If asked to name the best player on the Alabama basketball team, I’ve a suspicion that most of fans would say Brandon Miller. That’s fair: he’s certainly the most talented, and has already been touted as the best Alabama player to ever wear a crimson jersey after a mere half-dozen games. (The funny part is, that’s likely not even an exaggeration).
Perhaps you’d point to Mark Sears, who has come in and made an instant difference in the backcourt — his shooting stroke has been consistent, he distributes the ball, he fights for boards, and he is high energy on every possession.
But if I asked who’s made the biggest difference? I wonder how many know the actual answer — It’s not who you think.
If you want to see the biggest contributor to No. 11 Alabama’s early season success, think bigger, lower, and far less of a superstar — someone who does the dirty work: Charles Bediako, lovingly nicknamed “Angry Chuck” by fans for his thunder dunks and scowling demeanor
You wouldn’t think that either, not just from a quick look at his stat line. The numbers scream “role player” rather than “essential player” — 8.2 rebounds per game, 5.8 points per game, to go with about 1 assist and about 1 block.
But there are lies, damn lies, and then face-value statistics.
After intermittent injuries and growing pains, the 7-footer is blossoming into what the Tide has been missing since Jamychal Green’s departure almost a decade ago: a difference-maker in the paint. And his contribution is primarily felt with Nate Oats’ calling card: defense.
According to Evans Miya’s Bayesian analysis, Bediako is the No. 9 overall player in BPR performance: He’s a pedestrian 50th or so in offense (still, not shabby for a sport with 2400 players). But on defense, he has been a revelation, checking in as the No. 6 overall defender.
When he is on the floor, per 100 possessions, Alabama is netting 25.8 more points than their opponents. The last ‘Bama player even close to making that kind of contribution? Herb Jones, in his SEC MVP season, when Jones was the No. 14 overall player and had a +/- of 24.0 P/100.
That’s correct: through the early part of the season, Charles Bediako is having more of an impact on a per-possession basis than even Herb Jones.
And Charles’ contribution to ‘Bama’s overall lineup strength takes the Tide from a respectable 32nd in the country, all the way into elite top 5% territory: the 13th best overall roster. That has helped key Alabama to the No. 3 team in the country in opponent-adjusted double-digit runs, and really does give truth to what Nate Oats has long-said: three-point shooting will determine how much we win by; defense will determine whether we win or lose.
The offense is going to be there (and is there again this year). The difference is the defense is there as well. It begins in the post, and it’s especially starting with Angry Chuck. And fueled by Bediako’s defense, the Tide’s tempo has improved, big runs are happening a lot more often, and Alabama’s scoring is up almost 6% vs last season, while scoring allowed has plummeted 13.5% — from 76.8 PPG allowed to 68.0 PPG
That is an impact, my friends.
Here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers. NB: Some of these numbers are skewed by a four-overtime game by the No 1 team in the country where both squads hit triple digits on one hand; and on the other, by UConn running it up late when the PKI second-rounder had gotten out of hand.
Removing PKI results against two elite teams, and Alabama is about where most of the other Top 25 teams reside with a comparable strength of schedule: inside the Top 30 or so on offense and defense.
- Ranking: AP 11 (LW 18) / Coaches 14 (LW 18)
- RPI: 14th (LW 63rd)
- SOS: 7th (LW 17th)
- KenPom: 14th (LW 12), 18th offense (LW 17), 17th defense (LW 12)
- Sagarin: 15th (LW 10th)
- Bart Torvik: 18th (LW 19); 37th adj. offense (LW 37); 15th adj. defense (LW 16)
- True Tempo: 7th overall — 74.5 possessions per game; 9th per 100 possessions (Ed. note: This ranks second in the country among major conference teams, behind only breakneck Arizona).
- Offense PPG: 24th (84.5 PPG)
- Defense PPG: 139th (68.0 PPG)
- Projected NET ranking: 8th (LW 16th); ELO 10 (LW 17)
- Projected Brackets: Lunardi — 5th Seed Midwest (LW 6 Seed West); TR — 23.3% of 1-seed; Projected: 3-seed; 64.1% Final Four; 20.9% chance of winning tournament
Who has been Alabama’s MVP through the early season?
This poll is closed