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Alabama seeks to harness firepower against go-slow Aggies

Where to watch: Texas A&M (12-12, 6-6 SEC – #169 KenPom rating) at Alabama (14-11, 6-6 – #46) – Today 6 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, SEC Network

Who to watch: Jaden Shackelford. When two of Bama’s three starting guards are on their game the Crimson Tide can compete with anybody, and Shackelford is pulling his weight and then some. He was named national freshman of the week by the US Basketball Writers Association after averaging 27 points, 4.5 rebounds and three assists against Auburn and LSU, both then in the AP Top 25. A volume shooter, Shackelford averages 35.3 percent from 3-point range but has beaten that average each of his last seven games.

What to watch for: A hands-off approach. Texas A&M may have the least pure talent in the conference, so it is a testament to first-year head coach Buzz Williams that he has kept them at .500 in the SEC this late in the season. He’s done it by slowing the tempo way down and emphasizing defense in order to keep A&M around despite its limited scoring ability. The Aggies are among the very worst in the country at effective field goal percentage (44.1 percent) and barely make a quarter of their 3-point attempts on average. Where they make up for it is at the stripe, averaging nearly 22 free throw attempts per game. Defending without fouling hasn’t come easily for the Tide this season, but it is crucial that it makes A&M prove it can score with the clock running. Take care of that and Bama shouldn’t have to sweat out what would be a near-fatal loss for its bubble hopes.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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