Alabama putting No. 1 Auburn on upset alert
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jeremy Bryant
The showdown between one of the best rivalries in college sports will add another episode to the saga with Tuesday’s matchup in “The Jungle” of Auburn’s homecourt.
Alabama is coming off one of the biggest upsets this season with a win over No. 4 Baylor, and Auburn is coming in hot on their 17-game win streak with the latest victory against the Oklahoma Sooners. Both teams entered the Big 12/SEC Challenge this past weekend that saw the SEC dominate, winning six of the 10 games.
The Alabama Crimson Tide have had an up and down season including wins over then-No. 3 ranked Gonzaga and No. 14 Houston, but also have crushing losses to mediocre teams including the eyesore of a game against Georgia. Auburn’s resume is a little more prestigious, achieving wins over Kentucky and LSU, lifting them to the school’s first ever No.1 ranking in the AP polls.
Auburn took the first round against the Tide in an 81-77 win that saw their young backcourt frustrate their counterparts on both ends of the floor. Alabama was outplayed in every facet on their own court, but were still able to make the game a slim victory. If the outcome is going to be any different this time around, Alabama head coach Nate Oats is going to need to limit the isolation plays that plagued the team in the loss.
Oats has changed his rotation since the last time these two teams saw each other with JD Davison now starting, and Jahvon Quinerly coming off the bench. The switch is bound to cause some problems for Bruce Pearl’s team, Davidson allows the first unit to space the floor with more of a facilitator running the offense. Davison can also match the explosiveness that the Auburn guards can put on display at times.
Quinerly can now become more of a spark plug with the second unit that has turned him back into the beloved shot creator that put everyone on notice in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Alabama big men are going to need to be the more physical frontcourt with the Tide getting out-rebounded in the previous matchup. The Tide may also need to rid themselves of their perimeter shooting woes. Both teams do not shoot the three ball particularly well, but it only took 27% to win the long range battle in the last matchup.
Auburn will still be featuring arguably the best player in college basketball, and the expectation is for him to pick up where he left off. Jabari Smith had his way with the Tide’s horrific defense to the tune of 25 points. Smith was able to get to any part of the floor he wanted and made it difficult to score for anyone he guarded with an amazing stat line in that game.
The Tiger’s two-headed monster in the backcourt are going to have to be just as effective if they want to keep the ball rolling on this dominant streak. Wendell Green Jr. and K.D. Johnson drowned the opposition with the energy they put on display. Both players left Coleman Coliseum with a combined 32 points and six steals. While the Tigers won the rebound battle in that game, their 7-foot center, Walker Kessler, had minimal impact finishing with a poor performance. Kessler tried to match the Tide’s physicality and ended up getting tricked into foul trouble, allowing Noah Gurley to take easier shots in the low-post.
Tuesday’s contest is set up to be a wild one with the two teams that have a known distaste for each other. The Tide also are going to be looking for revenge as they would despise seeing another Auburn celebration mocking former Alabama football player John Metchie’s Crane celebration. Tip-off will be at 8 pm and will be available on to watch on ESPN.