clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The SEC's Worst Losses: Alabama

Alabama just beat an undefeated South Carolina team. Are they due for a disappointment against Vanderbilt?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, Alabama seemed destined to match Vanderbilt's 0-3 start to SEC play. Then, it delivered a 23-point Coleman Coliseum beatdown on then-undefeated South Carolina. If you believe in momentum, now might be a good time to slap a bet down on the Crimson Tide.

If you take a more measured approach, however, you'll see a key conference matchup between two teams who have mostly avoided bad losses while beating the team's they're supposed to this winter. Alabama was supposed to be hitting the reset button this winter under first-year head coach Avery Johnson. Instead, a balanced scoring attack that shoots early 23 three-pointers per game has the Tide on pace for another postseason appearance.

They'll face a Vanderbilt team that limited Auburn to just 18.2% shooting from behind the arc in their last game. The Commodores laid a beating on the Tigers despite having only 13 minutes of Damian Jones to work with (though Jones spent much of that time dunking and being called for fouls due to excessive glaring). Luke Kornet thrived in his absence and put up the program's second-ever triple-double (points, rebounds, blocks), but there were still plenty of issues with the team's performance despite their 18-point victory.

Can Vanderbilt shore up the issues that led to 17 turnovers in this week's win? Here's how Ole Miss toppled the Tide a week ago.

Alabama (10-5, 1-2 SEC, unranked in either poll and ranked No. 84 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)

Worst Loss: at Ole Miss (12-4. No. 92 KenPomNo. 58 CBS RPI), 66-74
Other Losses: at Dayton, vs. Xavier, vs. Oregon, vs. Kentucky

Alabama and Ole Miss played a game of runs early in Oxford. The Rebels took an early 20-10 lead, but failed to protect it and trailed 40-32 at the half. Then, with a packed crowd willing them on, they blew the doors off the Tide. Ole Miss produced a 42-point second half and limited their opponent to 39 percent shooting while forcing 12 turnovers in 20 minutes.

Point of emphasis: Christen a new arena. Yeah. Vanderbilt can't duplicate this one outright, but a rowdy Memorial Gym crowd can get close. The Rebels celebrated their first game in the Pavillion at Ole Miss by harnessing the energy of a packed arena to outscore the Tide by 16 points in the second half. This was proof Alabama can get rattled by big moments and long runs. Unfortunately, the Commodores have the same problem.

Keys to the Game:

  • Be less fatally flawed than Alabama. Committing untimely turnovers at key moments? Long scoring droughts punctuated by disappearing three-point shooting? Shrinking when the spotlight shines the hardest? Vanderbilt and Alabama have suffered from the same problems in matchups against quality teams this winter. Whoever plays the most composed down the stretch will win this one.
  • Pressure the ball out to the arc. Alabama started three guards against Ole Miss - Retin Obasohan, Arthur Edwards, and Justin Coleman. Together, they combined to create 15 of the team's 19 turnovers. Edwards and Coleman, in particular, have each turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of their possessions this season. Look for Wade Baldwin to be very opportunistic with his defense on Saturday evening.
  • Make Shannon Hale and Justin Coleman shoot. Hale and Coleman have combined to score 19 points per game this winter, but despite being two of the team's most accomplished scorers they are also Alabama's least efficient. Hale is shooting just 36.4 percent from the field in 2015-15. Coleman makes him look like James Siakam with his 30.5 percent mark. Against Ole Miss, they made four of their 13 shots. The rest of the team made exactly half their shots. The more they have the ball, the better it should be for Vanderbilt.