The Alabama Crimson Tide are 15-0 when playing in Tuscaloosa this season – not bad, not bad at all.
They are 11-4 in the conference and could possibly split the regular season title with Florida (if the Gators were to stumble at Vanderbilt on Saturday), yet they are on the NCAA Bubble due to a lack of love from the people at RPI, Inc. The Tide sport a less-than-stellar RPI of 86, largely due in part to their soft out-of-conference schedule – they have the 129th hardest schedule in the nation (eeehhh).
Bama has gone 3-2 against teams from the SEC East, however, and they need this game over an RPI Top 50 team like the Georgia Bulldogs (20-9; 9-6) to bolster their tourney resume. The Tide should be plenty motivated come Saturday afternoon, and there’s a chance that they might play a Dawgs team that could be without its star player – Trey Thompkins.
Thompkins has been nursing a toe injury all week, and at the moment he is listed as questionable for the game.
It would be a shame if Trey couldn’t go for Georgia, because I was very excited to see the match-up between him and Bama’s version of Trey Thompkins – JaMychal Green. Green has put together an excellent junior season for Coach Anthony Grant, leading his team with 16.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg in conference play. Similarly to Thompkins, Green is a versatile big that can score the ball both inside and out.
Green is joined in the frontcourt by sophomore wing Tony Mitchell, who is scoring 16.6 ppg and grabbing 6.3 rpg in SEC contests.
The Tide get scoring on the perimeter from freshman point guard Trever Releford – he is netting 11.7 ppg and dishing out 3.2 apg in league games.
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant wanted his team to be strong defensively coming into this season, and it’s safe to say his kids bought in. The Tide are holding opponents to merely 61.1 points per game, tops in the SEC. Bama leads the conference in field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 39.6% from the field. They are also leading the SEC in steals with 9.2 per game, and they are fourth in the league in blocked shots at 5.1 per contest. This team gets it done on the defensive side of the ball, and that is why they have won 11 conference games this season.
Offensively, much like Georgia, the Tide prefer to get their points from inside the arc. Bama is shooting just 26.3% from three-point range, and they are hitting only 3.1 three-point field goals a game – both of which rank them last in the SEC. Conversely though, they are knocking down nearly 50% of their 2-point field goal attempts in conference games this year.
If Trey can’t go on Saturday, Georgia is going to face a very stiff challenge in Tuscaloosa. Coach Mark Fox’s triangle offense will not run as smoothly with either Jeremy Price or Chris Barnes at the high post position, as neither player is a significant scoring threat from more than eight feet from the basket (that’s being very generous to Barnes).
The Dawgs are going to have to find other ways to score, and hopefully Gerald Robinson and Travis Leslie can create offense from the wing positions.
Dustin Ware is coming off his best three-point shooting performance since the Georgia Tech game, knocking down 5 of 7 from beyond the arc in the win over LSU on Thursday. Ware is connecting on an SEC-leading 47.7% of his three-point attempts this season. Coach Fox is going to need Dustin to step up and make some outside shots on Saturday.
In my (humble) opinion, this game is far more significant for Alabama than it is for Georgia – dare I say “must win” for the Tide? With the Dawgs’ win over LSU on Thursday, Georgia put themselves in a very good position to earn an at-large berth to this year’s NCAA tournament – that’s what a strong RPI of 37 will do for you. Bama however, could be left out of the dance if they were to lay an egg and drop one to the Dawgs on Saturday.
That being said, if the Bulldogs were to go into Bear Bryant Territory and knock off the Tide, Georgia would head into next week’s SEC Tournament looking to improve their NCAA tourney seed (vs wondering if they are in or not).
Hopefully Trey’s toenail is getting the best medical attention that UGA can provide.
If he can’t play though, can the Dawgs win an SEC road game without him?