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)
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: