Avery Johnson already had Alabama fans excited before the Crimson Tide (4-2) took home fifth place in last week's loaded AdvoCare Invitational. Now, after back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, something that never happened under the previous regime, 'Bama fans are nothing short of ecstatic. However, with this being a young team learning a new system, the Crimson Tide faithful shouldn't expect this team to start consistently beating really good teams or breaking into the top 25 any time soon. They can, however, expect this team to be highly competitive and, well, fun to watch for the first time in a while. Still, Alabama had lost it's last 21 games against ranked opponents going into last weekend. Avery not only broke that streak, he then doubled down on it two days later. Special things are happening in Tuscaloosa.
Next up is just a bit of a step down in competition, as the Tide heads to Hattiesburg to take on the winless Southern Miss Golden Eagles (0-5). Doc Sadler has been saddled (boo) with the unenviable task of picking up the pieces after former coach Donnie Tyndall completely ruined the program off of the court. This can't be overstated: Southern Miss is a terrible team. Not only are they without a win in five tries this season, they have double-digit losses to Jackson State and Morehead State, as well as a loss to some school named William Carey (who, as well as RBR can tell, is not just a single person). Ken Pomeroy has the Golden Eagles ranked 332nd out of 351 Division-I programs.
- PG Khari Price (9.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- OG Kourtlin Jackson (7.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG)
- 3G Michael Ramey (7.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- WF Keljin Blevins (7.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- PF Eddie Davis (6.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- G Quinton Campbell (5.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.6 APG)
- G Robert Thomas (5.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
- G Cortez Edwards (3.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- F Raheem Watts (5.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
- F Michael O'Donnell (3.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 APG)
- C Tim Rowe (1.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.6 BPG)
What To Watch For
- The Encore Act. Alabama is coming off of one the more impressive performances in the last few years, having bested a very good Notre Dame team in Orlando on Sunday night. With this game being in front of maybe a few hundred people in Hattiesburg against a winless team, how will Alabama show up? The Tide have made some serious strides in a ton of areas, but this team is still not good enough to go through the motions against anybody. Hopefully the intensity from the AdvoCare Invitational will carry over to Friday night.
- An Emerging Identity. first Alabama team has been a mash-up of players from all kinds of backgrounds and capabilities. They have been very out-of-sync at times because of that, and because they are still learning a new system. However, these guys are getting really good in transition. If there is one thing the Crimson Tide does well, it's how to effectively score while getting up and down the court.
Three Keys to Victory
- Get Shannon Hale Going. When Shannon Hale has been knocking down shots from the perimeter, this team has actually played at a pretty high level offensively, even in the halfcourt. In the Tide's wins over Notre Dame, Wichita State, and UL-Lafayette, Hale has shot a combined 19/36 (57.8%) from the floor and 10/16 (62.5%) from beyond the arc. When Hale is on, Alabama is a different offense in the halfcourt.
- Take Advantage of the Size Disparity. Alabama's weakest area thus far this season has been hitting the glass with any kind of consistency. The good news is that Southern Miss is even worse than 'Bama is in this regard, partly because of how small they are. Everybody on the team needs to do a better job of collecting rebounds. Avery Johnson has harped on playing uptempo and getting up and down the court, but that doesn't mean players shouldn't be crashing the boards some.
- Defend the Rim. As mentioned earlier, Southern Miss is a terrible jump-shooting team, even though their size pretty much forces them to be one. This is simple: in order for Alabama to make sure that this isn't a competitive game late, they need to ensure that the Golden Eagles keep settling for those jumpers. Jimmie Taylor and Dont'a Hall have been beasts around the basket defensively (combined 3.8 BPG between the two), they need to keep that up in this one.