The Alabama Crimson Tide are in trouble. What had looked like an NCAA Tournament season is now an NIT season after three consecutive losses. I
By Matt Zemek
If the season ended today, Alabama would very clearly be outside the field of 68. The good news is that Alabama still has five weeks before Selection Sunday to do something about its situation. This team is not about to be eliminated. However, it can’t keep hemorrhaging losses. More precisely – and relative to the Crimson Tide’s next game – Alabama can’t lose to bad teams.
Here comes a game against a bad Georgia team which has sunk to the bottom of the SEC, near Vanderbilt. Alabama isn’t helped by losing to teams such as Tennessee, in the middle tier of the Southeastern Conference, but a loss to Georgia would severely reduce the quality of the Tide’s resume and pull them several notches away from the bubble cut line (on the bad side of the ledger). Alabama has to shake itself off the three-game losing streak and renew its push toward the NCAA Tournament.
1 – Make Anthony Edwards earn everything
What is the basic plan of attack against an opponent which has a star-level player and not very much else? Make that star earn his points. Edwards is a gifted player. If he comes out for the 2020 NBA Draft, he should be a lottery pick. Players this talented will likely get their share of points. Alabama should not expect to shut down Edwards. Containment is the best and most reasonable standard. If Edwards does score plenty of points, though, Alabama needs to make sure those points aren’t scored efficiently.
Don’t let Edwards shoot 16 free throws, giving him 13-14 relatively easy points. Don’t let Edwards make passes to teammates for easy layups. Defend him in ways which force him to take contested shots, long shots, and off-balance shots. Don’t allow him to think he can get a high-quality shot on demand. Do that, and most of the task for Bama will have been achieved.
2 – Free throws
Alabama shot 37 free throws against Kansas State a few weeks ago, and has been terrible in free throw output and differential in the subsequent three-game losing streak. Alabama was badly outperformed at the foul line – in both makes and attempts – by LSU last week. Arkansas created five more attempts (29-24) and four more makes (20-16) in Tuscaloosa this past Saturday. Teams should not be losing free throw battles at home. Then, against Tennessee, Alabama was outscored 23-5 and outshot 32-8 at the foul line, which is completely inexcusable. Alabama needs to get back to the foul line and keep opponents away from it.
3 – Minimize bad stretches
Alabama is so good when everything is going well, but the Crimson Tide lose focus in games. They lost a 22-point lead to Florida earlier this season. They blew a 15-point lead to Tennessee. This team needs to find ways to stabilize and keep its head when other teams try to make a big run.