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Points in the Paint: Tide can clinch first hoops title in almost 20 years, but it’s a tough one

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So, ‘Bama needs a win in a true road game against Arkansas to clinch, eh?

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

Rankings Update:

KenPom: 8 (last week, 9)
Adj. Offense: 24 (last week, 25)
Adj. Defense: 2 (last week, 2)
AP: No. 6 (last week 8)
NET Ranking: 8 (last week, 8)
RPI: 6 (last week, 4 — that damn Vanderbilt game.)

Bracket Heat Check:

Warren Nolan: 2-seed North, opposite No. 1 Oho State
Bracket Wag: 2-seed West, opposite No. 1 Gonzaga
Lunardi: 2-seed North, opposite No. 1 Ohio State
Jerry Palm: 2-seed North, opposite No. 1 Ohio State
Making the Madness: 2-seed North, opposite Ohio State

And about a billion more....go check them out at the Bracket Project.

Ugh. Arkansas

Hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years since the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball program won a regular season SEC Basketball title — 2002, in fact, was the last such title. And if that seems distressing, it’s been thirty years since the Tide won the SEC tournament. But, here we are, with ‘Bama sitting at 13-1 in conference play, and a chance to clinch the SEC title tomorrow. Those 13 wins match ‘Bama’s best since 1986-1987, when the Tide won the SEC and made the Sweet 16.

In their path, however, are the red-hot No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs are on an absolute tear. Since Alabama demolished them 90-59 in the middle of January, Arkansas has regrouped to go 7-2, including taking four straight and climbing all the way to sole possession of second place in the SEC. They’re not all soft wins, either. The Hogs are 2-1 in Q1 contests in that stretch, and the sole loss was a four-point road decision to tournament-bound Oklahoma State.

Parker will have more about this one tomorrow, but — as I’ve said a few times before — this is one that I mentally circled an L on the calendar when the schedule dropped. The Crimson Tide has historically played terribly in Fayetteville. In the last 15 years, Arkansas has gone 9-1 at home against ‘Bama. And since joining the SEC, Arkansas has posted a 20-6 record versus ‘Bama in true home games. Sometimes history weighs against a program, and with Alabama still banged up, Arkansas being one of the hottest teams in the conference, don’t be surprised or upset if the Tide drops a tough true road game. Alabama can win this game; and I’m certainly not predicting a loss. Close games have been the norm, and advanced metrics suggest a 3.7 point Alabama win, which is eerily on par with the opening spread (‘Bama -3.5). But it will take a lot better effort than most of the ones we have seen the last few weeks.

Crootin’

Alabama is one of the teams in contention to land Texas Tech transfer, former 5-star McDonald’s All-American, Nimari Burnett. Burnett is a 6’4” combo guard from Napa Valley. He’s had a pretty ragged year shooting this season, but that probably isn’t a surprise given how Tech plays — one of the slowest, most deliberative brands of ball in the country.

Still, he’s a decent ball handler, aggressive on both ends of the floor, and an outstanding free throw shooter. He’ll get better looks in this offense than he ever would under Chris Beard — and that freshman learning curve has wrecked many a young player. No shame in that.

Speed Kills

More than one commenter has noticed that Nate Oats takes a lot of inspiration from the NBA’s perimeter-oriented ball movement.

And, if you think it looks tough to defend from the God’s Eye camera, wait till you see it from the floor. Most college teams simply are not equipped to handle the pace of the ball movement.

But, it can and does result in quite a few sloppy turnovers at times.

And rarely is that seen more than in transition. The Tide runs flat-out; 4th in the country — they spend 25% of their time on the break. However, ‘Bama has simply not been good at finishing:

If this team can put it together on the break...well. That’s why some people are beginning to discuss the serious possibility of an Alabama national championship. In basketball.

Still, we must walk before we can run. And, as gimpy and limpy as ‘Bama still is, running may be a tough prospect for another week or two. But the good news, for all of the Tide’s injuries, is that they are starting to finally get healthy again.

Anyone could tell that Bruner wasn’t 100% on Saturday, but he was on the floor — and that seemed an uncertain prospect a month ago. Any post-season success will depend largely on his presence. Herb Jones is slowly getting healthy again, even if he’s been in foul trouble more often than not of late, and Juwan Gary — who was poised to breakout before getting mauled in South Carolina — has resumed practicing and is not far off from being in game-shape again.

Two weeks. That’s what’s left in the regular season. Two weeks also coincides with the expected return to health of several starters and key contributors. Now that’s good timing.

You can catch all that and more on yesterday’s edition of Hey, Coach.

Nate Oats was also on ESPN Radio yesterday morning, so you can check that out here if you missed it.

We’ll be back next week, when Alabama will have either clinched an SEC crown...or will be mired in the first two-game losing season since Thanksgiving. Because, gentle reader, Alabama’s final three games (assuming Aggie is not made up) are by no means easy ones: At Arkansas (No. 26), at Mississippi State (No, 84), and a season-ender vs. Auburn (No. 71).

Hope for the best!

Poll

When does Alabama clinch the SEC title?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    At Arkansas on Wednesday
    (204 votes)
  • 32%
    At Mississippi State on Saturday
    (116 votes)
  • 5%
    Versus Auburn next week
    (19 votes)
  • 3%
    ‘Tide doesn’t clinch, we go to tiebreakers
    (14 votes)
353 votes total Vote Now