Bama Hoops Hype

PREVIEW: Alabama Looks to Bounce Back Against No. 12 Auburn

Alabama Men's Basketball

The Alabama men’s basketball has an opportunity tonight to take a big step toward securing a top four seed in the SEC. However, the SEC-leading Auburn Tigers stand in the way and the fans in orange and blue will be making plenty of noise.

The Crimson Tide are in the midst of their toughest two-game road stretch of the season – and arguably the toughest of anyone in the SEC this season. After falling to Kentucky in Rupp Arena, Alabama has to travel to its rival’s arena for a late mid-week tip off but the team seems to be ready for the challenge.

“Yeah, the sweep is still on our mind so we hope we can return the favor to them,” Braxton Key said on Tuesday.

Last season, the Tigers completed a season sweep of the Crimson Tide with an 82-77 win in Coleman Coliseum. Avery Johnson’s program had lost three of four games to Auburn but responded well in the first meeting this season.

Alabama defeated the 17th-ranked Tigers despite Collin Sexton being out with an injury and Donta Hall playing limited minutes. The Tide held their opponents to a season-low 71 points and snapped their 14-game winning streak. The home team was able to outshoot the SEC’s best scoring offense across all categories.

Entering Wednesday, Auburn is coming off a loss to South Carolina but still sit comfortably on top of the conference. The Tigers just lost Anfernee McLemore to a gruesome, season-ending injury but the team is likely ready to move on without him on the court.

“I think they are who they are,” Avery Johnson said when asked about how the injury would affect Auburn. “I don’t think they’re going to reinvent themselves.”

The Tigers will be celebrating the Iron Bowl victory from November, which means the fans will be getting a little energy boost at halftime. There should be plenty of excitement in Auburn on Wednesday night.

How To Keep Up

Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Watch: SEC Network with Mike Morgan and Pat Bradley

Listen: Crimson Tide Sports Network with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink

Projected Starting Lineups

Alabama (17-10, 8-6): Collin Sexton (18.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg), Dazon Ingram (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.8 apg), John Petty (10.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.9 apg), Daniel Giddens (4.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Donta Hall (11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg)

No. 12 Auburn (23-4, 11-3): Bryce Brown (16.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg), Jared Harper (13.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.8 apg), Mustapha Heron (16.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.2 spg), DeSean Murray (10.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.9 apg), Horace Spencer (4.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg)

Key Matchup

Collin Sexton vs. Jared Harper.  The high school teammates did not get a chance to play each other in the team’s first meeting because of Sexton’s abdominal injury. Harper scored 10 points but shot 33 percent from the field and 50 percent from the line. The 40 percent 3-point shooter was 0-for-4 from beyond the arc in that game. In three career games against Alabama, Harper is averaging 9.6 points on 37 percent shooting and 25 percent 3-point shooting. So both Sexton and Harper will be looking to make their first big impact on this rivalry. Sexton has scored in double figures in each of his last seven games and is shooting 57 percent inside the arc during that span. You will probably be seeing these two players matched up often at the point guard spot and the one with the better performance – offensively and defensively – could lead his team to a win.

Key Stats

10 to 9 in made 3-pointers. This was one of the keys to the Tide’s win over Auburn. Alabama made 10 3-pointers while holding the conference’s best 3-point shooting team to below its season average. In all four of Auburn’s losses this season, the Tigers allowed more triples than they made. It may be hard to duplicate the performance of John Petty (8-for-12 on 3s) but it will start on the defensive end. Alabama has not given up more than 10 3-pointers in a game this season and that will have to continue if the Tide want a chance of stealing this game on the road.

Bonus Stat: 8-0 with more than 15 turnovers. If you follow us at all, you know we love to bring this stat up. It’s one of the weirdest trends of Alabama’s season so far. The Crimson Tide win games when they turn the ball over. These wins include Rhode Island (24 TO), Auburn (19 TO), Florida (19 TO) and Oklahoma (17 TO). And yes, we’ve heard the argument about how pace of play affects this stat so I checked that out too. According to Sports-Reference, Alabama has seven games with a turnover rate of more than 20 percent. The Tide have won all of those games. The game in Auburn on Wednesday should have around 80 possessions per team so it’s probably pretty likely that Alabama finishes close to that 15 turnover mark. And don’t worry, we’ll have the live ticker going on Twitter tonight during the game.


The unpredictable nature of the SEC makes this section of every preview pretty much pointless. And yet, we try it anyway. Auburn is going to be shooting plenty of threes in this one but Alabama has held its opponents to just 29.8 percent from beyond the arc in conference play. This upset will have to start on the defensive side of the ball but because of the pace that the Tigers like to play at, Alabama will also have to score in the 70s or 80s. There’s revenge to be taken on both sides but I expect the home crowd to help pull this one out. Auburn 83, Alabama 75

Caleb Turrentine is the editor for Bama Hoops Hype. You can follow him on Twitter for in-game updates at @BamaHoopsHype.

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