Hello, friends and foes alike! With the football team enjoying its week off (as if that’s actually a thing), it’s time for RBR’s annual tradition of firing up some #hoopscontent ahead of what should be another
life-reducing exciting season of Alabama basketball! When we left off in March, the Crimson Tide had just ended an extremely up-and-down year by getting waxed by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was, well, a pretty pathetic ending to a season where Alabama beat three-quarters of the 2021 Final Four participants and peaked at #6 in the AP Poll in December.
Much has changed in the seven months that have followed. Nate Oats and company completely revamped the roster, the Tide took a trip to Europe, SEC Media Day took place, etc. There has also been a nice change-up from previous off-seasons as well - no one on the team has suffered a season ending injury yet. I am almost certainly going to regret typing that out.
Anyway! This article will be the first of a few in our 2022-23 season preview series leading up to the opener on Monday, November 7th against the Longwood Lancers. This will mostly be a recap of what’s happened this offseason, with a bit of a lookahead to this season based on some preliminary analysis of the team. Let’s get into it!
Revamping the Roster
Nate Oats has certainly not hidden the fact that last year’s team wasn’t exactly his favorite group of players:
Nate Oats to @TheFieldOf68: "We had guys last year that played with the sole purpose of improving their draft stock. If your whole reason for being at Alabama is improving your draft stock, it’s going to go backwards. If you help us win games, your draft stock will go up.” https://t.co/0r39Ap9Ezi— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 27, 2022
Nate Oats' thoughts on last year's Crimson Tide defensive effort: "We weren't at all happy."— Joey Blackwell (@BlackwellSports) July 29, 2022
"We really got to make sure that everybody is bought into whatever they can do to help the team win," Nate Oats said on the 'Hey Coach' show Thursday night. "I think we got a little off track with that last year."https://t.co/WVrjgCGI1J— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) August 19, 2022
The two biggest takeaways from last season's struggles, without any question, were defense and shooting. So, Oats and company hit the transfer portal and recruiting trail for exactly that. Guys that could meet at least two of three criteria - good size, can shoot, and willingly defend.
The 2022 recruiting class is one of the highest rated in Tide Hoops history. Ranked fifth in the country on 247’s composite team rankings, the class includes a pair of McDonald’s All Americans, two more four-stars, and a highly rated JUCO prospect. It is made up of a 6’3 point guard, a 6’5 off-guard, a pair of 6’9 bigs, and a 6’8 wing. Alabama’s lack of size really hurt them on the defensive end last year - that won’t be an issue in 2023. Here’s a breakout of the new recruits (and links to more detailed write-ups):
- 6’8 5-Star Wing and McDonald’s All-American Brandon Miller
- 6’3 5-Star Point and McDonald’s All-American Jaden Bradley
- 6’5 4-Star Guard Rylan Griffin
- 6’9 4-Star Post Noah Clowney
- 6’9 3-Star Post and Top 5 JUCO Nick Pringle
Oats and staff weren’t done there though. With eight scholarship players leaving the program from the 2022 team, Oats had space to add a few transfers to the mix as well:
Both transfer guards are tried-and-true shooters. Sears shot 40.8% from three at Ohio last season and Welch was a career 37.4% three-point shooter on 687 attempts. Welch really meets the Nate Oats archetype extremely well - in fact, Oats recruited him out of high school when he was at Buffalo. The only reason he might not start immediately for Alabama is because the Tide will also be getting 6’5 swingman and former five-star, Nimari Burnett, back after his ACL tear last October.
This year’s squad is going to look a whole lot more like the kind of team that Oats likes to deploy.
2023 and Beyond: Working the Trails
In addition to the loaded 2022 class, Oats and his ace recruiting team - highlighted by Bryan Hodgson, Antoine Pettway, and Charlie Henry - are already building out another stellar 2023 class. A trio of four-stars and a home state three-star make up the 11th-rated class in the country, according to 247sports:
- 6’8 Four Star Stretch Forward Jake Walters
- 6’8 Four Star Post Mouhamed Dioubate
- 6’5 Four Star Guard Davin Cosby
- 6’3 Three Star Guard R.J. Johnson
With an extra scholarship available, Noah Gurley and Dom Welch running out of eligibility, Jahvon Quinerly’s expected departure, and a couple of potential one-and-dones, there is room for Oats to add to this class, as well.
