Florida Versus Alabama SEC Tournament Preview

After grinding out the Georgia Bulldogs and coming away victorious the Florida Gators will have a quick turnaround to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament just 24 hours later on March 15th. 


Finishing third in the SEC Alabama received a double-bye and got to sit at home watching a physical matchup between Florida and Georgia waiting to see who they would play. They’ll have the rest advantage over the Gators who had to run their starters pretty hard to outlast the Bulldogs, though the Gators will have the advantage of having shaken off the rust that can come with playing in a neutral site game.


Florida and Alabama have already met twice this season with the season series locked at 1-1. Both home teams won with the Crimson Tide holding serve at home with a 98-93 win at home while Florida’s win was a 105-87 blowout in Gainesville. 


Alabama had a tremendous start to their SEC season that saw them competing for a league title but their final three weeks couldn’t have gone much worse, and they’re now limping into the SEC Tournament in the midst of some of their worst basketball of the season. They lost three of their last five games, and one of those wins was their final game of the regular season where they just were able to beat Arkansas in overtime. If you haven’t been paying attention Arkansas finished 12th in the SEC and were in a tailspin, so just edging them out in an extra frame didn’t do a lot to build confidence for a Crimson Tide team that doesn’t have much right now. 


It’s been the defensive side of the ball that has been killing the Crimson Tide, something the Gators saw first hand while they were scoring 105 points easily at home. Head coach Nate Oats has called out his team for their lack of defensive effort and ability multiple times this season and that tactic hasn’t worked to improve their ability to get stops as teams continue to cut them up. Alabama’s defensive issues come in a number of ways as they aren’t big or athletic on the perimeter so they give up a ton of drives and while in recent years they have had rim protectors to cover up some of those mistakes this year they’re lacking those types of anchors. All together it’s resulting in a defense that’s currently ranked 105th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and Florida should be able to put up a huge point total against them once again. 


What’s frustrating Alabama the most is that their defense is taking away from what has been a truly legendary season on the offensive end. For much of the season they were the number one team in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, though a poor performance against Arkansas has dropped them to 3rd. Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada have been a lethal scoring duo and the Crimson Tide don’t even need to run all that many plays to generate points as either of these guys can get into the paint at will and make things happen. Sears had 33 and 17 points in the two meetings against the Gators so far this season while Estrada had 17 and 20. Florida will have to have some kind of a plan to slow these guys down, and they’ll likely try to force the ball out of these two players’ hands in order to try and let someone else beat them.


Florida’s major advantage in the meetings this season has been in the frontcourt. Alabama has much less size and length around the rim and the Gators did a much better job of exploiting that in the second game where Tyrese Samuel had 19 points and Alex Condon had 10. Both of these players have a strength advantage over the smaller, skinnier bigs that Alabama has to match up with them and the Gators will likely go right back to these matchups. North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson had arguably his best game of the season against the Gators in the first game with 22 points though the Gators limited him to much less with 12 in the second game–and many of those came in garbage time. Look for Florida to try to leverage their frontcourt depth as much as possible. 


One of the big storylines to follow early in this game will be rest versus rust. Will Florida having played until late into the night on Thursday be a disadvantage, or will they hit the ground running on Friday when they take on an Alabama team that could be cold and less familiar with the sitelines of the gym?

Florida was already able to take advantage of Alabama’s poor stretch of basketball with a win in Gainesville and they’ll hope that the Crimson Tide’s skid follows them into Nashville at the SEC Tournament. Both teams could really use this win for a bump in NCAA Tournament seeding so it will no doubt be a competitive, high-intensity game.


This game will take place 25 minutes after the conclusion of Kentucky and Texas A&M which is scheduled to tip at 7 PM ET on March 15th. That will put Florida-Alabama’s tip theoretically at 9:30 (something you may see on your TV schedule) but as we saw on Thursday things in the SEC Tournament seem to always run late and we could see another 10 PM ET tip, or something in that range. Keep an eye on the fluctuating start time, and be sure to make an extra long recording if you’ll be watching this the next morning. It will be televised on SEC Network.

Eric Fawcett
Eric is a basketball coach and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work has been found at NBA international properties, ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @ericfawcett_.