Friday, September 29, 2023
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Is it better for Bama to slow down against Tar Heels?

Where to watch: Alabama (2-2, #77 KenPom Rating) vs. No. 6 North Carolina (4-0, #9) – Today 1:30 p.m., Imperial Arena (Nassau, The Bahamas), ESPN

Who to watch: Javian Davis. The redshirt freshman has been the nicest surprise in the opening weeks, averaging a tidy 10 points and seven rebounds in his three games as a starter despite being an undersized post player at 6-foot-9. He’ll need to keep it up and find a way to battle on at least even terms with five star Tar Heels freshman center Armando Bacot. In a way his challenge is reflected across Bama’s undersized lineup, as UNC leads the nation with a staggering 51.2 rebounds per game, nearly 20 more than their opponents. If the Crimson Tide can’t mitigate its lack of size, the Heels may run away with a lopsided win.

What to watch for: Is this where Nate Oats slams on the brakes? The Crimson Tide is playing at the second-fastest adjusted tempo in America, but too often that’s just meant getting to its mistakes faster and creating room for more of them. Bama is turning the ball over on more than 21 percent of its possessions, an unsustainable practice even against weak competition, never mind basketball royalty like North Carolina, which for years has had breakneck play down to a science. Also, Oats has to consider how much energy his shrunken, banged-up roster can afford to expend when it is looking at three games in as many days against a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis field. Pulling back on the reins for a day or even a whole tournament doesn’t mean giving up on the style and the culture Oats is trying to establish. It may just be a necessity in the short run.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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