Alabama Basketball Changes Focus Heading into Ole Miss

T.G. Paschal/BamaCentral

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After a disappointing loss against Texas A&M on Wednesday night, Alabama basketball looks to revamp its NCAA tournament hopes with its road game against Ole Miss on Saturday.

With that being said, Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats isn't concerning himself or his team with the tournament right now.

"I also told our guys that we're done talking about the NCAA tournament to them," Oats said. "At this point you try to give them a goal. You know, some light at the end of the tunnel — some hope — at this point we just need to concentrate on every day. Basically I'm not even going to mention who comes next to our players — and we haven't really done that all year — but let's just concentrate on what we have to do today to get better in practice, tomorrow what we have to do, and then one game, and the next day, and then the next day, and then the next game.

"We'll look two-and-a-half weeks from now and see where we're at."

The next game that Oats is referring to? Saturday's game against Ole Miss (7:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network).

The Rebels are entering the game coming off of back-to-back road losses to Kentucky and Missouri. That being said, Ole Miss is no pushover, especially when it comes to senior guard Breein Tyree.

Tyree is averaging 29.8 points per game over the Rebels' past five games. In fact, Tyree leads the SEC in points per game against his fellow conference foes with 24.4. In Ole MIss' past three home games, Tyree has averaged 33.7 points per game.

If Alabama wants to pull off a road win, stopping Tyree will be a crucial aspect.

"If you look at Tyree's numbers I mean he's been crushing it," Oats said. "He's averaging I think 30 in his last five games. We've got our hands full with him. We are fortunate that we do have [Herbert Jones] available to guard him. You know we'd like to kinda rotate matchups whether its Herb, [John] Petty, Beetle [James Bolden], Kira [Lewis] and Shaq [Jaden Shackelford] — whoever it may be — see who's doing a better job on him."

The Crimson Tide enters Saturday's game with the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation at 82.6 points per game. Alabama is also ranked second in three-point field goals per game at 11.0. The Crimson Tide will need its offense to strike early and often to avoid a close game.

Close games have not been the Crimson Tide's strong suit. Six-straight games for Alabama have been decided by six points or less, and Alabama has gone 2-4 in those games.

The common denominator in those games is that junior wing Herbert Jones has either missed or has been used in a limited capacity in those games.

"You can't do anything about it," Oats said. "We talked to our players about controlling what you can control. As a coaching staff we got to control what we can control and we gotta get better game plans together to account for the fact that Herb's not able to play like he was and we're working on it and trying to play him and Galin [Smith] or him and Javian [Davis] together a little bit more."

"Not the ideal way we want to play with the way our spacing is but you know that's somewhat of our better defensive lineup so we got to be able to get stops."

With five games left in the season, its now or never for the Crimson Tide in regards to its NCAA tournament hopes. Two bubble teams in Mississippi State and South Carolina could become big key difference makers should Alabama be able to triumph over both of them. However, there is one small problem.

The Crimson Tide has not had a winning record in its final five regular season games since the 2011-2012 season.

Now, that's not saying that it won't happen. However, if Alabama wants to press forward, it will need to avoid repeating its past mistakes.

Something that Crimson Tide basketball fans are all too familiar with.

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