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As Avery Johnson takes over, Crimson Tide fans might have to wait

12. Alabama Crimson Tide

Last season: 19 - 15 (8 - 10 in conference)
My Prediction: 5 - 13 (in conference)
RollBamaRoll's Prediction: - 7 - 11 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 5.7 - 12.3

Bama Coach Preview 15

Avery Johnson enters his first season in control of the Crimson Tide after an up and down career as a pro basketball coach. Johnson spent three seasons at the helm of the Dallas Mavericks, and two and a half seasons with the Nets. In his first full season as head coach he steered the Mavs into the Western Conference Finals, but disappointing finishes in the playoffs the final two seasons left him in search of work. After a disappointing few seasons in New Jersey and Brooklyn, Johnson was let go and had been out of work since. We’ll take a look at what we can expect from Johnson’s style a little later, but let’s start with what he has to work with in Tuscaloosa.


name reason GP %min %poss %pts
Ricky Tarrant Transfer 19 .359 .274 .109
Levi Randolph Graduated 33 .875 .219 .229
Rodney Cooper Graduated 33 .759 .206 .161
Dakota Slaughter Graduated 14 .068 .108 .011
Devin Mitchell Transfer 14 .055 - .003
33 .466 .513

I’d probably feel a little better about Alabama’s returning roster if Ricky Tarrant was coming back, but the Tulane transfer took his 5th year to Memphis which left the Tide without their best returning scorer. But if you’re going on who had the most impact on the team a season ago, it was far and away Levi Randolph. Randolph contributed over 20% of the teams points, almost 17% of the rebounds, almost a quarter of the assists, and almost that in steals. Randolph also played a LOT, he averaged nearly 90% of possible minutes played… so yeah, he’ll probably be missed a bit. Rodney Cooper was no wallflower for the Tide either. So Alabama will replacing 3 important cogs from their offense a year ago. How they plan to replace more than 50% of the teams points will be no small feat.


name year pos gp %min %pts %rbds efg% %3pm ORtg
Shannon Hale junior F 28 .395 .101 .086 .483 .118 96.2
Michael Kessens r-junior F 32 .494 .083 .159 .525 .009 96.6
Retin Obasohan senior G 31 .441 .084 .086 .507 .077 100.6
Justin Coleman sophomore G 34 .448 .065 .035 .327 .118 83.5
Jimmie Taylor junior F 34 .584 .083 .162 .593 - 102.2
Riley Norris sophomore F 34 .519 .071 .137 .449 .113 95.6

34 .512 .486 .641

Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Shannon Hale | Junior | Forward
player to watch

How do you replace more than half of your points from a season ago? By hoping that a few of the younger players on the roster who haven’t broke out, break out. At the top of the list is Shannon Hale, who has shown flashes of the player that the scouting services saw coming out of high school, when he was rated as a 4-star recruit. Hale is sort of a tweener in that he doesn’t play a traditional power forwards game, but he has the size to compete in that capacity. He isn’t quite a stretch four, but where Hale is at his best in in the midrange and attacking the basket, and it will be key for the Alabama and Coach Johnson if Hale comes into his own. There isn’t a lot of scoring on this roster, which reads a bit like a true Anthony Grant roster. The joke being that Grant had trouble putting together a roster with enough scorers on it to be competitive. Hale is a guy that with the right development could be a standout for the Tide.

Not far behind Hale on the potential scale is Jimmie Taylor, but Taylor has struggled with his high ceiling and putting together enough of an offensive game to be a threat. To date Taylor’s presence has been most felt on the defensive end with his shot blocking, but has shown little polish on the low block. I'm also high on the potential of Justin Coleman, but I'll get to him in a minute. Other returners like Retin Obasohan are solid, if unspectacular. Kessens and Norris are also in that same vain. Overall there is an interesting mix of returners still on the roster. With Hale, Coleman and Taylor there is potential for star players. There are enough strong role guys there as well that if the top 3 can take a big step forward, you can see Alabama making some headway in the league. But a lot of that will depend on who they have coming in.

