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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Coastal Carolina

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The 2016-17 season begins with an incredible amount of momentum

NCAA Basketball: Coastal Carolina at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. It’s been stated here before, but Avery Johnson was a slam dunk, home run hire. Fresh off of a pleasantly surprising first season in Tuscaloosa, Avery rolls into his second year at the Capstone with more momentum than the Alabama basketball program has seen in a long time. The talent level has already been raised to levels Alabama fans haven’t seen in years, and now Coach Avery has secured the commitments of two of the best high school basketball players in the country. It’s an incredible time to be a ‘Bama hoops fan. Heck, there wasn’t even a need to go with the usual “Hey y’all, it’s basketball season, look over here!” headline for this article. The excitement in Tuscaloosa is palpable.

With all of that being said, the 2016-17 season is officially underway, and this year’s group is one full of talent and, for the first time in nearly a decade, depth. The Crimson Tide will be welcoming the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers to Coleman Coliseum. The Chanticleers are led by Cliff Ellis, a name that should sound familiar to Alabama fans. Ellis was the coach of the Auburn Tigers from 1994-2004, and was a royal pain for Alabama, as Auburn was a very good program under Ellis, making the NCAA Tournament three times under his watch (they even won the SEC and captured a #1 seed in 1999). The Tigers have yet to recover from his firing, as they have finished with a winning record only twice since then.

Ellis holds school records for wins at both South Alabama and Clemson, and is the second winningest coach in Auburn’s history as well. He is 20th on the all-time wins list in NCAA Division 1 history, and has won 150+ games at all four of the schools he has coached. He is not to be taken lightly.

In fact, Coastal Carolina has won the Big South and made the NCAA Tournament two of the past three seasons, and with three returning starters and a ton of experience in the back-court, the Chants will provide this young Alabama team with a pretty stiff test in their home opener.

The Roster

Starting Line-up

  • PG 5’11 Shivaughn Wiggins (12.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 SPG)
  • OG 6’0 Jaylin Shaw (11.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.8 SPG)
  • 3G 6’4 Elijah Wilson (13.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.8 SPG)
  • WF 6’5 Colton Ray-St Cyr (8.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG)
  • PF 6’9 Kevin Holmes (2.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.5 BPG)

*All stats are from the 2015-16 season

As mentioned previously, the Chanticleers have a pretty stout back-court. All three returning guards averaged double figures in scoring, and they can all handle the ball as well as play some solid defense. They are all good shooters (Wiggins: 44.0% FG%, 37.5% 3P%; Shaw: 47.7% FG%, 39.8% 3P%; Wilson: 39.2% FG%, 36.0% 3P%). Wilson is the high-volume shooter, attempting 12.0 FGAs per game while dishing out only about one assist per game. The Tide will need to extend the defense and stay out on top of these three defensively.

As strong as the back-court is for the Chants, the front-court is severely lacking in a lot of areas. For one, they lost their top four guys from last season, and it’s really still to be determined as to who will fill that void. Expect to see a lot of small-ball line-ups Friday night as Ellis will likely look to his upperclassman to make something happen. Ray-St Cyr, who has one of the best names in basketball, will try to make his presence felt around the post, but he isn’t very tall and is really a wing player. Holmes was a true freshman that only averaged 10.7 MPG last season, so it’s really tough to get a good read on his ability.

The Bench

  • G 6’3 Christian Adams (1.6 PPG, 0.5 RPG)
  • F 6’6 Michel Enanga (5.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.5 APG)
  • G 6’1 Jaylan Robertson (14.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG)**
  • F 6’8 Demario Beck (11.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG)**
  • F 6’9 Joseph Williams-Powell (11.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG)**
  • C 6’9 Josh Coleman (0.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG)

*All stats are from the 2015-16 season

**JUCO stats

With the departure of their top four post players, Ellis looked to the Junior College ranks to bring in some much needed experience in Beck and Williams-Powell. It remains to be seen how large of a role either will play this season, as well as with Robertson. Adams brings a ton of experience himself, and Enanga is a versatile player who may end up being the most important guy on the roster due to his ability to play out on the wing as well as in the post. Coleman led the team in RB% last season at 21.4%, though that was in a very limited role.

What To Watch For

  • New Faces. There are always a number of new faces at the start of every college basketball season, but Alabama is taking it to a new level in 2016. How does Dazon Ingram look after his foot fracture from last season? How effectively can Corban Collins lead this team in his one season in crimson and white? Is Ar’Mond Davis anywhere near as good of a shooter in live-action as he is on Instagram? Can Nick King and Braxton Key be the kind of stretch forwards that will lead to mismatches on both ends of the court? Can Bola Olaniyan help cure what ails the Tide on the boards? It will be interesting to say the least.
  • Who Handles the Rock? Alabama has had issues at the point position ever since Trevor Releford graduated after the 2014 season. Assuming true point guard Avery Johnson Jr. gets involved in that position off of the bench, who else will handle the basketball offensively? Ingram was the starting point guard last season, and he should regain that role this year, but he had a number of turnovers in the brief time period that he was playing last season. Avery has said that Collins will see a lot of the basketball as the leader of the team, and that Key will play plenty of point forward this year as well.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Take it to the Rim. As highlighted in the roster breakdown, Coastal Carolina is small and thin in the front-court. Alabama is starting a 6’5 point guard. The Tide’s height should be their largest (boo) advantage. With a bevy of slashers in Ingram, King, and Key and near-seven-footers like Jimmie Taylor and Donta Hall in the post, the Tide need to get the ball up around the rim, because the Chants won’t exactly be shot-swatters this season.
  2. Extend the Defense. Coastal does have really good guard play though. ‘Bama’s guards will need to get out on the perimeter and force dribble penetration, because unlike Cliff Ellis’s squad, the Tide are adept at protecting the rim.
  3. Gel. When you have as many new faces as Alabama does this season, it takes some time to get team chemistry down. Coastal Carolina is a really tricky opening opponent because they are well coached and they have a bunch of veteran guards who can take advantage of miscommunication from their opposition. Collins could be the difference here, as his experience could dictate how the Tide controls the flow of the game.

It is an incredibly exciting time to be an Alabama basketball fan. Avery Johnson has done an incredible job so far in his short tenure in Tuscaloosa, and the future is looking really bright. However, the present isn’t looking too shabby either, as this year’s team should make some real noise in the SEC.

If you are making the trip to Tuscaloosa for the early football game, might as well come out 12 hours earlier and jump on the ‘Bama Basketball Bandwagon before it really gets rolling. Anyone who can’t make it can catch the game on the SEC Network alternate channel at 8:00 PM CST.