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Points in the Paint: Tide success begins with Herb’s inspired defense, especially on the perimeter

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But particularly Herb Jones

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Let me let you in on a dirty secret: Alabama has been sneaky-good defending the perimeter this season.

There were some truly freakish outliers — Iowa State nailing 15-of-29 from deep; a bad-shooting Kentucky team hitting 60% from beyond the arc; the mid-range jumpers of LSU morphing into perimeter kill-shots (knocking down 41% of their attempts in Coleman.) But, by and large, the Tide have held the majority of teams below their three-point shooting percentage all year.

Take a look at this stretch of games: Alabama was able to hold Penn, Penn State, Stephen F Austin, UNC, Furman, Belmont and FAU all below their season averages (Kansas State hit slightly more, 34.5% vs. 33.1%). And, in those games where Alabama controlled the perimeter, the Tide went 5-3. Those three losses were by a total of 12 points, with two by one possession.

In SEC play, Alabama has been just as stingy on the outside, maybe more so. Check this out. Here are the 3-point shooting percentages of the SEC slate and then vs. Alabama.

UF 34.4% (34.8%)

Miss. St. 33.3% (26.7%)

UK 31.9% (60%)

Auburn 30.5% (25%)

Vanderbilt 33.4% (19.2)

LSU 31.4% (18.8%)

Arkansas 31.7% (37.5%)

Tennessee 20.6% (11.1%)

UGA 29.8% (26.9%)

AU 30.5% (22.6%)

LSU 31.4% (40.7%)

If you’re keeping track at home, Alabama has kept opponents under their shooting percentage in 7 of its 11 games. In the four games where opponents shot at or above their three-point percentage, Alabama lost three of those — winning just once, against LSU this Saturday.

What about those seven games where the Tide locked down the outside? Like your Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated on its face, but easy to understand.

Alabama is just 3-4 in the seven games where it held opponents below their season average from beyond the arc.

But, this is where I let you in on another secret: in three of those losses, Herb Jones was absent from the lineup or injured. With a healthy Herb, and Alabama playing solid perimeter defense, the Tide is 3-1 in those games. That is not just a product of conference play either.

See those non-con games we discussed above, where Alabama went 5-3? Jones was absent or injured for two of them. Thus, Alabama was 5-1 with Healthy Herb. As with conference opponents, when Herb is healthy and keying the Tide’s perimeter defense, this team wins games.

Jones is the most valuable player on this team. Full stop. When he is injured or absent from the lineup, the Tide doesn’t defend as well from the perimeter, and it loses close games. With six contest left to play, any and all chances of making the NCAA tournament begin and end with his inspired defense.

And if that’s not the definition of the team MVP, then I’m not sure what is.

Poll

Is Herb the team MVP?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Yes, and here’s why...
    (169 votes)
  • 4%
    No, and here’s why...
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    I’m a cuck. Why can’t everyone get a trophy?!
    (10 votes)
187 votes total Vote Now