Since Nate Oats arrived in Tuscaloosa almost five years ago, Alabama fans have become accustomed to a few things with the Hoops program: commitment to defense, fast perimeter-oriented basketball, and some of the most routinely brutal out-of-conference schedules in the country.
Alabama Basketball’s OOC was finalized yesterday, and yes, there are some toughies on there. But in toto it is a gentler path than what we are accustomed to seeing, and that is because the schedule lacks a great deal of those midmajor behemoths that the Tide has been accustomed to playing.
Here is the completed schedule, and I’ve included some relevant data below those opponents. Analysis to follow:
Date / Team / Sagarin / KenPom / NET Quadrant
- Nov. 6 — vs. Morehead State*
220, 237, Q4
- Nov. 10 — vs. Indiana State*
98, 100, Q2
- Nov. 14 — vs. South Alabama*
107, 93, Q2
- Nov. 17 — vs. Mercer*
201, 230, Q4
- Nov. 24 — vs. Ohio State (Emerald Coast Classic in Florida)
46, 49, Q1
- Nov. 25 — vs. Oregon/Santa Clara (Emerald Coast Classic in Florida)
41/87, 47/85, Q1/Q2
- Nov. 28 — vs. Clemson (ACC-SEC Challenge)*
59, 68, Q2
- Dec. 4 — vs. Arkansas State*
265, 287, Q4
- Dec. 9 — vs. Purdue (Hall of Fame Series - Toronto)
10, 7, Q1
- Dec. 16 — at Creighton
11, 12, Q1
- Dec. 20 — vs. Arizona (Hall of Fame Series - Phoenix)
8, 11, Q1
- Dec. 23 — vs. Eastern Kentucky*
163, 149, Q3
- Dec. 30 — vs. Liberty (C.M. Newton Classic in Birmingham)
80, 48, Q1
Not too bad: six Q1 teams, three Q2 teams, one Q3, three Q4s.
Once again, the Tide’s Q1 games equal or come close to the SOS for the rest of the slate. Overall, there are four “easy” games for nine tough ones — and four of those are, to use a term of art, undoubtedly a bitch.
Looking at NET, Sagarin and RPI profiles from last season, this should give Alabama an SOS around 20 or so, with an RPI around 15ish. Tough, but manageable.
The first thing that jumps out at you is the lack of a lot of Midmajor conference powers. We’ve been accustomed to seeing the ULL’s and UCF’s and Houston’s and Belmont’s of the world pop up on the schedule. But this year, not very many teams fit that bill. For sure, the Liberty Flames are there. The ASun Champs aren’t illusory either, with defense and offense both in the 50s per advanced stats. Just a solid, tough team — and one comparable to Power 5s Oregon and Ohio State.
South Alabama and Indiana State aren’t quite in that league, but there’s no reason to expect those to be easy games by any stretch. They do approach the game a bit differently though. USA’s strength lies in their defense; the Sycamores attack the glass and put points on the board.
Speaking of Oregon and Ohio State: Neither made the tourney last year, but both were a lot better than the sum of their parts. OU was doomed by a midseason swoon in a P12 that was weaker than expected. The Buckeyes just couldn’t close out wins in a rugged Big 10. Expect the latter for sure to pose some problems. It’s a powerful, athletic, veteran team with easy Top 25 potential. The Buckeyes finished below .500 but were in the Top 50 in practically every advanced stat you can name. This is a quality opponent that you cannot sleep on.
In the previous two seasons, Alabama had four Q4 teams on the schedule. It has three on the schedule this year alone. For sure, that’s easier at the bottom end. But, whereas Alabama had scheduled some marginal Q2s that later fell into Q3, the Tide doesn’t face that issue this year. The good teams are good-to-very-good; the bad ones are bad, and we know it before the season starts. That kind of certainty can only help a squad breaking in nine new players and a practically new frontcourt.
And we have to talk about that December. The Crimson Tide have become accustomed to a brutal Holiday slate, but this one could be among the toughest three-game swings in the country: Purdue in Toronto iwith the reigning Wooden POT, at Creighton, vs. Arizona. The Wildcats were a No. 2 seed, Creighton was a 6 seed, and Purdue was a 1-seed (and the No. 2 overall seed). While the Cats and Boilermakers bowed out early, they were both conference champs; Big East runner-up Creighton made the Elite 8.
Ignore the early flameouts: that’s a tough slate for anyone in the country.
Putting it all together, the Tide once again faces a tough schedule. Is it as daunting as the last two years? Likely not, and certainly not as of this writing — on paper, at least. But it is very competitive, with a nice mix of elite, good, and stinkers. Alabama can win every game on the OOC slate — just as it can drop three or four.
Establishing buy-in, a defensive identity, and a rotation early — along with identifying go-to shooters — are going to be the keys to the season’s success.
But aren’t they every year?
In its three hardest games, Alabama will
This poll is closed
Run the table: 3-0
Drop 1: that’s a tough three-game road.
Lose two out of three, both away from Coleman
Drop them all: I’m a Debbie Downer