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Jumbo Package: Morning tip-off, likely Kentucky matchup loom large for Tide in SEC tournament

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Alabama v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everyone. The SEC tournament seeding was completed yesterday, and Alabama’s matchup is probably the one that we least wanted to see.

A back-to-the-wall Kentucky team, even with its usual Nashville home-away-from-home crowd reduced by COVID-19 attendance limits, won’t be easy, especially given Alabama’s long SEC Tournament struggles against its blue nemesis. UK has eliminated Alabama 11 times since the last UA tournament win over the Wildcats in 1983. Oats and his team don’t carry any of that history, but have to be wide awake in order to change it.

I understand that the #1 vs. the #8/#9 seed would generally be considered less compelling for TV purposes, but nobody wants to play at 11am. The top seeded team should get a later slot in my opinion, but it is what it is, and as Cecil notes the team will just have to adapt. Why the conference and ESPN would leave the schedule as it is after seeing that likely Alabama vs. Kentucky matchup sitting there is beyond me. They’ve never before been shy about moving things around for TV purposes.

Alabama will likely need to win the SEC tournament to get a 1 seed.

A No. 1 seed isn’t completely impossible though a few appear to be pretty well locked in. No. 1 Gonzaga (24-0) is assured one, so is No. 3 Baylor (18-1). Michigan (18-1) had been on fire recently but lost its first game since mid-January on Tuesday to Illinois, 76-53.

The Illini (19-6) are in line for the fourth No. 1 seed having won 11 of its last 12 in the brutal Big Ten. They have an average seeding of 1.24 before the drop to 1.99 in Alabama and Ohio State. Those averages haven’t updated since Illinois routed Michigan on Tuesday.

Nate Oats and Herbert Jones are both in the running for major awards, as they should be.

The SEC is expected to name its coach of the year and player of the year ahead of the conference tournament next week, with Oats and Jones among those in the running for both awards.

“I feel like he deserves everything that’s coming his way,” Jones said Friday of Oats. “He loves the game. He loves getting guys better, helping guys reach their dreams. I feel like really knows how to expose your strengths on the court. I feel like that’s what makes him a great coach — he puts certain guys in great situations to do what they do best, and I feel like he’s one of the best to do it in the business.”

Herb should win National Defensive Player of the Year at a minimum, and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Oats for Coach of the Year. Exactly no one had Alabama going 16-2 in the conference this season.

Ivan Maisel has a great Saban piece for you on The Ringer.

Saban tried to get the rules changed to help defenses. In 2012, after Alabama defeated Ole Miss 33-14, Saban had had enough. The Rebels, under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, had run 68 snaps in only 25 minutes of possession. His defense struggled to get into position. A few days later, in a telephone press conference, Saban famously asked, “Is this what we want football to be?”

When the NCAA didn’t respond quickly enough, Saban adapted. He made the up-tempo spread offense his own. He brought in Lane Kiffin to install it in 2014, and even as the NCAA adjusted the rules to allow defenses to make substitutions, Saban stayed with the offense. The output of touchdowns and yards over seven seasons at Alabama has been staggering.

Adaptability and a seemingly endless supply of energy have been the key for Nick. The powers that be decided that this is what we want college football to be, so Nick built the best offense in history and is reloading it. Good luck stopping it any time soon.

Last, Leonard Fournette has a tendency to get sensitive on social media.

Imagine just celebrating a Super Bowl victory and being mad that someone didn’t include you on a list of college runners. Come on, Leonard.

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

Roll Tide.