Not even the most wildly optimistic Gump imagined we’d be where we are now: Watching a 9-1 Alabama team ranked No. 4 in the country with wins over UNC, Michigan State, Memphis, and Houston — with just Gonzaga left to complete the Amen Corner of a brutal December.
Despite having 9 new players on the roster, and laden with freshmen starters and key contributors, this team doesn’t look as young as they are; they certainly don’t play like a team trying to develop chemistry. This squad actually looks what we expected ‘Bama would last year: an aggressive team that knocks down shots and can stand toe-to-toe with anyone. It looks the part of a team where its best players are coming off an Elite 8 appearance, not the AAU circuits.
What’s the formula? Versatility. There’s no one phase of the Tide’s game that you can neutralize and say “that is how we win.”
Let’s take a look, shall we?
- Part of that success has been leadership: both on the court (Mark Sears), and in the locker room (Javon Quinerly).
- Part of it is has been bringing in upgrades and key starters at positions of need (Noah Clowney)
- Part of it is a mostly healthier team. Sadly, Alabama will be without its best defender until February, as Nimari Burnett recovers from surgery on his non-shooting arm; and Dom Welch is still day-to-day. But on the whole, through a third of the schedule, the Tide has been remarkably healthy. That is a first under Oats, certainly.
- Part of it has been an outstanding commitment to team defense, where Alabama has improved its effective field goal defense by over 20% (even after last night’s second-half deluge, ‘Bama is still 7th in the country).
- Part of it is that the Tide is distributing the ball better (17.0 assists per game vs. 14.7 last season).
- Part of it simply shooting better this year (48.1% vs. 42.4% last season).
- A large part has been a commitment to crash the boards — the Crimson Tide have improved over last year’s numbers by an ungodly 35%. UA is No. 1 in the country in total rebounds, and at 48.8 RPG, no one else is even close.
- A lot has to do with Alabama putting back its misses, where Alabama averages 12 put-backs per contest.
- A beefier frontcourt has made Alabama a sheer terror in the paint: Alabama is 5th in the nation at 6.1 blocks per game.
- Alabama is even shooting better overall from the perimeter. Nate Oats “can live with 35-36%” — Alabama is at 34.9% from beyond the arc (a 15% improvement from last season).
- Alabama’s aggression has also resulted in forcing a ton of fouls. UA is7th in the country in drawing fouls — 22.0 per game.
- Similarly, that means UA is getting to the stripe a bunch. The Crimson Tide are 10th in the nation in FTA per game — 26.2. That’s an extra free 18 points a tilt for the Tide.
And all of this has resulted in the Tide sitting at 10th in the nation in total scoring, with each game bringing a new hero. Whether it’s Mark Sears keeping everyone on point, Q coming in to knock down some clutch jumpers, Clowney wrecking the post for 12 minute stretches, Angry Chuck completely shutting down the interior, or Brandon Miller closing out a half, who do you stop on this team? And, if even if you are successful there, can you do it for the other dozen guys, and the myriad of other ways that Alabama can hurt you?
And while this team is mortal, the versatility and a grizzled group that has been through the fire already, are going to make for a helluva’ out when March rolls.
“Why not us” is a very real thing. Alabama is not doing this with smoke and mirrors. It is doing it with talent, mental toughness, and all-around outstanding basketball...most of the time. UConn had the recipe, for sure. Play a near-perfect 10 minutes, matching all of the things ‘Bama does well, and then exceeding them. But that 10 minute stretch where UConn laid waste to the Tide, and Tuesday night’s gruesome final 9 minutes against Memphis, have and hopefully will continue to be been teaching moments.
Let’s carry all that over to Gonzaga this weekend, then get focused for the SEC. There are a lot of conference teams out there owed an ass-whooping.
Here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers 25% through the 2022-2023 season.
- Ranking: AP 4 (LW 8) / Coaches 5 (LW 11)
- RPI: 9 (LW 19th)
- SOS: 17th (LW 24th)
- KenPom: 10th (LW 14), 16th adj. offense (LW 22), 15th adj. defense (LW 17)
- Sagarin: 11th (LW 14th)
- Bart Torvik: 12th (LW 19th); 12th adj. offense (LW 19th); 14th adj. defense (LW 17th)
- True Tempo: 7th overall — 73.7 adj. possessions per game
- Offense PPG: 83 PPG
- Defense PPG: 70.2 PPG
- NET ranking: 5th (LW 7th)
- Projected Brackets: Lunardi — 1st West (LW 3rd East); TR 1-seed
What new player has had the greatest impact on the Tide’s early season fortunes
This poll is closed