The Alabama Crimson Tide ran into a roadblock against the red-hot LSU Tigers on Wednesday. The Crimson Tide must regroup on Saturday against an Arkansas team which just lost at home to South Carolina.
By Matt Zemek
There is no shame in losing to LSU, which is still unbeaten in the SEC, but the Crimson Tide have to protect their home floor, and they have to beat the teams in the broad midsection of the SEC if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. Let’s look at what the Tide need to do to move in the right direction on the bubble:
1 – Shot selection
We know Alabama coach Nate Oats wants his players to shoot the three. That’s not a problem. The problem is that when a team goes 10 of 38 from 3-point range, as Alabama did against LSU, other ways of scoring get ignored. Alabama shot threes at the expense of getting to the free throw line. The Tide attempted only 10 foul shots a few days after earning 37 free throws in a win versus Kansas State. It is true that LSU is a much better team than Kansas State, but the point remains that shooting threes and getting more free throws should complement each other instead of being an “either-or” equation. Attacking the rim and earning foul shots makes a defense more attentive of the need to pack the paint, which can in turn enable ballhandlers to drive and then kick the ball out to a wing shooter for a 3-pointer. Alabama didn’t really do that against LSU. It needs to do so versus Arkansas.
2 – Contain Mason Jones
Holy smokes. Mason Jones went OFF against South Carolina on Wednesday. He scored 34 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and handed out four assists. Jones was 9 of 15 from the field (60 percent), and 15 of 16 from the free throw line. He will test Alabama’s defense in many ways. The Tide need to be ready for him and make sure he doesn’t destroy their defense. If Jones scores a lot of points, it needs to come at the expense of a lot of missed shots. If he gets 30 points, it needs to be the result of 30 or more field goal attempts.
3 – Protect the paint
LSU got into the paint way too frequently against Alabama. LSU scored 90 points on a night when it went 3 of 16 on 3-pointers. LSU was 31 of 51 on 2-point field goal attempts. That doesn’t happen unless the opposing defense constantly allows ballhandlers and cutters to get into the lane for easy shots. Alabama has to stop the ball on drives and, more importantly, bother Arkansas’ offensive players near the rim. If Alabama can’t do that, it will be in huge trouble.