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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Winthrop

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The Crimson Tide finally return home to take on the Eagles of the Big South

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After a long, successful string of non-conference games away from home, the Crimson Tide (6-2) make their long-awaited return to Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night. Welcoming Alabama home will be the Winthrop Eagles, who are sporting an identical 6-2 record this season, though against much lesser competition. Avery Johnson's group is riding high on a current four game winning streak, and they aren't looking to slow down any time soon, even with breakout freshman Dazon Ingram sidelined for the year. The victory over Clemson on Sunday night was yet another quality "W" on the old resume, as Alabama has quietly put together a nice collection of wins in the early portion of the schedule.

Winthrop isn't an elite team by any stretch, but they've displayed some offensive prowess early in the year, and they aren't to be taken lightly. They are certainly far more capable than Southern Miss, who nearly upset the Tide in Hattiesburg a few weeks ago. Head coach Pat Kelsey has kept Winthrop near the top of the Big South the last few seasons, so he's no stranger to winning basketball.

The Roster

The Starters

  • PG 5'7 Keon Johnson (18.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG)
  • OG 6'0 Bjorn Broman (8.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.8 SPG)
  • 3G 6'2 Jimmy Gavin (17.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.5 SPG)
  • PF 6'8 Xavier Cooks (13.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
  • C 6'10 Zach Price (5.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG)
Winthrop likes to utilize three true guards in their backcourt. This gives them an edge in both speed and quickness on the perimeter and in transition, but it also allows them to have multiple ball-handlers that can distribute the ball with some success. Johnson, Broman, and Gavin all average exactly 2.3 APG, and none of them turn the ball over more than twice a game on average (Broman's TOPG is a very impressive 0.6). Johnson and Gavin are the two main scorers for a team that currently ranks 60th in the country with a 112.3 ORtg. Johnson may be small in size, but he is a major factor for the Eagles' offense. He will be the best pure shooter on the floor Wednesday night (47.1% FG%, 47.6% 3P%), 85.0% FT%), and he even rebounds at a pretty decent rate for a 5'7 point guard. Gavin is also a strong scorer (45.8% FG%, 39.2% 3P%, 74.4% FT%), and he displayed how dangerous he can be against NC State earlier this year when he went for 38 points against Mark Gottfried's squad. Broman rounds out the trio. He is a bit of a "glue guy", but he's not much of a threat offensively (29.8% FG%, 28.9% 3P%). He does shoot 85.0% from the line though, so Alabama certainly doesn't need to bail him out of shots from the floor.

Cooks is a little bit of a 'tweener' at the forward position, as he has the ability to play out in space on the wing (30.0% 3P%, 1.5 APG), but he's much more effective around the basket when he's using his lanky arms to make plays. His 61.8% 2P% leads the team, and he is a decent rebounder. Price uses his 6'10, 250-pound frame to impose his will down low, as he is strictly a low post player. He's not a very skilled player, as his scoring numbers may suggest (45.2% FG%, 66.7% FT%). By comparison, Jimmie Taylor is a more efficient scorer in the post than Price at 48.0% FG%.


The Bench
  • G 6'2 Roderick Perkins (6.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG)
  • F 6'5 Josh Davenport (4.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG)
  • C 6'8 Duby Okeke (6.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.5 BPG)
One of the Eagles' main weaknesses is that they are extremely light on proven depth. Winthrop typically only runs eight-deep, so they can be physically drained late in games. They have only one substitute at each level of the court. Perkins is the lone guard that plays significant minutes off of the bench. He's a solid player, but nothing to write home about (33.3% FG%, 25.9% 3P%, 77.8% FT%, 107.4 DRtg). Davenport is one of the team's better defenders, and is currently shooting 50.0% from the field and from beyond the arc, albeit partly due to a small sample size. Okeke is a key factor for this team, though. His 3.5 BPG is pretty outstanding, and he actually gets more minutes per game than Price does. He's the team's leading rebounder, and his 60.6% FG% easily outclasses Price's. Kelsey likes to utilize Price's height in the starting line-up though.


What To Watch For

  • Trend Breaking. Avery Johnson has only been the head man here at the Capstone for eight total games, and already he's broken several terrible trends that plagued the program during Anthony Grant's tenure. For one, this team has been able to win games on the road. The previous six years saw Alabama become one of the worst road teams in the country. The Tide had one of the largest home-to-road winning percentage discrepancies in all of college basketball. Part of the reason why Alabama struggled so much to win on the road was because they could not find ways to make the clutch plays when they needed to. That's another old habit that Johnson is putting to rest. The Tide have won the last four games by a combined nine points, including the big one point win in Greenville on Saturday, where Shannon Hale picked off an inbounds play and took it the length of the court for the decisive basket.
  • Offensive Rhythm. The Crimson Tide offense still has its fair share of issues with scoring, but it's not because of a schematic disadvantage anymore. Even during the seven minute stretch on Sunday where the Tide failed to make a field goal, the team was getting a lot of good looks. They just couldn't knock down the shots. The off-ball movement has greatly improved, and there have been a number of great passes from Retin Obasohan and Justin Coleman that have led to successful trips.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Limit Johnson and Gavin. Winthrop is at their best when Johnson and Gavin are knocking down shots, especially on the perimeter. The Eagles have been pretty good offensively, but that mostly stems from those two guys. The only other consistent scorers on the team are Cooks and Okeke, and they are not nearly as dangerous as the two guards. Bama could have really used Ingram's size advantage to shut down the smaller Johnson, but Coleman and Obasohan are both very capable defenders. Limit those two players, and Winthrop's offense won't have much else to show for.
  2. Win the Foul Battle. There are two separate reasons why coming out on the right side of the foul margin will be crucial for Alabama. For one, Winthrop doesn't have many capable bodies. As a team that usually only goes three-deep off of the bench, fouls on the Eagles could really help swing the odds heavily in the Tide's direction, as Winthrop will have to start depending on players who aren't accustomed to these types of games to make plays. Also, the main driving force behind their offensive success has been how good they have been from the line. They rank 31st in the country at 74.6%. The last thing Alabama wants to do is send the Eagles to the line and let them get free shots.
  3. Rebound the Basketball. Alabama beat Clemson on Sunday night because they finally showed up and competed on the glass for rebounds. In fact, the Tide dominated this area against the Tigers. If the Crimson Tide can even come close to duplicating that performance (+14 in total rebounds, +12 in offensive boards), they should be able to cruise to a win in Tuscaloosa.
Avery Johnson and the guys will surely be relieved to finally play another game at home in the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum. Winthrop isn't a great team, but they are capable of pulling off the upset. Alabama's not really a team that can take any opponents lightly, as the talent level on this roster simply leaves a small margin for error. If the team comes out focused and ready to play in front of the home crowd, things should go according to plan.

The game will tip-off Wednesday at 8:00 PM CST and can be seen on the SEC Network.