Alabama faces its next big obstacle – expectations

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Feb. 20, 2016

Where to watch: Mississippi State (11-14, 4-9 SEC) at Alabama (16-9, 7-6) – 1:30 p.m. Central today, Coleman Coliseum,

Who to watch: Jimmie Taylor. He may never become the low-post scoring machine fans have envisioned, and his rebounding can be occasionally erratic but he has hit his stride as a defender over the past few weeks when he stays in the game. But in Alabama’s 82-80 overtime win in Starkville on Groundhog Day, he was less than effective against Gavin Ware, State’s only real post threat. Even with him playing less aggressively than usual to avoid whistles, he still picked up four fouls, while Ware took advantage of him, and Michael Kessens to score a career-high 28 points. If Taylor can defend effectively today, it could give Bama much more breathing room.

What to watch for: Handling prosperity. Bama has excelled this month in the role of plucky underdog with little external pressure. But the rest of the world has caught on over the past week-plus, and players and coaches have more voices than ever singing their praises. But this is still a thin team with a shaky offense and little margin for error. Alabama’s average margin of victory is a minuscule 0.7 points per game, and it got bailed out by a late missed free throw in regulation at Mississippi State. A month’s worth of good work can be undone by a single careless game.

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