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Bama Basketball Breakdown: South Carolina Gamecocks

Alabama will host a surging opponent in the SEC home opener.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marks the home opener for Alabama in SEC play, and on the docket is a much tougher than expected South Carolina Gamecocks squad. The ‘Cocks have lost only one game on the season, by five points to bitter rival Clemson, who also handed Alabama a loss in December. South Carolina opened up SEC play with a 68-62 victory over Mississippi State, and sit at 42nd in the NET, 57th per KenPom.

The key to beating this South Carolina squad is containing junior guard Meechie Johnson. Johnson is the leading scorer at 18 points a night in only 28 minutes, and shoots 37% from three. Much like Nate Oats, Coach Lamont Parris hit the transfer portal hard this offseason to fill out the team around his returning stud in the backcourt. The key frountcourt player is B.J. Mack, a senior import from Wofford. Mack is a load, carrying 270 lbs. on his 6’8” frame, and has managed 13 points and five boards a game.

Two other senior transfers, guards Myles Stute and Ta’Lon Cooper, have been major contributors as well. Like Alabama, this team is long on experience, even if they didn’t gain much of it together. They haven’t played the toughest schedule to date, but have shown themselves capable of giving the Tide major problems if Alabama fails to bring its A game.

The Gamecocks like to play at a glacial pace, ranking 319th in possessions per game coming in, a stark contrast to Alabama’s preferred up-and-down style. The team that is better able to control the tempo will likely have the upper hand.

Thus far in the season, Alabama has shown itself to be perhaps the best offensive team in the nation, but the defense and rebounding have been subpar. Thanks to a brutal schedule Alabama is 10th on KenPom and 6th in NET despite sporting five losses already. Still, if they have hopes of earning a high NCAA seed and making noise once they get there, this is the type of team that they need to handle.

The game tips off at 6pm central tonight at Coleman Coliseum, and will be carried on SEC Network.

Roll Tide.