With all eyes on the Alabama football team this week, the Crimson Tide basketball squad has been a bit overlooked. However, Avery Johnson's group will be gearing up for a big time game of their own on Thursday night, as the Tide begin SEC play in Oxford against the Ole Miss Rebels (10-3, 0-1 SEC). Ole Miss opened up conference play this past Saturday, and it didn't end well for the Rebels, as they got hammered by the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington. They have had a solid season thus far, as far as results are concerned, losing only twice in non-conference play. But the truth is that this may be Andy Kennedy's weakest team in some time.
After defeating the BYU Cougars in one of the NCAA Tournament's most exciting battles last March, the Rebels went out with a thud against the Xavier Musketeers. Regardless, this was a very good team last season, and they showed that when they came to Coleman Coliseum and bounced the Tide 82-74 right before the SEC Tournament began. However, the Rebels lost a lot of experience from that group, including Jarvis Summers, LaDarius White, M.J. Rhett, and Dwight Coleby. Ole Miss has been looking to find replacements for those four guys, but it's been a difficult journey thus far. Still, this is a solid team with the potential to make some noise, and they will be favored at home against a young Tide squad.
- PG 5'10 Stefan Moody (23.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.5 SPG)
- OG 6'3 Martavious Newby (6.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 SPG)
- 3G 6'5 Rasheed Brooks (7.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG)
- SF 6'9 Tomasz Gielo (8.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG)
- PF 6'9 Sebastian Saiz (11.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.2 BPG)
- G 6'2 Sam Finley (5.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- G 6'2 J.T. Escobar (1.8 PPG, 0.6 APG)
- F 6'9 Anthony Perez (6.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- F 6'6 Marcanvis Hymon (5.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG)
What to Watch For
- Shannon Hale's Injury. Hale was limited in his first appearance for Alabama since the battle with Clemson this past Saturday, and it was obvious he still wasn't at 100%. Hale's a big key to Alabama's offense this season, and the Crimson Tide need him back on his 'A'-game as SEC play begins.
- The Pavilion. Ole Miss is debuting their brand new arena on Thursday night, and it is beautiful. Click here for some pictures of the Rebels' new home in Oxford.
Three Keys to Victory
- Limit and Frustrate Moody. The best way to beat Ole Miss is to force Moody into a bad night. Moody can be a very erratic player at times, especially when he is frustrated. As explained earlier in the article, he is the key to the Ole Miss offense. Avery Johnson has shown that he can draw up a great game-plan defensively. Can he find a way to get to Moody?
- Pack the Paint. The Rebels are one of the worst shooting teams in the country, as they rank 309th in the NCAA in 3P% at 30.5%, and it's only that high because of Moody, really. However, they are pretty good at getting to the rim, so it is imperative that Alabama pack in tight and force Ole Miss to take outside shots.
- Draw Contact. Defensively, Ole Miss is pretty average across the board. They look to force opponents to either take low percentage shots outside or make them really work for it in the paint. The one way this can backfire for the Rebels is that they lack serious depth. Alabama needs to get good drives and cuts to the basket to draw contact from their defenders. If Ole Miss starts to get into foul trouble, it could be a long night for the home team, because there is quite a drop-off from Moody and Saiz to their back-ups.