NASHVILLE — And now, for all the SEC marbles.

A year ago, Buzz Williams took an underrated Texas A&M team to the cusp of their first SEC Tournament title. It’s a year later and Williams’s Aggies are back. Meanwhile, Nate Oats is returning for a second SEC title game appearance in his third season in Tuscaloosa.

These teams aren’t exactly strangers, either —they played March 4 in the regular-season finale. A&M won 67-61, but it’s safe to assume that Bama’s motivation was flagging a bit as they had wrapped up the league’s regular-season title (and the No. 1 seed in Nashville) in their previous game. They have never faced off for an SEC Tournament title, so let’s preview this new thing just right.

The Tide

Alabama is simply one of the most talented teams in college basketball. Down the stretch against a legitimately tough Missouri team in the SEC Tournament semifinals on Saturday, the Tide showed how many options they have. They could spread the floor and put the ball in the hands of probably the best player in college basketball, Brandon Miller. While guards Mark Sears and Jahvon Quinerly struggled mightily on Saturday, the Tide found scoring support in freshman Noah Clowney. Big man Charles Bediako was solid on offense and protected the rim well on the defensive end.

Miller scored 20 and Clowney added 19. Both made 3 3-pointers, and their 39 combined points came on just a combined 22 shots. That’s elite efficiency on offense.

The Tide have been stingy defensively, too holding Mississippi State to 31% shooting in Friday’s quarterfinal win and Mizzou to 34%. Miller has been the star of the show, with 38 points and 21 rebounds so far in SEC Tournament play.

The Aggies

At halftime of Friday’s quarterfinal against No. 10 seed, A&M’s stay in Nashville looked dicey. The Razorbacks led by 13 in a game when the Aggies hit just a single 3-point shot all evening. But A&M locked down Arkansas in the 2nd half, holding them to 30% shooting, dominated the Hogs on the glass (43-26) and rallied for a 67-61 victory.

Saturday saw A&M dominate surging No. 6 seed Vanderbilt, whose NCAA Tournament hopes likely ended. The Aggies opened on a 7-0 run en route to building a 26-point edge late in the first half. A&M shot 69% in the first half. A&M made 7-of-12 3-pointers in the opening half, with 8 Aggies scoring. Vanderbilt made its run, cutting A&M’s lead to a dozen in the second half before running out of steam. Wade Taylor, who had 18 points against Arkansas, erupted for 25 Saturday.

A&M generally spreads the scoring load, putting 4 players into double figures Friday and 3 more on Saturday.

The Prediction

A&M is on an impressive run after playing one awful half to open their SEC Tournament. Alabama meanwhile has been on a more or less even keel throughout. Alabama might already have a secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Both teams want to hang another banner. There’s not really any inherent motivational advantage one way or another … well, except for this.

Alabama under Nate Oats is 0-3 against Texas A&M.

In his postgame comments following Bama’s semifinal win, Oats pointedly refused to answer who he would prefer to play … and then promptly brought up that 0-3 mark.

Given the dark cloud hovering over Alabama’s program by the ongoing criminal situation, don’t think that Oats will hesitate to go full “us-against-the-world” for this one. Don’t think that success will stop Williams from putting the underdog’s chip on his shoulder.

At the end of the day, March is often about the best player on the floor. That’s Brandon Miller until somebody proves otherwise.

A&M is perfectly capable of playing with Alabama, even of taking a 5-point lead at halftime. But Miller will save most of his 24 points for the second half, and Bama will take a 72-67 victory to claim its 2nd SEC Tournament trophy in 3 seasons.