By Chris DePew
Jan. 27, 2018
Where to watch: Alabama (13-7) vs. No. 12 Oklahoma (15-4), Today 1:15 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, ESPN
Who to watch: Collin Sexton. The only good that could have come from Tuesday’s disastrous outing at Ole Miss is if it helped Sexton shake off the rust after two games off to recover from an abdominal injury. To get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012, the Crimson Tide needs a healthy Sexton to re-establish chemistry with his teammates. That didn’t go well in Oxford, where he tried (and mostly missed) 13 shots but only had two of Bama’s 17 assists. If he finds that his shot isn’t falling against the Sooners and/or he can’t use his patented speed to blow by defenders and draw fouls, he will have to show more creativity setting up teammates. Amazingly for a point guard touted as a lottery prospect, Sexton hasn’t had more than five assists in any game.
What to watch for: Is there any way Alabama can stop Trae Young? The freshman point guard, player of the year candidate, future NBA star and best friend to Coleman Coliseum scalpers has stats that look like they were generated with a video game cheat code. The nation’s leader in points (30.3 per game) and assists (9.6 per game), Young averages just under 20 field goal attempts per game, with just over half of them coming from 3-point range. He makes 40 percent of his shots beyond the arc, with range that extends out practically to the half-court line. Young gets to the line nearly 10 times per game and shoots better than 80 percent there. He does average a nation’s-worst 5.3 turnovers per game, but that is a product of how much Oklahoma depends on him to generate offense. And he does all this while averaging more than 34 minutes a game. It’s disappointing that Sexton won’t be at full health for such a riveting matchup, but fairly or not this Big 12/SEC Challenge game is the one that his Alabama career – and draft stock – will be judged by.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris