It’s finally here: the debut of the much-hyped Nate Oats Era in Tuscaloosa, as the Alabama Crimson Tide welcome in the Penn Quakers for an opening night tip-off. The Tide have made an effort in recent years to schedule well in the non-conference portion of the season, and tonight’s match-up is no different. The Quakers are two years removed from giving top-seeded Kansas hell in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and were projected to win the Ivy League again last year before an injury to star guard Ryan Betley derailed their season. The Quakers still went on to finish a respectable 19-12 (7-7 Ivy), good enough for 4th in the conference.
Now Betley is back, along with a trio of returning starters from last season. Oats’ squad will have their hands full with the Ivy League co-favorites, but this will be a great opportunity to see if the new-look Tide can handle a well-coached, veteran team.
POINT 6’3 Jordan Dingle (4-star True Freshman)
GUARD 6’0 Devon Goodman (13.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG)
GUARD 6’4 Bryce Washington (7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 APG)
GUARD 6’5 Ryan Betley (14.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG)*
POST 6’8 A.J. Brodeur (17.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG)
*Denotes 2017-18 stats
A quick glance at their roster shows that the projected starting five for Penn includes two Ivy League Player of the Year candidates in Betley and Brodeur, a pair of returning starters, and a 4-star true freshman. So, yeah, this team can play. As a lot of Ivy League schools are known to do, they’ll run their offense through their lone post player in Brodeur, who is excellent in many areas of the game. He can score (52.8%/34.0%/57.6%), pass (26.3% AST%, which means that about one out of every four made shots while he is on the court is assisted by him), rebound (14.6% RB%), and defend (93.9 DRtg). This could be a huge match-up problem for the Tide, who lack quality and depth in the post.
The Quakers will surround Brodeur with a quarter of capable guards. Betley, as mentioned, is the best of them (42.3%/39.1%/77.0% shooting split, 6.9 AST%, 110.1 ORtg), but Goodman (47.7%/37.5%/67.9%) and Washington (41.1%/39.8%/82.9%) are highly-efficient scorers as well. Not much is known yet about how Dingle will perform at the college level, but head coach Steve Donahue is high on him. and many consider him the likely candidate for Freshman of the Year in the Ivy League.
GUARD 6’2 Ray Jerome (1.4 PPG, 0.7 RPG)
GUARD 6’5 Eddie Scott (1.3 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.6 APG)
WING 6’8 Jared Simmons (1.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.6 APG)
POST 6’10 Michael Wang (8.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.5 SPG)
As is often the case with most smaller schools, the two largest weaknesses for Penn will be size and depth. Wang is a key player for them in this regard, as he addresses both areas of concern. He’s an effective scorer who can stretch the floor (45.5%/31.0%/70.8%), but he is mostly used as a big body who can rebound (11.4% REB%) and defend (97.9 DRtg).
Three Keys to Victory
- Control the Tempo. Ivy League schools like Penn love to dissect defenses in the half-court, while attempting to limit possessions on defense. Whenever they play teams like Alabama, they want to win the game by being more efficient than their opponent is. With a well-coached, highly skilled squad like the one the Quakers have this year, you can bet that will be the plan of attack. Nate Oats’ new up-tempo pace will be put to the test immediately this season. If the Tide can control the tempo and push the ball up the court, they will negate a lot of Penn’s key advantages.
- Deny the Post. Pushing the pace will also hopefully prevent the Quakers from getting the ball nestled into Brodeur for them to run their multitude of inside-out sets from the paint. But when the do, Alabama needs to be the aggressors. Neither Galin Smith nor Javian Davis is quick enough to lock-up Brodeur in the post, so if the Quakers get this match-up often, expect ‘Bama to double. This could be the perfect opportunity for Herbert Jones to show off his defensive versatility though, as he’s likely the Tide’s best option to defend Brodeur.
- Clog Passing Lanes. Penn wants to kill teams with a thousand cuts; they will be passing the ball around the half-court on offense. If Alabama is able to successfully frustrate and limit Brodeur, the guards will take over for the Quakers. The Tide have got to use their advantage in length and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes and force turnovers, which will allow them to get out and running in transition the other way.
It is going to be a clash of styles tonight, which will make it a very interesting first test for the new-look Crimson Tide. Whichever team can dictate the pace of the game will prevail. Nate Oats has a lot of goodwill going for him right now, and the Tide faithful will certainly be patient while he rebuilds the program, but a win in his Alabama debut certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The game tips-off at 7:00 PM CST and can be found on SECN+, the ESPN app, or your local Crimson Tide Network radio affiliate.
Alabama’s starting five vs. Penn:
- Kira Lewis
- Jaden Shackelford
- John Petty
- Herbert Jones
- Galin Smith