No. 4 Alabama set to face Memphis at Coleman Coliseum

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

With a thrilling 71-65 victory on Saturday over the No. 1 Houston Cougars, Alabama head coach Nate Oats surpassed Wimp Sanderson for the most top-five wins in program history —boasting an impressive 5-4 record and nabbing his second victory over a top-ranked team of the season. 

While it took Sanderson, a three-time SEC coach of the year, 12 seasons to reach his former record-setting total, Oats has yet to complete campaign No. 4 in Tuscaloosa – continuing his formidable turnaround of a team once stuck in the abyss of mediocrity under the likes of Anthony Grant and Avery Johnson. 

Now, courtesy of Monday’s AP poll, Oats finds himself at the helm of a basketball program ranked higher than its football counterpart for the first time since Nick Saban’s arrival in 2007 – securing the No. 4 spot nationally, trailing only Purdue, Virginia and UConn. 

With every spot climbed comes a caveat: a target growing in size. While the Crimson Tide have become the hunted, it will be looking to do a little hunting of their own on Tuesday night, seeking to avenge last season’s 92-78 loss to Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers.  

It’ll be efficiency vs. efficiency, as the Tigers sit top-50 nationally in adjusted defense (90.9 – 19th) and adjusted offense (109.7 – 48th). 

Leading the way for Memphis is Kendric Davis, who, in his fifth year of eligibility, is averaging 18.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. 

Davis, a six-foot guard hailing from Houston, Texas, was recently named the national player of the week after a 27-point output during the Tigers’ 82-73 victory over No. 11 Auburn on Saturday night.  

Joining Davis in the backcourt are Alex Lomax and Keonte Kennedy, a pair of shifty guards each averaging over eight points a game.  

After the departure of NBA Draft selection Jalen Duren last season, AAC Player of the Year candidate DeAndre Williams— a 6-foot-9 forward capable of stretching the floor and playing bully-ball on the glass — is manning the frontcourt. 

After a 14-point drubbing in 2021-22, the Crimson Tide know a complete performance must be in the cards if it is to avoid yet another letdown to one of the nation’s top defenses.  

“Memphis is a really good team,” Oats said Monday. “Even if you play well, you could get beat by Memphis. If you look at their top 10 guys, nine of the 10 are seniors — five of those nine are fifth-year seniors. They’ve got leadership, they’ve got experience — and they’re winning. It’s going to be a good test.” 

Per KenPom, Alabama enters the contest as a seven-point favorite over the Tigers — being projected to win 77-70 on their home floor.  

While the Crimson Tide are riding high, it will be hoping to get a better performance out of projected lottery pick Brandon Miller — who struggled on both ends of the floor against Houston, failing to score a basket in 31 minutes.  

While the Antioch, Tennessee, native sputtered, Mark Sears, Jaden Bradley and Noah Clowney stepped up on the big stage, combining for 39 of Alabama’s 71 points versus the Cougars.  

If the Crimson Tide can muster any sort of offensive production from Miller, and once again fire on all cylinders elsewhere, it could be a long night for Memphis in the Druid City.   

Tipoff for No. 4 Alabama and Memphis in Coleman Coliseum is set for 8:00 p.m. CT Tuesday night on ESPN2.  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]