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Jumbo Package: Alabama Basketball still highly regarded despite recent slump

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Alabama’s lost some rough games in opposing stadiums, but their resume still has them as one of the best Tide teams of the last 20 years.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Willie Nelson might have changed his tune if he had been a part of this year’s Alabama basketball team. On Wednesday the Crimson Tide of Coach Nate Oats will be “On the Road Again,” and that hasn’t been very good at all.

Bama has only one true road victory this season, although Oats is not hesitant to point out that Alabama’s game in early December against Gonzaga was in Seattle, which is practic ally a home game for the Zags. But a really, truly, honest-to-gosh road game? The only win this year was the Crimson Tide’s first SEC road trip of the season, at Florida.

Alabama’s basketball team, similar to their football team in 2021, has seemed to have issues with playing in hostile environments for whatever reason.

That said, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi just updated his bracketology feature yesterday, and despite all the hand-wringing and sky-is-falling from Tide fans, Alabama is still sitting comfortably as a 6 seed.

Part of what may be an assuage to the confidence of Alabama fans is the massively improved play from Charles Bediako in the Tide’s loss to Kentucky:

“He’s able to fly around a little bit more. He’s making free throws at a pretty good clip now. He’s going to the rim strong, not necessarily avoiding contact. I think he’s not afraid of contact. He can go through it. He’s obviously gotta get bigger and stronger in the offseason, but he’s playing tough. He’s rebounding the ball well, too.”

Earlier this season, his teammates said they referred to the usually mild-mannered Bediako as “Angry Chuck” whenever he would play more aggressively during practice. That persona showed up against Kentucky, and Alabama hopes it will continue to do so in the coming games.

“I’ve gotta play more with a chip on my shoulder,” Bediako said. “I get most of it on defense, so once I start doing good stuff on defense, they start calling me ‘Angry Chuck,’ even when I’m probably not angry. But it just boosts me up. I just try to give my team some energy.”

I mentioned in our preseason predictions last year that Bediako was the newcomer I was the most excited about. He’s, for the most part, not quite made the impact we had hoped as a 5-star 7-foot center. But if he continues his high-energy play that we saw against Kentucky, it could be something that starts to unlock other parts of the team.

The University of Alabama placed 81 student-athletes on the 2021 Fall Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll, the league office announced Tuesday.

Alabama’s SEC championship football team put 36 student-athletes on the honor roll. The football list includes Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, Nagurski Trophy winner Will Anderson Jr. and All-American Evan Neal.

Roll Tide to such a big list of Alabama football players! The Tide’s program continues to help develop not just quality athletes, but quality students as well. We often forget that all of these guys are just regular students trying to juggle classes, sleep, social life, and just generally growing up... all while dedicating every free second to a sport and managing burgeoning superstardom.

In NFL news, there’s some more movement with former Alabama staffers.

Fired as the head coach of the New York Giants on Jan. 11, Joe Judge returned to the New England staff as an offensive assistant on Tuesday, the Patriots announced.

Judge was working as New England’s special-teams coordinator and wide-receivers coach when he was hired by the Giants in 2020. In two seasons with New York, Judge had a 10-23 record.

The Seattle Seahawks are hiring former Alabama assistant Karl Scott as their defensive pass game coordinator and secondary coach, per a report from college football insider Matt Zenitz. Scott spent the 2021 season as the defensive backs coach with the Minnesota Vikings.

He replaces former Seattle defensive pass game coordinator Andre Curtis, who was fired Jan. 18 when the Seahawks elected to make major changes to their defensive coaching staff.

The Nick Saban assembly line is slowly taking over the pros, both in the coaching ranks and on the rosters. You love to see it.

Speaking of, Tua Tagovailoa has been dealt a rough hand in his first two seasons, trying to recover from a nearly career-ending hip injury, getting thrown to the fire, and then having a head coach seemingly trying to actively sabotage his young QB’s career at every step.

Now, though, the Dolphins have focused on finding a young, offensive-minded head coach who will focus on building around a potential star QB.

On Tuesday, the NFL team released a video of McDaniel’s phone conversation with Tagovailoa while flying to Miami about the “extensive professional relationship” ahead of them.

“One thing I know about you is you have the ambition to be great,” McDaniel said to Tagovailoa. “My job is to coach you to get all that greatness out of you, and it’s going to be fun, man. It’s going to be work, but I know you’re not afraid of that, so this is an awesome day for me, and I’m damn sure going to make sure that when you look back on this day, you’re going to be like, ‘Damn, that was one of the best days of my career, too.’ OK? But I’ll earn that from you.”

Hopefully, this is the kind of move that will really kickstart Tua’s career that has, thus far, been stuck in 2nd gear.

Roll Tide!