Alabama provided no bulletin-board material after advancing to the SEC Tournament final on Saturday. After its 72–61 semifinal victory over Missouri, the Crimson Tide claimed it didn’t matter whether it played Texas A&M or Vanderbilt in Sunday’s final.
Head coach Nate Oates deferred to the question before it was even asked, noting that his wish had “zero effect on the game”. His players more or less parroted his reaction in the locker room, saying he would be fine against any opponent.
However, when pressed hard enough, freshman guard Rylan Griffen finally broke through, making revenge on the Aggies might be a little sweeter than a third win over the Commodores.
“I mean, it doesn’t matter to me, but I would like to see A&M again because they’re one of our two [SEC] loss, and we lost to them in a close one,” said the Dallas native after the Alabama win. “So I would like to give them the opportunity to play again and have a chance to go out there and beat them as we lost to them the first time.”
It turns out that Griffen will get his wish.
Texas A&M stormed Vanderbilt, 87-75, on Saturday afternoon to set up the final matchup against the conference’s top two teams on Sunday afternoon inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Alabama defeated the Commodores 78–66 on the road at Vanderbilt on January 17 before posting a dominating 101–44 victory inside Coleman Coliseum two weeks later. The Crimson Tide had slightly less success during their regular-season finale in College Station, Texas earlier this month, shooting just 19.4% (7 of 36) while turning the ball over 18 times in a 67–61 loss. Aegis was damaged while rotating. ,
Alabama forward Brandon Miller said of Texas A&M, “I think they’re a good team.” “I think they beat us with great energy, and of course they have great players.”
While Alabama had already clinched its regular-season title at that point, it still had a score to settle with a Texas A&M team that had not lost since 2018. Since taking over at Alabama in the 2019-20 season, Oates is 0-3 against the Aggies. Texas A&M won 74–68 during its first year inside Coleman Coliseum, while the Crimson Tide’s road game the following season was canceled due to weather. Last season, Texas A&M defeated Alabama in Tuscaloosa, 87–71.
After Saturday’s win, Oates made sure to bring up that statistic when he addressed the Aggies.
“They’re good,” Oates said. “They’re difficult, they cause problems.
Alabama (28-5) bounced back well after losing to Texas A&M (25-8) with a 72-49 win over Mississippi State on Friday before coming alive in the second half against Missouri in the SEC tournament opener. The 28 wins set a new program record and would have assuredly secured the Crimson Tide the No. 1 seed in next season’s NCAA tournament. Still, when it comes to claiming a second conference tournament title in three years on Sunday, Oates is seeking all the help he can get.
“These SEC championship games don’t come around often,” Oates said. “Last time when we came here it was the COVID year, there were limited number of fans. I encourage all Alabama fans, all you Alabama reporters, let’s try to get out, let’s try to pack this place full of Alabama fans. It’s not that far a drive. It starts tomorrow at noon, let’s get as many Alabama fans to Nashville to support us in the championship tomorrow.
“These are not easy. They are not easy to make. We had two tough games to get there, and we’re going to play a really tough game tomorrow.”