The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Auburn when the Tigers were still unbeaten. They gave Auburn its first loss of this college basketball season. Now, Alabama will try to give LSU its first SEC loss of the season.
By Matt Zemek
The other Tigers – the Bayou Bengals of Baton Rouge – are on a roll, just as they were in SEC play last year. LSU won tons of close games in 2019, and it is continuing to win close games in 2020. The Tigers’ most recent game wasn’t an SEC game, but they won by two points at Texas to shore up their NCAA Tournament credentials. Because LSU is a much more valuable win now than it would have been at the end of December, this game takes on added importance for the Tide if they are to make a run at the Big Dance and get their name called on Selection Sunday.
1 – Defensive rebounding
Alabama allowed 22 offensive rebounds to Kansas State this past Saturday. It was remarkable that Alabama won, because the Tide allowed 74 field goal attempts. Alabama attempted only 43 shots. It is very rare that any team wins a game in which it attempts 31 fewer shots than its opponent. The Tide didn’t even make an absurd percentage of their own shots. They were good – 49 percent – but not spectacular. Kansas State was poor – 35 percent field goal shooting – but not atrocious (25-28 percent or something like that). Kansas State finished with a 22-3 bulge in offensive rebounding – plus-19! – and still didn’t win.
Alabama can’t get mashed on the glass like that against LSU and expect to win. It simply won’t happen.
2 – Perimeter defense
Alabama’s best feature against Kansas State was its perimeter defense. Kansas State did make 10 3-pointers, but on 29 attempts. The Tide’s defense against 3-point shooting wasn’t their best characteristic, but they kept Kansas State’s veteran guards from getting to the rim. Carter Diarra and Xavier Sneed are veteran players who had led KSU to the NCAA Tournament last year. They are crafty and resourceful backcourt stalwarts for the Wildcats. Not only did Alabama hold them, combined, to 10-of-35 field goal shooting, the Tide also limited their free throw trips. The two earned only seven free throws between them.
If Alabama can do that to Skylar Mays and the rest of the LSU backcourt, it has a great chance to win this game.
3 – Free Throws
Alabama beat Kansas State at the free throw line, earning 18 more attempts (37-19) and making 15 more shots (27-12). That is a reliable way to win games when the differential is that large. Even a more modest differential – plus-nine or plus-eight – is something Alabama would gladly take against LSU.