Wednesday the Tide goes on the road again to Columbia, South Carolina, to face a 14-9 Gamecock team. "Until we actually win something, we've got nothing to rest on," Gottfried continued. "It's nice to visit various Internet sites and see where we're projected as a high seed (in the NCAA tournament). But that's all fantasy land."
Bama holds a two-game lead in the SEC Western Division, and with Florida traveling to Tuscaloosa later this season, the Tide has a legitimate shot at the regular-season conference title. But there is a lot of basketball left to be played.
"We're still staring at three more difficult road games," Gottfried said. "We have not done anything yet."
"When you get to this point in the season you're almost at a point where you just want to hold on. But we haven't done anything yet to hold on to. If you let yourself feel that way, then you're not as aggressive. You don't attack. The same things we've done before that got us here, we've got to continue."
The 1995 Coach of the Year while at Wake Forest, Dave Odom is in his first season in charge at South Carolina. "At times this season South Carolina has played exceptionally well," Gottfried said. "They've got veteran guards, and they're basically a veteran team. We'll have to step up and really play."
With four juniors starting for his Tide team, Gottfried has enjoyed an edge in maturity over most SEC squads this year. But SC's starting lineup features two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. "They beat Tennessee by 36 points in Knoxville," Gottfried pointed out. "I like their team. I think they're very, very good. I think they're good enough to get in the (NCAA) Tournament, so they have a lot to play for. But so do we."
South Carolina lists three guards as starters. Senior Jamel Bradley leads his team in scoring, averaging 14.3 per game. Fellow senior Aaron Lucas adds 10.3 points and four assists per contest, and 6-7 junior wing man Chuck Eidson adds 9 points per night. With 6-10, 250-pound Marius Petravicius and 6-9, 220-pound Rolando Howell, South Carolina has good size around the basket.
The Gamecocks lead the SEC in steals, averaging 11.4 per game. "They do a lot of trapping on the floor, and we've got to be able to handle it," Gottfried said. "But they've just got a lot of players with a knack for that. Eidson especially has good hands. They're seasoned players that just don't turn the ball over that many times."
The Tide/Gamecock matchup is a relative rare one in basketball, largely because SC did not join the SEC until the 1991-92 season. Alabama leads the series 14-8, though USC leads narrowly 5-4 in games played in Columbia.
Having already defeated Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, so far Alabama is 3-0 versus SEC Eastern teams.
Before losing to Mississippi State in Starkville last Saturday, the Tide had won three consecutive SEC road games. "I thought our team's mental state has been good--even going into Starkville," Gottfried said. "We've got six games left, in the SEC (regular season). Three games in the SEC tournament. And then six games in the NCAA Tournament to be national champs.
"We've got to act like that's what we want to do."