Alabama basketball: New life for Alabama’s NCAA tournament hopes
Welcome to The Rammer Jammer, SEC Country’s daily Alabama athletics recap. Today, we look at Alabama’s NCAA tournament chances, the Senior Bowl and a busy weekend for gymnastics.
As deflating as losing to Auburn was, Alabama’s win against Georgia on Wednesday evening was reinvigorating. Thanks to the dominant win in Stegeman Coliseum, the Crimson Tide now is on the periphery of the tournament discussion. According to one evaluator, that win alone raised Alabama’s projected chance of making March Madness from just 8 percent to 26 percent — an 18-point swing in just one day.
Alabama’s not quite a bubble team yet, but it’s close after trashing Georgia by 20 in Athens. Stringing together a few more bursts of conference wins will give the Crimson Tide a chance. A record of 8-4 or 9-3 over the final 12 games should just about do it in a depleted SEC.
Alabama gets a chance to start a streak of wins over Bulldogs when it welcomes Mississippi State to Coleman Coliseum this Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. The Crimson Tide already beat State, 68-58, in Starkville at the beginning of SEC play and hold an advantage on the return leg this weekend. Mississippi State’s one-dimensional perimeter-based offense has enabled it to keep games close against Kentucky and run up the score on Mizzou when shots are falling, but when Alabama’s on, it does a good job of running opponents off of open threes.
Mississippi State is one of the few teams that will have a decided disadvantage on the boards, averaging just 34 rebounds per game to Alabama’s 39. The Bulldogs get few second-chance points, pulling down just 25 percent of their own shots, which creates fast break opportunities for Alabama. They rarely shoot free throws, attempting a free throw just 3.8 times for every 10 shots attempted.
The Bulldogs are a guard-heavy team that presses and harries ball handlers in the half-court, which can be a problem if Dazon Ingram’s having a bad day. Avery Johnson Jr. and Corban Collins could be called on to handle the ball for significant periods of time, but that’s been a path to success for Alabama, freeing up Ingram and Braxton Key to move off the ball.
The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
- A perennially underrated Ryan Anderson is looking to shine at the Senior Bowl despite a nagging injury.
- Even Alabama’s long snapper has NFL dreams.
- Dalvin Tomlinson called Da’Ron Payne the most underrated Alabama player.
Built by Bama
- Cooper Bateman, a long-time Alabama backup quarterback, is headed to Utah.
- Cyrus Kouandjio had hip surgery but should be ready for the Bills’ training camp.
- Alabama’s incoming quarterback is a left-handed dual-threat thrower from a devout evangelical family. Sound familiar?
- And another incoming player was named the top high school player in the country.
- Former Alabama golfer Trey Mullinax is tied for third at the Farmers Insurance Open.
- And former Alabama swimmer Stacy Potter Inman, a 22-time All-American, is a 2017 SEC Legend.
Sticking the landing
The gymnastics team’s now-traditional early season busy weekend is this week, with a Friday meet at Arkansas and a Sunday meet against Auburn in Birmingham. Until last year, the stress of this weekend was heightened by the threat of losing The Streak — the 37-year streak of 117 consecutive wins against its rival that came crashing down by the thinnest of margins last season. This season, that won’t be a concern — because The Streak ended last year but also because Auburn’s gymnastics team has been decidedly not good this season.
But first, Arkansas. The Razorbacks are the 23rd-ranked team in the country, with a high score of 195.35 that comes in well below Alabama’s season low of 196.7. By average score, Alabama holds the advantage on every apparatus. The Razorbacks have only broken 49 on an individual event twice this season— a 49 on beam and a 49.050 on floor. Arkansas has a streak of its own against Alabama — two consecutive meets and counting, not counting the SEC Championships — but both of those were aided by early season catastrophic beam meltdowns. Alabama’s had just one fall on the apparatus in three meets thus far, so I wouldn’t count on it.
Auburn, meanwhile, is No. 16 in the country, averaging 195.717 with a season high of 196.075. Alabama also holds a sizable advantage against Auburn on each apparatus, though the Tigers’ high score of 49.225 on floor exercise is respectable. Auburn has struggled with vault landings this season and the balance beam for a while. Those tendencies don’t lend themselves well to making the podium at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Sunday afternoon.
First vault against Arkansas will be at 8:30 p.m. ET and the meet will be broadcast on the SEC Network. First vault against Auburn will be at 5 p.m. ET, but there will be no TV broadcast.