The good news is that Alabama did defeat the Georgia Bulldogs this past Saturday.
By Matt Zemek
The bad news is that beating Georgia won’t move the Crimson Tide up the board in a battle for an NCAA Tournament spot. The value of beating Georgia was that Alabama did not fall several notches. The Tide would have been in a worse position had they lost. They aren’t catapulting themselves past other teams pursuing an at-large bid.
This game against Auburn – unlike the Georgia game – is precisely the kind of contest which can sling-shot the Tide past a lot of other bubble teams. If Alabama wins here, it would go from being squarely on the bubble to being a likely (though not certain) NCAA Tournament team.
The natural problem for Alabama in this game is that it has already beaten Auburn this season and is facing an opponent which is playing its best basketball of the season. Auburn has beaten Kentucky, Arkansas, and LSU in succession to move into a tie for the SEC lead with LSU and Kentucky. Bruce Pearl’s team is exhibiting the tenacity which is very familiar to SEC basketball observers. Auburn looks and feels so much like a Pearl-coached team, whether at AU or at Tennessee a decade ago. How can Alabama sweep Auburn and change the way its season is perceived? Let’s start in the most obvious place.
1 – Stop the dribble drive
It is true that Auburn just beat LSU on the strength of its 3-point shooting, but Alabama’s winning performance against Auburn weeks ago was built on the back of stopping the dribble and forcing Auburn to shoot bad 3-point shots. Auburn can be impatient with its shot selection. It is true that Auburn can hit some high-degree-of-difficulty 3-pointers, but that is a reality opposing teams have to accept (at least to a certain extent). Alabama has to rely on stopping dribble penetration so that Auburn becomes impatient and chucks and bunch of long shots. Unless Auburn goes crazy from downtown for a second straight game, this should work in Alabama’s favor. The defense has to be energetic enough and sound enough to lead Auburn’s guards down the wrong path. The wrong path for AU is the right path for Alabama.
2 – Stop the big runs
Auburn was down by at least 13 points in the second half of each of its last two games, at Arkansas and then versus LSU. Auburn rallied late, which is something LSU has been doing to a lot of SEC opponents this season. Alabama might lead Auburn midway through the second half, but 30 minutes mean little against Auburn. Alabama will need to weather the storm and minimize big runs before Auburn can generate them.
– Kira Lewis
When trying to do something as difficult as sweeping Auburn by winning in the Tigers’ own arena, the biggest of the big dogs must perform like elite players. Enter Kira Lewis. This needs to be his game. This doesn’t mean Alabama’s role players won’t play a huge part in delivering this win, but it means Lewis needs to be at his very best. Nothing less will do