My Two Cents: Anyone who doesn't think LSU can upset Alabama on Saturday in Coleman Coliseum need only watch the game this past Wednesday. The offensive struggles rob this Alabama team of balance, and thus make them vulnerable every time they step on the floor. For all of its struggles, LSU is a solid offensive team, with a player in Antonio Blakeney that can drop 30 on any given night. Alabama's commitment to playing hard and defending has helped them grind out a 15-10 record, but it's also resulted in a thin margin of error for a team that struggles to protect the ball and do the little things like make free throws, pass the ball effectively, and avoid foul trouble. Alabama may be a 12.5 point favorite coming into this game, but don't be surprised if Alabama finds themselves in another grinder on Saturday afternoon.
Players to Watch: Bola Olaniyan has quietly become a vital part of this team. While Bola isn't going to shatter any Alabama scoring records, the graduate transfer has become a huge presence in the paint for this Alabama team. Bola leads the team in rebounds at 6.0 per game (7.5 per game in league play). It's his hustle on the offensive glass that has been really important for this team. With 63 offensive boards this season, Bola has 15 more than the next Tide player (Donta Hall - 48). And even when he doesn't record a rebound, he's keeping the ball alive for someone else to grab the rebound, as he did late in the game Wednesday when he kept a missed front end of a 1-and-1 alive to be rebounded by Donta. That rebound led to two Dazon free throws that effectively iced the game. Now, if Bola would just stop putting the ball on the floor on offense, everything would be peachy.
Duop Reath had quite the outing in the first game vs Alabama. Reath accounted for 12 pts, 9 rebs, 2 asts and 3 blks. In a bad season, Reath has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers. He can play inside/outside, and is a physical presence around the rim. Alabama cannot allow Reath and Blakeney to establish an inside/outside game or it's going to be a long day.
Prediction: In many ways, games against teams like Missouri and LSU are more stressful because, the way teams are selected for the NCAA postseason, any losses to teams with terrible RPIs can deep-six a season. It puts a team like Alabama in the position in which they simply can't have a bad day, or if they do have a bad day, they've got to find a way to overcome it. With Alabama's lack of balance, it won't surprise me if this game is another white-knuckle affair, but I'll take the home team with the better defense. Alabama - 68 - LSU - 57