Auburn (12-6, 2-4) vs. Alabama (11-6, 4-1)
Saturday, January 21st, 3:00PM CT
ESPN2 / WatchESPN
The Iron Bowl of basketball is upon us, as is a great chance to bring our league record to within one game of .500 (3-4). A win here could put us in the top half of the league and one step closer to getting back in the post season discussion. With the rumors of the return of Purifoy swirling, it makes previewing the game a challenge not knowing that to expect. It also makes setting the line more difficult, but I would put this game at AU -1, but would not be suprised if the line opens within a few points in either direction of that.
Bama has been playing well of late (6-1 in their last seven), after a disappointing start, currently sitting at 11-6 overall, 4-1 in the league, and 83 in the RPI. This is a match up of very different styles. Bama is slow (all kidding aside), they play a very slow pace, while we like to push the pace. They aren't very big, but they play a physical brand of ball, and will be a challenge physcially for some of our lighter guys like Lang, Smith, Spencer, and Harper. We will have to be ready for a scrappy game, like the win at UConn. However, I would like to see us avoid letting them dictate the tempo of the game.
They prefer to do most of their scoring inside the 3 point line, as only two guys are shooting good percentages, Ingram and Key. Speaking of those two, they are their best players, Hale and Taylor are solid players inside, but Ingram can be dynamic at times. I'm not sure what CBP plans match-up-wise, but Harper could struggle to guard him when matched up there. In any event, they don't score many points, only averaging 68 per game.
We should have our chances to score during this game. Norris will have a hard time guarding Heron, Purifoy, and/or Dunans, and I think Wiley could have another good night based on match ups. They play good team defense, so ball movement will be important, and I would expect to see them play multiple defenses against us.
We have 3 common league opponents, Vandy, LSU and Mizzou they have beaten all three, and their wins vs LSU and Mizzou were more impressive than ours. I would say that we will have to play better than we have in the last few games to get this win. There have been signs that could happen, and the return of Purifoy sure would help. IF he does in fact return, I will be watching his minutes and the rotations closely, if he isn't close to 90% or so, his return could hurt more than help.
I really like the way Dunans played vs LSU, and hope to see that balanced production continue. Would like to see Heron get more touches, and to continue increasing Wiley's touches. I think our talent will find enough points to win, the question here is can we rebound the ball. Bama's best chance of winning is to control the boards, we can't allow that to happen.