Photo credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Coleman | Sophomore | Guard
player to watch

There are a lot of reasons to like Justin Coleman at this stage. Just having a former NBA point guard teaching him the ins and outs of playing the position, the already talented Coleman should see his stock rise over the next few years, but he could be a breakout player this year. He's a consistent playmaker with the ball in his hands, he just needs to round out and polish his play, and become stronger with the ball. If the Tide can count on consistent play from Coleman, that will raise the ceiling for this team quite a bit.


class player ht wt rating ranking pos
Fr Donta Hall 6'9 210 134 POST
Fr Dazon Ingram 6'5 180 189 WING
Fr Brandon Austin 6'5 200 200 WING
Fr Lawson Shaffer 6'0 160 - - PG
Fr Arthur Edwards 6'5 210 Grad TRANSFER -- New Mexico

The Tide have been absolutely killing it on the recruiting trail lately, the only problem is that most of that talent is still a year away. If Johnson was hoping to fill holes with this recruiting class, he might have to adjust the expectations. The one big name that is missing off this list is 4-star guard Kobie Eubanks, who could never get his transcripts in order and was denied admission to Alabama. Eubanks would have been relied upon to help solidify the backcourt, and instead they’re going to rely on mostly unproven 3-star guards with Dazon Ingram and Brandon Austin. Both are physical guards who could be able to provide a spark off the bench. Donta Hall could provide some size and athleticism off the bench. Arthur Edwards never provided a lot in the box score for New Mexico, and only averaged about 12 mpg his last season at UNM, but could provide a solid experienced hand off the bench. Lawson Shaffer is a preferred walk-on, who will likely not see the floor very often.


Half Court Positions

Point Guard Combo Guard Wing
Justin Coleman Retin Obasohan Arthur Edwards
Dazon Ingram Brandon Austin Riley Norris
Combo Forward Post
Shannon Hale Jimmie Taylor
Donta Hall Michael Lessens


The tumultuous era of Grantsketball is over, and Alabama fans in large part breathed a sigh of relief. I was always of the opinion that Anthony Grant was a solid coach, his teams seemed very disciplined, and didn’t make a ton of mistakes. Grant had big successes in recruiting and even some moderate success on the court. Yet he wasn’t able to set the Tide on the right path and so the program was turned over to a charismatic former NBA player and head coach in Avery Johnson.

What can Tide fans expect from Johnson? If you go back and look at the teams he coached in Dallas, they actually played at a plodding pace for an NBA team. They were highly efficient on offense, helped by Dirk Nowitzki, with a strong defensive unit that regularly ranked high amongst the league rankings. But what most people know about Johnson is his personality. He’s outgoing and talkative and what he may lack in experience at the college level, he’ll make up for with his energy and enthusiasm.

Bama Shot Chart Preview 15

What to expect from the Tide is another matter. Because of the loss of leadership from the roster, it might be a tough year in Tuscaloosa. KenPom has them rated as the 77th best team in the country in the preseason. They have a fairly difficult schedule lined up, with games against Dayton, Xavier, Louisiana-Lafayette, Clemson and Oregon. On top of that difficult non-conference schedule, the Tide get Kentucky and LSU twice, which is looking a lot like four losses. When you have those two teams twice, Bama will have to take real advantage of getting Auburn and Mississippi State each two times. South Carolina is their other home and home, and as I've stated the other previews, their offense could be bad enough to split, but I doubt the Tide can win in Columbia East. They also travel to Vandy and Georgia, but do get Tennessee and Arkansas at home, which makes those games more winnable.  I’ve got them pegged at 5 wins in conference but I do think that they could be better than that if some guys outplay expectations, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. There isn’t much depth, but the piece that are in place at the top that could steal a few games that you might not expect. There’s not quite enough to get them into the top half of the league, but I can see a path for this team to get to 8-9 wins. It will be relying on guys like Shannon Hale and Jimmie Taylor to play up to their potential, and for Johnson to get the most out of Justin Coleman. Still, it’s going to be a tough road in season one.

