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Tide and Lumberjacks offer clashing styles of breakneck play

Where to watch: Stephen F. Austin (7-1, #201 KenPom rating) at Alabama (3-4, #82) – Today 7 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, SEC Network-Plus (online only)

Who to watch: Herbert Jones. His superior defense, relentless hustle and Bama’s decimated roster ensures Jones will get all the minutes he can handle. But he’s got to find a way to break through and rise to the level of at least a serviceable offensive threat, instead of the liability he’s been much of his career. It’s a work in progress. Jones has finally cracked the 50-percent shooting barrier, but he isn’t getting many attempts off, isn’t drawing enough trips to the foul line and is cracking under the strain of being a secondary ball handler in Nate Oats’ fast-paced offense, averaging more than three turnovers a game. His lack of firepower allows defenses to collapse on the few scoring threats Alabama does have and if he’s on the floor at the same time as another offensively-challenged player (think Galin Smith or Jaylen Forbes), the offense can bog down quickly.

What to watch for: A classic inside-versus-outside clash played on fast forward. The Lumberjacks are winning by an average of 10.5 points per game, but you aren’t here to learn how they polished off Le Tourneau or Arlington Baptist. Instead you want to know how they knocked off mighty Duke, in Cameron Indoor Stadium no less. Well, they did it with 64 points in the paint and only two 3-pointers, which isn’t that much below their average of five makes per game. SFA would much rather run downhill to the hoop in a hurry, preferably after swiping the ball. The Lumberjacks had 26 fast break points and 22 points off turnovers at Duke. The Crimson Tide is one of only 10 Division I teams that plays at a faster adjusted tempo than SFA. But Bama lives and dies by the 3, attempting better than 28 per game and making 35 percent of them. At least two out of the trio of Kira Lewis, John Petty and Jaden Shackelford needs to get hot from behind the arc for Alabama to feel good about its chances.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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