Where to watch: No. 4 Auburn (15-0, 3-0 SEC – #15 KenPom rating) at Alabama (8-7, 1-2 – #53) – Today 8 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, ESPN2
Who to watch: Herbert Jones. Bama has a bit of a Goldilocks dilemma when it comes to Jones’ offensive involvement. Not enough shots means depriving the Crimson Tide of one of their few interior scoring threats. Too many shots means overreliance on an inefficient player, punctuated by a 20-shot effort in the loss at Kentucky. (Strange fact: in Jones’ four highest-scoring games of the season, the Tide is 1-3.) What would look like just right? Probably something like his previous two matchups with the Tigers in Tuscaloosa, where he shot 5-for-9 and 5-for-8 from the floor respectively and scored 11 points both times. Bama also needs him to rebound well and add a smattering of assists while avoiding fouls and turnovers, something that’s been a problem for him in this series.
What to watch for: Which team can get its emotions harnessed quicker? Nate Oats is leaning hard into the hype surrounding this game and it makes a certain degree of sense. Alabama has probably gotten all it can wring out of close losses against a hard schedule, and this is probably the last best chance at a season-defining win that can restart a potential NCAA tournament run. But the Tide was also emotional at Kentucky and that mostly translated into dented rims as Bama was a ghastly 4-for-21 behind the arc. Meanwhile Auburn has won 27 of its last 28 games dating back to last year’s Final Four run. But a closer look at this season’s Tigers show that their schedule to date ranks outside the top 150, they’ve only had two true road games and they’ve been in five games decided by two possessions or less – including nail biters against South Alabama, Furman and Vanderbilt. If Bama can get a solid early run, AU could find itself in the unfamiliar position of battling uphill against moment.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris