We conclude our preseason basketball roundup with the editors and hoops staff of Roll ‘Bama Roll. Part One is here, if you haven’t checked that out yet.
5. Alabama was 327th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Do you see that improving this season and why (or why not)?
CB: Here I go with (Corban) Collins again but he had a 2.5 assist to turnover ratio last season at Morehead State. We never got to see a full season of Ingram but I have to think he will be an improvement. Avery Jr. is a coach's kid. You know he is going to be disciplined.
PS: Absolutely. For one, it's nearly impossible to get any worse. This team should move the ball much better in transition than last year's group did, and as noted above, the additions of Collins and Avery Jr. should go a long way in this regard. Also, Alabama shouldn't have to play two bigs at the same time as much as they did last season, which should make it much easier to flow on offense. But this is definitely something to keep an eye on, as the Tide must improve in this area if they want to contend for an NCAA Tournament spot.
JC: It certainly needs to. With the three guards mentioned above, one should expect the Tide to be able to take care of the basketball.
BT: I think it will improve. As good as Retin Obasohan was, he instilled a bit of a reckless nature into the entire team with his “bull-in-a-china-shop” style of play. With Collins, Ingram, Avery Johnson Jr., and Ar’Mond Davis, the Tide sports a solid group of players with no record of being turnover machines.
RPM: Yes, I do see this improving, because of the number of guys that can handle the ball. As much as I love Retin, he would get out of control at times which lead to a lot of turnovers.
6. Roll 'Bama Roll will have a story on the Tide's incoming players prior to the season, but which entering player must have success for the Tide to have the success Johnson envisions?
CB: Ar'Mond Davis is going to be relied on for his three-point shooting. Arthur Edwards and Retin Obasohan were the top two Tide shooters from beyond the arc last season and they have graduated.
PS: Most of them really, but I'll go with Ar'Mond Davis. If he can be the lights-out shooter that many expect him to be, this offense can explode. Collins is a known quantity as a solid three-point shooter, but if Davis can join him in stretching the defense with his long game, that will open up the court for the plethora of slashers that Alabama has.
JC: Nick King. He is going to be counted on to be something of a star.
BT: Braxton Key was the biggest win of this recruiting class, and will instantly be the most talented player on the team behind Dazon Ingram. While Jimmie Taylor and Donta Hall have been excellent defensive big men, they have offered very little on offense (though Hall started to show a little bit toward the end of last season). Without a dominant player in the post, this will never be a potent offense. The 6’8” Braxton Key averaged 20.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during his senior year of high school. Braxton will be the… ahem… key to this offense going forward. [Ed. Note: Boooooo]
RPM: It would be easy to say Braxton Key, but Bola Olaniyan, the graduate transfer, will bring rebounding and tenaciousness that has been lacking. Rebounding and turnovers were two major weakness of the 2015-16 Tide team. Olaniyan is only about 6’7”, but is jacked, and has a nose for the ball.
7. This year's out-of-conference schedule features some nice games, but it doesn't look quite as daunting as last year's slate. What non-conference matchup is the most important for Alabama in terms of the immediate goal of reaching the Tournament as well as a measuring stick for the program's progress?
PS: Alabama has been pretty darn good at winning games in Coleman Coliseum, even during the worst of the Anthony Grant era. Where they have been struggling has been on the road. They say defense travels, but it never seemed to help Alabama out much on the hardwood. With that in mind, I will say one of the two true road games: Texas or Oregon. Seeing as Oregon should be a top-ten team, let's go with Texas. If Alabama wants to be taken seriously by the NCAA Selection Committee, they need to show they can beat a quality opponent on the road.
CB: All of them really! But one game in particular I would like to see the Tide win is against Dayton. The Flyers are one of those mid-major darlings that the national media fawns over and they have risen to this place of respectability on the backs of teams like Alabama. The Crimson Tide has lost to Dayton three straight times in 2011, 20112, and 2015. It won't be easy because the Flyers are expected to be good again this year.
JC: I'm interested to see how they do against Dayton, since the Millers have had our number.
