This Game Could Be For NCAA Berth

Alabama and Georgia played a basketball game less than a week ago, but neither winner nor loser is looking back. All eyes are on the future as the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs prepare to play in the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at 1 p.m. EST (noon central time) Friday. An NCAA Tournament berth may be at stake.

Alabama defeated Georgia, 65-57, in Coleman Coliseum last Saturday. That game set up a conversation about the NCAA Tournament and the consequences for the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs. Following Georgia's 69-51 win over Auburn in the first round of the SEC Tournament Thursday, the Bulldogs seem to think they have accomplished what is needed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Following last Saturday's game, Georgia Coach Mark Fox said he thought both Bama and the Bulldogs had done enough to make the tournament. Many others believe that work was left for both teams.

The SEC is believed to have three teams definitely in the tournament – SEC regular season champion Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. Other teams with a chance (other than winning the SEC Tournament and the automatic bid that goes with it) were thought to be Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

It is not unreasonable to believe that Georgia had a two-game "must" situation going into the tournament. Beating Auburn, one of the worst teams in the league, doesn't get a lot of attention. Some national basketball theorists believe the Alabama-Georgia game is a play-in game to the tournament.

Alabama will face a more difficult task this week than last week. The Crimson Tide, 20-10 overall, was 16-0 in games at Coleman Coliseum. That means 4-10 away from Tuscaloosa.

Additionally, Georgia's best player, Trey Thompkins, played only 27 minutes in Tuscaloosa because of an injured toe. He managed 15 points and 10 rebounds in limited time and with his ailment.

The Crimson Tide of Coach Anthony Grant had unexpected and unusual success by Charvez Davis on three-point shooting against the Bulldogs. Davis hit 5-10 from beyond the arc. (The rest of the Alabama team was 0-6.)

Alabama has won 15 of its last 19 games going into the SEC Tournament and was 12-4 in SEC games, just a game behind Florida for the regular season championship.

As has been the case all year, Alabama can be expected to be strong defensively. The Tide is surrendering just 58.8 points per game, seventh best in the nation, and allowing opponents to convert just 37.9 per cent of field goals attempted, third best nationally. Opponents score an average of 0.86 point per possession, tied for best in college basketball.

Alabama has outscored opponents by an average of 8.2 points per game and out-rebounded opponents by 3.2 per game. Bama leads the league in steals (9.4 per game) and turnover margin (plus 1.5 per game).

Alabama is expected to start 6-1 freshman Trevor Releford (10.4 points and 3.4 assists per game) at point guard; 6-8, 228-pound junior JaMychal Green (16 points, 7.5 rebounds) at power forward; 6-6, 210-pound sophomore Tony Mitchell (15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds) at small forward; 6-8, 227-pound senior Chris Hines (5.4 points, 6.2 rebounds) at center; and 6-3 Charvez Davis (8.1 points) at wing guard.

The winner of Friday's game will meet the winner of Kentucky's game against today's winner of Ole Miss-South Carolina. The Saturday game will tip off at 1 p.m. EST (noon central).

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