ALABAMA (13-3, 2-0 SEC) AT NO. 20 MISSISSIPPI STATE (13-3, 0-1 SEC)
Time/TV: 4 p.m./SEC Network
Location: Humphrey Coliseum.
RPI Ratings: Alabama 15 (No. 2 SEC); Mississippi State 51 (No. 6 SEC).
Line: Alabama -1.5
Alabama Players to Watch: F Tony Mitchell, 6-6 Jr. (14.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 48.5% FG); G Trevor Releford, 6-0 So. (12.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.9 rpg); G Trevor Lacey, 6-3 Fr. (7.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg). Since a 1-for-6 performance in a win over Detroit on Dec. 11, Releford has scored in double-figures in six straight games, including a 20-point performance in the Tide’s 69-53 win over LSU. He’s shooting 66.1 percent from the field in those six games.
Mississippi State Players to Watch: F Arnett Moultrie, 6-11 Jr. (16.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 55.6% FG); G Dee Bost, 6-2 Sr. (16.2 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.3 spg); G Rodney Hood, 6-8 Fr. (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 44.1% 3s). Hood has been a nice compliment to Bost in the backcourt. He has scored in double figures in three of the Bulldogs’ last four games, including 17 points in last weekend’s 98-88 loss to Arkansas.
Storylines: Alabama is tied atop the SEC standings with No. 2 Kentucky and Vanderbilt after opening league play with big wins over Georgia and LSU. Mississippi State opened its conference slate with a loss at Arkansas before rebounding for a 62-58 triumph over Tennessee for its first SEC win.
What You Should Know: Alabama leads the SEC in defense, surrendering only 55.7 points per game. The Tide are second in defensive field goal percentage at 36.6 percent, including only 26.3 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Defense recently became an issue for Mississippi State, which gave up 98 points in a 10-point loss at Arkansas in its SEC opener. But the Bulldogs recovered with a big defensive performance in their win over Tennessee and they haven’t surrendered more than 75 in any other game this season. This contest features two of the SEC’s best frontcourt duos – Green and Mitchell of Alabama and MSU’s Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney.
The Bottom Line: Mississippi State has won nine straight at home, but the Tide have won five in a row – all by double-figures and by an average of 19 points per game – and with JaMychal Green back, Alabama is starting to look like the team that was ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the season. Alabama also beat the struggling Bulldogs by a combined 32 points last year. Still, overcoming MSU’s homecourt advantage at The Hump will be a difficult task. If the Tide use wise shot selection, they come away with a big road win.
The Pick: Alabama 58, Mississippi State 56.
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