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Jumbo Package: Busy Weekend in Tuscaloosa

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Tournament basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics... and one of our own fighting in the octagon.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Alabama vs Mississippi State Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. It’s a busy weekend for Alabama sports. As you know, the men’s basketball team defeated Mississippi State yesterday to advance in the SEC Tournament. Meanwhile, the Gym Tide will take on Iowa State at Coleman tonight - check back for Cyndee’s preview around lunchtime - while the baseball team continues a four-game set at The Joe against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and the softball team opens SEC play this weekend, hosting the Hogs.

As usual, we have a few links for you:

If you stepped into the BJCC’s Legacy Arena for the AHSAA basketball tournament, you left with a better appreciation for the sport, even in this football-crazed state.

Take a look at the Birmingham region. From Midfield to Mountain Brook, our best basketball teams, boys and girls, entertained record-breaking crowds with last-second shots, above-the-rim antics and inspirational endings.

Needless to say, Alabama basketball does not have the recruiting advantage of a national brand as enjoyed by the football team. The best thing that could happen for the program is for in-state high schools to continue to improve, and for the Tide to do a better job getting the top in-state players to Tuscaloosa. This incoming class is a huge step in the right direction.

"I always look at coaches and how did they leave it compared to when they got there," Kiffin told Cowherd on Wednesday. "You're getting paid to make the program better. I think we did that.

"When I interviewed with coach Saban over three years ago, they had just lost the last two games: The Iron Bowl with 'The Kick" and they got beat in the Sugar Bowl by Oklahoma. So we're on a two-game losing streak and our offense right now - I think he said - 'is like a Ferrari going off the edge of a cliff. We have to change something.'

That last quote is telling. One has to wonder if the worn-out defense in the last game inspired Saban to make another wholesale change.

"They're always in position, man," said LSU receiver Travin Dural. "You'll never catch them out of position. They're always doing the right things. Well disciplined."

Alabama ranked 18th in the number of 30-plus yard plays allowed with 21. That works out to 1.4 a game while national leader Georgia State gave up 1.0 a game.

Dural's Tigers were held to a season-low 125 yards in a 10-0 shutout loss to the Tide in November.

This obviously suggests great coaching, but the simplicity of the scheme is also a key. Alabama’s defense hasn’t been particularly exotic in the past few seasons, instead relying on the players to read and react.

Outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi is Pappoe’s primary recruiter. The elite linebacker identified Lupoi as one of his recruiters he has the best relationship with.

“He’s a high energy guy,” Pappoe said. “I have a great relationship with him. We talk all the time. He’s cool outside the field, making sure you’re good. He’s also going to develop you as a good player. Get you ready for the next level.”

With the departures of Cristobal and Napier, Lupoi’s recruiting acumen is more vital than ever.

The co-main event sees the return of Jon “The Jaguar” Kirk (19-13) who takes on LFA newcomer, Eryk “Frankenstein” Anders (6-0). Kirk is coming off a loss at LFA 3, but now has the chance to take down the undefeated Anders. Watch for some hard hits during this one! We also see the return of BJJ star, Mackenzie Dern (2-0) this Friday as she takes on another undefeated fighter, Katherine Roy (1-0). Will Roy, a sergeant in the US Army, be able to crush Dern’s dreams of making it into the UFC this year?

Most of you know that Eryk is now a MMA fighter, and he is competing in the main event tonight on AXS TV. Of course, no matter what he does in the octagon, he will forever be a legend in Tuscaloosa for one play:

Good luck to him tonight.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.