Bama Hoops Hype

Tide Control Tournament Destiny After Victory Over Tennessee

Alabama Men's Basketball

After yet another resume win over 15th ranked Tennessee, Avery Johnson’s men continue to stake their claim for their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2012.

The Tide defended their home court yet again as they welcomed arguably one of the hottest teams in the country to Coleman Coliseum for an SEC matchup that on paper seemed would be a high scoring end to end contest.

But the story of the game is all about a Tennessee side that came out flat and a Crimson Tide outfit that jumped on them early and often, ending with Avery Johnson finding the largest SEC win in program history.

This Alabama team has been guilty of playing to their competition all season long, battling with quite a few fluctuations in their form, especially against bottom tier opposition.  However, Avery Johnson’s men have more than been ready to get up for big games and as a result have recorded their fifth ranked win in six attempts with their only loss coming to 14th ranked Minnesota early in the season.

Alabama can add their triumph tonight to a list that contains 5th ranked Texas A&M, 17Th ranked Auburn, 12th ranked Oklahoma, and a massive win on the road against 23rd ranked Florida.  The Tide have a few questionable losses on their schedule, but these quality wins slingshot the Tide into a comfortable spot in the tournament discussions.

While the wins in themselves speak volumes, it’s the way that this Tide team manages to win games that is truly remarkable.  In playing Oklahoma, they are forced to commit to limiting one of the nation’s top talents in Trae Young. Against Florida, the Tide go on the road into a hostile environment and knock off the high-flying Gators in convincing fashion.

Rather than simply outscoring teams, Avery Johnson has his squad winning games by playing physical defense, creating turnovers and running in transition. The game plan is to control the tempo of the game and make their opposition uncomfortable.

Looking ahead at the rest of Alabama’s schedule, the opportunity is there to solidify this team’s place in the tournament with several huge matchups still to be played. While every SEC game is huge for this team, a two-game road trip to 24th ranked Kentucky on Feb. 17 with 8th ranked Auburn only four days later will prove to be the defining point in the season for this Tide team.  While neither game could prove to be a “must win” to keep their tournament hopes alive, they must put out a solid performance both nights if they don’t want these games to damage their resume too heavily.

A home matchup against 3rd in the SEC Florida is the other major game still to be played on the Tide schedule. If the Tide can take care of their home court and possibly steal one of their three remaining road games, I see no reason why this Tide team would be on the outside looking in come March.

Johnathan Anderson covers Alabama Basketball for Bama Hoops Hype. You can follow him on Twitter.

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