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Points in the Paint: Huge LSU road game looms for surging Tide

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Your weekly roundup of all things ‘Bama Basketball

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

There’s no one central story today, instead we have some true points and quick-hitters to get you caught up to speed on ‘Bama Basketball, the hottest team in the nation.

Bama surging in NET rankings

Just 12 days ago, Alabama was ranked 29th in the first NET rankings. Seven days later, Alabama had vaulted to 24th, and this week the Tide saw an even greater jump, up six spots all the way to No. 18 in the NCAA NET Rankings.

As good as that it, the Tide’s ranking could be far better with just one outcome reversed. The way the quadrant system works, Alabama has a demerit on its record from an early-season loss to Western Kentucky. Even at the time, ‘Bama fans were upset with that one — it was a winnable game that the Tide should not have lost.

But, Western Kentucky is No. 88 in the NET rankings (up 10 spots from last week), and that Q3 loss at home hurts the Tide. If we were under the old RPI system, the Crimson Tide (11-3, 7-0), would be ranked all the way up to 12th. (Incidentally, under the RPI, the Hilltoppers are 40th.) Fortunately, WKU is surging as well, and stands at 11-4 on the season, T-1st in the C-USA Group B. Alabama could really use some continued hot play of their own, and a little help from the Hilltoppers. For Alabama to get the seed-line it will have very much earned, we need WKU to get to that coveted No. 50 spot in the NET — and be evaluated as a quality Q2 loss.

Those NET rankings practically mirror the mainstream rankings as well, where Alabama is 16th in the coach’s poll and 18th in the AP.

Pace of Play

Alabama is 25th in the nation in Pace of Play, and that has bolstered ‘Bama’s efficiency on both ends of the floor (KenPom No. 17, 22nd offensive efficiency; 16th defensive efficiency).

When the Tide faced the only team to-date that is faster than it, it didn’t work out so well for the opponent. Arkansas leads the SEC in pace of play (5th nationally, which is surprising for a Musselman team). But the Hogs got absolutely ran off the floor against a deep ‘Bama squad. That was not an anomaly either. When the Furman Paladins and Auburn Tigers (POP No. 40, 60) tried running with Alabama, the results were the same, though not as lopsided: both were ‘Bama wins.

Alabama will face one more “fast” team this season when it breaks Georgia’s heart on the eve of Valentine’s Day, but the results to-date have been encouraging for UA. You can’t outrun Nate Oats’ team.

Lost in Bama’s rout of Arkansas, and the Tide’s continued perfection in SEC play, is that John Petty became Alabama’s all-time leader in threes.

If Mac Jones was a study in perseverance, then when need a different word for what Petty’s four years on campus have brought.

The 5-star shooter spurned Kentucky to stay home and play for the Tide. During his first season, he largely was a spot-up shooter with notoriously bad defense. The next season, Coach Avery Johnson got him more involved in the offense and moving to the basket, using his length to his advantage. Last season, he rounded his game into form, learned a little defense along the way, and led the Tide in scoring — he had the option to go pro. And this year, despite a deeper bench and much more ball movement, he is one of two Alabama players in the SEC to be in the Top 20 in scoring.

From jump-shooter to all-around baller to team player, Petty has grown with each season at the Capstone. Congrats, John.

Despite Joe Lunardi’s well-know hard-on for hatin’ the Tahd, even he can’t deny what this squad is doing. This week, ‘Bama is all the way up to 5th on his Bracketology picks, just across from a dangerous, fast and undefeated Winthrop team as the 12-seed.

Finally, today ‘Bama has a huge one. Facing one of its legit challengers in the SEC, Alabama travels to Baton Rouge, home of the Strong Ass Offer, to meet the ethically-challenged NCAA catastrophe known as LSU. The Tigers have just one loss in SEC play, and this game would vault them to the top of the leaderboard.

Plus, it’s a home game for LSU. Surely, the environment will be tough, right?

Not so fast, said Oats in a wonderful backhanded slap at the Tiger faithful.

I will take a bullet for this man.