Typically when you hear "Iron Bowl," you think of Alabama and Auburn battling it out on the gridiron, but with Auburn's hiring of Bruce Pearl and Alabama's hiring of Nate Oats, their respective schools are more than just "football schools" now, they play some high-level basketball as well. Saturday's game between the two schools has caught the nation's attention as ESPN's College Gameday will be on site for the game. Auburn is coming into the game off a road loss to Texas A&M Tuesday, while Alabama had their way with Florida at home Wednesday. The Crimson Tide won't have much time to celebrate as they have to prepare for a tough road matchup against Auburn on Saturday.
"It's become a top-25 game," Oats said after the Florida game Wednesday. "He's (Bruce Pearl) done an unbelievable job. The year before I got here, he was in the Final Four. Last year's team was unbelievable. This year's team, he's competing with everybody. They're one of the best teams in this league, and he lost a lot from last year. They'll 100% be ready for us. We all know that. They've got a 24-hour head start on us, so I'm going to cut this thing short here and get to studying some Auburn film because we've got some catchup work to do here.
Here are five things to look for in Alabama's game at Auburn this Saturday.
The SEC's leading scorer, averaging 19 points per game, has had a few games in which he has struggled to score, but outside of those few games, he has been nearly unstoppable. Miller is the heart and soul of this Alabama team, and when he thrives, so does the Crimson Tide. Going into a hostile environment, Alabama will look for Miller to respond big to help silence the road crowd and lead Alabama to victory.
Alabama is easily one of the deepest teams in the nation, and it shows each night with the production they get from their bench. Guards Jahvon Quinerly and Rylan Griffen could start at most schools in the SEC, but at Alabama, they come off the bench averaging six points per game a piece and are always a threat to get hot and score in double figures. With the fast pace style that Alabama runs, the bench will be essential in keeping legs fresh without losing production.
Regarding turning over the ball, Alabama is one of the worst teams in the nation, averaging 14 turnovers per game. Alabama had major struggles with taking care of the ball early in the season, but in recent games, the Crimson Tide have tightened up their ball security. If Alabama wants to keep the crowd out of the game and come out victorious Saturday, they will need to limit their turnovers.
Controlling the Paint
One of Alabama's biggest recipes to success so far this season is controlling the paint. Alabama leads the nation in rebounds per game, averaging 44.9 per game. Being so successful at rebounding has helped limit the opponent's second-chance points and on the offensive side of the court, has led to second-chance points of their own. The Crimson Tide's rebounding success has some to do with the length of their team but also shows the emphasis and pride they put into the effort of rebounding. If Alabama can control the paint Saturday, they should be in a good spot to win the game.
Three Point Shooting
When Alabama isn't grinding out points in the paint, they are hitting three-pointers. Nate Oats' style of play is fast and calculated. Offensively, Oats emphasizes his team taking good shots, which he defines as short two-pointers and open three-pointers. So far this season, Alabama has had tons of success from behind the arc averaging 10.5 made three-pointers per game. Outside of center Charles Bediko, everyone in a Crimson Tide jersey is a threat to knock down a three, especially Brandon Miller, who has an impressive 44.4 three-point percentage.
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