Most experts think Alabama is the best 8-5 men's basketball team in the USA. So do most computers, including those of KenPom and the NET. Deep down, coach Nate Oats probably agrees, but he is looking for improvement on one end of the floor even after last week's dominating win over Liberty at Birmingham's C.M. Newton Classic.

You guessed it: defense.

Said Oats: "Defensively, we are not where we need to be yet. We still had way too many mistakes [against Liberty]. Offensively, we are there. Obviously, it helps when you make shots, but we have to continue to work on the defensive side. I told the guys we got a week to prepare for Vanderbilt. Coach (Jerry) Stackhouse is one of the better coaches in the league. He’s going to have a lot of stuff drawn up. Our mistakes on defense are going to be exposed by him.

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"Right now, our identity is an offensive team, and we have got to change that a little bit to be where we play both sides of the ball, We have the No. 1 offense in the country [per the computer ratings], but we are not going to win if we don’t get our defense significantly better.

"We made a big point of emphasis on our defensive side [for Liberty]. We went to switching all ball screens, and I thought it gave us a little bit of problems. Overall, I thought it was pretty good, we kept them out of a lot of what they do well. They did make 10 threes and shot 35% which is way too many. We dodged some bullets on them, but I thought our energy was good.

"Its a good win going into the new year, and a good win going into SEC play."

Alabama and the Commodores tip off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT at Nashville's Memorial Gym on the Vanderbilt campus. The Tide Hoops Pregame Show brought to you by Pritchett-Moore Insurance starts at 12:30 on Tide 100.9 and 1230 AM WTCB. At 1:30., those two stations along with 95.3 The Bear will carry the CTSN pregame and game itself.

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