Happy Friday, everyone. Most of the news today will be basketball stuff, but first check out this note about a strategy that undoubtedly left Eli looking for someone to Drinkwitz after the game.
“You could argue Mac Jones was the best quarterback in college football. You could argue Najee Harris was the best running back in college football. You could argue that Landon Dickerson and (Alex) Leatherwood are the best tackle and center in college football.”
The No. 1 focus, he said, was to make sure Jaylen Waddle didn’t get the ball. In order to keep it away from the electric receiver and - as always - try to contain the run - the Missouri coach made it a point to make Alabama’s second receiver beat the Tigers.
“I was like, ‘Hey, look guys, Jalen Waddle is what makes them go, alright? So we got to double Jaylen, and let DeVonta Smith beat us. OK? He’s kind of a nice piece out there, but man, we got to take Jaylen Waddle away.’”
This gives you some idea of just how underrated DeVonta was coming into the season, and why it was necessary for him to return. We are all thankful that he did. Sad thing for Drinkwitz is that, while Smitty did get his 8/89 in the opener, Waddle went off for 8/134/2 despite the extra attention. Sometimes you just don’t have any good options.
Moving on to hoops, there is some familiarity between the Alabama and UCLA squads who face off on Sunday.
“He’s 1-0 against me,” Oats said. “We lost that one at Buffalo. It was a tight game. His teams are tough. They’re hard-nosed, they get after it on defense and he definitely slows the game down a lot more than we do. We’re one of the fastest teams in the country, they’re one of the slowest teams. But they really value toughness, physicality, and he’s a really good coach. They’ve won a lot of games everywhere he’s been. His teams are some of the most intense, he’s an intense coach. We’ve got better defensively this year.
“I feel like we’re a lot tougher team this year than we were last year, so I don’t feel like they’re gonna come in and punk us out, if you will, like some of his teams have tried to do at Cincinnati or even what they’ve done to some teams this year at UCLA. But I do think we’ve gotta bring a toughness to the game. If you don’t match their toughness or establish the fact that you’re a tough team, it’s gonna be a long night for you.”
Jahvon Quinerly also knows a couple of the players from camps and workouts.
Hopefully the offense will keep rolling.
— Alabama’s had five games this year in which it had fewer than 10 turnovers. Four of those 5 games were in March. That includes the win over Maryland in which the Tide had nine turnovers.
— The 53.0 shooting percentage against Maryland was the third highest of the year. The other two were triple digit scoring nights — 64.3% and 115 points against Georgia and 55.9% and 105 points at LSU.
That nugget about the turnovers is very encouraging. Alabama has taken care of the ball as the importance of the games, and the quality of the competition, has increased. That should bode well for them.
SI has a nice piece on Nate Oats and Eric Musselman, and it should be no surprise that Oats has picked Saban’s brain.
Saban and Oats bonded immediately. In fact, the Hall of Fame football coach invited him to sit in meetings and he traveled with the team to the Tide’s 2019 season opener against Duke in Atlanta. Oats says opposing coaches at first used Alabama’s reputation as a pigskin powerhouse to recruit against him.
You don’t want to go there—all they care about is football.
“At the time we’d say yeah we are a football school. We’re really good,” Oats says. “Guess what? Football makes a lot of money. We spend more money for a student athlete here just about anywhere in the country.
“Now that we’re winning, people would have to be idiots to say, ‘Don’t go to Alabama—it’s a football school.’ Why can’t we be both?”
Nate is a bit cocky, but if you are going to create a basketball powerhouse in the shadow of the behemoth that is Alabama football, that is a required trait.
Last, Juwan Gary spoke about playing for his friend who died on the basketball court, following an epileptic seizure.
“I didn’t want to believe it, so I just didn’t really process it,” Gary says. “Over time I felt like I owed him more than that. I mean he had a condition and he played hard on every play. He literally was the guy who did whatever it took. I wanted to be that guy. I felt like that was the best way to honor him and make him live on.”
Gary’s new perspective came in handy when he got to Alabama last season and suffered a torn ACL before the season began. He sat out the entire season and received a medical redshirt.
“I thought about Jamo a lot last year,” Gary says. “He didn’t come back from his situation, but I knew I’d heal and be ready to go. Imagine me feeling sorry for myself. I just did what he would do. [I] worked hard and appreciated the fact that I could still play the game.
That new perspective is a healthy one. He has come out of nowhere to become in integral piece of one of the best basketball teams in the nation.
That’s about it for today.
Have a great weekend.