Who to watch: Jaden Shackelford. With the bench thinning out and John Petty slumping, the freshman from California has become Bama’s go-to scoring threat. He’s exceeded his 13.4 points-per-game average in four of his last five contests, including tying his career high with 28 points against Arkansas. Seldom an efficient scorer (he hasn’t made more than half his shots in a game since before Thanksgiving), his fearlessness from 3-point range is what has kept Nate Oats’ offensive strategy even somewhat viable. A freshman letdown would certainly be understandable, but the Crimson Tide doesn’t have any more margin to allow for one.
What to watch for: Which team is going to have enough warm bodies to make it across the finish line. Tennessee comes to Tuscaloosa with an identical record and many of the same depth problems plaguing Bama. The Vols got 95 percent of their minutes played from just six players in Saturday’s loss at Mississippi State. Senior star point guard Lamonte Turner was lost for the season in December and Josiah-Jordan James didn’t play in Starkville with a groin injury that has him questionable for tonight. The Tide was down to seven scholarship players over the weekend, and won’t have captain Herbert Jones back for several more weeks at least, while Beetle Bolden will be available for limited minutes tonight if at all.