rpg.
Defending the 3 point line will be key for Alabama. At least five Auburn players average 36% or better from the 3 point line. Alabama has been a solid defensive unit, but they allowed too many open looks for the Vanderbilt shooters on Saturday night. If they allow the Auburn shooters too many open looks, it could be another long evening. And, as always, our guys need to compete on the boards. On offense, Alabama must be more aggressive; they were tentative at times on Saturday. Auburn is allowing their opponents almost 80 points per game on average. If Alabama runs their offense efficiently (for starters, limit unforced turnovers), they should be able to score some points.