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TRips: 3 questions for UA-Ole Miss

Here are three questions for today's (4 p.m. CT/SEC Network/ESPN3) SEC basketball game between Alabama (20-9, 9-6 in SEC) and Ole Miss (17-12, 7-8) at Tad Smith Coliseum.

Green dropped 16 points and 12 rebounds on the Rebels on Feb. 4.

How much have these teams changed since their first meeting back on Feb. 4?

On paper, winning seven of its last nine games looks great, but it's not like the Crimson Tide used its double-overtime win over the Rebels last month as a springboard to a memorable march to March.

Far from it.

Alabama followed up the Ole Miss victory by dropping two of its next three games, a stretch low-lighted by the suspensions of four players. After falling to Florida at home on Valentine's Day, the Crimson Tide wasn't getting a lot of love from bracketologists.

Two and half weeks later, UA has reeled off four straight wins and coach Anthony Grant is being mentioned for SEC coach of the year honors.

As for the Rebels, Andy Kennedy's team hasn't been a model of consistency, posting a 3-4 mark in their seven games since the last time these teams met. That said, Ole Miss, with an RPI of 59, is riding a two-game win streak and harboring hopes of playing its way into the NCAA Tournament.

If there's one thing Kennedy can count on from his team it's rebounding, especially on the offensive glass. UA managed to outrebound Murphy Holloway (8.9 rpg), Reginald Buckner (8.3 rpg) and the rest of the Rebels, 42-40, the first time around. Doing so in the rematch will require an effort similar to the one JaMychal Green (16 points, 12 rebounds) turned in against Ole Miss' bigs in round one.

Will UA be represented on the Freshman all-SEC team?

Technically, there are eight spots on the freshman team but with the Kentucky trio of Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis expected to make up nearly half the squad, that leaves five slots for the rest of the league.

I'm going to go ahead and guess that Florida's Bradley Beal, Mississippi State's Rodney Hood and Arkansas' B.J. Young will take up three more spots, leaving two openings. Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes are two more strong candidates.

As you can see, after placing a player on the freshman team each of the last three seasons, the Crimson Tide, which hasn't had a freshman take home weekly honors from the league office this season, could be on the outside looking in.

If it comes down to one of Alabama's four freshmen -- Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper, Nick Jacobs or Trevor Lacey -- making the team, I'll go with Randolph, who leads the Crimson Tide in starts (28) and minutes played (27.5 mpg). Randolph's shot hasn't always been there (although it's been better of late), but his work on the defensive end has been a constant for this team.

Grant: SEC coach of the year?

After stripping his team down in mid-flight before leading it back to what appears to be shoo-in status for the Big Dance, Grant's candidacy has picked up steam in recent weeks. Elsewhere, Cuonzo Martin has garnered mention after leading a Tennessee team picked to finish eleventh in the league in the preseason to nine wins in his debut campaign in Knoxville.

While both Grant and Martin are solid choices, it's hard to imagine the award going to anyone other than Kentucky's John Calipari, especially if the Wildcats close out a perfect conference season tomorrow at Florida.

It's one thing to recruit elite talent; it's another to get it to play with walk-on-like intensity for 40 minutes. Cal has done that with this group.

The Man says: Alabama -2.
Prediction: Alabama 58, Ole Miss 54.

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