The team briefly returns home for a date with the Missouri Tigers. Tip time is 6:00 PM CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU. At halftime of this game, the 1986-87 team will be honored. That team is arguably the best team in Alabama history. They won 28 games, won the SEC regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. With an early tip time, a cool halftime event, and a basketball team that has won five of its last six games, there is no reason for fans not to show up tomorrow night and support this team. Alabama enters this game with their best conference start since the 12-13 season. This game has some added importance because three of the next four games are on the road. It's been yet another struggle for the Missouri program as they have only won five games overall, and are currently winless in conference play with an 0-4 record.
My Two Cents: The final five minutes of the game on Saturday was the best basketball Alabama has played all season. It was a sign that this team has grown where it concerns closing games. All three of their wins were close games late before the team made a late surge to win. The hope is that won't be necessary Wednesday night. This Alabama team is nowhere near good enough to just show up and beat someone (Avery Johnson's reaction to the question in the video above makes this very clear) so they will need to come ready to play. That said, there is no excuse for any conference team to lose a home game to this Missouri team. A loss would be devastating to whatever postseason hopes remain for our guys. They have to take care of business.
Players to Watch: Coach Avery challenged Donta Hall on Saturday after a slow start. Donta responded, finishing with 13 points (6-7 from the field). I thought he was the initial spark in the second half that led to the win. LSU was maintaining a 4-6 point lead. Donta scored six straight points, which kept the game close, setting up the late heroics of Corban and Riley. He still has a long way to go in his development, but he has made definite strides from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
Kevin Puryear was a problem in this game last season. Then a freshman, Puryear scored 22 points and added 6 rebounds. In a down season, Puryear has been a bright spot for Missouri. He's second on the team in scoring (11.4), and rebounds (6.5). He will be a challenge for our big guys. Jordan Barnett - a transfer from Texas - is the team's best player. He leads the team in scoring (12.7) and rebounds (7.1).
Prediction: There's a weird pressure in playing Missouri the last few seasons. Because the Tigers have struggled, the fan expectation has been that other conference teams, particularly when playing at home, should beat Missouri with relative ease. Alabama's struggles on offense make them vulnerable in any game, and it should be noted that Missouri is a top 75 defensive efficiency team, so expecting Alabama to do anything with relative ease right now is likely a fool's errand. But, as I wrote above, there is simply no excuse for any team in this league to lose on their home floor to this Missouri team. As long as Alabama plays well on the defensive end, and takes care of the basketball, they should emerge victorious. Alabama - 68 - Missouri - 52