Before we get started with this upcoming game I’d like to share that the other upcoming matchup with #6 Houston has been canceled. Alabama and Western Kentucky have come to an agreement to play instead. Tip for that one is set for 1:00 Saturday.
As expected, Alabama ran into a defensive buzzsaw against Clemson Saturday. The Tide couldn’t shoot well enough to win and it also failed to match Clemson’s effort in the first half. Most disappointing was how the team fought to take a late lead only to follow the all too familiar script of falling apart late in big games. The task doesn’t get much easier as the Paladins of Furman will come into Tuscaloosa Tuesday playing well. Tip is set for 8:00 on SEC Network.
The Opponent : Furman comes into the 20-21 season as the consensus preseason pick to win the SoCon and they’ve fit the Bill so far. The team returns 4 starters and 3 of them were selected for preseason all conference honors. Furman is 5-1 and are outscoring opponents by nearly 25 PPG so far. They’re shooting an impressive 50% from the field at this point in the season. Alabama will need to lower that number in tomorrow night’s matchup and then rebound the misses. Simple, right?
Players to Watch: Furman returns 4 of 5 starters (as previously mentioned) from last year’s team that finished 25-7. F Jalen Slawson is an athletic big that is averaging about 11 PPG and 6 RPG. He shoots a high percentage so Jordan Bruner and Alex Reese will once again be tasked with defending a talented post player. The motor for the Paladins has to be Mike Bothwell, however. Bothwell leads Furman with 18 PPG, 4 APG and 2 SPG. Slowing Bothwell down will go a long way in helping Alabama earn a home W.
For Bama the choice has to be Jaden Shackleford. I can’t remember seeing the stoic sophomore being more frustrated than he was against Clemson. Shackleford was particularly disappointing in the final 5 minutes of the game when he missed some crucial shots that would’ve extended the Alabama lead or kept the game closer. Nobody on the team works harder than Shack, however. I expect a big night from the California kid tomorrow.
My Thoughts : This is NOT going to be easy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the betting line of this game set within a single possession. Effort and energy have to be at a maximum early and often. The Tide will need to find the 3 point stroke again and I think it will. It won’t be fun. It’ll probably be a nail biter...but I think home court pulls Bama through...barely.
Prediction : Alabama 82, Furman 77