Who: (1) Alabama (21-6, 16-2 SEC) vs (9) Mississippi State (15-13, 8-10 SEC)
When: 11:00am CT, Friday, March 12, 2021
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (play-by-play: Chris Stewart, analyst: Bryan Passink)
The SEC regular season champions and top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide will make their 2021 SEC Tournament debut Friday morning as the Tide take on the 9th-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs in the quarterfinals. The Tide have been waiting to play their first game in this year’s conference tournament after receiving a double-bye for being a top-4 seed following conference play.
Mississippi State pulled off somewhat of an upset on Thursday morning when they toppled 8th-seeded Kentucky, knocking them out in their first game. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 14 point lead in the first half, with forward Abdul Ado scoring 14 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting from the floor. Kentucky attempted to make a late comeback, even taking the lead in the second half thanks to an onslaught of threes from Dontaie Allen, but following some clutch shots from star guard Iverson Molinar, MSU was able to hold on an advance.
In the Tide’s regular season finale against Georgia, they experienced yet another slow start, but finally saw threes begin to fall in the second half, knocking down 8 of 10. Jahvon Quinerly has been playing lights out and has completely embraced his sixth man role becoming a true x-factor for this team as of late. Second Team All-SEC selection Jaden Shackelford has been shooting the ball a lot more like he did last year, giving the 3-point-barraging Crimson Tide yet another reliable weapon from deep. On the topic of All-SEC selections, Alabama was able to pour in recognition from the league this week, with Herb Jones winning SEC Player and Defensive Player of the Year, coach Nate Oats winning Coach of the Year, as well as many other selections to All-SEC teams.
Alabama was able to sweep the season series against Mississippi State, but neither win came easily. In their last meeting, Alabama won 64-59 to clinch the regular season SEC title. Mississippi State’s defense has continued to be a huge problem for Alabama’s offense, evidenced by the Bulldogs holding Alabama to one of their lowest point totals of the season in their last meeting. The emergence of Ado, an All-SEC Defensive Team selection, as an offensive threat for the Bulldogs could also prove to be a problem for the Tide, giving MSU a uniquely strong duo in the frontcourt pairing Ado with Tolu Smith, the SEC’s leading rebounder. Alabama must avoid another slow start, which has become synonymous with early-day tipoffs this season.
Mississippi State Players to Watch
G Iverson Molinar (16.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 4.0 RPG)
G DJ Stewart (16.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 3.2 RPG)
F Tolu Smith (12.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 57.7 FG%)
F Abdul Ado (5.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 53.2 FG%)
In order to advance to the SEC semifinals and beyond in the postseason, Alabama must end the slow-start trend. Expect Nate Oats as well as the senior leaders to have this team ready to go. Jordan Bruner and Herb Jones will be huge factors in keeping Smith and Ado off the boards. The hot shooting from the second half of the Georgia game needs to carry over into the tournament, but even if it does not, Alabama will be able to lean on its astounding defense like it has for seemingly months now, and the Tide will advance to the semifinals.
Alabama – 76
Mississippi State – 63
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