Who to watch: Beetle Bolden. Counting the exhibition against Georgia Tech, there are now four halves worth of stats for Bolden in crimson and white. His scoring in those hales? 8, 0, 8, 2. It isn’t often you hope for more shots from someone who went 3-for-10 from the floor in the season opener, but it is crucial for the graduate transfer to provide as many quality minutes as his balky wrist will allow, not only because Bama needs the points but because he’s the most logical choice to handle point guard duties while Kira Lewis gets much-needed rest. Playing 38 minutes in an opener is a lot to ask of anyone, but 38 minutes in Nate Oats’ high-tempo, high-energy system is twice as exhausting. If Lewis is asked to maintain that pace night after night, the chances of injury go up exponentially. Bolden can help bear that load and be a steadying influence on a backcourt with more talent than experience.
What to watch for: More aggression at the rim. Penn only blocked four shots last Tuesday, but Crimson Tide players kept approaching the basket timidly, as though they expected every layup attempt to get swatted into the pep band and their bodies to end up on the wrong side of a collision with a locomotive. Alabama shot a grotesque 16-for-38 from inside the 3-point arc, including missing eight of its first 11 layup attempts and only trying (and making) one dunk the entire game. Yes Bama is at a size disadvantage most nights, and yes FAU has the inside presence to make life miserable again for the Tide, at least on defense. But the players must finish more aggressively at the rim and accept some inevitable physical contact – and convert the free throws that hopefully follow.
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