Alabama basketball continues to search for answers ahead of its showdown with No. 11 Auburn. The Crimson Tide aims to do the dirty work, remain consistent and play fast.
After suffering a three-game losing streak, Alabama basketball beat Georgia 105-102 in overtime, saving its NCAA Tournament hopes and dreams. Under first-year head coach Nate Oats, the Crimson Tide had high expectations. One’s that seemed reasonable. Logical. And within reach.
But things aren’t that simple. Sitting at 13-10 (5-5 SEC), the Crimson Tide play the two toughest teams in the conference, Auburn and LSU. And without its top defensive player, Herbert Jones, who is out due to a fractured left wrist, it won’t be easy.
In a four-game stretch, Alabama has blown double-digit leads. Against the Bulldogs, they rallied. They trailed by 12 points; however, they managed to force overtime and gut out the win. Kira Lewis Jr. finished with 37 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block. He finished shooting 12-of-21 from the field.
Though Georgia is No. 91 in the NET rankings, the road win against the Bulldogs was huge. Now, the Crimson Tide has a chance to add to its resume with a season sweep over Auburn.
Alabama beat Auburn earlier this season, 83-64, with an almost perfect performance. The Crimson Tide scored fast. Shot the three-pointer. And ran in transition. Bruce Pearl and his team, despite being then ranked No. 4 in the country, had no answers.
But, the Tigers have gotten better since then.
The Tigers beat Arkansas in overtime on Wednesday and beat LSU in overtime on Saturday.
With eight games remaining and having won against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Missouri, the Crimson Tide needs to add to its resume. Having the No. 21 strength of record, playing close games helps. Losing big leads do not.
To make the NCAA Tournament, the maximum number of losses is usually 14, with exceptions.
In 2018, Alabama made the tournament with 15 losses. They had Colin Sexton. And made a late run in the SEC Tournament. Trailing Texas A&M 70-69 with 4.4 seconds left, Sexton led the charge, running full-court for the game-winning layup as time expired.
So, it’s possible.
But it’s better not to take any chances.
Against Auburn, Alabama needs to be consistent. They need to shoot from beyond the arc, but most importantly, the Crimson Tide needs to do the dirty work. The work Jones did before his injury. Without it, Alabama won’t win.
Alabama will play No. 11 Auburn (21-2, 8-2 SEC) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.