Isabelle Harrison had to work for this shot. She might've worked harder for this than anything she'll work for today. - USA TODAY Sports
I want to sit here and tell you that Alabama has a chance against the Lady Vols in Knoxville when they play at 1:05 PM. I also want a pony. Neither of these things are likely.
I'm going to come right out with it: in much the same way that Alabama football is dismissive of Tennessee football right now, I'm dismissive of this Alabama women's basketball team. That sounds harsh. Let me explain.
So one of the weird things with women's basketball (or not that weird, I suppose) is the skill distribution is very concentrated in a smaller number of teams than men's basketball - there are a bunch of reasons for this, I suppose. Regardless, for my purpose, it's useful because how a team performs against its schedule tells you generally where they are in the hierarchy of women's basketball.
In Alabama's case, there are some losses you'd expect (Texas A&M, Kentucky, Georgia, the latter of which was a 13-pointer and the best of the slim bunch) and a few baffling ones (Wofford, Wisconsin, and - yes - UT-Chattanooga) paired against one decent win (Virginia). The best comparable to Tennessee is some weird combination of Texas A&M - a roadie, lost by 39(!) - and Kentucky - home game, lost by 17. It isn't pretty.
Heck, the team stat sheet reads like the what's what of things you don't want to have against Tennessee. The Crimson Tide have a guard-dominated offense, limited height, a bunch of mediocre shooters, and some mediocre rebounders. The only positive is that they have a really deep rotation.
Their better players, at least by the general terms, are Dasha Simmons (12.1 PPG on 12.0 shots, 4.4 A / 3.5 TO, 4.5 reb), Jasmine Robinson (10.9 PPG on 9.2 shots, 1.2 A / 1.9 TO, 3.8 reb), and Meghan Perkins (9.7 PPG on 8.2 shots, 1.9 A / 2.5 TO, 4.9 reb), all of whom are guards. Kaniesha Horn is their interior presence, such as these things go, but ...well, I've never seen an interior player average 27.7% from the floor before (8.2 PPG on 10.2 shots), and the rest of her numbers aren't enough to make up for it. Beyond those four, they have a few additional players (you'll probably hear about Shafonte Myers, who attempts 9.1 threes per game - even Morgan Eye doesn't do that), but quite frankly there isn't anyone to really write home about.
That means we can skip ahead to the bullet points, because I'm lazy.
- Defense first and always. There is, for all intents and purposes, two players for Bama who shoots better than 40% from the field - Perkins and Alicia Mitcham (who may start). If Tennessee doesn't hold the Crimson Tide to 35% from the field (and really, sub-30% shouldn't be out of the question, but I'm not even sure I'll ask that of the D) it's a disappointment. This is not a team of good shooters, and they can - and have - been shut down. Perkins, such as it is, is the threat, and I expect she'll get to deal with a steady dose of Meighan Simmons and Kamiko Williams.
- Pressure. Speaking of, the Tide are underwater in the assist/turnover department. That better continue. Similarly speaking, I look for a good distribution game from Ariel Massengale.
- Shooting Gallery. I'm just going to hope that Tennessee's Simmons doesn't see the myriad of bad shots that I expect Bama to put up and go "I can top that!" and launch a string of bad off-balance runners. She's gotten a bit better about that, and I'm hard on her because at her best she can take over a game. To be fair, Tennessee probably doesn't need much beyond a 4-12 from her today, so if there's going to be a game for her to get this out, today isn't a bad candidate.
- Inside Rotation. Bama's interior presence, for our intents and purposes, counts as laughable. Isabelle Harrison, Bashaara Graves, and Jasmine Jones (taking a turn as a shutdown defender(!)) should all cut through the interior. The Tide will, erm, throw bodies against that beachhead, but they, um, won't erode Tennessee's huge talent edge. Man, that sentence is all kinds of hacky.
- Play Loose. I can't think of a single category that Alabama really scares me in, and it's not like the Georgia "we have their number" not-scared. Alabama just isn't in the same zip code, and there's nobody even like a Jaterra Bonds or Jennifer George to be found. This should be a romp, but that's not an excuse to get sloppy about it.