No. 2 Alabama dropped out of the top spot of the national rankings two days after the NCAA Tournament seeding committee deemed the Crimson Tide as the top overall seed in a preview bracket for this year’s March Madness.
Alabama begins its pursuit of reclaiming the No. 1 position when it takes on South Carolina on Wednesday night in Southeastern Conference play in Columbia, S.C.
The Crimson Tide (23-4, 13-1 SEC) slipped a spot in the rankings due to their 68-59 loss to then-No. 10 Tennessee on Feb. 15.
Alabama bounced back in ferocious fashion by annihilating Georgia 108-59 on Saturday. The Crimson Tide never trailed, shot 61.9 percent from the field and owned a 49-26 rebounding advantage.
“That was another great game after a loss that I thought our guys came to play, and hopefully we don’t have too many more of those (defeats),” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I do feel like our guys got themselves mentally ready to go after we lost to Tennessee. We came out of the gates and the starting guys got us off to a great start and extended the lead.”
Star forward Brandon Miller scored 21 points in 20-plus minutes and joined James “Hollywood” Robinson (554 in 1990-91) and Collin Sexton (632 in 2017-18) as the lone Crimson Tide freshmen to score 500 or more points. Miller (506) leads the SEC with an 18.7 scoring average.
Teammate Nick Pringle, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Georgia, is impressed with Miller’s impact.
“Five hundred points already, I don’t think you can have a better freshman year than this,” said Pringle, a junior forward. “He’s great for us, man. We all love him, and we are all just looking forward to getting better. There’s always room to grow here.”
Despite its season-long prowess, Alabama has no margin for error in the SEC race as No. 25 Texas A&M trails by just one game. The two squads meet in the regular season finale on March 4 in College Station, Texas.
South Carolina (10-17, 3-11) resides in 12th place in the 14-team league after posting an 82-73 road win over LSU on Saturday.
The victory was the Gamecocks’ second in three games following an eight-game losing streak.
Freshman Gregory “GG” Jackson II was just 5-of-17 shooting but scored 20 points for South Carolina after experiencing back-to-back dreadful games in which he scored just seven total points while playing just 12 and 16 minutes, respectively.
Jackson, who backed out of a commitment to North Carolina to be part of the Gamecocks program, has had a tumultuous month.
He criticized his teammates on social media for not getting him the ball prior to the reduction in minutes. Then, in a 75-64 home loss against Vanderbilt last Tuesday, Jackson played just four minutes in the second half, repeatedly displayed frustration and stood apart from his teammates during a timeout with his jersey untucked.
Jackson leads the team with a 15.3 scoring average and second-leading scorer Meechie Johnson (12.8) stood up for him after the win over LSU.
“The talent that he has is all there,” Johnson said of Jackson. “We’re just taking it day-by-day, building him up and on to the next game. It’s a long season. We’re trying to piece things together and stay together as a team.”
Johnson also scored 20 against LSU and made five 3-point baskets to raise his team-best total to 62.
Alabama has won the last seven meetings and nine of the past 10.
–Field Level Media