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#22 Alabama vs South Alabama Game Thread

With one last tune-up before the Emerald Coast Classic (technically) begins, Nate Oats is looking for defensive improvement

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

A week into the 2023-24 Alabama basketball season and it’s clear to see that the hopes and dreams reports of a decline in Nate Oats’ high-powered offenses in Tuscaloosa were greatly exaggerated by some rival fans and media members, as the 22nd-ranked Crimson Tide (2-0) has broken the century mark in each of its first two games this season. Still, the defense is, without a doubt, a major work in progress still. The perimeter defenders made Indiana State’s Isaiah Swope look like a future NBA star in the first half of the game on Friday, and the Sycamores were met with little resistance around the basket, finishing the game 17/27 from inside the arc.

Oats hasn’t minced any words regarding the lack of execution on the defensive end, either:

You have to appreciate his brutal honesty, he doesn’t tip-toe around problems. The drop-off in playing time for Nick Pringle was noticeable during the Indiana State game, and Sam Walters and Davin Cosby only played a combined 14 minutes against the Sycamores. Clearly, the coaching staff is quite concerned about the defensive end of the court, although I will say I don’t think it has anything to do with lack of effort so far - the fellas are working out there.

Tonight, the South Alabama Jaguars (1-1) come to Tuscaloosa in a rare in-state match-up for the Tide. Richie Riley enters his sixth season with the Jags, who have given Alabama some real tests under his leadership. Last season, the historically great Tide survived a road trip to Mobile 65-55 in a game where Brandon Miller really had to put the team on his back a good bit offensively. That was the only semi-competitive outing Alabama had before the big non-conference matchups starting rolling, so Oats is well aware of the type of test the Jags will provide tonight.

Obviously, the biggest thing to watch tonight will be how the defense performs, and just as importantly, who will be a part of that unit. It’s clear that Oats is putting a priority on that side of the court, and that he is at least concerned enough that it’s already affecting playing time in the early goings of the season - that last Tweet above is pretty telling.

Alabama is a 20-point favorite again tonight for the 7:00 PM CST tip. The game will, once again, only be available for streaming on ESPN+/SECN+.