TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After securing the SEC title earlier this week, No. 2 Alabama basketball heads to No. 24 Texas A&M with a little less weight on its shoulders. Still, the Crimson Tide isn’t looking to rest on its laurels as it looks to wrap up its regular season on a high note.
Alabama (26-4, 16-1 in the SEC) and Texas A&M (22-8, 14-3) will square off Saturday in a matchup between the top two teams in the conference. While both teams have already locked in their respective places in the conference standings, the matchup still holds plenty of significance as it serves as the final tuneup before next week’s SEC Tournament.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
How to watch
Who: No. 2 Alabama (26-4, 16-1 in the SEC) at No. 24 Texas A&M (22-8, 14-3)
When: 11 a.m. CT, Saturday, March 4
Where: Reed Arena, College Station, Texas
Watch: CBS (play-by-play: Brad Nessler,; analyst: Jay Wright)
Listen: Crimson Tide Sports Network (play-by-play: Chris Stewart; analyst: Bryan Passink; engineer Tom Stipe)
Alabama’s projected starters
Jaden Bradley: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, freshman
Stats: 7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 40.6% FG, 28.6% 3-pt
Mark Sears: 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, junior
Stats: 13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 43.4% FG, 38.3% 3-pt
Brandon Miller: 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, freshman
Stats: 19.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 46.2% FG, 41.7% 3-pt
Noah Clowney: 6-foot-10, 210 pounds, freshman
Stats: 10.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 48.5% FG, 26.6% 3-pt
Charles Bediako: 7-foot, 225 pounds, sophomore
Stats: 5.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 63.1% FG
Texas A&M’s projected starters
Wade Taylor IV: 6-foot, 185 pounds, sophomore
Stats: 15.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 39.9% FG, 36.8% 3-pt
Tyrece Radford: 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, senior
Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 39.7% FG, 32.7% 3-pt
Andre Gordon: 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, senior
Stats: 2.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 31.2% FG, 31.0% 3-pt
Henry Coleman III: 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, junior
Stats: 9.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 53.3% FG
Julius Marble: 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, junior
Stats: 9.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 54.1% FG
Plenty to play for
The SEC title is secured, but Oats isn’t planning on hitting the breaks this weekend. Friday, the head coach said he has no plans of switching up his rotation in order to rest players against the Aggies, stating his team still has “a lot to play for” in terms of finishing out the regular season strong.
“I don’t believe in load management in college basketball,” Oats said. “We’re going in to try and play our best basketball at the end of the year. I don’t feel like we were last year. I definitely feel like we want to be this year, so we’re going in trying to get a win.”
Alabama indirectly rested two of its players Wednesday as starting center Charles Bediako and backup guard Rylan Griffen were ejected for leaving the bench with 7:31 to play in the second half against Auburn. Bediako ended his night with 13 minutes while Griffen logged 11 minutes.
Meanwhile, starting forward Noah Clowney logged a career-high 37 minutes while Brandon Miller (39 minutes), Mark Sears (36 minutes) and Jahvon Quinerly (36 minutes) all saw extended court time. Friday, Oats said some players were given lighter workloads toward the end of practice to ensure they’ll have fresh legs for Saturday’s 11 a.m. tipoff.
Alabama earned a double bye in the SEC Tournament and will not play again until next Friday following its game over the weekend.
“We’ll make sure we’re smart with our practice times Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday going into the SEC Tournament,” Oats said, “try to get our guys as fresh as we can.”
The stingy defense that allowed Alabama to dismantle SEC opponents earlier this season has disappeared at times over the past couple of weeks. Until recently, the 70-point plateau was uncharted territory for the Crimson Tide’s opposition. Alabama held its opponents under that mark in its first 14 conference games, recording 10 double-digit wins over that span. However, since a 108-59 victory over Georgia last month, the opposition’s side of the scoreboard is a bit higher than usual.
Alabama has allowed 70 or more points in each of its last three outings. That’s almost proved costly each time as the Crimson Tide sweated out overtime wins against South Carolina (78-76) and Auburn (90-85) as well as an 86-83 victory over Arkansas.
Friday, Oats pointed out that Alabama hasn’t completely broken down in any of those three games but has suffered costly periods of ineffectiveness. The Crimson Tide gave up 22 points in the final five minutes against Arkansas and allowed Auburn to shoot 53.8% from the floor in the first half on Wednesday.
“Shoot, Auburn, at one point they were 9 of 11 from 3,” Oats said. “We could have got 11 wide-open 3s with nobody on our side of halfcourt, and I don’t know if we would have made nine that night the way we were shooting.”
Friday, Oats noted that Alabama’s recent slow starts offensively have forced the team to sub in groupings centered around shooters rather than defenders. He expressed confidence that his team would return to its defensive dominance, pointing out that Alabama still ranks fifth in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings.
“I know the easy defensive stat is to look at how many points the other team scored,” Oats said. “Our number we always look at is our points per possession, like our efficiency numbers. Those haven’t been totally off in some of the games, but they haven’t been where we expect them to be.”
— Brandon Miller has a chance to become the fourth player in the last 50 years to lead the SEC in scoring as a freshman joining Tennessee’s Bernard King (Tennessee 1975) and LSU’s Chris Jackson (1989) and Cameron Thomas (2021).
— Miller is 44 points away from tying Collin Sexton’s record for most points (632 points) scored by a freshman in a single season in Alabama history.
— Nate Oats joins C.M. Newton as the only two Alabama head coaches that have led UA to multiple SEC regular season championships.
— Alabama has won two SEC regular season championships in the last three years for the first time since winning three straight from 1974-76.
— Alabama is 14-15 against AP Top 25 teams during Oats’ tenure.
— Texas A&M’s 14-3 SEC record marks the program’s best conference start after 17 games since joining the league in 2012-13.
— The Aggies are an SEC-best 21-4 in their last 25 games against SEC opponents, including the SEC Tournament.
— Texas A&M is allowing an SEC-low 26.9 first-half points in conference play and has limited opponents to 30 or fewer first-half points in 12 of 17 SEC games, including its past two outings.