BT: Dayton, on November 15th, will be a huge test. Last year, Alabama entered with unreal expectations for the new coach and some promise showing in the first couple of games before Dayton brought the entire fanbase back to earth with an old-school beat down. If the Tide can make it a game this time, that will be a good sign. A win would do wonders for the team’s confidence.
RPM: The Dayton Flyers will be an early measuring stick, and Bama owes them for the past few seasons.
8. In the SEC, Kentucky is again the team to beat. While it's premature to expect Alabama to keep pace with the juggernaut just yet, what is a realistic expectation for this team in season two?
CB: Last season, the SEC earned only three bids: Kentucky, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Overall, the league is improved, but maybe none more so than Alabama. I see this team finishing around sixth or seventh in the SEC. They should have a good chance at making the NCAA tournament with a 50-50 shot at winning the first round.
PS: Alabama should be an improved team, even with the losses of Obasohan, Coleman, and Arthur Edwards. The talent level and depth on this year's team is much higher. The baseline expectation is a competitive showing in non-conference play, a .500 record in conference play, and a return to the NIT. But as I alluded to in my preview article the other day, I think this team could really shock people.
JC: Expectation should be above .500 in conference play while hoping for a 12-6 record and requisite tournament berth.
BT: I think we’ll see some improvement from last year, but overall a similar performance. Somewhere in the range of 20-23 total wins, and just on the cusp of being either in the NCAA tournament or at the top of the NIT.
RPM: At media days the Tide was picked to finish 7th, which would be an improvement, and should be NCAA Tournament worthy if the league improves overall.
9. Final observations?
CB: There are no aspects of the previous administration that are better than what Coach Johnson has built in the last 18 months. Everything from fan enthusiasm to recruiting to conditioning has improved. Even the schedule is a little kinder to the Crimson Tide this year. They have only one meeting with Kentucky, Florida, Vandy and Ole Miss and they are all at home. The profile of the program is on the rise. With that comes better recruits. Alabama is looking like the favorite to land 5-star guard Collin Sexton. For the first time in several seasons, the Tide has real depth at every position with several players able to play different positions.
PS: Alabama should be a better team in 2016-17. At the very least they will be a much more fun team to watch. There are a lot of unknowns due to the make-up of the roster, but the potential answers to the team's question marks are very exciting. A return to post-season play is expected, but count me as someone who thinks it might not be the NIT this year. Pencil me in for 20-10 (11-7 SEC) and a return to the NCAA Tournament in Year 2 of the Avery Johnson Era.
JC: Avery has certainly exceeded expectations on the recruiting trail and seems to have the program headed in the right direction. If he can take a step forward this year then bring in at least one of John Petty or Sexton while holding on to all of the current commits, the team could be a legitimate contender to make a deep tourney run in 2017-18.
BT: Avery Johnson is turning this program around. Alabama is in contention for some of the biggest names in recruiting, and players are taking notice. This year should show some promise, but the next recruiting class could end up being legendary. I expect some really great things in year three, and even better in year four for Coach AJ.
RPM: As always, I am optimistic. The team seems to have great chemistry, and there are so many guys that are versatile and can play multiple positions. The depth (barring injury) will allow Johnson to play his uptempo style. Twelve guys should get meaningful minutes. If Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale finally just scratch their potenial, and Donta Hall takes a big step forward, I can see the Tide being a factor in the upper portion of the SEC and a worthy NCAA entry. Of course Kentucky is the standard, much like Alabama in football, but Bama should be competitive and has a chance to do damage.
Recruiting is going well with the three early commits, but Colin Sexton and/or John Petty would put the whipped cream and cherry on top, and help put Alabama in the national spotlight and a contender to go far in 2018. As stated earlier, it is time to finish on some of the elite national guys. Once Avery gets one, hopefully the dam will break and many will follow in the years to come. Also, Johnson will continue to utilize the graduate transfer rule to fill in holes in the roster. Things are about to get exciting in Tuscaloosa, so Roll Tide and Buckle Up!