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Points in the Paint: Spotty shooting holding Tide back as UA enters toughest stretch of the season

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Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The defense and rebounding is great…the shooting is anyone’s guess

Alabama is about to enter a crucial one-month swing of basketball games against what is shaping up to be perhaps the most brutal out-of-conference schedule in the country.

It begins during the Thanksgiving Phil Knight Invitational tourney, where the No. 18 Crimson Tide face the No. 12 Michigan State Spartans. And, buddy, that No. 12 ranking for Sparty is deceptive too: they took the ‘Zags to the wire, losing by 1-point. They followed that up with wins over Kentucky and Villanova. Izzo’s group has had no warmups: Michigan State is battle-tested and veteran after just a few opening weeks.

Alabama has to get a lot better, almost immediately.

One area of immediate concern facing the Tide as they clash with the defensive behemoth from East Lansing has to be shooting.

What has dragged Alabama down metrics-wise this season is once again perimeter shooting. Defense determines if Alabama wins, but the offense still leads from the perimeter, and the Tide have been up and down this year.

Alabama is 19th in the country in made-threes per-game (11.0 3PG), but the Tide is 44th in attempts and 94th in 3P% (33.6%). That is offset by good shooting around the basket (51.6% 2PA), but it’s dragging the productivity down tremendously at just 1.33 points per shot (89th).

In short, we’re seeing a high volume of attempts, but not the accuracy we’d like to have (though it is still way better than last season, and over the last three games, UA has improved to over 36% on 3PA).

There is some reason to think a lot of that can and will be improved as this group gels, and gets better looks off of better passing. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that against JSU Alabama had 23 assists, and then had their best night shooting on the early season.

Alabama native and reigning MAC POTY, Mark Sears, was a big reason for that. In addition to playing with full-on abandon, he displayed the shooting stroke many expected to see from him:

Sears finished the game with 18 points shooting, 4-of-10 from three-point range and 6-of-14 from the field. Sears added three assists, a block and a steal to lead the team in plus/minus with 36. The team had a stellar shooting performance overall from behind the arc hitting 21-of-56.

When asked about the style of basketball being played Nate Oats said, “I don’t think this is the last time we will hit 20 (three-pointers) on the season.”

When asked about his performance on the night Sears said, “we moved the ball a lot better and that allowed shooters to make their shots…and everyone was shining tonight.” The Crimson Tide ended the game with a season-high 23 assists.

If there’s any consolation here, it’s that Izzo is entering this game remarkably wary of Alabama, as the Crimson Tide presents a unique challenge to MSU — even above and beyond the tough road Sparty has already traveled.

Here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands:

Ranking: AP 18 / Coaches 18

RPI: 63rd (last week 31st)

KenPom: 12th (last week 15th), 17th offense (last week 21st), 12th defense (last week 13th).

Sagarin: 10th (last week 15th) (21st offense, 13th defense)

Bart Torvik: 19th (last week 17th); 36th adj. offense (last week 17th offense); 16th defense (last week 12th)

Projected NET ranking: 16th (last week 18th); ELO 17 (last week 19)

Projected Brackets: Lunardi — 6 Seed West (last week, same); TR — 31.7% chance of 1-seed (last week 20.2% chance of 1-seed) 25.6% of Final Four (last week 13.7% chance of Final Four) 10.6% chance of winning tournament (last week 3.1%)

Roll Tide!

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