I’d like to begin by apologizing for not providing a preview for the last game. My mother was having a rather important surgery. For those interested- I do provide a tweet summarizing my thoughts on the upcoming game when I know I’ll miss a preview. If you wish to follow me for that and other Bama Hoops news, my Twitter handle is @Tim_bamahoops.com. Now on to the game!
The clear cut heavyweights of the SEC will meet tomorrow with massive conference ramifications. Alabama travels to Missouri with a 4 game lead in the standings. A win would all but clinch the SEC regular season title for the Tide. Missouri needs the win in order to take a big chunk out of the gap. Tip is set for 11:00 CT Saturday on the worldwide leader.
The Opponent: Cuanzo Martin’s squad is coming in to the matchup with Alabama as winners of 4 of their last 5. That includes a 75-70 home win over Kentucky earlier this week. Missouri features 4 players that score in double figures and are led by Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith. Pinson is a legit NBA talent...more on him later. Missouri rebounds well as they have beaten opponents on the boards by about 3 RPG. The Tigers outscore opponents by 5 PPG and are 3rd in the league in scoring defense.
Players to Watch: The aforementioned Xavier Pinson is the obvious choice here. Though G Dru Smith is an excellent leader and scorer, Pinson can be an X factor. Proven by the massive game he had against TCU in the SEC/ BIG12 Challenge. The kid is a legitimate NBA prospect and his stock can only rise as he develops a consistent 3. Petty and Herb will likely draw minutes guarding Pinson. He will eat at times but Bama simply can’t let him take over.
It was good to see the offense speed up again wasn’t it? Alabama is at its best when it holds opposing offenses to single shot possessions, rebounds and then gets into its rip and run game. Jaden Shackleford is a key factor in that. There may only be 2 or 3 teams in the nation that can outscore Alabama when Shack and Petty are scoring it. The Bama guards will need to beat their defenders and get into the paint to initiate the drive and kick game.
My Thoughts: The Missouri offense is a potent one indeed, but the Tigers have only shot 30% from the arc in conference play. I believe the 3 will play a huge factor in this game. Alabama needs to defend the perimeter and keep Missouri at or below its conference average. Having said that, I don’t think the Tide will have such an easy time getting into the paint as it did against LSU. When they do, ball handlers HAVE TO see the kick out if the layup isn’t there. Decision making will need to be at its best.
Motivation certainly shouldn’t be an issue for Alabama tomorrow. I’m sure Coach Oats has reminded the team of the sluggish start it had just last weekend in its last 11:00 AM start. It won’t happen again. One also doesn’t have to be an analytics or math expert to know that a 4.5 or 5 game lead in the standings this late in the season likely means hanging a new banner. That’s exactly what you sign up to play for. Bama wins a back and forth affair.
Prediction: Alabama 74, Missouri 71