Who to watch: John Petty. Alabama fans desperately want to believe that back-to-back hot shooting games signal that the real Petty has arrived and will be around for the rest of the year. But in a year and a half, the sophomore from Huntsville has already turned enough alleged corners to populate a mirror maze in the Smokies. This go round Petty has been pretty good about contributing in other ways on days when his shot isn’t falling, but with the Crimson Tide already short of true scoring threats it needs Petty to be a primary scorer to hang with better competition. If he doesn’t match the 30 points he dropped last Saturday at Tennessee, he at least needs something like the 15 from Tuesday’s takedown of Ole Miss.
What to watch for: Who’s going to set the speed limit? The Bears are holding opponents to a stingy 64.3 points per game, a number the Tide has dipped under only twice all season (in losses to Northeastern and UCF). Part of that comes from an above average defense and part comes from playing at a much lower tempo. Baylor has an opponent-adjusted average of 66.3 possessions per game, versus 69.7 for Alabama. That might not seem like a significant gap, but it means a difference of 175 places in the national rankings. If the Tide is getting steals and turning them into transition baskets as it did against the Rebels, things bode well. If it looks lethargic for a late morning start and seems content to dribble away the clock far from the basket, this Big 12-SEC Challenge game is playing into Baylor’s hands.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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