In seasons marred by inconsistency, Alabama and Ole Miss find themselves on the outside looking in at berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-5) have wins over Kentucky and Tennessee at home and destroyed Villanova by 22 on a neutral court. They also have home losses to Mercer and Tulane and have not beaten an SEC team on the road who has an above-.500 record.
Ole Miss matches Alabama in regards to a turbulent resume. The Rebels have defeated Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee twice, but also hold embarrassing road losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina, two of the most pitiful SEC teams in recent memory. They also picked the worst time to become inconsistent, as they have lost 6 of their last 10 games and have gone from No. 16 in the country to off ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s bubble.
For the first time in 45 seasons, Ole Miss and Alabama will meet for a single time in the regular season. The teams typically have a home-and-home each year, but with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M they will play just once. There is a lot on the line for this single game as a win for either could speak to the committee. Alabama, could earn themselves a road win over a quality opponent for the first time all season. Ole Miss, would find themselves in a tie for second in the league with a win and a Kentucky loss.
Alabama is looking to play the exact kind of ball that Ole Miss is hoping for, small. Guards Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey have made the Tide go when they are on. Releford leads the team at 15.4 ppg and had 36 points in a triple-overtime loss to LSU. Lacey is second on the team with 11.9 ppg and is the biggest deep-threat on the team with 50 made three-pointers this season. Either player can bring the ball up the court and claim themselves as the center of the offense and they have formed a dynamic duo while in Tuscaloosa.
The Tide also run a pair of bigger guards for the majority of the game in Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph. At 6’6 and 6’5 respectively, the two have caused matchup problems all season and have allowed the Tide to play quickly while not compromising too much height. Four guard lineups are the usual sight with this team and it can be feast or famine.
Nick Jacobs and Devonta Pollard have seen the majority of minutes at forward spots and they will alternate on Reginald Buckner. Both players have had subpar offensive seasons, but like the rest of their team, they can play defense. Only LSU, Missouri and Tennessee have scored 70 points against Alabama in conference play and that all starts down low.
Due to their offensive deficiencies, Alabama will want to avoid an up-and-down game with Andy Kennedy’s squad. Much of their success has been in low scoring games. This could give fits to the Rebels as the half-court offense has not been kind all season. Marshall Henderson will have to regain the hot hand that give Ole Miss consecutive victories over Auburn and Texas A&M if they are going to win. Do not expect much breathing room for the junior as someone else will need to step up.
The loser of this game will likely need to run the table in the conference tournament to reach the Big Dance, while the winner could find themselves in easier waters, needing just two or three wins to get in. Seniors Buckner, Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams will be honored before the game for their tremendous service to the Ole Miss basketball team during their time in Oxford. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. from the Tad Pad on ESPNU.