Alabama basketball hoping to avoid upset as NCAA Tournament resume buildsBy Matthew Speakman | 02/13/2018 11:28am
Forward Donta Hall averages 11 points and seven rebounds for Alabama.
Alabama basketball has had its fair share of let downs this season. Big wins are often followed by head-scratching losses to inferior teams from a talent perspective.
This week, Alabama (16-9, 7-5 SEC) does not want another let down to happen. After beating No. 15 Tennessee by 28 points, the Crimson Tide hosts LSU (14-10, 5-7) at 8 p.m. In a short turn around, but forward Alex Reese has seen more energy in the team.
“We were a little more focused at practice,” Reese said. “Our heads weren’t too high.”
It’s all about sustaining play. Alabama has to bring the same energy against teams like LSU that it does against top-25 opponents. The team lacked energy against Missouri and Mississippi State, and that led to losses.
“We asked them to flush their win against Tennessee at 11 p.m. the night (of the game),” coach Avery Johnson said. “They came into practice ready to go.”
Alabama is still fighting for a tournament bid, and let-downs against middle-tier opponents can hurt its resume.
Currently, Alabama boasts a 5-1 record against ranked opponents. The best one coming against No. 10 Auburn without leading-scorer Collin Sexton. That was one of the few big wins that did not follow a loss.
On the flip side, Alabama posts an 11-8 record against unranked teams. Still, Alabama does have six quadrant-1 wins and only three losses against those teams. Quadrant 1 wins are home games against teams ranked 1-30 in RPI, neutral site wins against teams ranked 1-50 or away games at 1-75. Only five teams in the NCAA have more of those wins than Alabama.
Those wins go a long way in determining a team’s placement in the NCAA tournament.
"I think it's a rewards-driven system," Johnson said. "I think you should be rewarded if you have that type of record against Top 25 teams."
Alabama sits at No. 32 in the RPI. LSU sits at No. 77, which is the lowest-ranked team Alabama has played since it lost to Ole Miss (No. 102 in RPI) on January 23. A win would qualify as a Quadrant 3 win. A win would be expected, while a loss would hurt.
LSU is a team Alabama has experience against, however. The Crimson Tide beat the Tigers, 74-66, without forward Donta Hall, who leads Alabama in rebounding and is second in scoring.
“I’m always going to try and bring my energy,” Hall said. “Blocking shots, rebounding the ball, I feel like that’s what I have to do a little more.”
Alabama and LSU will tip off 8 p.m. CT. Johnson wants his team to show the same energy it did against Tennessee. A win would keep Alabama rolling, while a loss would only continue to raise questions about the team’s consistency.
“Now, it’s just a matter of can we maintain that level— I’m not going to say of consistency— can we maintain that level of focus, concentration, tenacity and toughness in practice and hopefully it will carry over,” Johnson said.