Busting Brackets

Alabama vs Auburn: 2023-24 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Vanderbilt v Auburn
Vanderbilt v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

A major rivalry tilt sees Alabama facing off with Auburn again; can the Crimson Tide continue their roll or will the Tigers avenge an earlier loss now back at home?

TV schedule: Wednesday, February 7, 7:00 pm ET. ESPN

Arena: Neville Arena in Auburn, Alabama

While this team is not quite playing at the same level as last year’s team, Alabama (16-6) has proven potent in recent weeks. They lost several games earlier in the season against tough opposition but stand tall at 8-1 in SEC play, alone atop the standings. The Crimson Tide have been on a role in recent weeks, now winners of ten of their last eleven games.

The brightest star at Alabama this season is Mark Sears (20.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.9 apg), the former Ohio guard who has really blossomed in his second year in Tuscaloosa. Joining him in that backcourt is Aaron Estrada (12.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg), who’s come over after starring at Hofstra in recent years. Nate Oats has built a strong roster using the Transfer Portal, including Grant Nelson (12.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg), a former North Dakota State forward playing great ball. Young homegrown talent is important, as is the play of sophomore guard Rylan Griffen (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg) among others.

Alabama has worked their way up to #16 in the AP Top 25 after this recent hot stretch. The metrics love this Crimson Tide team that plays remarkable offense, as they current sit 7th in KenPom’s ratings. Alabama is 2nd in the nation in offensive efficiency, having topped 100 points six times already this season. This team is capable of hot shooting and have been playing inspired basketball in conference play.

Across the court sit a bitter rival, as Auburn (18-4) looks to avenge their loss to the Crimson Tide from exactly two weeks earlier. It’s been a successful season for the Tigers. That loss to Alabama actually broke an 11-game winning streak, and this program still sits a respectable 7-2 in SEC play. Thus, winning this time around would feel extra sweet for numerous reasons.

For Auburn, a lot starts with Johni Broome (15.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg), the 6’10 forward who starred in the OVC at Morehead State before these last two years leading the Tigers’ frontcourt. Joining him back there is Jaylin Williams (12.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), a senior forward who’s been a reliable weapon, leading the team with 16 points in last weekend’s win at Ole Miss. Bench piece and JUCO transfer Chad Baker-Mazara (9.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg) has found a major role for the Tigers while freshman Aden Holloway (8.9 ppg, 3.1 apg) has had bright moments early in his career.

Auburn now sits at #12 in the AP Top 25 and have worked their way up to 5th in KenPom. Their offense has been strong all season long, especially in both parts of a sweep of Ole Miss, but that defense ranks among the Top 5 in efficiency. The Tigers can beat you in a myriad of ways and have a bona fide weapon down low in Broome.

When these teams played two weeks ago, Auburn hit just 20% of their 3-pointers; something that’s less likely to happen again, especially at home. Neither team played particularly perfect, but the Crimson Tide did enough to hang on and defend their home court. Could that simply flip this time? These teams are both very talented and have been filled out nicely with transfers, but who holds the edge?

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Alabama’s offense has been lethal for most of the season, meaning Auburn’s ability to slow them down will go a long way to determining the winner. Clearly the Tigers are no slouch on offense and certainly could’ve won last time absent a poor shooting night. This time around, expect the Tigers to defend their own home court, especially if they can get Broome going down low.

Prediction: Auburn 88, Alabama 85