Nate Oats’ team is tied for first in the SEC with only 4 games to go, but the Alabama head coach won’t let the near future impact how he handles an injury.

Alabama basketball guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. has missed UA’s last two games. The Crimson Tide managed a 1-1 split that could have easily gone 0-2.

In Wrightsell’s absence, Alabama managed an overtime win over Florida, in which the Tide trailed most of the game and had to overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half. The following game at Kentucky was a loss, allowing Tennessee to tie UA atop the SEC standings. The Crimson Tide and Volunteers meet on Saturday, a game that could potentially decide the regular-season SEC title.

Right now, Oats and his team are focused on Ole Miss. The Tide travel are 6-point road favorites in Oxford, according to DraftKings.

Oats told reporters Tuesday that it’s “not 100%” certain that Wrightsell plays Wednesday against the Rebels. The UA guard continues to be re-evaluated daily, Oats told reporters Tuesday.

“It would be nice to have him back sooner rather than later but you also don’t want to rush him,” Oats said, per Nick Kelly of the Tuscaloosa News. “These things can go on and on if you don’t handle it correctly… We’re going to do it the right way and not rush him back but looking forward to getting him back as soon as we can.”

A key injury as the conference title race heats up

Props to Oats for publicly committing to not rushing Wrightsell back. It would have been easy for the Alabama head coach to stick to the answers about Wrightsell not being 100% and being evaluated daily.

One might not think that an 8-game starter averaging 9 points per game would be a significant absence for the No. 14 team. The last two games, though, show that Wrightsell is missed on the court. He’s a strong defender and a key cog in the offense.

Wrightsell had started the last 7 games before his injury, which occurred in practice. While he averaged 24 minutes per game for the 2023-24 campaign, he played over 28.4 minutes per game over the last 7 starts, even with just a 23-minute outing in the win over Texas A&M.

Ideally, Wrightsell gets the all-clear and is good to go against Ole Miss. Anyone who follows a sports team closely, though, knows that a day-to-day situation can turn into a multi-week situation.

Right now, all eyes are on the Alabama-Tennessee rematch. The Vols are No. 4 in the AP Top 25. UT is part of a small group of SEC teams to beat Alabama this season, winning 91-71 in January. ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Tuscaloosa, and Coleman Coliseum is sure to be electric for a primetime revenge game.

Bama, though, can’t look past Ole Miss. Everyone gets tired of hearing the coach-speak staple, but there are no easy games on the road in the SEC.

Multiple reasons to play it safe

It’s not surprising to have Wrightsell in day-to-day limbo with a head injury. Everyone wants to be 100% sure when considering a potential impact to the brain.

Even if it weren’t a head injury, this is simply the time of year a team does not take any chances. Another conference title and the top seed in the SEC Basketball Tournament would be great, but Alabama has bigger goals in mind.

The Crimson Tide are sure to be an NCAA Tournament team, projected as a No. 3-seed in Joe Lunardi’s Monday bracketology update. A healthy Wrightsell will be key to a March Madness run.

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