Florida basketball hits the road on Wednesday night to take on the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide inside Coleman Coliseum. The Gators had a rollercoaster week prior and could really use a Quadrant 1 win to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes.
However, coming out of Tuscaloosa is a tall task against a 'Bama team that is 20-3 this season while notching a perfect 10-0 record against Southeastern Conference opponents so far. Florida, on the other hand, is teetering on the bubble with a very mediocre 13-10 mark overall along with a 6-4 tally in SEC play.
We reached out to Roll Tide Wire's managing editor AJ Spurr for the inside scoop on this year's Alabama team in our latest Behind Enemy Lines segment. Take a look below at our question-and-answer exchange ahead of Wednesday night's matchup.
Alabama has been a beast this year, off to one of its best starts ever. What has been the difference this season from Nate Oats' previous three campaigns?
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Nate Oats has done a lot in just a few short years with the Crimson Tide. Though we've seen previous teams buy into the 'blue collar' mentality he preaches, those teams didn't appear to have much chemistry. This 2022-2023 team is as selfless as they come and have made it clear that they are all focused on one goal: winning.
The Tide have lost three games this year to UConn and Gonzaga - both ranked teams - along with Oklahoma. What went wrong in those games?
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All three games were double-digit losses. The issue is inconsistent play to open the game and the inability to bounce back in the second half. In too many games to count this season, the Tide looked sloppy in the first half.
Despite being the No. 3 team in the nation, being down at halftime is rarely a surprise. As long as it's within 10 points (give or take a few) the second half could be a completely different ball game. It would be appropriate to call every game 'a tale of two halves.'
In those three losses, the sloppy play carried over into the second half, and couldn't make stops on defense nor could they get points on the board.
Nate Oats' team has three players averaging double-digits per game and some significant talent down in the paint. Who is the heart and soul of this season's squad?
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Brandon Miller. Words can't describe the energy he has brought to this team and the impact he's had on the program as a whole. Even when he's off his game, he finds a way to elevate those around him on both offense and defense. It's nearly impossible to watch a game he played in and be disappointed with what he did.
What does the Tide need to do to contain Florida's Colin Castleton, who has stepped up during SEC play this season?
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Charles Bediako. The seven-foot sophomore will be challenged with Castleton's size, but it's a physical challenge I think he welcomes. He leads the team in blocks with 35 and has 123 rebounds on the season. He may not have the most minutes on the team, but he makes the most of his time on the court. I'd expect to see him more on the court against the Gators.
Who do you think will be 'Bama's x-factor on Wednesday night?
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I would like for it to be Jahvon Quinerly. He returned earlier this season from a torn ACL that he suffered in the first round of last season's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and has looked solid offensively. However, turnovers can be an issue for him.
One thing Alabama needs to improve on is not turning the ball over so much. As a playmaker and a veteran on this team, JQ needs to lead by example and be responsible with the ball.
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Like other conference games, I believe the Gators keep this a somewhat close game for most of the contest, but the momentum will swing Alabama's way sometime late in the second half. With only a handful of games remaining in the regular season, it's time for the Crimson Tide to solidify its spot as a No. 1 seed and leave no room for second-guessing come Selection Sunday.
Alabama 79, Florida 62
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