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Points in the Paint: Alabama drops tough loss to Arkansas, but sees gains in NET ranking

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Tennessee is a must-win for Alabama tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

NET: 41
Last Week: 42
KenPom: 46
Last Week: 43
SOS: 46th
Power 5 SOS: 8th

Saturday, though short-handed, was a bit dispiriting for Alabama fans. After blowing a monumental early big lead, the affair was nip and tuck for the next 35 minutes...then, in the final 2:38 of game time, Bad Ole’ Alabama reared their heads: questionable calls, turnovers, porous defense. Things that the team had been able to disguise with the loss of Herb Jones became as glaring as a hooker showing up in Sunday school.

But, it’s not just a one-game malaise. Since the Auburn win, Alabama can’t seem to click in all phases of the game. One week it is lack of effort on defense, but careful ball-handling (see Kansas State), the next it is sloppy ball-handing and turnovers, but a good effort on the glass (see, Arkansas). One game the free throw shooting may carry the Tide, and then in the next game — indeed, in the very next half — the Tide will toss up brick after brick from 15 feet. And, this is to say nothing of the generally slower tempo and poorer perimeter shooting the last three weeks.

As has become a too-common story across the board in Alabama sports the last few years, injuries are a large part of the funk. And, as has been the issue at ‘Bama since Justin Coleman’s departure, there simply are not two steady ball handlers on the team — and certainly not enough for the offense that Nate Oats runs.

But, alas, all is not doom and gloom. Despite the nip and tuck loss to the Hogs, some of Alabama’s other critical wins in conference play have weirdly bolstered the Tide’s tourney case — with Alabama actually gaining in the NET rankings.

Alabama sits at 12-9 on the season and is in a 4-4 SEC logjam for 4th place with A&M, Tennessee, and Arkansas. While it would have been nice for Alabama to get the Arkansas win, it is safe to say that many of the ones Alabama needs begins today, with the Tennessee Volunteers coming to town. The Vols are mired in a bit of a funk of their own, sporting a three-game losing streak in the conference. With a NET of 70, a home victory over the Vols would only be a Q2 for ‘Bama, but is just the sort of win that a struggling, banged-up Tide team needs to have for its own headspace.

Just as importantly, this is the type of game that a borderline tourney team must have to jump off the bubble. If this team believes in work, is committed to forty full minutes, and is buying-in, then tonight is time to re-earn their hard hats.