Three predictions for Mississippi State-Alabama

Noah Gurley
Forward Noah Gurley (Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

Three predictions for second-seeded Alabama (17-2, 7-0 in SEC) in his matchup with Mississippi State (12-7, 1-6) Wednesday night (8 p.m. CT/SEC Network) at the Coleman Coliseum.

Tolu Smith attempt no less than 10 free throws

The Mississippi State post converted just three of 15 tries in a 78-67 loss to Alabama on Dec. 28. He entered this competition and shot 60.5 percent from the strip. Things haven’t gotten any better for Smith since then, as the number has dropped to 52.7 percent. So if he catches the ball in an advantageous position with one of the 20 fouls Karl Bediako, Noah Cloney, Noah Gurley and Nick Pringle giving wouldn’t be the worst.

Shooting in general has proven problematic for the Bulldogs, who rank last in the SEC in free throw (61.4 percent) and 3-point shooting (28.5 percent) and 13th in field goal percentage. occupy place (40.4). When these teams first met, State shot 36 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line.

Meanwhile, if you look specifically at conference play, only Arkansas dwarfed 40 percent of the field against Alabama. With minus seven on 3-point marks and minus 10 on free throw marks, the Razorbacks eventually fell 15 on their home floor.

Alabama will end the game with plus-five or more in 3-point marks — but what about the free-throw line?

Arkansas wasn’t the only team found in a deep 3-hole. Alabama has been on the positive side in 17 of its 19 games this season, including all seven league games so far.

While UA also field more 3s than their opponents, they haven’t sacrificed the free throw line. When accounting for 3-point and free throw attempts, no other team in Division I men’s college basketball ranks with Alabama, who started the week ranked second nationally in free throw attempts per game (25.6 apg) and fifth in 3 entered -point attempts (29.6 apg).

With Smith at the helm, State UA doubled in first-meet free throw attempts and went up 36 compared to the Crimson Tide’s 18. The Bulldogs made up just 18 of their tries and dropped many points on the line. As for Alabama, on a night when MSU hit its season-high for 3 points (nine), it was able to win by double digits, converting 14 of its free throw attempts and knocking down 12 3s.

The Crimson Tide will have fewer than 19 turnovers

Even if UA doesn’t, it might not matter.

An MSU team that makes a living creating takeaways flipped Alabama 19 times last month. Between their free throw problems and UA’s solid defense and rebound, the Bulldogs still lost by 11 points.

Since the win at State, Alabama has cleaned up when it comes to ball maintenance. In the six games that followed, the Crimson Tide did not commit more than 14 turnovers in any of those contests. The stretch also included the early games (Ole Miss, Kentucky, and LSU) of the season, where UA maintained revenue in the single digits. All three of those games were at home, by the way.

success doesn’t matter Chris Jans as head coach at MSU will start on the defensive end of the floor. At some point, however, his teams must be able to score on nights when the opponent disagrees with prison rules.

The Bulldogs were mired in a four-game losing streak, averaging 60 points in three of those contests. With Alabama averaging 87.2 points per game this season at the Coleman Coliseum, a regular-season win seems all but certain.

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Contact Travis Reier via personal message or on Twitter (@travisreier).