Tide Basketball Opens SEC At State

The Alabama men's basketball team opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday and the Crimson Tide goes into SEC competition on something of a roll. Unfortunately, the Tide's recent success could be misleading, a factor of the competition rather than Bama improvement.

Alabama and Mississippi State are both 8-6 with the completion of non-conference games. The Crimson Tide will go to Starkville to open up league play at 3 p.m. CST in Humphrey Coliseum.

Alabama could be a bit stronger with the return to full health of freshman point guard Trever Releford and the continued strong play of inside post player JaMychal Green, who has been improving with each game since his suspension earlier this year.

The Bulldogs are a lot stronger as suspensions come to an end for two key State players. Mississippi State will have point guard Dee Bost available for the first time this season. Back from suspension after fighting with a teammate in the stands at a tournament in Hawaii is 6-10, 270-pound inside player Renardo Sidney.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant doesn't discount the advantage State gets with the addition of the two players, but said State has other fine players, pointing to Ravern Johnson, a 6-7 wing player who is averaging 20.1 points per game, and 6-8, 224-pound forward Kodi Augustus, averaging 13.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

Still, Grant said, Sidney is a "talented player" who brings "provides an inside presence." The Tide coach said Bama must "limit his touches and make him work for what he gets."

Alabama has won all eight of its games in Coleman Coliseum. All six losses have come away from Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide is on a streak of three consecutive games, all won convincingly by Bama. But those opponents were Lipscomb (Alabama won 71-51), Pepperdine (83-60), and Toledo (83-41).

Alabama success this year can be attributed primarily to defense. The Tide is holding opponents to 56.5 points per game, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense. Opponents are shooting only 36 per cent on field goals against the Bama defense.

"It's more about survival," Grant said. "We have to defend to have a chance. On a daily basis, you don't know about offense, but you should be able t defend consistently."

Mississippi State has been averaging 69 points per game (but giving up 69.2 points per game). Nevertheless, Grant pegs the Bulldogs as "one of the SEC's most explosive teams."

The Tide has averaged 67.9 points per game.

Mississippi State finished non-conference play with five consecutive road games and went 1-4 in those contests.

This is the second consecutive year for Alabama to open SEC play on the road. Last year Bama defeated LSU in Baton Rouge, 66-49.

Grant said, "Our guys are excited. They are looking forward to the challenge of going on the road."

Alabama has gotten excellent play from Green since he returned from his suspension six games ago. He has averaged 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and is shooting 58.6 per cent over that span. For the year he is averaging 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Releford did not start the Tide's last game because he had been ill. He saw only limited playing time in that contest. For the year he is averaging 9.1 points and 3.7 assists per game.

Other Tide starters are expected to include wing forward Tony Mitchell (14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game), wing guard Charvez Davis (10 points per game), and inside player Chris HInes (5.2 points, 6.7 rebounds).

In the latest three games, Davis has connected on 16 of 24 three-point shots and has averaged 19.3 points.

Davis has taken over the starting spot held by Senario Hillman, who will be the top sub at either wing guard or point guard. Hillman is averaging 9.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.

Alabama and Mississippi State have played one common opponent, Troy. Bama was a 79-60 winner over the Trojans, while the Bulldogs prevailed 92-83 in overtime.

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