In its last 2 games Alabama put in their worst efforts of the past month...yet the Tide is still undefeated in SEC play. A poor defensive effort against MSU followed by a poor offensive effort against Kentucky has had the good guys sweating at times, but the guys have found a way-as winning teams are supposed to do. Bama will now travel to Norman to kick off the SEC/BIG12 Challenge. Tip is set for 11:00 CT on ESPN.
The Opponent: Oklahoma comes in to this matchup on quite the hot streak that includes wins over West Virginia and Texas. They’ve done it behind a balanced effort on both sides of the court as well as some timely leadership. The Sooners are out scoring opponents by nearly 11 PPG while shooting a very efficient 75% from the charity stripe. Everything began to click for Oklahoma after Coach Lon Kruger made the switch to a 4 guard lineup by inserting Elijah Harkness. Three point efficiency increased on offense and the turnover ratio nearly doubled for the Sooners after the shake up. The only blemish in the armor seems to be some vulnerability to the dribble drive-which is good news for the Tide if it can protect the ball and finish at the rim or find the open kick out. A win for Oklahoma would make them the only team to win 3 straight top 10 meetings since the 2013-14 Michigan Wolverines.
Players to Watch : Oklahoma has plenty of players that are capable of scoring the ball in a myriad of ways. This is a high IQ club led by senior Austin Reaves. The 6’5 G averages about 16 PPG and 5 APG. He’s one of those players that seems to make the right decision almost every time he has the ball in his hands.
Everyone remembers what happened the last time Herb Jones played Oklahoma. One could argue that this was the day that Herb’s legacy began to take shape as he locked down Trae Young to help Alabama earn the W. Jones will come in to this matchup as a senior and a completely different offensive player than he was on that day. He leads Alabama in nearly every defensive category and is 3rd on the team in scoring. Most impressive is the fact that he leads Alabama in both FT % and 3 PT %. I won’t lie to you faithful readers...in years past I literally cringed when Herb would pull up for 3. When he went to the line I’d pray for 1/2. This development under Oats has been nothing short of remarkable. Alabama will need Herb-esque effort on D all the way around to come out of Norman with a win.
My Thoughts : I predicted a loss to Kentucky Tuesday night. I knew Alabama was the better team but I was also convinced that Kentucky would simply be desperate. They’d get the foul calls and Bama would be cold from the field . All of which happened and yet there was one facet of the game I ignorantly ignored. Alabama just wants it more. The DNA has mutated within this program. Oklahoma’s experience at the Guard position scares me. The Tide probably loses if it’s as cold from the perimeter as it was against Kentucky. But Bama loves to play on the road. The chip on the shoulder will still be there. I expect a solid shooting performance to be just enough for the streak to continue...and talk of a potential 1 seed to commence.
Prediction: Alabama 84 Oklahoma 76