Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Gators Pick & Prediction MARCH 15th 2024

No. 19 Alabama has its sights set on winning the Southeastern Conference tournament for the third time in the past four seasons.

The third-seeded Crimson Tide begin tackling that task on Friday night when they meet sixth-seeded Florida in the quarterfinals at Nashville, Tenn.

The Gators (22-10) advanced to the semis with an 85-80 victory over 11th-seeded Georgia on Thursday night. Florida and Alabama split their two regular-season meetings.

The Crimson Tide (21-10) must rediscover their stride after winning just two of their last five regular-season games. The winner of Friday’s game will meet the winner of second-seeded Kentucky and seventh-seeded Texas A&M, the matchup playing out just before Florida and Alabama take the court.

Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats looks at his club’s 13-5 record in SEC play and wants observers to understand that isn’t so shabby.

“We’ve had a good season,” Oats said. “We went 13-5 in arguably the toughest conference in college basketball. We don’t want to diminish the fact that we’ve had a good year, but we felt like we could’ve won the league or a share of it.

“We have to regroup, and I think our guys have done that. We’ve had a couple of really good practices these last two days.”

The part that brings out the doubters is the margin of defeats. Four of Alabama’s SEC losses were by 18 or more points.

The Crimson Tide lost 91-71 at Tennessee, 99-81 at Auburn, 117-95 at Kentucky and, oh yeah, 105-87 at Florida.

Those are not pretty numbers against some of the toughest teams in the SEC.

“Florida embarrassed us, Kentucky embarrassed us, then we lost a close one at home to Tennessee (81-74 on March 2), but they embarrassed us at their place,” Oats said. “We have to play better than we did last time, a lot better. I think there’s a chip on their shoulders.

“Any competitor, when you get embarrassed like that, you want to come back and show that you’re not that bad. As bad as we were against Florida or Kentucky, we aren’t truly that bad. We hopefully we come back and compete a lot harder.”

The Crimson Tide will rely on guard Mark Sears during their tournament run. Sears ranks second in the SEC with a 21.1 scoring average and his 21 20-point outings this season are second in school history behind Reggie King (1978-79).

The Crimson Tide beat the Gators in the first meeting, 98-93 in overtime on Feb. 21 at Tuscaloosa.

Florida coach Todd Golden said the second result was much better than the first.

“We played one of our best games of the year at home against Bama,” Golden said. “I feel like we have a good understanding of what makes them tick and why they’re so effective. We just have to impose our will on them a little bit.”

Walter Clayton Jr., who had a game-high 22 points against Georgia, simplified the approach.

“It’s the same mission,” Clayton said. “Go out and win the game and take it one game at a time.”

Tyrese Samuel added 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against the Bulldogs but made just 9 of 23 free-throw attempts.

When informed he set an SEC tournament record for most free-throw attempts, Samuel didn’t need to be told he also had the most misses.

However, he is looking forward to the latest battle with the Crimson Tide.

“They are going to play a fast pace and they have a lot of good players,” Samuel said. “… We have to play good defense, rebound the ball and make foul shots.”

Earlier Thursday, Golden agreed to a two-year extension through the 2029-30 season.

–Field Level Media

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