Two first team all-SEC players face off Thursday as Stefan Moody and Retin Obasohan lead their clubs into Nashville for the conference tournament's second round. Moody, the season's scoring title winner, and Obasohan, the scholar athlete, have closed out their senior years on absolute tears.
Alabama, 17-13 (8-10 SEC), was for a time gaining talk as one of the year's great bubble bursters. With consecutive February wins over regular season champs Texas A&M, then Florida and LSU, some bracketologists were projecting Roll Tide into the field of 68. But recent losses to Mississippi State, Arkansas and Georgia allayed those possibilities, and now Avery Johnson's club is fighting for conference respectability this week.
Ole Miss is more or less in the same boat as Bama, though with a two-game win streak and victories in four of their last five games, the Rebels are trending in the opposite direction. Andy Kennedy's crew was attracting more serious attention as a tournament contender last month, but poor showings against Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida soon put any bracketspeak to bed.
An Ole Miss tournament run is not out of the picture, however, but that picture includes Kentucky and South Carolina, who potentially loom ahead in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively. As we pointed out in this week's podcast, the great "what if" hangs ever about Rebel hoops come tournament season, not least because of 2013's miracle run through the field.
These, then, are the stakes entering Thursday's tilt with Alabama, who surely still feel the sting of January's takedown in Oxford. In the time since that game, the Tide have gone 8-9, while Ole Miss has gone 9-8. Obasohan continues to post 17.7 points per game and Shannon Hale's 11.2 average doesn't hurt at all.
The Rebs, for their part, showed good execution in the season's last week, though granted #CLANGA and Tennessee are not among the conference elite. Still, Sebastian Saiz appears to have regained his midseason form after licking his wounds for a couple weeks following retina surgery back in January. AK will need strong inside play from the Spaniard -- and lights out shooting from Moody -- to stay competitive in Bridgestone Arena this week.
How to watch:
Game Time: 6 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Online Streaming: WatchESPN