For the second time this season, Alabama basketball hosts a Southeastern Conference team that the Crimson Tide beat on the road, but is playing well while Bama has been on a downward trend.
Alabama (18-3, 8-0 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (10-11, 3-5) on Tuesday at 7:30 pm CST at Coleman Coliseum (SEC Network).
In recent history the Tide and Commodores have played close games, the last five contests decided by an average of 6.4 points per game, Bama won 3, Vandy 2. Two weeks ago in Nashville, Alabama took a 78-66 decision.
The big and bad news of the weekend is that Bama, ranked second in the nation, faced Norman on Saturday and was crushed by unranked Oklahoma, 93-69, the worst loss a Tide team has suffered under coach Nate. Oats. But there were signs, most notably, a fight to win at home in the final moments against Mississippi State, 66-63, a team Alabama had defeated in Starkville 78-67.
On Monday after practice, Oats said, “We’ve got to play a lot better than the last game against Vanderbilt and a lot better than Saturday.” He said he had to start on defense and that he wanted his players on offense to “be in the flow.”
Oats saw Alabama trending in the wrong direction before Saturday, but his warning to the team apparently fell on deaf ears. He said: “I hate that it takes a turnover” to get the team’s attention. He should have come off the close call against Mississippi State.
Oats suggested that the bench players had shown in practice Monday that perhaps they should be in the top five. He told his team that “there’s not going to be a four-minute warmup,” that the starters had to be energized from the start. Over the past three games, Bama’s bench has averaged a 30-point contribution per game with point guard Jahvon Quinerly averaging 13 over that stretch. Freshman guard Rylan Griffin was the Tide’s leading scorer at Oklahoma with 15.
If the Tide stick to their recent top five, however, it will be 6-3 rookie guard Jaden Bradley (8.1 ppg, 3.4 assists), 6-1 junior guard Mark Sears (14 ppg), center 7-0 Charles Bediako (5.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 blocked shots), 6-10 freshman forward Noah Clowney (10.1 ppg, but on a huge shooting slump, team-leading 8.5 rebounds), and 6 -9 freshman forward Brandon Miller (team -leading 19 ppg, 8.1 rpg), including 30 points in win at Vanderbilt.
Miller is one of nine players in Division I, the only player in the SEC, and the only freshman in the nation to score 400 points and record 170 rebounds this season.
In the earlier meeting with Vanderbilt in Nashville, it was announced just before kickoff that the Commodores’ leading scorer (13.2 ppg) and rebounder (5.9), Liam Robbins, a 7-0, 250-senior pounds, was injured and out for the season. .
Bama’s defense was particularly good against Vandy’s dangerous forward Myle Stute (6-7, junior, averaging 10.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), keeping him within three points.
In addition to Stute, coach Jerry Stackhouse is expected to start 6-4 junior guard Thyrin Lawrence (10.7 ppg), 6-6 senior forward Jordan Wright (10.8 ppg), 6-0 junior guard Trey Thomas ( 6.8 ppg) and 6 -0 senior guard Ezra Manjon (8.7 ppg, 3.1 assists). Vanderbilt, however, has had nine different starters this season and 6-10 forward Quentin Millora-Brown has started 17 games but posted only 3.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Unlike most teams, Vanderbilt is scoring better in the SEC (75.1 ppg) than in the preconference (69.8 ppg). Among the most notable achievements in college basketball this year, the Commodores racked up 63 second-half points in a win over Arkansas.
Here’s how teams measure up statistically:
Alabama averages 82.5 points per game, opponents 69.9, a margin of 12.6. Vanderbilt gets a score of 71.9, his opponents 70, 0.6, plus 1.3. The Tide gets 45.3 rpg, allows 38.1, plus 7.2. Vandy grabs 36.8, his opponents 35.1, a 1.7 margin.
Bama has a slim 75-71 record in the series, including 46-20 at Tuscaloosa and 27-13 at Coleman Coliseum.