Head coach Mark Gottfried has long been a proponent of saying his basketball team is not very good, but after losses to Ole Miss on the road and Florida at home, it's a lot easier to sound pessimistic than optimistic-even when your leading scorer is out, other players are injured, and you're facing a team that beat you before.
Saturday, Alabama (11-6, 3-3 SEC) will host LSU (13-4, 3-3) in a rematch where LSU won the last meeting in Baton Rouge, 70-66. The Tigers came back from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes, and handed the Crimson Tide yet another road loss.
"It's just going to take an unbelievable effort," Gottfried said. "We're under-manned. And LSU is a team that was picked to win the West. They are extremely talented. And we're picked at the bottom, we're not very good, so we're going to have to rise up and find ways to win."
For Alabama to have success, sophomore forward Kennedy Winston must play like he did against Florida, scoring 25 points. The problem was, he woke up that morning with his knee the size of a grapefruit, and wasn't just a game-time decision to play, he was a game-time clearance to play. The knee will obviously bother him, but it's something Winston will have to play through.
"He's pretty sore," Gottfried said. "We just need to monitor each day. It's difficult when you're limited in practice, but I thought he played with a tremendous amount of courage the other night. He played hard and played through it. He's been told since his surgery that he just needs to manage his knee and we need to watch it with his practice time and game time and game minutes.
"Because of the timing of that in December, it's just something we have to deal with this season and hopefully through the off-season and summer and next year it's not going to be as much of an issue."
"He's out a couple of weeks probably," Gottfried said. "There's not a whole lot we can do about it right now. He's not practicing at all. His leg is in some type of brace and he's just sitting and watching."
Senior Emmett Thomas started against Ole Miss, but struggled. Demetrius Smith, another senior, came off the bench to score a career-high 12, and started against Florida. He will likely start again against LSU.
"We'll evaluate that the closer we get to the game, but I think he's played very well," Gottfried said. "He's done everything I think that we could have asked him to do, and he's played, I think good basketball these last couple of games."
LSU's offensive punch comes from the front line of senior Jaime Lloreda (17.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg) and freshman Brandon Bass (13 ppg, 7.4 rpg). The other starters are freshman forward Regis Koundjia (4.4 ppg), and junior guards Antonio Hudson (9.8 ppg) and Xavier Whipple 4.5 ppg, 3.2 apg). The Tigers counter with a pair of talented guards off the bench in Darrel Mitchell (10.6 ppg) and Tack Minor (6.4 ppg).