Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

No. 13 Alabama men’s basketball set to battle No. 4 Tennessee for top spot in SEC

CW / Riley Thompson

Alabama and Tennessee.  

When most people think of this rivalry, they think of the two football programs battling it out on the Third Saturday in October, a series dating back to 1901, with Alabama leading the all-time series 59-39-7.  

However, the two programs have also been battling on the hardwood for over 100 years, with the first matchup dating all the way back to Feb. 6, 1914. Alabama holds an 82-72 all-time lead in the series.  

On Saturday, the two rivals will meet again inside Coleman Coliseum, this time with the top spot in the SEC on the line, as the end of the regular season approaches.  

“It’s obviously not the SEC championship,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “But it’s going to go a long way in determining who the SEC champion is in the regular season. I expect to have a great crowd.”  

This fight for the conference crown will more than likely be led by the two top scorers in the SEC: guards Mark Sears, of Alabama, and Dalton Knecht, of Tennessee, who average 20.6 and 20.8 points per game, respectively. 

These two veterans have been having career seasons, both being named to the Naismith Trophy men’s midseason team back in February.  

When these two teams met back in January, Knecht and Sears went head-to-head, scoring 25 and 22, respectively. Knecht and the Volunteers came out on top, however, as the Volunteers handed the Crimson Tide a 20-point loss.  

Saturday will present Sears with a prime opportunity to even the score and show the country that, like Knecht, he is an elite player who can lead his team to key victories in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball.    

In addition to the elite scoring of Knecht, Tennessee enters Saturday with the fourth-best defense in the nation, according to KenPom. In Alabama’s loss in Knoxville this season, the Volunteers held the Crimson Tide to just 71 points, its lowest scoring total of the season so far.  

Alabama is bound to have a better game offensively this time around but will most likely not be able to rely on simply outscoring the No. 4 team in the country.  

This means that the Crimson Tide will have to overcome the defensive struggles that have plagued the team all season. If not, No. 3 in orange will have a field day in Coleman Coliseum.  

Knecht is coming into Tuscaloosa with a hot hand to say the least, matching his career-high of 39 points on Wednesday in a win against No. 11 Auburn, which has the sixth-best defense in the nation, according to KenPom.  

For comparison, Alabama’s defense currently sits at the century mark in those same rankings, coming into Saturday as the 100th-best defense in the nation.  

“He’s scoring the ball at a high level,” Oats said of Knecht. “We’ve got to be aware of him, but they have a good team. [Zakai] Zeigler leads the league in assists. If you put too much attention on Knecht, you open the floor up for Zeigler.” 

If Alabama is going to prove that it can play championship-level basketball, now is the time to show it, as the whole nation will have its eyes on Saturday night’s contest.  

No. 13 Alabama and No. 4 Tennessee will tip off at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will have coverage from Coleman Coliseum starting at 11 a.m. CT.  

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