Show Me My Opponent: Alabama

LINEUP NOTES

Alabama:

  • With the Herb Jones injury, they’re now on their eighth starting lineup of the year, and I genuinely cannot tell you for sure if it will stay this way tonight: Lewis, Shackleford, Petty, Reese, Davis.
  • Best lineup available is any lineup without Jaylen Forbes or Galin Smith in it, both of whom are below water in Torvik’s PORPAGATU metric and in BPM.

Tennessee:

  • If Josiah-Jordan James can play: Vescovi, Bowden, JJJ, Pons, Fulkerson.
  • If Josiah-Jordan James can’t play: Vescovi, Bowden, Pons, Fulkerson, Plastics.
  • My theoretical starting lineup I’d enjoy seeing: Vescovi, Jalen, Pons, JJJ, Fulkerson. Will this ever happen? Doubtful. Am I at the point with Jordan Bowden’s unfortunate run of play where I think it’s at least worth talking about? Sure.

KEY MATCHUPS

Yves Pons or Josiah-Jordan James vs. John Petty. This is super fascinating. Petty is a great three-point shooter and a decent defender; Pons is a decent three-point shooter and a great defender. The difference here lies in two key parts: how often can Pons get Petty in negative situations by posting him up, and how often can Petty shake loose of Pons for open threes?

Santiago Vescovi vs. Kira Lewis, Jr. Lewis…kind of a frustrating case, man. He’s so good at getting to the rim, at making the right pass, and at spacing the floor…but he simply cannot hit much of anything consistently if it’s not an attempt within five feet of the rim. Vescovi is in the midst of a logical regression in his 3PT%, but he’s quietly improved his play in terms of assist/turnover ratio (15-7 over last four games; 14-28 over the five before it) and did still hit 4-of-9 threes against Mississippi State. I’m curious to see what a happy midpoint for Vescovi is in terms of shot attempts; same with Lewis.

John Fulkerson vs. Alex Reese. Fulkerson will also do work on Javian Davis and Galin Smith, but the majority of his defensive minutes will come here. How well will Fulkerson do when facing a small-ball 5 that runs the court and hits threes? Likewise, can a mediocre rebounder in Reese keep Fulkerson from creating second chances for his offense?

PREDICTION

If Tennessee wants to make the NCAA Tournament, this is a non-negotiable must-win game. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that said stakes will help them win what genuinely feels like a JP Sports Tuesday night tipoff. Alabama 76, Tennessee 70.

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