SEC basketball teams were awarded a bye week during conference play for the first time since 2012. Alabama's fell this week giving them an entire week off to prepare for Saturday’s upcoming game with Texas A&M after defeating LSU 109-92 last Saturday.

Alabama benefited greatly from the week off using it to rest their legs and spend the week focusing on themselves and their defense.

“You can kind of focus more on yourself for at least half the week,” Oats said to the media on Friday. “We’ve been trying to go all defense, really try to get our defense improved.”

Instead of playing a game on Wednesday, Nate Oats gave the team an extra day off before returning back to the gym for practice on Thursday. Alabama turned a great Thursday practice into one of their best practices of the season Friday morning according to Oats.

“I think we’ve got some guys more focused on defense, playing harder on defense,” Oats said. “We were able to work on a few different things defensively. Not all of them directly applied to this game, but just some of the overall intensity and attention to detail and focus on defense, I think, has been better.”

The Alabama players may not have strung together their best practice on the same day, but Oats said that at some point during the week, every player had his best practice of the season. The challenge down the home stretch of the season is to get everyone playing their best at the same time.

“Different guys had better practices throughout the course of the week. I did tell the team, I think most guys on the team, they’ve had their best practice of the year at some point this week. Now, it wasn’t all on Monday or Tuesday or Thursday or Friday. But if we can get everybody to start playing their best basketball as we head to the close of the year, that’s the goal.”

Alabama will have their hands full off the bye week against Texas A&M, the only team that has a winning record against the Crimson Tide with Nate Oats at the helm. Also during Saturday's game against Texas A&M at Coleman Coliseum, Alabama will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 2004 Elite Eight team and honor them by wearing a throwback jersey showcasing the old "block A" logo.

"The uniforms look great," Oats said. "It's kind of nice to have an alternative uniform to play in. I think the guys are excited about them. It's not gonna have anything to do with whether we win or lose the game, but it's nice to honor some of the teams that have won here in the past."

The 2004 Elite Eight team is the team that former Nate Oats assistant Antoine Pettway played on. Pettway, who is now the head coach at Kennesaw State, hosts North Florida on Friday night before making the trip back to Tuscaloosa, reuniting with his former boss.

"To have Pettway come over -- Pettway get a win tonight and be on a two-game winning streak coming over here," Oats said.

Alabama and Texas A&M will tip-off at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday February 17 on ESPN.

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