- Alabama at Tennessee
- When: Noon CT, Saturday
- Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
- Records: Alabama 17-12 (10-7 SEC), Tennessee 15-15 (7-10 SEC)
- TV: SEC Network
- Radio: 95.3 FM
Two weeks ago, there seemed to be a strong chance the men’s basketball teams from Alabama and Tennessee would be playing for high stakes indeed.
Instead, both teams had their stumbles down the stretch and now are attempting to regather momentum for the postseason.
“This year, I thought if a couple of things fell right, we’d be somewhere around fourth, fifth or sixth,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said on Friday. But regardless of where we finish, the key is to be playing good basketball. Whatever seed we are, I don’t want to go to Nashville playing bad basketball. If we can play well and do our part, I think (the tournament) is up for grabs.”
Regardless of the outcome against UT, Alabama is assured of the No. 5 overall seed in next week’s Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville. Tennessee, which was 6-5 in the SEC and generating whispers of being on the NCAA Tournament “bubble,” has dropped five of its last six SEC games and is coming off a loss at LSU that snapped a 15-game losing streak for the Tigers.
“Tennessee at one stretch was a hot basketball team,” Johnson said. “They are capable of doing that again. They are a young team, a talented team. I’ve got tremendous respect for Rick Barnes, who was coaching at Texas for a lot of the time that I was in Texas.”
The Volunteers are a balanced offensive team but Johnson cautioned that there are “one or two guys, and I’m not going to name any names, but you’ve got to do a good job on them (defensively) if you are going to have any chance to win.”
UT’s emotional leader is senior Robert Hubbs, a 6-foot-5 forward averaging nearly 14 points per game.
“The last three weeks he’s been as courageous as anybody I’ve been around in a really long time,” Barnes said at his Friday press conference. “He’s had his knee drained twice and kept playing hard in spite of that.”
The Volunteers are not a prolific 3-point shooting team (279th nationally) but have a good mid-range game with Hubbs and 6-5, 245-pound freshman Grant Williams. Lamonte Turner, a Huntsville native who sat out last season for academic reasons, is their top perimeter shooter.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.