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Bama Basketball Breakdown: North Florida

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Alabama finishes up non-conference play against an upstart Ospreys team

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off one of the biggest wins of the season, the Crimson Tide (9-3) will look to end the non-conference portion of the schedule with a strong performance against the North Florida Ospreys (7-7). With SEC play right around the corner, Alabama needs to stay focused and not look past UNF, as the Ospreys are capable of beating a power conference team, as evidenced by their 73-70 win at Purdue earlier this year. In fact, UNF has really challenged themselves in non-conference play this year, as five of their seven losses have all come against power conference opponents.* North Florida runs a pretty up-tempo, effective offense, but the defense is severely lacking. Alabama has played a number of teams that fit this template thus far this season, so this won't be anything new for Anthony Grant's bunch.

*Fun Fact: the other two losses? Both to Tennessee Tech, giving the Ospreys the rare honor of losing to a non-conference opponent twice in the same season

Starting Five

  • PG Dallas Moore ( 17.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG)
  • SG Jalen Nesbitt (10.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
  • SF Beau Beech (10.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • PF Chris Davenport (11.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
  • C Romelo Banks (5.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG)

North Florida is heavily reliant on the first four names mentioned above, as each plays 28+ MPG. Banks, the 6'11 sophomore, is used almost entirely because of his height. He shoots less than 50% from the field and from the free throw line, rebounds at a pretty low clip considering his size, and doesn't really make much of a difference on defense. The two guards, Moore and Nesbitt, are both very good players for this North Florida team. Moore is a great scorer (55.8% FG%, 43.9% 3P%, 72.7% FT%) and distributor of the basketball. Nesbitt is the best all-around player on the team for the Ospreys, though not so much in the scoring aspect (43.8% FG%, 29.4% 3P%, 69.1% FT%). Beech and Davenport both have good size (both are 6'8), and they both are solid players in their own right. Davenport (55.5% FG%) is a better scorer than Beech, though Beech can be somewhat of a threat from deep (39.3% FG%, 36.0% 3P%).

The Bench

  • G Trent Mackey (9.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.4 APG)
  • F Demarcus "BaeBae" Daniels (7.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.7 BPG)
  • G Aaron Bodager (2.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG)
  • G Devin Wilson (1.5 PPG, 1.6 APG)

UNF isn't a very deep team, but they have two guys off of the bench who really contribute. Mackey is a nice scoring option off of the bench (53.2% FG%, 51.4% 3P%, 75.0% FT%) and Daniels is a very strong player around the basket, which is aided by having one of the sweetest nicknames in college basketball. Daniels isn't much of a shooter, but he can score from inside, as he is a banger in the post at 6'7. He is also the best defender on the Ospreys (99.7 defensive rating). Bodager and Wilson both get a few minutes a game for added depth.

What to Watch For

  • What's the Identity? Over the first half of non-conference play, Alabama looked lost on defense but could score from all over the court. The offense was executed at a high level with good, crisp passes, great off-ball movement, and plenty of hustle points. Suddenly, "Grantsketball" made it's return, and Alabama has been playing like the Anthony Grant-led teams of old ever since. This move seems like it was a calculated one, to be honest, as this is the identity that Grant believes in and is comfortable with. However, the jury is still out on whether or not that is a good thing for Alabama. Regardless, this game will present more evidence for either side, and as SEC play looms, it should be a pretty telling game.
  • Ricky Tarrant. The reigning SEC Player of the Week took over and led the Tide to a big win over UCLA last week. Without Tarrant, Alabama loses that game without any doubt. Fortunately for Tide fans, Tarrant is wearing the Crimson and White, and will continue to do so moving forward. However, he has had a bit of an issue with cramps, so his action in this one may be limited.
Three Keys to Victory
  1. Defend the Three. North Florida is currently 77th in the country in PPG for various reasons, but one of the major reasons is that they realize that 3>2. Moore, Mackey, and Beech together average about 15 3PAs per game, which is a really high amount for three players. Pretty clearly, North Florida follows the "try to get hot from three" recipe for pulling off the upset. Alabama needs to prevent that from happening by contesting shots and rotating well on defense. The good news is that Moore and Mackey are the only two good three-point shooters on the team, so Alabama really just needs to get a hand in their faces.
  2. Turn Them Over. The Ospreys are pretty poor at taking care of the basketball, so Alabama needs to capitalize on that regardless of whether or not the Tide is looking to play up-tempo or slow it down.
  3. Take Care of Business. The Crimson Tide are facing their last bad non-conference opponent. The only other team on the schedule that could severely hamper Alabama's resume with a toxic RPI is Mississippi State, who has been just dreadful this season. If Alabama comes out, plays whichever style they choose at even a solid level, and out-work this team, they will win the game. Hopefully, knowing that this truly is the last chance to really muck things up at a drastic level (excluding the previously mentioned Bulldogs), will be all the motivation Alabama will need to go out and go to work.
The basketball season is about to really heat up when the Tide start conference play next week, so the team needs to continue to build momentum. UNF is not a great team, but they are capable of pulling off the upset. Hopefully, Alabama will show up and make this an uneventful game with an easy win.

The game tips at 6:00 PM CST, and will only be broadcast on SEC Network+.