Alabama moves past Mississippi State in teams’ third 2020-21 meeting, will face Tennessee in SEC semis
We are now less than 48 hours away from Selection Sunday. College basketball fans around the country remain on the edge of their seats for the conclusion of an exciting week as conference tournaments continue to play out. In the SEC championship tournament, top-seeded Alabama cruised past Mississippi State by a lopsided score of 85-48 to advance to their first conference semifinal game since 2018. They will face Tennessee on Saturday in their second game in Nashville; due to the Tide having previously earned a double bye, the game against Mississippi State was the start of the tournament for the regular season champs.
Ninth-seeded Mississippi State was one day removed from a battle with Kentucky in the second round of SEC tournament play. The Bulldogs’ 74-73 win granted them the prize of a third meeting with Alabama, a team they had played well against despite being swept in the regular season. However, the Crimson Tide was not in a precarious position in this game, as they had been in previous meetings with this opponent. Bama played to their strengths, defended well, forced turnovers, and shot the ball effectively. They came out on fire in the first half, and took a 47-19 lead into the locker room. They didn’t let up much in the second half, scoring another 38 to bring their grand scoring total to 85. That number represents the most points Alabama has scored against Mississippi State in a single game this season (the previous best was 81 on January 23).
Leading the way for the Tide in scoring was Jahvon Quinerly, who had 14 points; 6 of these came from beyond the arc. As a team, Bama shot 49% overall and 36% from the three-point line. They committed just 9 turnovers as opposed to Mississippi State’s 18. SEC player of the year Herb Jones led Alabama in rebounds and led both teams’ players in assists. Bama starter Josh Primo sustained an apparent knee injury in the second half; official word on his status for the Tennessee game has yet to be given. SEC Coach of the Year Nate Oats expressed his hopefulness that Primo would be able to play in the semifinal.
As for the Tide’s opponent, fourth-seeded Tennessee, they are also fresh off of an impressive quarterfinal win. Their 78-66 defeat of fifth-seeded Florida punched their ticket to the semis. They met up with Bama way back at the start of league play, when they were the seventh-ranked team in the country and unbeaten. Upstart, unranked Alabama then came to Knoxville and stunned the Vols 71-63, taking revenge for a controversial loss at Thompson-Boling Arena in 2019. Now, it is Alabama with the top-ten ranking, and Tennessee looking to spring the upset.
The SEC tournament is sure to remain exciting as its later-round games play out. Both Alabama and Tennessee are expected to play in the NCAA championship tournament, and a win in the upcoming semifinal game awards the victor a spot in the SEC tournament championship game. A win for the underdog would be a huge momentum-builder for the Big Dance. The same is true of the top seed, the regular season champ, who looks to punch their first ticket to the conference title game since 2002. This high-stakes matchup has the makings of one of the best games of the SEC tournament to date and will have major implications for the conference.