Alabama basketball preview: Defense is key to NCAA chances
Alabama got the offense figured out coach Nate Oats’ first season in 2019-20.
If the defense catches up, this will be an even better season for the Crimson Tide.
Oats’ first Alabama team after his 4 seasons as head coach of Buffalo was the highest-scoring and most prolific 3-point shooting team in the SEC. Its 82.0 points per game and average of 10.8 3-pointers made per game were 3rd-best in the country. Its 3-point shooting percentage (34.9) led the SEC.
But the Tide was last in the SEC and tied for 333rd in the country by allowing an average of 79.0 points per game.
That should change this season.
Senior forward John Petty Jr. is a first-team preseason All-SEC pick, senior wing Herb Jones was an all-league defender amid all that offense last season and guard Jaden Shackelford was an SEC all-freshman performer last season.
They will be joined this season by 9 players who have yet to play a game for Alabama.
The Tide have experience and a strong infusion of new talent. They’re preparing to bring the defense up to par with the offense.
They’re in their second season in the system of one of the rising stars in college basketball coaching.
That’s why Alabama is considered one of the SEC teams on the rise as the start of season looms next week.
The Tide, 16-15 overall and 9th in the SEC with an 8-10 record a year, were picked to finish No. 5 in the preseason poll.
Here’s a closer look at Alabama:
Senior F John Petty Jr.: Petty is a first-team preseason All-SEC pick. At 6-5, he’s a combo guard who is on the verge of becoming the Tide’s career leader in 3-pointers. He already set the program record by making 10 in a game. He enters the season with 234 made 3s — just 30 shy of the record.
G Keon Ellis (Florida Southwestern State) was the top JUCO combo guard prospect and the No. 3 overall JUCO prospect last year. He was the leading scorer on the No. 1 JUCO team in the country. His outside shooting (54% overall, 40% from beyond the arc) will fit right in, but he can also score on drives to the basket.
PG Jahvon Quinerly is a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Villanova and sat out last season. He’ll try to mitigate the loss of Kira Lewis Jr., who left after his sophomore season and was first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Scoring. The Tide have inside-outside balance and numerous scoring options. It’ll be up to Quinerly to keep everyone involved and put them in positions that play to their strengths. Oats’ fast-paced style should continue to create high-percentage opportunities as well. Another newcomer, 6-10 forward Jordan Bruner, is a graduate transfer from Yale whose scoring and passing will further enhance the offense.
Defense. The newcomers are expected to provide help in this area and improved depth will also help. Bama’s pace is inevitably going to lead to higher point totals allowed, but that’ll be OK if it does a better job of making opponents earn those points.
Regular season prediction
There was no NCAA Tournament last year, but the last time Alabama participated in one was the 2017-18 season.
Alabama should be able to secure a bid again this season.
The Tide just missed making the preseason AP Top 25 (they received votes and would have been No. 29), but they did manage to squeak in at No. 25 in the coaches poll.