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Points in the Paint: Alabama’s turnover bugaboo could pose a big problem against No. 1 Houston

Alabama can play the tempo game, but that success is predicated on turnovers. Therein lies the problem.

NCAA Basketball: Phil Knight Invitational-Alabama at Michigan State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

So far, so good, right?

Alabama sits at No. 8/10 in the polls, with only a loss to No. 5 UConn blemishing the record. Going into the brutal tilt of Memphis / Gonzaga / Houston, it’s all that Alabama fans could ask for, and far more than most thought plausible with such tremendous roster turnover.

Alabama is getting it done with balance — Top 20 offense and defense, aggressive rebounding, aggressive perimeter shooting, and running when they can.

But there is a fly in that ointment that could rear its head this week when ‘Bama travels to Houston: the turnover problem.

The Tide are frankly sloppy beyond belief. Even conceding that at the tempo in which Alabama plays, turnovers are just baked-in to the system, Alabama has been sloppy. They are presently 299th in the country in turnover percentage — bottom 10% — with 21.5% of all their possessions ending in a turnover of some sort (including offensive fouls).

That’s made up by defense, surely?

Well, not really. See for a team whose success is predicated on defense, Alabama is having a fairly miserable time getting opponents to gack up the ball. They are 302nd in turnover percentage-forced. Once again, bottom 10%. Defensively, just 16.6% of opponent possessions are ending with a TO forced by ‘Bama.

But, hey, that’s made up by the rebounding, right?

Again, not really. Alabama is superb rebounding least offensively, where they are 4th in the nation in chasing down their own misses and getting second-chance points. Defensively, not so much. Alabama sits at No. 78 overall on defensive rebounds — and as we saw against South Dakota State, UNC, and UConn in particular, a concerted effort by opponents can bully them in the post to gather their own boards.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible rebounding team on the defensive end (it’s still top 25%), but it’s not elite, as Alabama’s overall defensive efficiency would suggest.

So, how is Alabama getting it done? They are very good at forcing misses — 7th in the country in overall field goal defense. What Alabama lacks in forcing the issue or in getting after it on the defensive glass, they make up for with swarming harassment of the shooter.

The Tide’s opponent this weekend is stellar at both forcing turnovers (4th) and in protecting the ball (35th) — the two most glaring issues Alabama has had this year. They also lead the NCAA in scoring allowed per game (47.3), with opponents are shooting just 23% from the perimeter (4th) and 31% overall (1st).

A team that plays its ass off on defense, attacks the glass on both ends, doesn’t turn the ball over, and forces a lot of bad looks, bad passes, and bad shots is an absolute mismatch nightmare for most teams. In particular, it could be for Alabama.

Alabama’s strengths have been enough so far. But as we saw with UConn — a team very similar to Houston, but with better shooters — things can go south real fast. The Cougars represent a tremendous challenge; one where Alabama’s shooting issues and turnover problem has to be corrected immediately.

If there were ever a game where the ‘Bama needed to match intensity, knock down jumpers, dig in and do the dirty work, play smart on every possession, it’s this one. Because Houston most certainly will.

Otherwise, and I say this strictly out of love, the Tide could very easily get ran out of the gym by the No. 1 team in the nation.

Here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers 25% through the 2022-2023 season.

  • Ranking: AP 8 (LW 11) / Coaches 10 (LW 14)
  • RPI: 19th (LW 14th)
  • SOS: 24th (LW 9th)
  • KenPom: 14th (LW 14), 22md offense (LW 18), 17th defense (LW 17)
  • Sagarin: 14th (LW 15th)
  • Bart Torvik: 19th (LW 18); 19th adj. offense (LW 37); 17th adj. defense (LW 15)
  • True Tempo: 6th overall — 75.1 adj. possessions per game; 3rd per 100 possessions (78.6)
  • Offense PPG: 18th (83.5 PPG)
  • Defense PPG: 179th (68.5 PPG)
  • Projected NET ranking: 7th (LW 8th)
  • Projected Brackets: Lunardi — 3rd East (LW 5th Seed Midwest); TR 2-seed

Roll Tide!


How do you feel about the upcoming Memphis / Gonzaga / Houston murderers row?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    This team can hang with anyone if it plays its game for 40 minutes
    (161 votes)
  • 21%
    The Tide matchup better against some of them than others
    (77 votes)
  • 5%
    They’re all bad matchups given some of Alabama’s weaknesses
    (18 votes)
  • 27%
    I honestly don’t know what to expect out of the Crimson Tide over the next two weeks
    (95 votes)
351 votes total Vote Now