Alabama Basketball: What we learned from the Tide’s loss to Missouri

In Features by Philip Williams

In a crucial game for both teams, Missouri physically dominated Alabama on Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum.

From the opening tip, the Tigers looked like they were locked-in and understood the stakes.  They played like a team that was desperate for a win, and it resulted in a huge victory for Cuonzo Martin’s squad.

Meanwhile, Alabama laid an egg in its first game since maybe its biggest win of the season against Oklahoma. The Crimson Tide had a poor shooting night overall, and despite shooting more than double the amount of free throws as Missouri shot, couldn’t make enough baskets to secure a win.

Here’s some thoughts on the Tide’s loss and where they go from here.

Energy problems

After three consecutive sell-outs, the crowd in Tuscaloosa was about half-capacity for a late night (8 p.m. CST) tip against a middle-of-the-pack SEC team.

The Alabama faithful created one of the best gameday atmospheres that Coleman Coliseum has seen in many years against Oklahoma on Saturday, but there was a stark difference on Wednesday. From the start of the game, it was clear that the energy in the building was lacking.

The Tide’s play during the game wasn’t exactly worthy of cheers either. Much of that had to do with Mizzou.

Every time Alabama would make a big bucket that was seemingly going to propel the Tide to an inevitable big scoring run, players like Kassius Robertson or Jontay Porter would answer with a bigger basket of their own in silencing the building once again.

Clearly, the Tide feeds off the energy of fans in the building which is why they’ve been far better at home than on the road.

However, the teams that earn NCAA Tournament births find a way to create their own energy.

Issues with physicality

Missouri trotted out a lineup that often included two guys that were 6-10 or better with Porter and fellow freshman Jeremiah Tilmon. This caused trouble for a large portion of the game.

Alabama still switched a lot on defense like it normally does, which meant there were way too many possessions where Collin Sexton, Dazon Ingram or John Petty got stuck guarding one of the bigs.

This didn’t always lead to buckets for Missouri’s frontcourt, but it always led to a wide-open shot somewhere because the rest of the defense would overcompensate when they helped around the rim.

The Tigers enjoyed a +6 rebounding edge, taking advantage of what Avery Johnson says is the Tide’s Achilles heel.

It showed on Wednesday as Alabama only managed to get seven extra possessions through offensive rebounds. When you have a bad night shooting like Alabama did last night (35 percent), you need every extra opportunity you can get.

For the Tide to compete down the stretch, they are going to have to find some answers on the boards.

Remaining Schedule

Despite the loss, Alabama is still on the right side of the bubble according to most prognosticators.  However, it’s not going to get any easier for the Tide.

A record of 5-4 in the remaining SEC games would almost guarantee Alabama spot in the tournament and a 4-5 record might get them in as well.

The problem is that Alabama will likely only be favored in two of its final nine games.

The Tide have home bouts with Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas and Florida and daunting road games with Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Auburn, and Texas A&M.

Can Alabama win five of those games? Absolutely. Will they? It’s hard to trust at this point.

So, go ahead and buckle up, Alabama followers.

It might be a bumpy ride.

I’m a librarian and junior high boys basketball coach. My obsession with SEC basketball has grown so ludicrous that I won’t take another varsity hoops job because I’d miss almost all of conference play. I cover general SEC for Southeast Hoops.