This is the Alabama basketball we were promised: Gritty defense, hustle on both ends of the floor, analytic-friendly perimeter-oriented wing players heaving it up at will, scoreboards igniting, and Crimson Tide hoops not being merely relevant, but a legitimate threat.
And there are few teams as hot in the nation as the soaring Alabama Crimson Tide, led by a man I would take a bullet for, second-year coach Nate Oats.
After a rocky start, Alabama is in sole possession of first-place in the SEC and remains the conference’s only undefeated. The Tide have body-slammed Florida, gotten their first win over a top 10 road team in almost 20 years, beaten Kentucky for just the fourth time in two decades — along the way, handing the Wildcats their third-worst home loss ever, and broken the six-year curse of Auburn Arena.
Sitting at 10-3 (No. 24 in the Coaches Poll, No, 26 in the AP), the Tide jumped an ungodly 5 spots in the NET rankings in just six days, climbing all the way to No. 24. ‘
Its losses are looking far more respectable too: Stanford is in second place in the P12 and up to No. 40, Clemson is a beast sitting at No. 15 in the NET rankings, and even WKY’s surging play has gotten them back in the Top 100.
In short: there may be some losses we’d like to have back, but there haven’t been the truly bad ones — such listless slogs to teams outside the Top 100 being long a feature of Alabama basketball.
This is also an exceptionally balanced team too, far better than last year’s squad...or became one once they found their way. Per KenPom, ‘Bama sits at 20th overall, and is 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 28th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Alabama is in the top 10% in scoring, right at 80 PPG; moreover, they’ve improved their offensive output every single week. This is despite the fact that perimeter shots only account for 30% of the Tide’s scoring (down from last year’s 32.9%). Better ball movement, Jordan Bruner, and a deeper rotation are paying dividends.
Perhaps the best part? Among the KenPom Top 20, Alabama has faced the fourth-toughest schedule to-date as well. Nate’s guys aren’t doing this against scrubs.
The loss of Herb for a few games will hurt the Tide, no doubt. He’s the team’s MVP. But the loss of Bruner will perhaps be the biggest impediment to ‘Bama’s overall play. He’s the reason for the substantial improvement over November hoops and certainly over 2019. Hope for the best for both of those guys, and while nothing lasts forever, the very worst of Bama’s nasty 6-game swing is mostly over.
Next man up, grab your hard hats on the way to the NCAA tournament — that rematch with Stanford may just be looming after all for the 6-seed Tide.