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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Vanderbilt

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The Tide hosts the lowly Commodores on Senior Night in Tuscaloosa

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now officially March, as the Alabama Crimson Tide (16-13, 8-8 SEC, NET: 42, Kenpom: 48) looks to close out the final week of the regular season with a strong finish to conference play. It’s been another up-and-down roller coaster of a season for the Tide, but the future is bright with Nate Oats residing in Tuscaloosa (now keep him here and renovate Coleman Coliseum already, Greg Byrne). With this being the final home game of the regular season (before the Tide’s annual NIT home-loss, of course), it is also Senior Night in Tuscaloosa. James ‘Beetle’ Bolden will be honored, despite having only attended the University for one full semester. Bolden is technically the only senior on the roster though, so he picked a good time to transfer in.

Time will tell if this ends up being the final regular season game in Tuscaloosa for Kira Lewis and John Petty, both of whom have appeared in multiple mocks for this summer’s 2020 NBA Draft. Lewis typically ranges anywhere from a late first to late second selection, whereas Petty only appears on a few mock drafts, always as a late second round pick. Petty does have more reason to make the jump to the pros than Kira does, however (he has a daughter). Any combination of the two of them leaving or staying wouldn’t surprise me, so take advantage of this opportunity to watch them play in crimson and white while you can.

Unfortunately for Petty, he is unlikely to play tonight as he recovers from his sprained elbow that he suffered last week. Nate Oats stated this morning that he believes it is possible that Petty can go this weekend at Missouri, and that it is likely that he will suit up for the SEC Tournament next week in Nashville (speaking of which, please keep the people of Nashville and the surrounding area in your thoughts and prayers. They were hit hard by a tornado overnight last night, and they need all the support they can get. If any fan base can relate, it’s us. This link has a collection of sites and sources that you can utilize to lend your support).

Tonight is a must-win for the Tide if Alabama wants any shot whatsoever at back-dooring its way into the NCAA Tournament. The Vanderbilt Commodores (9-20, 1-15 SEC, NET: 170, Kenpom: 188) have fallen so far that tonight’s game will end up being a Q4 match-up. So, even if Alabama wins big, the Tide’s NET ranking will probably suffer.

From Last Time

Three Keys to Victory

Overcome Memorial Magic. As I wrote last season:

The gym is an embarrassment to the game. The court is elevated above half of the crowd, like some sort of gladiator arena. The benches are located on the baseline underneath the goals, preventing the coaching staff from having any sort of decent angle, let alone an ability to communicate with their team on the opposite end. The sight-lines for shooters are funky. It’s an abomination, and it absolutely affects the Tide every time they visit.

The home-court advantage for Vanderbilt is very real. Oats and Alabama like to fill it up from the three-point line, so they will need to adjust quickly to Memorial’s God-awful sight-lines if they want to play their game effectively.

2. Be Ready to Adapt. If the shots aren’t falling, the good news is that Vanderbilt is arguably the worst defensive team in the conference. Only Disu is an above-average defender, and it’s by the slimmest of margins (99.9 DRtg, 100.0 is average). Additionally, this team doesn’t rebound the ball well at all, especially since Brown got hurt back in December. The Tide should be able to score and rebound around the rim quite well in this game, so if the shots aren’t falling, the game-plan needs to adjust quickly. Vandy would probably love for Alabama to keep chasing shots.

3. Clamp Down on Pippen and Lee. Simply put, Vanderbilt doesn’t have many options on offense. If the Tide can deny these two from getting good looks and force them to defer to secondary ball-handlers, ‘Bama really shouldn’t have any trouble keeping them off the scoreboard.

Click here for the full Breakdown from the previous meeting

It was another ugly game in Memorial Gymnasium the last time these two teams got together in late January. The Tide prevailed 77-62, but it wasn’t as easy as the final score may indicate. Alabama was playing extremely careless basketball, which resulted in 25 turnovers, most of which were just plain dumb mistakes. Fortunately, the Tide’s effort was still there, as Alabama did a fantastic job on defense against Scotty Pippen and Saben Lee, who went a combined 8/31 with six turnovers to only four assists. ‘Bama also dominated the glass, out-rebounding the home team 51-32.

How About Tonight?

Easily the biggest concern tonight is that the Tide will be without Petty, who scored 23 points on 8/14 shooting and also grabbed 10 rebounds for the rare double-double last time out against these guys. With that being said, there’s simply no reason Alabama can’t recreate their dominance on defense and on the boards. As long as Kira and company do a better job of taking care of the basketball, this should be an easy victory tonight to keep Alabama afloat in both the SEC standings and the NCAA Tournament purview.

However, we all know that being a Tide Hoops fan is never that easy. Surely, someone on Vandy will come off of the bench and shoot a career best 5/6 from deep, Alabama will recreate their 25-turnover performance, the officials will send the ‘Dores to the line 30 times, and this game will end up coming down to the final minute.

Or not. Either way, the team needs our support. Please make it out tonight to see Beetle Bolden (and potentially Kira Lewis) play one last regular season game in Coleman Coliseum. The game tips-off at 7:30 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.