As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just about one month from now - and to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, written by Torres Online. college basketball writer Zac Krull (with Torres pitching in to lend a helping hand here or there)
In case you missed it, we've already previewed the Memphis Tigers, then hit the Illinois Fighting Illini, Wyoming Cowboys, Xavier Musketeers and Michigan State Spartans. We also covered Dayton, a Top 25 team at A-10 Media Days.
Today, we move to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama dealt with the highest of highs a season ago beating both Gonzaga and Houston, but also struggled down the stretch. Here's what Nate Oats has in store for Year 4 in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama Crimson Tide
How it Went Down in 2021-2022
One year ago, there wasn’t a program in college basketball riding higher than Alabama. The Crimson Tide were fresh off winning the SEC regular season and tournament titles for the first time since 1987, in only Nate Oats’ second year on the job. The Tide did enter last year down a few key players, including Herb Jones (now with the New Orleans Pelicans) and John Petty, but there wasn't a big, expected drop-off in Tuscaloosa.
And to its credit, Alabama was able to continue to build a lot off that momentum in 2021 to start off 2022. The Crimson Tide started off their non conference slate with a record of 8-1 which included wins over the No. 1 team in the country at the time, Gonzaga, and both Houston and Miami, who each ended up making it to the Elite 8. Going into their game at Memphis on December 14th, Alabama was ranked appropriately as the No. 6 team in the country, with a resume featuring a collection of wins that no one in the country would be able to match. There was even some legitimate talk if Alabama was among the best teams in the country, following that massive win over Gonzaga and the amount of firepower they possessed.
Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, their season started to take a turn for the worse after this Memphis game, as they lost to a team that was struggling at the time in blowout fashion. Alabama took another disappointing loss right before the start of conference play to Davidson, which took them out of the Top 10 and they were never able to get back to that same form.
With one of the best resumes in the country, it was apparent from very early on that Alabama would return to the NCAA Tournament, but they were never really able to find consistency throughout the season. There was a three-game losing streak to teams like Missouri and Mississippi State, a loss to the worst team in the conference in Georgia and a loss in the opening round of the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt. Even though Alabama had an NCAA Tournament resume with all of the success they had early on in the season, it was clear by the time we got to March that this wasn’t the same team, and something was off.
The Crimson Tide received a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament but lost in their opening game to No. 11 seeded Notre Dame in another game Alabama really struggled in. In that game Alabama’s Point Guard Jahvon Quinnerly left early with a knee injury. As someone who had NCAA Tournament experience with Alabama from the previous season and one of the leaders of the team, there is a scenario where the game could have gone differently, but without Quinerly the Tide's season came to an end.
Luckily, with some returning talent back and a ton of new talent coming in, there is a legitimate chance that Nate Oats will have Alabama back in a favorable position this season, given everything he has accomplished as a head coach.
What You Need To Know About 2022-2023
Key Returnees: Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Gurley, Charles Bediako, Darius Miles
Key Losses: Keon Ellis, JD Davison, Jaden Shackelford, Juwan Gary
Key Transfers: Mark Sears (Ohio), Dom Welch (St. Bonaventure), Nimari Burnett (Texas Tech)
Key Recruits: Brandon Miller, Jaden Bradley, Rylan Griffen, Noah Clowney, Nick Pringle
National Title Odds via the Betfred Sportsbook: +5000
Alabama will lose some of their key members from last year's team, including three of their four leading scorers in Keon Ellis, JD Davison and Jaden Shackelford. While that is a ton of production to make up for and it being likely that all of those guys will be playing basketball at a professional level, Alabama could actually be better this season.
Nate Oats brings in the No. 5 ranked recruiting class in all of college basketball, headlined by a pair of Top 25 prospects in Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley. During Alabama’s Summer Foreign Tour in Europe, the Tide went 3-0 and Miller averaged a staggering 27 points per game during that stretch. With good size and versatility, Miller is a difficult matchup for anyone having to defend him, due to his ability to score the basketball and size at 6’9”. CBS Sports Jon Rothstein described Miller as having "gifts from God" physically and predicted that he will be one of the best freshmen in the country in 22-23. Earlier this fall, Oats heaped his own praise on Miller.
In addition, Bradley was ranked as the third best point guard in the high school class of 2022 and will help contribute to an Alabama team that has a ton of ball handlers, including Nimari Burnett (more coming) and Quinerly, when he returns to the lineup.
Alabama also made some solid additions in the transfer portal. The Crimson Tide added one of the premier point guards from the portal, in former Ohio guard Mark Sears. Sears received a selection to the MAC’s All Conference First Team this past season, after averaging 19.6 points, 6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. His 19.6 points per game was good enough to finish second in the conference in scoring, while also finishing in the top five in assists. Sears also has some serious NCAA Tournament experience, as he was a key member of Ohio’s 2021 team that upset Virginia in the opening round of the Big Dance. Having an experienced guard like Sears will definitely help if Quinerly misses extended time while recovering from his torn ACL.
