Bama Has Work to Do in Knoxville

Alabama could probably lose on the road against Tennessee Wednesday night and still make the NCAA tournament field by winning two or three of its final three regular season games.

Probably!

At 19-7 overall, and 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference, nothing is certain for the Crimson Tide. One thing missing from Alabama's NCAA tournament resumé is a really good road win.

Alabama's best road win was against NC State on the road back in December, but the Wolfpack is now 10th in the ACC with a 4-8 league record and a 14-11 overall mark. Alabama also beat LSU (14-12 overall, 3-9 SEC) on the road in January.

Tennessee (18-9 overall, 6-6 SEC) is in the same boat. They have no good wins away from home.

On Sunday, Joe Lunardi's Bracketology on ESPN projected Alabama as a No. 9 seed and rising after its 11-point home win against Kentucky. Lunardi has Tennessee in as a No. 8 seed, but dropping after getting blown out on the road at South Carolina over the weekend. They will try to hold onto their home court advantage as they have done all season before finishing with two of its last three games on the road, and defending national champs Florida its remaining home contest.

"I think we all know this time of the year everything gets magnified a little bigger," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said. "Our guys are excited about the opportunities we have in front of us. Tennessee's very good – extremely good at home - and they will be excited to play as well."

Wednesday night's 7 p.m. tipoff is scheduled to be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports. Alabama has won the last seven meetings between the schools, but will have to contend with a four-guard lineup from UT similar to that which gave Alabama trouble in previous games against the likes of Auburn and Vanderbilt.

Chris Lofton, who missed time with an ankle sprain earlier in league play, is back and leads the Vols in scoring at 20.4 points per game. Tennessee is also expected to start 6-2 guards Ramar Smith, JaJuan Smith, and 6-4 Dane Bradshaw in the power forward position, with Wayne Chism Tennessee's only true post player in the starting lineup.

"I think all the teams that play the fourth guard have given us some trouble," Gottfried said. "Tennessee will do that some with Dane Bradshaw and play him as a power forward even though he's really a perimeter player. It's something we have to adjust to in the game and get through that."

Alabama has adjusted by going to the bench more as of late, and Ronald Steele's resurgence as a healthy offensive threat has also been a welcome return for the squad after playing with knee and ankle problems throughout the year. On Saturday against Kentucky Steel had 15 points and seven assists against Kentucky. It was his second-highest point total of 2007 and his most points since scoring 19 against Auburn on January 23rd.

Steele has said he is still not feeling 100 per cent healthy, but that he continues to improve.

"Most of the time I ask him he says ‘I'm fine'," Gottfried said. "I think in the last couple of games it has appeared pretty obvious that he has a little more bounce in his step and a little more quickness and he's been more aggressive. Hopefully that will continue. He had a great game Saturday and he hasn't had a lot of games like that this season. It was good to see."


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