#9 Alabama at #24 Oklahoma Preview
Who: #9 Alabama (14-3) at #24 Oklahoma (10-4)
When: 11 am CT, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2021
Where: Lloyd Noble Center; Norman, OK
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (Play-by-play: Chris Stewart; Analyst: Bryan Passink)
The ninth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, atop the SEC standings and undefeated in-conference, travel to Norman to face off against the 24th-ranked Sooners, a matchup which fans have not seen since lottery point guards Collin Sexton and Trae Young duelled during the 2017-18 season. The Sooners, who come into the matchup ranked third in the Big 12 with a 6-3 in-conference record, will try to knock off a meteoric Alabama team which has not suffered a loss since before Christmas in what will be both teams’ last non-conference games before the NCAA Tournament.
Alabama, who faces their toughest remaining challenge according to KenPom, will look to close out non-conference play in their only such matchup since opening in the SEC against Ole Miss. The Tide, who claimed a win over Kentucky earlier this week off the backs of a standout offensive performance by Jaden Shackelford and a near-triple double by Herb Jones, will look to get Jahvon Quinerly more involved after a five-point, three-turnover performance on Tuesday. Coupled with improving point play, Alabama will need to step up from deep after shooting only 6-20 against Kentucky, but will face a Sooner team which ranks 275th in opposing three-point percentage. The offense will need to improve in terms of efficiency, especially against an Oklahoma side which averages nearly 78 points per game. With Jordan Bruner still out due to injury, Alabama will look for increased production down low and on the glass from the likes of veteran big man Alex Reese and Keon Ambrose-Hylton, whose memorable poster against Arkansas serves as a portent of the talent that he might bring down low.
The Sooners, in keeping with the status quo for a team which has produced the likes of Buddy Hield and Trae Young in recent years, will seek a fifth consecutive victory off the backs of stellar guard production, with senior Austin Reaves leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists alongside second-leading scorer and backcourt companion De’Vion Harmon. Oklahoma may struggle on the glass, as the team sits outside the nation’s top 100 in team rebounds per game and no player grabbing more than 5.1 per contest. Matching up with Alabama, a team driven by wings and guards, will make this game interesting, as the Sooners have split contests against a guard-heavy Kansas team this season while being shellacked to the tune of a 15-point loss against the nation’s second-ranked Baylor Bears. Alabama, which ranks 30th in rebounds per game due in large part to Herb Jones and John Petty given the absence of Jordan Bruner, may be able to exploit this weakness and pick up a number of extra possessions, a key to victory in what looks to be a game rife with offense.
Oklahoma Players to Watch
G Austin Reaves (15.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.1 APG) G De’Vion Harmon (12.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG)
F Kur Kuath (7.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG)
G Elijah Harkless (4.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.1 SPG)
Alabama is as hot as any team in the nation right now, and despite lacking Jordan Bruner, the team will flourish against an Oklahoma team which struggles to rebound or defend against the deep ball. With a few days of rest separating the Tide from their matchup with Kentucky, Nate Oats’ team should be able to keep the streak rolling in Norman.
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