The Tide will bring in Dom Welch, who is another transfer from outside the Power 6, that can be really valuable while providing NCAA Tournament experience. Welch averaged 12.3 points per game for Saint Bonaventure last season, while shooting 37.4 percent from three-point range and should be a valuable piece on the wing for Alabama.
The other key new piece is former McDonald's All-American Nimari Burnett. After leaving high school as the No. 34 ranked player in 24/7 Sports Class of 2020 Rankings, Burnett spent a semester at Texas Tech, before announcing his transfer to Alabama in the spring of 2021. With that being said, he unfortunately was never able to make it back on the floor last season, due to a torn ACL suffered in September of 2021. Burnett could be an x-factor for this Alabama team, considering there is a possibility he could return to the form that many expected from him coming out of high school. Like Miller, he had a strong summer tour for the Crimson Tide.
The Crimson Tide backcourt is pretty crowded with a handful of guys like Burnett, Quinerly, Sears and Bradley that can all be primary ball handlers.
While it might take some time for Nate Oats to find the right rotations in the back court, this Alabama team has all the talent to compete towards the top of the SEC.
One thing about Nate Oats that has to be respected, is the fact that despite playing in a league that will give you plenty of opportunities to collect quality wins, he is not afraid to schedule what is usually a very difficult non-conference schedule. That is no different this season, as Alabama play a number of marquee out of conference games, while also participating in the highly-anticipated PK event at Thanksgiving in Portland.
The event, in honor of Phil Knight's 85th birthday, opens with Alabama taking on a Michigan State team that should again be good (we previewed the Spartans on Wednesday), and will then play either UConn-Oregon, with a final game against either North Carolina, Villanova, Iowa State or Portland to end things. No matter who they play, Alabama will likely see three quality teams in a quick three-day stretch.
Following the PK85, Alabama will participate in a trio of rematches against teams they faced during their non-conference slate last season. Alabama will head to Houston on December 10th, to take on a Cougars team that Alabama defeated in an absolute thriller last December in Tuscaloosa and Houston should also be ranked in the Top 5 to start the season. After returning a majority of the players from last year’s squad that made the Elite 8, Houston will provide a challenge to Alabama, especially with a great home court advantage.
Three days later, Alabama will then host the same Memphis team that beat them by 14 points last year, with an opportunity to get some revenge. Finally, Alabama will get a rematch with Gonzaga, after Alabama’s somewhat surprising victory over Gonzaga in their own state of Washington last season. Alabama fans will never have a better day than December 4th, 2021 when their beloved football team defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship game in the afternoon, followed by the Crimson Tide basketball team soundly defeating the No. 1 ranked team in the country Gonzaga. There wasn’t a single more impressive performance in college basketball last season, considering Gonzaga finished the regular season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country, only lost four times and this Alabama game was the only time all season that they lost in their home state of Washington.
This time around the game will be played in Birmingham, Alabama and Gonzaga will once again be among the top teams in the country. Following their games in the PK85 and against Memphis and Houston, this will be another opportunity for Alabama to make a massive statement by beating arguably the best program in the entire sport for the second season in a row.
The good news for the Crimson Tide is they caught a little bit of a break with their SEC schedule, considering they only play both Tennessee and Arkansas once. Both are considered elite coming into the season, with Arkansas ranked No. 10 in the preseason AP Poll and Tennessee No. 11.
Alabama will face Kentucky twice this season and will be looking for revenge, after losing both matchups to the Wildcats last season.
What to Expect in 2022-2023
After going into last season ranked No. 14 and expected by some to win the SEC, the 2021-2022 season could be seen as somewhat of a disappointment. On top of the bad losses in January, February and March, there were suspensions and it seemed like the program simply wasn't right for most of the second half of the season.
It also shows you how far the program has come under Nate Oats, that a year that included a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament and wins over a pair of elite programs in the non-conference (Gonzaga and Houston) could be considered to be a bit of a disappointment.
Still, with new faces and expectations not as high to start this season compared to last year, Alabama should be much more successful.
My expectation for Alabama this season is that they will be the fourth best team in the SEC behind the likes of Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas but could easily rise up and compete with anyone in that group, just like they did in 2021. With a ton of new faces in important roles, it might take some time for Nate Oats to put everything together. However, between their top freshmen, talented transfers and returning players, the ingredients are there for Alabama to return to the top of the SEC.
As bad as last season was relevant to expectations from earlier in the season and years prior, Alabama was still able to secure an NCAA Tournament berth for the second consecutive year. This was the first time Alabama has been able to accomplish this since the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
Although the SEC is turning into one of the premier college basketball conferences in all of America, Alabama has a legitimate Coach in Nate Oats that knows how to compete in and win a league that is this good and he could easily have Alabama back where they expected to be last season.
No. 30 - Memphis Tigers
No. 29 - Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 28 - Dayton Flyers
No. 27 - Wyoming Cowboys
No. 26 - Xavier Musketeers
No. 25 - Michigan State Spartans
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