Find a way. It’s what good teams do in the worst of times. Alabama’s offense was back to its ripping and running ways at South Carolina and it was a relieving sight. Yet the creeping February dread I mentioned in my last preview still lingered due to an early injury to F Juwan Gary and South Carolina’s offensive output. Alabama sealed the victory with help from a brilliant defensive strategy implemented late by Nate Oats by which the Tide D baited SC into taking a wide open layup for 2 while Bama was up 3. CHEF’S KISS! James Rojas subsequently made a couple of FTs to ice the game away. Unfortunately, Alabama will be without the services of Gary for up to 2 weeks as the team will welcome Georgia into Tuscaloosa tomorrow. Alabama enters the game leading the conference standings by 3.5 games and only needing 3 more wins to clinch the SEC title. Tip is set for 2:30 on SECN.
The Opponent: Georgia comes into Tuscaloosa with a 12-7 overall record (5-7 in SEC play). Tom Crean has struggled to field a tournament quality team regardless of having Anthony Edwards. Part of that is due to Bruce Pearl curiously raiding the talent of the Atlanta area right underneath Crean’s nose. I digress. This year’s Bulldog squad is no different. A decent preseason start has given way to a lackluster conference performance but the Dawgs have still shown potential at times. This matchup favors Alabama, however as Georgia is dead last in the conference in scoring defense giving up about 83 PPG. The Bulldogs score close to 75 PPG. Georgia does most of its damage in the paint and is actually 2nd in the league in FG% at 46%. This makes it head scratching when considering they convert FTs at a 67% clip-good for next to last in the conference.
Players to Watch: It’s hard not to like Georgia PG Sahvir Wheeler’s game. He leads Georgia in PPG (13.5), minutes per game and APG (7.5). The only G in the league with better vision is Sharife Cooper in my opinion. The only negative to Wheeler’s game is that he can occasionally be prone to turnovers when he tries to do too much.
Alabama’s John Petty Jr seems to be rounding into offensive form again for the Tide and that’s a very good sign. I expect a big game from him again tomorrow but I’m gonna have my eyes on Jahvon Quinerly. He seems to finally be back to pre “medical condition “ form as he contributed 13 big points against SC and protected the ball much better in the 2nd half. His role as primary ball handler becomes more vital as Herb Jones has simply become a liability on the offensive end at times as he’s been unable to practice due to a back injury. Fortunately, Herb hasn’t let any of those issues hurt his performance on the defensive end.
My Thoughts: This matchup looks great for Alabama on paper. To put it simply, Bama takes this one easily IF IT BRINGS THE NECESSARY EFFORT. Having said that, the injuries have actually seemed to add a bit of a chip on the Tide’s shoulders . The team loves to be doubted and there are many that wonder if Bama can continue to find a way through the mounting injuries. One thing has remained a constant for Alabama and its defense. Alabama is now currently at the top of KENPOM’s adjusted defense stat. While some may choose to point out South Carolina’s 78 points, they neglect to note the inflated possessions that are a direct result of Alabama’s blistering offensive pace. I expect Alabama to be productive turning defense in to offense tomorrow. The magic number should decrease to 2.
Prediction: Alabama 84, Georgia 69