(11) Wichita State (10-0) at Alabama (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 17, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coleman Coliseum (15,383) -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Wichita State 6-0, Alabama 5-0. Away Record: Wichita State 2-0, Alabama 0-1. Neutral Record: Wichita State 2-0, Alabama 0-3. Conference Record: Wichita State 0-0, Alabama 0-0. Series Record: Alabama leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked Wichita State Shockers will take their unblemished ledger on the road on Tuesday night when they head to Coleman Coliseum to clash with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Wichita State has made a splash on the national radar in the early going this season with wins in all 10 of its games, including signature triumphs on a neutral court versus BYU (75-62) and at Saint Louis (70-65). The Shockers recently wrapped up a two-game homestand with wins over Oral Roberts (71-58) and Tennessee (70-61).
A season removed from a 23-win campaign, Alabama has struggled to get its footing this year, getting off to a modest 5-4 start. The good news for the Tide is that they have won all five of their contests at Coleman Coliseum, including Saturday's bout with Charleston Southern, 59-45.
Alabama holds a 3-2 lead in the all-time series, including a 70-60 win in the latest meeting in the 2011 Puerto Rico Classic.
The Shockers had a difficult time putting away Tennessee in their latest game, as the contest consisted of 14 lead changes. In the end they were able to pull away for a nine-point victory thanks largely to an 18-of-22 showings at the foul line over the final 20 minutes. Tekele Cotton was the main contributor at the charity stripe (9-of-11) on his way to a career-high 19 points, although he was just 4-of-11 from the field. Cleanthony Early scored 13 points, while Darius Carter tallied a double-double off the bench with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Wichita State has been outstanding on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 45.8 percent from the field for 77.6 points per game, while allowing just 60.4 points. Ron Baker (14.6 ppg) and Early (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) are neck- and-neck for the team's scoring lead. Cotton brings 11.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game to the table, while Fred VanVleet (11.3 ppg) has dished out 55 assists paired with only 16 turnovers.
The Tide have seen much more impressive days on the offensive end of the floor than they experienced on Saturday night, as they shot just 34.9 percent from the field, although it didn't matter much in the 14-point victory as they held Charleston Southern to just as many field goals as turnovers (14). Retin Obasohan shined in the victory with 22 points, nine rebounds and six steals, and he put on a clinic at the free-throw line (13-of-14). Rodney Cooper came off the bench to put up 16 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Alabama has played stellar defense this season, as it allows 65.2 points per game and boasts a +1.8 turnover margin, and its offensive attack (74.7 ppg) has generally been strong enough to support it. Trevor Releford (16.4 ppg) is a high-percentage guard both from the field (.489) and the foul line (.960). Obasohan (15.2 ppg) is an elite perimeter defender with 3.1 steals per contest, while Nick Jacobs (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Levi Randolph (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) are also integral pieces of the puzzle.
Alabama's dominance at home has been well-established. It has gone 21-4 in Tuscaloosa since the start of the 2012-13 season, so it'll certainly have a strong chance at an upset. In the end however, Wichita State is simply the more talented team accustomed to winning on the road, and it will find a way to pull this one out in the end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 70, Alabama 67
12/17 10:58:40 ET