Alabama (2-4; KenPom: 81) was hoping to avoid the dreaded 7th place game, but ran into a buzzsaw on Thursday in the form of Iowa State. The Cyclones shot a blistering 52% from the field (51% from 3) and finished with 104 points. It was the first team to score 100 or more points against Alabama since Ole Miss did it way back in 2001. Nate Oats summed up the performance succinctly in the post-game by saying the team's defense "sucked".
Now Alabama finds itself badly needing a win today to salvage something basketball-related from this trip. They will face the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (2-5; KenPom: 238) from Conference USA. Game time is 8:30 P.M. CT, and will be televised by ESPNU. This will be the final game of the tournament.
My Two Cents: Honestly, Alabama has been more bad than good through six games. They've struggled to adapt to the new pace, and that has led to high turnover rates, rushed shots, and defensive breakdowns. Opponents are currently averaging 81 points per game. Maybe this team will figure things out by January or February, but will they have dug themselves too big of a hole by that point?
And it's not all on the players; the in-game coaching has been, quite frankly, not great. Let's take the last game for example. Iowa State put together an 18-2 run in the first half that allowed them to take control of the game. In the second half, after Alabama closed the gap to six points, Iowa State went on a 14-0 run in the span of two minutes. In both instances, Nate Oats did not call a timeout to stall the run and make adjustments. There was a similar circumstance in the game at Rhode Island. Furthermore, he seems to be unwilling to switch to a zone defense at any time in order to slow the game down and give the opposing team a different look. I'm all for giving the guy time to figure things out, but I gotta say I haven't been overly impressed with his game management so far.
I have a great deal of respect in the fact that, in the sport of college basketball, anyone can beat you on any given night. However, there will be no positive way to spin it if Alabama loses this game. Southern Miss is 2-5, and both of their wins came against non-D1 competition. The average margin of defeat in their five losses has been by 17 points. Lose this game and the last shred of momentum with the casual basketball fanbase (I'm a maniac so I'm going to watch this team regardless) will be gone.
Players to Watch: One bright spot for Alabama in this tournament has been John Petty. In his two games in the Bahamas, he's averaging 28.5 pts, 7.5 rebs, and 2.5 stls. I thought his performance vs Iowa State was arguably the best of his college career so far. Can he add one more stellar performance as the team wraps up this tournament?
Alabama should have the advantage on the perimeter in this one, but Southern Miss has a pair of physical forwards in Boban Jacdonmi (14.8 pts, 7.3 rebs, 62.3% FG) and Leonard Harper-Baker (9.3 pts, 8.5 rebs, 2.3 asts, 2.2 stls, 1.3 blks, 54.5% FG) that could be yet another challenge for Alabama's interior defense. Neither one of these guys wants to play on the perimeter so guys like Javian, Galin, Alex and anybody else tasked with defending them will have to hold their own when these guys receive the ball, likely in the post.
Prediction: Alabama needs to win this game, but as bad as they are on the defensive end right now, I don't know that we can assume anything at this point. No idea what the line is going to be for this game, but if I was a betting man I might put a little dough on Southern Miss to cover. Alabama should win this game by double digits, but until I see them competently defend a team for long stretches I'm just not going to pick them to do it so quit asking!
Alabama - 76 - Southern Miss - 74