Here are three questions for today's (12:30 p.m. CT/SEC Network) SEC basketball game between Alabama (16-9, 5-6 in SEC) and Tennessee (14-12, 6-5) at Coleman Coliseum.
If Anthony Grant's team hasn't hit rock bottom, it can certainly see it from here.
Is there a better example of teams headed in opposite directions than the Crimson Tide and Volunteers?
Picked in the preseason by the media to finish 11th in the SEC, the Volunteers have reeled off four straight league wins to move into a tie for fourth in the conference standings. Meanwhile, Alabama has dropped two straight league contests, marking its second conference losing streak of the season.
While the Vols added a capable player in true freshman power forward Jarnell Stokes (10 points and four boards in UT's midweek thrashing of Arkansas) at midseason, the Crimson Tide has endured suspensions and injuries while fielding a piecemeal squad for much of conference play.
And yet it's Alabama who enters Saturday's game with a far better RPI (UA 32, UT 110) and in control (on paper, at least) of its at-large bid fate. At this point, though, UA's RPI resembles a lifeboat on the Titanic.
Is there a Jeremy Lin somewhere on the Alabama bench?
There's a Ben Eblen, but that's about as close as you're going to get.
Twenty five games into the season, it's highly unlikely that a guy you've heard little to nothing from is going to put the Crimson Tide on his back and carry it to a first- and second-round regional site.
Looking specifically at the backcourt, Alabama's 10-man rotation against UF included seven guards. Those seven players combined to score 42 points on 15-of-38 shooting from the field and 8-of-16 shooting from the free throw line. Making matters worse were the 11 turnovers Tide guards committed against UF, which helped the Gators to a 24-8 edge in points off takeaways.
As for the Vols, between Trae Golden, Skylar McBee and Cameron Tatum, UT got 36 points from its starting backcourt in a midweek win over Arkansas. Factor in reserve Jordan McRae's team-high 14 points against the Hogs and the number hit 50.
Can Alabama avoid the kind of dreadful stretches that plagued it in losses to LSU and Florida?
Even when JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell have been available, Alabama has struggled to score the basketball with any kind of consistency in SEC play. Without the duo, reaching the 60-point mark requires a once-in-a-season kind of performance from one of the true freshmen or, say, Charles Hankerson or Andrew Steele.
With Green and Mitchell out, there's no legitimate, off-the-ball, No. 1 option for this team to turn to when it desperately needs a bucket. At some point during today's game, that stretch will rear its ugly head once again. When it does, from where will the points come?
The Man says: Alabama -3.5.
Prediction: Tennessee 63, Alabama 59.
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