Alabama Basketball Gears Up for Big 12/SEC Challenge

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When it comes to their record, Alabama basketball is out to prove that they are better than their 11-7 overall record shows.

Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats made that clear after the team's final practice Friday afternoon before facing Kansas State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge (Saturday, 5 p.m. CT, ESPN 2).

"I think our team's a lot better than our record indicates," Oats said. "I think the metrics show that. I mean if you look at our NET rankings or KenPom rankings—all that—I think we're 42nd last I looked. And we're starting to play well at the right time if we can get on a run here I think all that stuff will catch up."

According to the KenPom luck index, Alabama is currently ranked 330th, meaning that they are one of the most unlucky teams in the country against opponents. It's a silly statistic, but it does show in a way how every team that shows up to play the Crimson Tide seems to play their best game.

"When you look at how some teams have shot against us—Iowa State hits all those threes [and] is a poor-shooting team, Missouri comes in and goes 31-out-of-31 from the free-throw line—we haven't seemed to catch teams on their off night," Oats said. "Penn's not nearly as good as what they probably played against us, you know, so yeah it's not surprising that we're that low on luck index. We just haven't caught breaks."

Kansas State is currently ranked 337, just seven spots below Alabama.

The sentiment that Alabama is better than its record shows is not just shared by the Crimson Tide's head coach, though.

Junior guard John Petty, Jr. reiterated Oats' statement.

"I know for a fact that we're a better team than our record," Petty said. "And I feel like other people know. That's why our opponents take us seriously like they do so I mean we're still getting better, we still got work to do so we in here grinding."

The Crimson Tide is currently preparing for its final non conference game of the regular season against Kansas State. The Wildcats are currently 8-10 and are 1-5 in the Big 12.

Kansas State is currently coming off of a game that made national headlines. Not because of the actual game itself, which resulted in a 81-60 loss at the hands of rival Kansas, but for what happened in the game's final seconds: a brawl that resulted in four players receiving suspensions, including both juniors James Love and Antonio Gordon of the Wildcats.

While the suspensions are not expected to have much of an impact on Saturday's game, Oats says that he feels the Wildcats are in a similar position as the Crimson Tide in that Kansas State's record doesn't necessarily reflect how good the team actually is.

"This team is much much better than their record, too," Oats said. "You look at two games ago what they did to West Virginia. It's one of West Virginia's best teams they've had in a long time so they're more than capable of beating anyone. 

"They have not been fortunate kind of like we haven't so I think it's two teams that are much better than their record shows and I think it's going to end up being a pretty good game here."

The Wildcats have lost five out of their last six games, with the lone win being a surprising 84-68 win against No. 14 West Virginia. Another key game on Kansas State's schedule in regards to Alabama was the Wildcats' matchup on Dec. 14 against Mississippi State which saw the Bulldogs take care of business.

With Alabama having handled Mississippi State with relative ease on Jan. 8, it will be interesting to see what Kansas State has up its sleeve to bring to the table.

The Crimson Tide will have to face Kansas State without one of its big men up front, though. Redshirt-freshman forward Javian Davis has been deemed doubtful in the game after suffering a bone bruise against Vanderbilt Wednesday. While losing a forward is tough, the Crimson Tide should be able to manage with juniors Alex Reese and Herbert Jones at the position although Davis' length being absent should certainly be noticeable.

Alabama is currently on a three-game winning streak and looks to continue its momentum as it gears up for a big road game against LSU next Wednesday. However, Kansas State stands in the Crimson Tide's way, and the team is not overlooking them on its path to next week's matchup.

"We watched most of their games," Petty said. "[The] coaches told us they're a good team so we're going to have to come out and play hard."