Where to watch: Oregon (9-2) vs. Alabama (7-2) – Today 8 p.m. Central, Legacy Arena (Birmingham), ESPNU
Who to watch: Jimmie Taylor. The junior center all but disappeared in the opening games of the Avery Johnson era, which couldn’t be entirely explained by the faster pace and emphasis on outside shooting. But injuries led Alabama back to its low-post roots and Taylor responded by shaking off his funk. He grabbed nine rebounds at Clemson, then followed up with the Tide’s first double-double of the year (14 points, 11 rebounds) last Wednesday against Winthrop. Bama will need Taylor at his best to counter Ducks post man Chris Boucher. The junior college transfer averages 12 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.
What to watch for: Just how stout is this defense? Alabama is giving up 66.6 points per game (82nd nationally) and has held four of its last five opponents to 60 or less. But almost none of those teams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard like Oregon. The Ducks score 77.5 points per game and have five players that average 10 or more points per contest, led by forward Dillon Brooks (15.9 PPG). Oregon also averages an astonishing 14 assists per game, and point guard Casey Benson’s 9-to-1 assist to turnover ratio is off the charts. The breakneck offense Johnson envisions for the Crimson Tide’s future is a reality today in Eugene, and Alabama, which will again be missing starting forward Shannon Hale, won’t have a realistic chance to win if it tries to match Oregon’s pace.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris