I’m sure everyone has seen or at least heard of the no call as Alabama fell to Tennessee Saturday. While the circumstances of the Tide’s loss stings for the fans, Alabama shouldn’t have been put in a situation like that in the first place.
Alabama simply didn’t do what it needed to win the game, while Tennessee did. The Volunteers took advantage of every opportunity given to them, while Alabama didn’t. The Vols edged the Tide 17-5 in second-chance points and out rebounded the Tide on offense 15-6.
All of that could have been negligible, however, if Alabama had simply made its free throw attempts, of which it missed half (five-of-11). What makes this loss worse for Alabama fans is the fact that Alabama was in the middle of a tear through its Southeastern Conference schedule, going 4-0 before losing to Tennessee.
While Alabama didn’t out-class each of its opponents in that span, it did do one thing that always made the difference: remain consistent. Statistically speaking, Alabama has done a fairly good job of that, even outside of its 4-0 SEC streak. But most of Alabama’s losses have come when the Tide simply hasn’t maintained its level of play in certain areas.
For example, in each of the Tide’s seven losses this season, it averaged just over 41 field goal percentage. In its 12 wins, it averaged 46 percent. In each of its seven losses this season, Alabama had 30 rebounds, while it averaged 32.5 in its wins. And while that may seem negligible, two more rebounds in the Tide’s loss Saturday may have made a substantial difference in the outcome of the game.
The free throw is the only area where the Tide has remained constant throughout the season, barring its loss to Tennessee. Alabama averaged roughly 70 percent of its free throws before entering into the Tennessee game, where it only managed five-of-11 shots from the free-throw line. If Alabama is going to have continued success under Head Coach Anthony Grant, it’s going to have to maintain some semblance of consistency in these areas. Alabama has never been a shooting team under Grant. Rather, its strengths come from its inside presence, its ability to control the pace of the game and its ability to create and eliminate opportunities for itself and opponents, respectively.
Therefore, if Alabama can’t maintain control in these areas, it will likely struggle as the season wears on. Sometimes Alabama has gotten away with not performing up to its standard (see Alabama’s 59-55 win over Kentucky). Still, effort and the will to win can only get a team so far for so long. Eventually, the Tide is going to have to achieve a certain level of play and maintain it for an extended period of time.
Alabama has the talent to do so, and a somewhat weak SEC schedule certainly doesn’t hurt the Tide’s chances as the season progresses. Only question remains: Will it be the Alabama team that lost to Tennessee that shows up, or the one that managed to maintain a consistent level of play?