Can Tide Rise Without Steele?

With Ron Steele likely out and with its back once again firmly against the wall, the Alabama basketball team will finish its regular season this week with games against the two Southeastern Conference teams from the state of Mississippi, beginning Wednesday night with at Coleman Coliseum against Ole Miss at 7 p.m.

Alabama's regular season finale is Sunday afternoon against Mississippi State in Starkville at 1 p.m. This would seem like Custer's Last Stand, but it is the type of situation where Mark Gottfried has found a way to overcome steep odds in the past.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss have split their two head-to-head match-ups, so if somehow Bama could raise itself up off the deck and win the next two games it would make up the one-game deficit to both those schools and would win a three-way tiebreaker among those schools. Auburn sits tied with Alabama in SEC play at 6-8, however, and finishes its regular season against LSU at home and at Ole Miss on Saturday.

Despite all the possibilities, talk of an NCAA Tournament berth for the Crimson Tide has all but disappeared as Alabama has lost four of its last five games.

"Everybody knows where we are," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said. "Our players know. They're not living under a rock somewhere. They understand. But what we can control is from today forward."

"We know we've got a tough road. That's obvious. But we feel like we can do it as well," he said.

Gottfried said Ron Steele was "very doubtful" to be available for Wednesday night's game. Steele has been hampered all season long by knee tendonitis and a sprained ankle. The tendonitis forced him out of the lineup for crucial parts of the last two games in losses against Tennessee and Auburn.

"Not knowing has become tough, Gottfried said, "so we've got to figure this out. I thought after the Kentucky game, and that was only a week ago, he was turning the corner, and he really played well. And at Tennessee and then Auburn at home he's been very, very limited. So we've got to figure that out with him and the doctors and make a determination. And then from there I think then your team has a chance to know where you stand. That's been probably one of the hardest things all year with his situation."

In the first meeting between Alabama and Ole Miss the Tide was in control of the game for much of the way, but a spate of turnovers at about the five minute mark of the game gave Ole Miss the lead and another turnover on Bama's final offensive possession allowed the Rebels to salt away the game.

Wednesday is also the regular season game in Coleman Coliseum for Crimson Tide senior Jermareo Davidson. Wednesday's game is not scheduled for live television coverage. Sunday's game in Starkville will be shown on Lincoln Financial Sports Network.


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