Coach Anthony Grant's Alabama Crimson Tide (13-6, 2-3 SEC) basketball team started this season off with a flurry. Alabama opened the season winning their first 7 games, including winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic, and rising to No. 12 in the polls. However, since that time the Tide has gone 6-6, which includes a current 3 game losing streak in league play. Alabama fans do have a few things to take comfort in. One, they almost beat the then No.2 Kentucky Wildcats this past Saturday in Rupp. Kentucky has moved up to No.1 in this week's poll. Perhaps more encouraging than that, however, is the fact that Alabama's next opponent is winless in league play.
The South Carolina Gamecocks (8-10, 0-4 SEC) come in to Wednesday night's 7 pm CT (SEC Network) match-up in Columbia looking for their first win in the conference. This season has been a struggle for the Gamecocks, seeing them lose to teams such as Tennessee State and Elon. Coach Darrin Horn's Gamecocks are led by senior forward Malik Cooke, who averages over 12 points and almost 5 rebounds a game. Sophomore guard Bruce Ellington provides a strong presence in the backcourt, where he averages over 10 points a game. While this season has been tough for Horn, his Gamecocks have shown that they have the ability to win big games. South Carolina beat their archrival Clemson earlier this season 58-55, and only lost to Thad Matta's Ohio State squad 74-66. Alabama can expect the Gamecocks to stand strong and try to defend the Colonial Life Arena, where they own a 7-5 record this season.
Alabama enters tonight's game looking to regroup and get back on a winning track. While the Tide's season has so far been full of positives, it is currently enduring it's biggest negative of the year. Not only has the 3 losses hurt the Tide's postseason chances, but star junior forward Tony Mitchell has been practically non-existent during the losing streak, scoring only 14 points total. That's a huge blow considering he averages almost 14 points a game. Mitchell also contributes 7 rebounds a game. Alabama has seen star senior forward JaMychal Green try to pick up some of Mitchell's slack. He had a monster 22 point, 12 rebound performance against Kentucky and is averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds a game. The Tide backcourt is led by sophomore point guard Trevor Releford, who contributes almost 13 points a game. He's also averaging 3 assists and 2 steals per contest. Alabama looks to improve their record of 6-4 when playing away from Tuscaloosa.
All in all tonight should be a good opportunity for Alabama to right the ship, so to speak, and get back in the win column. While I normally shy away from predicting scores, I will be shocked if this game ends with the Gamecocks within single digits of the Tide.