Johnson enters his first season with a lot of goodwill behind him, and most of that goodwill should carry him through what is likely to be a pretty tough first year. But never fear Tide Fans. Help is on the way in a lot of ways. Johnson landed the first major recruit when he reeled in Terrance Ferguson, a 5-star wing and electric player from Oklahoma, by way of Texas. He followed that up with an exciting Junior College pickup in top five player Ar’mond Davis. Davis was highly recruited, so expect both players to be instant impact guys for Johnson once they hit campus.

Shy of unexpected contributions from players who haven’t quite broken through, it’s difficult to imagine the Tide being anything other than a team that will be pegged near the bottom of the conference. this season. A ceiling of around .500, but more than likely, they’ll struggle to win more than 7-8 games.

RBR Responds

At the very least, this year’s team is going to be a lot more fun to watch than anything Alabama fans ever got out of Grantsketball. Avery Johnson also gets to work with almost no expectations; Tide fans all know that this is going to be a rebuild and that the major coups being made in recruiting will lead to some serious success and a return to the top of the SEC down the road. A return trip to the NIT would have to be considered a real success for this year’s group. The losses of Randolph, Cooper, and Tarrant are going to be very tough to overcome, as they were by far the best scorers on the team. However, the hope is that Johnson will, you know, actually run an offense, so the Tide won’t have to rely on a few scorers to make something work in isolation like they had to when Grant was here.

Johnson has promised an up-tempo, fast paced offense with an attacking and aggressive defense, and the early returns from the exhibition game and open practices seem to back that up. Alabama will likely go from being one of the slowest teams in the country to one of the fastest in the SEC. The increased depth should help allow Alabama to succeed with that strategy. As you mentioned, the Tide will need some guys to really step it up. Hale, Coleman, and Taylor have the most potential to do that, though Norris shouldn’t be overlooked either (as an aside, Norris should probably be penciled in as starting on the wing), as he could end up being a good spot up shooter. Johnson should be able to develop these players offensively better than Grant ever could.

The Crimson Tide will probably be a very up-and-down team this season, as they will be a young bunch adjusting to a completely different style of basketball. As such, they will likely get blown out a few times, but they will also pull off some big wins when things are clicking. Alabama fans will be satisfied with any type of improvement offensively, and it looks like Johnson will be able to succeed in that regard. The Tide will likely finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, in the same tier as Mississippi State, Florida, Ole Miss, and South Carolina, but ahead of some of the conference’s lesser teams.

Charlie Burris Rocky Top Talk
Rank Team Record
1. Kentucky 15-3
2. South Carolina 14-4
3. Georgia 13-5
4. Mississippi State 13-5
5. Vanderbilt 13-5
6. Texas A&M 12-6
7. LSU 11-7
8. Ole Miss 8-10
9. Alabama 7-11
10. Florida 7-11
11. Auburn 4-14
12. Arkansas 3-15
13. Missouri 3-15
14. Tennessee 3-15
Chris Bohkay Says 15

Yet another school that has decided just being good at football (and baseball) isn't enough. After the removal of Anthony Grant (hope he gets another chance somewhere after some time in OKC) Alabama threw all the money they had (or that Saban would let them have) at Gregg Marshall from Wichita State in the hope of getting him out of the state of Kansas. And it looked like Greggggggg seriously considered it before taking all the Koch brothers money reaffirmed his love of all things WSU. Anyway, second choice was high voiced, former NBA coach and amazing recruiter Avery Johnson was hired and things have been going gang busters in Tuscaloosa. And who knows maybe, just maybe Bama fans will February. I mean in the meantime, they've got to somehow back their way into the college football playoff, losses to Ole Miss be damned! Which in the grand scheme of things might be the best thing for Avery, no one will notice that this year's squad just isn't very good.  But next year, once all those stars roll in and start playing, look out for the Tide. They'll have a squad that still won't get noticed until mid to late January, but when it does, what a nice little surprise for Bama fans. You don't deserve this! To break it down in Hulk terms, "This year bad, next year good."

About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.


GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)

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Coming tomorrow: the Mississippi State Bulldogs