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Jumbo Package: Tide hoops favored as Kentucky rolls into town

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. The Gym Tide kicks off their season tonight at home vs. Sparty. Meanwhile, Kentucky rolls into Coleman Coliseum tomorrow as an underdog.

Odds: The odds for this game has yet to be released, but it is fair to say that Kentucky is the underdog. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Wildcats just a 29.6% chance of winning, while Bart Torvik gives Kentucky an even lower chance lower advantage at 21%, while KenPom has it at 30%.

Predictions: Bart Torvik picks the Wildcats to lose 79-70. KenPom went with Bama to win 78-72.

How often have we been able to say that?

Brandon Miller has quickly made a name for himself nationally.

Miller’s been the complete opposite. I mean, he had his coming-out party against Michigan State in the PK Invitational up in Portland, and then ever since then, he’s just kind of been playing well every single game. Three SEC Freshman of the Week Awards, he’s on the Wooden watch list with Oscar (Tshiebwe) — the only two guys from the SEC, i’ll add. So yeah, he’s playing like the best players in the country, if he keeps it up and you know, the team success keeps it up. He could definitely win that award by season’s end.

If Nate Oats brings a Wooden Award to Tuscaloosa, his statue should go up even if we can’t get an arena.

In football news, we found out yesterday that Byron Young, DJ Dale, and Henry To’o To’o are all officially headed for the draft, but I don’t think anyone expected any of them to become Super Seniors.

The Tide finished 2nd in ESPN’s FPI metric.

After trailing Kansas State by 10 points early in the first half, Alabama outscored the Big 12 champions, 45-10, the rest of the way in the Sugar Bowl. Bryce Young accounted for five touchdown passes in his final game with the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban said his quarterback’s willingness to play, along with Will Anderson Jr., Jordan Battle and others, speaks to Alabama’s culture and players wanting to finish what they started. It’ll be interesting to see where the Crimson Tide finish in the AP.

So, why did they lose two games to miss the playoff? Aaron Suttles has some ideas, starting with a boom or bust running game.

On running back runs only, 18.5 percent of first-down rushes went for zero yards or a loss, per TruMedia. That ranked 91st nationally. On those same runs, 17.1 percent went for 10 or more yards, which ranked 15th nationally. On third down, Alabama averaged 7.4 yards to make for a first down, which ranked 87th nationally. The penalty situation obviously didn’t help (we’ll get to that in a moment). The average distance to gain was 6.9 in 2021 and 5.6 in 2020, which ranked 46th and second.

On all first-down runs, Alabama running backs ranked 22nd with an average of 5.77 yards per rush. Overall, the Crimson Tide backs were 11th in yards per rush at 5.87.

Some of this is zone running, but at 91st nationally that hardly tells the whole story. Suttles correctly notes during the wide receivers portion of his piece that it’s impossible to make too many snap judgments without All-22 film, but it certainly seemed to be that teams crowded the box to take away the run and shorter throws. Young’s one weakness, even last season when Metchie and Williams were healthy, has been consistently hitting the deep ball. If defenses don’t respect the offense’s ability to hit them over the top, they tend to make life rough in the short and intermediate area.

Last, Trey Sanders is headed to TCU with JoJo Earle and Tommy Brockermeyer.

A five-star recruit to Alabama in 2019, Sanders missed his freshman season because of a foot injury and had his 2020 season ended by injuries sustained in a car accident, including a broken pelvis. He returned to score a touchdown in the 2021 season opener but played a minimal role on offense the past two seasons, contributing mostly on special teams.

Sanders was not part of the team for the Iron Bowl or Sugar Bowl after entering the transfer portal. He played in 27 career games for Alabama, all as a reserve. In 10 games this season, he ran 14 times for 80 yards and one touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe. He also caught two passes for 13 yards.

Best of luck to them.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.