#9 Alabama vs. #24 Oklahoma Route to March Madness

#9 Alabama vs. #24 Oklahoma Route to March Madness

Written by on January 29, 2021

Alabama vs. Oklahoma usually would be a terrific football matchup, but instead it’s arguably the marquee matchup of Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge around college basketball. The No. 9 Tide will be short favorites over the No. 24 Sooners on the NCAAB odds.

How to Bet Alabama at Oklahoma NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Series History

It will mark the ninth meeting between the two teams, with the Sooners owning a 5-3 edge in the all-time series. However, the Crimson Tide has won two of the last three games against Oklahoma including the contest played in the 2018 Challenge.

Why Bet on Alabama? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Tide (14-3) beat Kentucky 70-59 on Tuesday for their 10th straight win. After a back-and-forth second half, Davion Mintz’s 3-pointer put Kentucky up 54-52 with 4:52 remaining in the game. The Alabama defense then made stops on five straight possessions which led to a 10-0 Crimson Tide run that essentially put the game away. The 10-game win streak for Alabama is its longest since the 1996-97 season.

“Big win halfway through conference at 9-0,” Tide coach Nate Oats said. “Really proud of our guys and the culture that they’ve created for themselves and just winning some close games.”

The 9-0 start is the second-best start to a conference season in program history, trailing only the famed Rocket 8 1955-56 team that finished with a perfect 14-0 record in league play.

Guard Jaden Shackelford paced UA with 21 points, including going 10-of-10 from the charity stripe, while forward Herbert Jones nearly had a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Guards Joshua Primo and John Petty Jr. each had 10 points in the victory.

Shackelford (10-10) and Jones (9-10) combined to hit 19-of-20 free throws, while UA went 24-of-28 (85.7 percent) from the charity stripe. UA connected on all six of its free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Jones has been named to the 2021 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Midseason Watch List. He leads the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg), steals (1.7 spg), deflections (61) and floor dives (14), while ranking second in charges taken (6) and blocks (1.1 bpg).

This will mark Alabama’s fifth appearance in the annual event, owning a 3-1 record including a 77-74 victory over Kansas State in last year’s Challenge. The Tide’s only loss in the four contests came in 2018 when it fell at Baylor, 73-68. Alabama was victorious in home games against Texas Tech, 74-64, on Nov. 13, 2013, in the first year of the event and then-No. 12 Oklahoma, 80-73, on Jan. 27, 2018. UA did not participate in the challenge for three consecutive seasons (2015-17).

Why Bet on Oklahoma? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Oklahoma checked into the AP Top-25 for the first time this season at No. 24. Much of the Sooners’ recent success has come from introducing a four-guard lineup that features Elijah Harkless in the starting five. Since adding Harkless to the starting lineup, Oklahoma has gone 4-1.

The Sooners (10-4) won at No. 5 Texas on Tuesday, 80-79. Austin Reaves scored 23 points and made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left that proved to be the difference. The Sooners had a 78-70 lead with 3:50 left in the game and didn’t score again until Reaves’ foul shots.

“What a battle,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said after the Sooners notched their fourth straight win and second in a row over top-10 opponents. “I feel happy for the guys that they hung on.”

OU is in the middle of a rugged stretch of playing seven ranked opponents in eight games. Reaves scored Oklahoma’s final six points. Harkless scored 13 and Umoja Gibson had 12 for the Sooners.

“Since the start, we’ve honestly thought we could be this team,” said Reaves, who added six rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers in 39 minutes. “We’ve still got a lot of things to improve on, but like I said, we’ve always thought we could be this good and honestly better.”

Oklahoma is 5-2 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with previous wins over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M. OU’s five wins in the event tie for second most among Big 12 teams.

Under Lon Kruger, Oklahoma is 13-9 against current SEC teams, including 11-5 against schools which were SEC members at the time of competition. The Sooners have won five straight games against SEC schools.

Expert Prediction
  • Alabama 77, Oklahoma 75

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