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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Stetson

Alabama looks to close out 2016 on a high note

NCAA Basketball: Stetson at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

As the end of December approaches and the calendar flips to 2017, the Alabama Crimson Tide athletics program will be quite busy. The football team will, of course, participate in their third straight College Football Playoff with a semifinal match-up with the Washington Huskies on New Year’s Eve, but the basketball team will also be gearing up for an important stretch of their season, as conference play begins on January 3rd against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

SEC play as a whole will actually tip-off Thursday night, as there are five conference games slated for an early start to the SEC season. However, Alabama will be wrapping up their non-conference play tonight, as the Stetson Hatters (6-8) come to Tuscaloosa. This should be one last tune-up to get things right before conference play and help shake some rust off after the holiday break.

The Roster

Starting Line-Up

  • PG 5’8 Angel Rivera (9.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • SG 5’11 Divine Myles (16.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • OG 6’5 Luke Doyle (11.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.4 APG)
  • WF 6’7 Derick Newton (16.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG)
  • C 6’9 Larry Dennis (3.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.7 BPG)

As with most of the mid-major teams that Alabama has faced this season, the Hatters are smaller and depend on their quickness and fast-pace to beat opponents. Rivera is a little guy (listed at 160 lbs. to go along with that 5’8 frame), but his passing is quite good and he is averaging nearly three assists to every turnover this season. He’s certainly not a high-volume scorer, but his 46.9% FG% and 79.5% FT% show that he is efficient. Myles and Doyle join him in the back-court. Myles is a pure shooter, scoring at a 53.5% clip from the field overall and 47.1% from beyond the arc. He and Rivera both play over 33.0 minutes per game, and the Hatters make it a priority to have these two on the ball often. Doyle plays off-ball, and there is likely a reason for it. He’s an average player in nearly every regard, but he is well-rounded and doesn’t make many mistakes, as he averages less than a turnover a game.

In the front-court, Dennis gets the nod as the starting center, but he hasn’t made much of an impact thus far this year. He only plays about 12.0 MPG, scores at a 41.1% rate, shoots a ghastly 34.8% from the line, and fouls a bunch. But he’s the most experienced big-man on the roster, so he’s a valuable piece to this team. Newton actually attempts more shots a game than anybody on the team. He plays inside and out, allowing him to stretch the floor (43.4% 3P%) and attack the basket off of the dribble (43.4% FG%). He’s also an 82.2% free throw shooter, so it would be best to keep the ball away from him.

The Bench

  • G 6’4 B.J. Glasford (6.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.7 APG. 0.9 SPG)
  • F 6’5 Leo Goodman (5.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG)
  • F 6’7 Brian Pegg (6.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG)
  • F 6’8 Clay Verk (3.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
  • C 6’9 Kevin Ndahiro (1.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG)

Stetson has a decent amount of depth, at least from a quantitative standpoint. Pegg is the 6th man and is one of the better players on the team. The lone senior missed the first nine games of the season, so it is reasonable to assume that they are still increasing his workload as conference play rolls around. Pegg is shooting 51.9% from the field, but his current 28.6% FT% is downright abhorrent.

Verk and Ndahiro add some much needed bigger bodies in the post to aid Dennis, but like Dennis, neither has much of an effect on the game’s outcome. This is very much a team driven by their guard and wing play.

What to Watch For

  • Who Will Suit Up? Senior leader Corban Collins missed the last game against Arkansas State in Huntsville and wing forward Nick King has been out with an illness for quite some time now. Collins suffered a groin injury and may be good to go now after a couple of weeks of rest. King was originally expected to be out until at least January, but there haven’t been many updates on his health status lately. Avery Johnson usually keeps news on injuries pretty close to the chest, but I’ll venture a guess that neither plays against Stetson on Thursday.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Extend the Defense. Stetson runs their offense almost entirely through their guards, especially Rivera and Myles. Both guys are under six feet tall, which makes it difficult for either one of them to score much in the lane. Rivera thrives off of passes to his fellow back-court members and Myles is a pure jump-shooter, so it would behoove the Tide to get out on both of these guys and make sure they aren’t comfortable.
  2. Attack the Basket. As was the case against Arkansas State, Alabama should be able to score at will if they can get to the rim. Stetson has a few more true post players than the Red Wolves had, but they haven’t been very good defensively this season (average DRtg: 106.2), and they foul a ton. Dennis fouls about once every four minutes of game time, Verk fouls about once every six minutes, and Ndahiro fouls about once every three minutes. Overall, Stetson is one of the worst defensive teams in college basketball this season (328th in Adjusted Defense, according to Kenpom), so really any semblance of an offense should find success.
  3. Dominate the Glass. Alabama honestly shouldn’t have any issues on the rebounding front in this game. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t. The Tide gave up 17 offensive rebounds to Arkansas State last week, which was about the only category that allowed the Red Wolves to hang around at all. There is no reason Alabama shouldn’t be +10 in the rebounding margin against a team like Stetson. Clean up the glass and box out, Bama.

Stetson is arguably the worst basketball team Alabama has faced or will face this season. Their Kenpom ranking is currently 301, just slightly ahead of 309th Charleston Southern, who the Tide handled 76-46 earlier this season. With a critical game in Starkville against a similarly young team next Tuesday night in the conference opener, Alabama needs a strong performance tonight to get some momentum rolling.

The game will tip-off at 7:00 PM CST and can be streamed on ESPN3.