Well it’s these guys again. I think you may have heard about them over the past two months, perhaps?
It’s worth breaking down just how much has changed since the first and only time Tennessee faced this Alabama team. Heading into January 2, Tennessee sat as the #6 team in KenPom, undefeated and coming off of an absolute destruction of what we thought would be the second-best team in the SEC, Missouri. Alabama was #45, had lost at home to Western Kentucky two weeks prior, and came very close to dropping a mid-December home game to Furman. The Tide had potential, but they didn’t seem to be quite in the same stratosphere as Tennessee at the time.
On March 13, 2021, it’s like everything has flipped. Alabama obviously won that first game, then simply went on to smoke the rest of the SEC (minus Missouri, strangely, and Arkansas) and finished 16-2 in conference play. They’re now #8 on KenPom. Tennessee began to wobble with the Alabama game, fully fell off the table at times, and squeaked out a 10-7 SEC record in one of the most frustrating seasons in program history.
We thought we know a lot in January. We didn’t. The question remaining is this: how much have both teams learned about themselves and each other since then?
- THE OPPONENT: 1 seed Alabama (22-6, 16-2). They defeated 9 seed Mississippi State 85-48 yesterday.
- THE TIME: 1 PM ET.
- THE CHANNEL: ESPN.
- THE ANNOUNCERS: Karl Ravech (PBP) and, yes, Dick Vitale (color).
- THE SPREAD: Alabama -3.5.
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NEXT PAGE: When I have more time, please remind me to write something about how smaller conferences in college basketball mostly do a terrible job of protecting their best teams in the conference tournament. Been on my mind this week!