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Jumbo Package: Women advance in SEC tournament, Ben Davis finds a home

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 SEC Conference Women’s Tournament - Alabama vs Vanderbilt Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone. The Gym Tide host #1 Florida tonight for a share of the SEC title, softball is ranked #2 and hosts the T-town Showdown this weekend, while the baseball team visits the low country to take on College of Charleston.

The SEC women’s basketball tournament is in full swing, and the Tide advanced yesterday.

Alabama’s starting five combined for 79 points to help the Crimson Tide roll on to the quarterfinals of the 2021 Southeastern Conference Tournament with an 82-74 victory over Missouri. Alabama scored 25 in the fourth quarter to fend off the Tigers and pick up its 16th win of the season.

Ariyah Copeland led the Tide’s quintet in double figures with 22 points as well as a team-best 10 rebounds. Megan Abrams chipped in a season-high 19 points, nine of which were scored in the final quarter, to go along with five assists. Jordan Lewis had 16 points and four assists, while Hannah Barber and Jasmine Walker added 11 apiece. Barber also finished with a team-high seven assists.

This has been a successful season for Kristy Curry’s squad, finishing 8-8 in a loaded SEC and getting to the quarterfinal round. They will most certainly be seeded in the top half of a bracket in the NCAA tournament but today’s assignment against 2nd seeded South Carolina is a tough one. The Gamecocks won convincingly in both games vs. Alabama this season.

Meanwhile, the men will play a stupid, meaningless game at doormat Georgia that Greg Sankey insisted on adding to the schedule for reasons unbeknownst to anyone. Were I coaching the squad, my top 5 or 6 players would sit this one out and some walk-ons would have a day in the sun. A loss might drop you to a three seed, while a key injury could derail your chances to win from any seed. Seems like an easy choice to me, but something tells me Nate will disagree.

He spoke yesterday about the long awaited SEC title.

“It was great for our guys,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “(Alex) Reese had tears in his eyes. He’s an Alabama kid and it’s so special for him. (Petty) was emotional. It was big for me, but it really isn’t about me, I can coach for another 20 or 25 years. This is their time.”

After a day away from all basketball activity except physical therapy, Alabama was back in the gym Thursday. There are areas to correct, especially on the offensive end, before a regular-season finale against Georgia and the upcoming crucible of tournament play.

The defense will get some attention, too, although it’s hard to see where Alabama could be better.

“We’re a better defensive team than I’ve ever coached,” Oats said. “We’ve been top-five in the country for a couple of months. As much as people want to talk about our analytics on offense, defense is really what we’ve hung our hat on. Our goal coming into the year was to be in the top 30.

Imagine saying after the first few games of the season that this team would win the SEC on its defense. The turnaround has been remarkable.

Cecil has a piece on JD Davison, whose team was eliminated in the state tournament on Wednesday.

Davison scored 45 of his team’s 77 points in a 32-minute game and didn’t look selfish doing it. Midfield guarded him aggressively at the 3-point line, a sound strategy but one that allowed him to get to the rim at will. For those who have grumbled about the occasional missed layup or bobbled lob pass by Alabama this year, rest assured that when Davison gets to the rim, he can assuredly finish. There will be a transition. Every freshman faces that coming into the SEC, especially from a small school like Calhoun. Davison’s choice to stay home in tiny Letohatchee was great for the community in this day when many top players go off to IMG Academy or some similar high-level prep school, but it meant he rarely had to attack the basket with a couple of 6-foot-8 or 6-9 defenders waiting, at least if they are fast enough to get there first.

Playing at a small school allows him to accumulate huge stats, but it isn’t as important in terms of development in basketball as it is in football, since the top basketball players all compete in AAU ball. Davison was one of the best AAU players in the country last summer. Some highlights:

With four key seniors leaving, he will be sorely needed next season.

In football news, ESPN asks if this is finally Kirby’s year.

5. Can Georgia close the gap on Alabama?

The Bulldogs should benefit from a full spring and offseason with offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback JT Daniels, who played well in the final four games of 2020. Georgia is loaded at running back and wide receiver, and it has good depth on the offensive line. Its defense should again be among the best in the FBS. Its schedule is favorable. Is this the year Kirby Smart’s team finally catches the Crimson Tide?

Georgia fans are convinced that this is their year, even moreso than usual. They are going to be very angry when it doesn’t materialize.

Last, Ben Davis has found a home.

Best of luck to him in Austin.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.