Preseason Trials and Tribulations
So, enough about roster management, let’s talk about performance. The Crimson Tide spent a couple of weeks in August overseas visiting Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France. These overseas trips are so vital to building a program - not only do the players and coaches get to bond on an incredible trip to Europe, but the extra reps the team gets via practice and gametime are indispensable. The Tide was at full strength (minus Quinerly, who Oats recently said should be back sometime in December) as they took on Spain’s “Select Team”, Lithuania’s B-Team, and the Chinese National Team.
The former two match-ups were blowouts, as Alabama rolled Spain Select 108-64 and Lithuania’s B-Team 120-61. The final game with China, who - for all I could tell - was playing it’s actual 29th-ranked team in the world, was a much closer contest, but the Tide finished off the Euro sweep by besting the Chinese 89-77 (America!).
Now, it’s hard to glean too much from these international exhibition tours - especially when we apparently can’t even get someone to stream the games with their bloody phone - but here were some of the final stats:
Final Score:— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) August 8, 2022
Rylan Griffen - 19, 5 asts
Brandon Milller - 19, 6 rebs
Noah Clowney - 12, 6 stls
Dom Welch - 11, 3 treys
Nimari Burnett - 10 pts, 5 asts#RollTide | #BlueCollarBasketball pic.twitter.com/tOBxhSM4CN
Final Score: #Alabama 120, Lithuania 61— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) August 11, 2022
The Crimson Tide improve to 2-0 on the Foreign Tour with one more game remaining.
Miller - 28 pts
Burnett - 19 pts
Miles - 13 pts
Sears - 9 pts
Full recap and stats to come soon!#RollTide | #BlueCollarBasketball pic.twitter.com/WWuDektZkQ
Final stats from tonight's win⬇️— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) August 12, 2022
Miller - 21 pts, 5 rebs
Burnett - 13 pts, 4 rebs
Clowney - 11 pts, 10 rebs
Miles - 11 pts
Sears - 10 pts
Rebs: UA 47, CHN 36
Off Rebs: UA 23, CHN 10
FG%: 50% (22-of-44)
3FG%: 18.8% (6-of-32)
The number one takeaway from the foreign tour is this - Brandon Miller (aka David Diaz Herrero, as the stats book in Barcelona hilariously had him listed as) is that dude. I’m talking top-ten pick in next year’s NBA draft good. Our very own Roger Myers has said on multiple occasions watching him in practice that he is - and I quote - “the best player I’ve ever seen in Crimson”. And Roger’s been around for a while. He’s seen some damn good players come through Tuscaloosa.
Additionally, Nimari Burnett looks like he is going to be the team leader in hard hat awards this year. We really missed him last season, as he was exactly what the Tide was missing - a big guard who can defend multiple positions and create on offense. Another pleasant surprise was the emergence of Noah Clowney. The four-star big was apparently a beast in the post the whole trip on both ends of the court. Having a second true big to platoon with Charles Bediako would go a long way in 2023.
However, for all of the good vibes coming home from Europe, the Tide was brought back down to Earth in a major way a couple of weeks ago, as they got absolutely blasted by TCU 99-69 in their preseason scrimmage. You can find that box score here. Now, TCU is going to be a very good basketball team this year. They brought back everyone from last year’s squad that nearly knocked off top-seeded Arizona in the second round of the tournament. And Alabama was missing Burnett, Bediako, and - of course - Quinerly. But still, that’s an ugly score.
The larger concern for me is how the Tide lost. 7/28 from three with 22 turnovers while the other team shoots ~50% from both the perimeter and the field as a whole sounds a lot like last year’s team. Miller still dropped a 30-burger though. This guy is going to be a lot of fun this season. Let’s hope that performance in Fort Worth was a wake-up call and not an indicator of things to come.
Lastly, I wanted to take some time to note some preseason honors that have been bestowed upon the Tide in the past week:
The Crimson Tide was picked to finish 5th in the SEC at Media Day, behind Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Auburn. That’s absolutely fair and pretty hard to argue, honestly - the top of the SEC is going to be loaded in 2023. Much like last year, this team has a wide range of possible outcomes. If the guys are able to gel and Oats can get the rotation down in time for conference play, Alabama could win the SEC this season. The talent is absolutely there. However, if the Tide continues to struggle shooting and taking care of the ball, as well as on the defensive end, as it appears they did against TCU, it could be another really frustrating and disappointing year.
We will find out soon! Be on the lookout for more Tide Hoops content as the season nears.