Tuscaloosa, Ala. – After a two-game road stand, The Crimson Tide will return home this Saturday to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks at 5:00 P.M. CT on SEC Network.

South Carolina (17-10, 8-7) is coming off a four-game winning streak with wins over Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU, and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks overall this season are 4-6 on the road and 0-5 versus ranked teams this season. 

Alabama (18-10, 8-7) looks to be the one to put the Gamecock’s recent hot streak to rest. The Crimson Tide have been strong at home this season, bolstering a 12-2 record, including wins over Baylor and Houston. The Crimson Tide is coming off a win where they barely squeezed out a victory on the road over Vanderbilt in what seemed to be an off night for Alabama.

In his press conference on Friday, Nate Oats broke down what to expect out of the Gamecocks:

“Pretty much anything tough in the game of basketball, a Frank Martin-coached team is gonna be really good at. That’s where South Carolina is at. Rebounding, turning you over, guarding you, being physical, they’re good at all that stuff”.

On paper South Carolina this season isn’t much different from Alabama, especially record-wise. The Crimson Tide and Gamecocks are currently sitting tied for fifth place in the SEC, the only difference being South Carolina playing one less game than the Tide. But Alabama fans here is why you shouldn’t be worried coming into this game:

After looking closer into it, their record makes the Gamecocks look much better than they are. Half of their SEC victories are over Vanderbilt and Georgia alone, both of whom sit at the bottom of the conference standings. And much like the Crimson Tide this season, South Carolina has a bad habit of turning over the ball this season. The Gamecocks average 15.2 turnovers per game which measure out to worst in the SEC. 

Winning the battle of the boards will be key in winning this game for Alabama. What South Carolina does tend to do well is exactly what Alabama struggles to do, rebound the ball. This season, the Gamecocks are second in the SEC in offensive rebounds per game (13.3) and just fifth in total rebounds (38.4). Guys like Noah Gurley and Charles Bediako are going to have to step up and cause havoc in the paint. 

Some players to be on the lookout for are Jermaine Couisnard and Wildens Leveque. Couisnard statistically is their most productive player this season, he leads the team in points per game (11.5), assists (2.9), and steals (1.2). Nate Oats will have to place someone who can match Couisnard’s aggression in order to take him out of the game. Wildens Leveque is the Gamecocks leading rebounder (5 per game) and blocks (1 per game) and has all the skills necessary to give defenders nightmares down low. With Bediako having a bigger frame it is of the utmost importance that Charles uses that to his advantage.

With just one game separating five teams fighting for fifth place, and with just four games remaining, this becomes a must-win game for both teams. And with the way that this season is unfolding, this game has the potential to be season-altering for either team. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we once again are in-store for a great, hard-fought matchup inside Coleman Coliseum tonight.