TUSCALOOSA, Ala. –After earning the SEC title earlier this week, Alabama’s No. 2 basketball is heading to No. 24 Texas A&M with a little less weight on its shoulders. Still, the Crimson Tide aren’t looking to rest on their laurels as they look to end their regular season on a high.

Alabama (26-4, 16-1 in the SEC) and Texas A&M (22-8, 14-3) will square off on Saturday in a showdown between the conference’s top two teams. While both teams have already locked in their respective spots in the conference standings, the game still carries a lot of significance as it serves as the final tune-up ahead of next week’s SEC tournament.

Here’s everything you need to know about the game.

How to watch

WHO: No. 2 Alabama (26-4, 16-1 in the SEC) at No. 24 Texas A&M (22-8, 14-3)

When: 11 a.m. CT, Saturday, March 4

Or: Reed Arena, College Station, Texas

Show: CBS (game by game: Brad Nessler; analyst: Jay Wright)

Listen: Crimson Tide Sports Network (game by game: Chris Stewart; analyst: Bryan Passink; engineer Tom Stipe)

Alabama’s projected starters

Jaden Bradley: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, freshman

Stats: 7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 40.6% FG, 28.6% 3pts

Mark Sear: 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, junior

Stats: 13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 43.4% FG, 38.3% 3pts

Brandon Miller: 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, freshman

Stats: 19.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 46.2% FG, 41.7% 3pt

Noah Clowney: 6-foot-10, 210 pounds, freshman

Stats: 10.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 48.5% FG, 26.6% 3pts

Charles Bedia: 7 feet, 225 pounds, second year

Stats: 5.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 63.1% FG

Texas A&M’s Planned Starters

Wade Taylor IV: 6 feet, 185 pounds, second year

Stats: 15.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 39.9% FG, 36.8% 3pt

Tyrece Radford: 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, senior

Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 39.7% FG, 32.7% 3pt

Andrew Gordon: 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, senior

Stats: 2.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 31.2% FG, 31.0% 3pt

Henry Coleman III: 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, junior

Stats: 9.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 53.3% FG

Jules Marble: 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, junior

Stats: 9.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 54.1% FG

Lots to play for

The SEC title is guaranteed, but Oats does not plan to take the break this weekend. On Friday, the head coach said he has no plans to change his rotation to rest the players against the Aggies, saying his team still has “a lot to play for” to end the regular season strong .

“I don’t believe in load management in college basketball,” Oats said. “We’re going to try to play our best basketball at the end of the year. I don’t feel like we were last year. I really feel like we want to be this year, so we will try to get a victory.

Alabama indirectly rested two of its players on Wednesday as starting center Charles Bediako and backup guard Rylan Griffen were ejected for coming off the bench with 7:31 left in the second half against Auburn. Bediako ended her night with 13 minutes while Griffen recorded 11 minutes.

Meanwhile, starting forward Noah Clowney recorded a career-high 37 minutes while Brandon Miller (39 minutes), Mark Sears (36 minutes) and Jahvon Quinerly (36 minutes) all had their court times extended. . On Friday, Oats said some players were given lighter workloads towards the end of practice to ensure they would have fresh legs for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kick-off.

Alabama got a double bye in the SEC tournament and won’t play again until next Friday after its weekend game.

“We’ll make sure to be smart with our practice times on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the SEC tournament,” Oats said, “try to get our guys as fresh as possible.”

Get on the defensive

The stingy defense that allowed Alabama to dismantle SEC opponents earlier this season has occasionally disappeared over the past two weeks. Until recently, the 70-point plateau was uncharted territory for the Crimson Tide opposition. Alabama has held opponents below that mark in its first 14 conference games, recording 10 double-digit wins over that span. However, since a 108-59 victory over Georgia last month, the opposing side of the scoreboard is a bit higher than usual.

Alabama has allowed 70 or more runs in each of its last three outings. It almost proved costly each time, as the Crimson Tide picked up overtime wins over South Carolina (78-76) and Auburn (90-85) as well as an 86-83 win over Arkansas. .

On Friday, Oats pointed out that Alabama hadn’t completely sunk in any of those three games, but suffered costly periods of ineffectiveness. The Crimson Tide gave up 22 points in the final five minutes against Arkansas and allowed Auburn to shoot 53.8 percent from the floor in the first half on Wednesday.

“Shoot, Auburn, at one point they were 9 of 11 of 3,” Oats said. “We could have gotten 11 wide open 3s with no one on our side of the half court, and I don’t know if we would have gotten nine that night the way we were shooting.”

On Friday, Oats noted that Alabama’s recent sluggish starts on offense have forced the team to split into groups focused on shooters rather than defenders. He said he was confident his team would return to defensive dominance, noting that Alabama still ranks fifth in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings.

“I know the easy defensive stat is to look at how many runs the other team has scored,” Oats said. “Our number that we always look at is our points per possession, like our efficiency numbers. These haven’t been entirely absent in some matches, but they haven’t been where we expected them to be.

Game Notes

– Brandon Miller has a chance to become the fourth player in the last 50 years to lead the SEC as a rookie joining Bernard King of Tennessee (Tennessee 1975) and Chris Jackson of LSU (1989) and Cameron Thomas (2021).

–Miller is 44 points away from tying Collin Sexton’s record for most points (632 points) scored by a freshman in a single season in Alabama history.

–Nate Oats joins CM Newton as the only two Alabama head coaches to lead UA to multiple SEC regular-season championships.

– Alabama has won two SEC regular-season championships in the past three years for the first time since winning three in a row from 1974 to 1976.

–Alabama is 14-15 against the top 25 teams in the AP during Oats’ tenure.

– Texas A&M’s 14-3 SEC record marks the program’s best conference start after 17 games since joining the league in 2012-13.

– The Aggies are SEC best 21-4 in their last 25 games against SEC opponents, including the SEC Tournament.

– Texas A&M allows a minimum of 26.9 SEC points in the first half in the conference and has limited opponents to 30 points or less in the first half in 12 of 17 SEC games, including its last two exits.

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