The Crimson Tide certainly has had its moments, and with the start of the SEC Tournament in Nashville it is worth noting the success of previous Bama teams. The task at hand, however, is not an easy one.
Alabama finished 8-10 in SEC games this year, which put the Tide in a tie with Florida for the eighth and ninth seeds – the seeds that meet at noon CDT Thursday in second day action at the Bidgestone Arena in Nashville. The Gators took a 52-50 win over Alabama in the only regular season game between the two this year, which made it 10 in a row for Florida over Bama.
Alabama has a modest 73-65 advantage against Florida in all games played, a margin that has shrunk drastically as the Gators have won 21 of the last 24 contests.
This will be the 14th meeting between the two in the SEC Tournament and the third time in the last four years the two have met in the post-season. Alabama has a slim 7-6 advantage in games against Florida in the SEC Tourney. The Gators took a 61-51 decision in the last meeting in tournament play in 2013 in Nashville.
Alabama has an all-time record of 61-48, second best tournament record to Kentucky, and has won six SEC Tournament titltles (1934, 1982, 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1991). Kentucky leads the SEC with 27 SEC Tournament titles. Alabama is second with six while Florida and Tennessee are tied for third with four each. Bama has made the tournament finals 13 times, which is – you guessed it – second to Kentucky.
Bama is 3-4 in its four tournament appearances in Nashville under Grant. Twice the Tide was eliminated by Florida, twice by the Wildcats.
In SEC Tournament play, Alabama has a winning record against eight teams (Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Tennessee), is even with Arkansas (1-1) and Vanderbilt (4-4), and has not played Missouri or Texas A&M. Against Kentucky, the Tide is 2-13.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Grant congratulated Kentucky on its 18-0 SEC season (and 31-0 overall season and number one ranking) and said that the rest of the league is “very competitive. A lot of teams are able to step up.”
He noted that the only game between Alabama and Florida this year “came down to the last possession.” It was fitting that he mentioned Gators forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Finney-Smith had only one basket in that first game, but it was a dunk in the final half minute that proved to be the winning basket – after Finney-Smith blocked a shot on Bama’s last possession.
“I’ve always been impressed with how they play,” Grant said. “They are capable of going on scoring bursts. They are explosive. We have to keep them out of their transition game and make them work. Offensively, we have to have a flow.”
Senior guard Levi Randolph leads Alabama in scoring (15.2 ppg), assists (2.4 apg), steals (1.4), and minutes (35.2 mpg) through the Tide’s 31 contests. The Madison native ranks eighth in the SEC in points per game, fourth in minutes per game, and fifth in field goal percentage (.486) and free throw percentage (.824).
Perhaps Alabama can get past Florida in Thursday’s game. That would be good news for the 2015 Crimson Tide. The bad news, of course, is that Kentucky is waiting at noon on Friday for the winner of that game.