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Alabama looks to make some in hoops noise this year

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In Avery Johnson’s second season, the Tide have enough chances early to have a surprising season and change the tune of Bama Basketball for the future... Previewing the #11 Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Preview

#10 Alabama Crimson Tide

Last Season: 18-15 (8-10) #96 in KenPom

My Prediction: 8 - 10 (10th in conference)

RollBamaRoll’s Prediction: 12 - 6 (3rd in conference)

The Masses Prediction: 8 - 10 (10th in conference)

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

HEAD COACH: Avery Johnson | second season 18-15

I love Avery Johnson. I love his drawl, I love his energy, and I love his optimism. There was certainly optimism among Tide fans around the hiring of Johnson, and with good reason. His NBA pedigree would certainly be able to attract talent to Tuscaloosa, but his predecessors never had a problem accumulating talent. Where Johnson hopes to be different is in developing that talent, and figuring out ways to be good on both ends of the floor. Despite inheriting a roster not exactly brimming with an abundance of offensive talent, Johnson molded his team into a tough, gritty group which gave away nothing and ended up winning 3-4 more games in conference than I thought they would. Johnson found enough offense and enough defense to be competitive in a balanced league a year ago. The question is after a solid first year of recruiting, Johnson now needs to pick it up and land some difference makers in 2017, he’s in on a few 5-star guys and that could just put Alabama over the top.

Seat Temp: COOL

Alabama 10 year look

It’s been awhile, 2004-05 to be exact, since Alabama didn’t lose more than double digit games in a season and it’s also been awhile since the Tide made an NCAA tournament. Twice since that ‘05 season have the Tide made the tourney, and none since 2012, with just one appearance in the last ten years. It was this ongoing problem that led the Tide to try a new direction under Avery Johnson. I don’t see that changing this season, although Alabama should be better, they’ve still got some seasoning and recruiting to do in order to fully right the ship.

WHO’S GONE?

name reason GP %min %pts %ov
Retin Obasohan Graduated 33 .802 .234 .299
Arthur Edwards Graduated 33 .711 .148 .136
Michael Kessens Transfer 33 .651 .049 .049
Justin Coleman Transfer 33 .411 .139 .236
Christian Clark Graduated 13 .009 .002 .000
33 .483 .544 .718

Last season Retin Obasohan turned into the kind of player few thought possible. And because of his herculean level output, Alabama far exceeded my expectations for their season and finished 8-10 in the SEC. Now, Avery Johnson will have a pretty huge hole to fill with Obasohan gone. Arthur Edwards is another player who outplayed his expectations and provided solid value. I admit to being pretty surprised by the Justin Coleman transfer, I thought he was a good fit under Avery Johnson, but Coleman obviously thought different and moved on to Samford. I guess he wanted to be a bigger fish in a small pond. Kessens was a guy who transferred in from a smaller school (Longwood), had a minor impact for two seasons and transferred out to a smaller school. Losing Justin Coleman wasn’t great, but the biggest hole in the roster is clearly being left by the graduation of Obasohan.

WHO’S BACK?

name year pos GP %min %pts %ov
Shannon Hale senior cf 28 .517 .137 .069
Dazon Ingram r-freshman cg 7 .134 .024 .040
Riley Norris junior cf 33 .699 .112 .082
Jimmie Taylor senior post 33 .521 .078 .043
Donta Hall sophomore post 33 .316 .042 .026
Brandon Austin sophomore cg 30 .202 .021 .011
Lawson Schaffer sophomore pg 15 .024 .003 .004
Nick King junior cf REDSHIRT -- Transfer (Memphis)
33 .517 .580 .718
NCAA Basketball: Advocare International- Alabama vs Wichita State
Dazon Ingram’s health will be important for Avery Johnson’s Tide.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dazon Ingram | R-FRESHMAN | COMBO GUARD

One of the biggest keys to Alabama’s season is the play of Dazon Ingram, who was a bright spot for the Tide as a big physical combo guard before being lost for the season with a broken foot. If Ingram is able to play at a similar or better level than he played at a year ago he’ll make the difference between Alabama being either an over or under .500 SEC team. Ingram surprised many with his impact early as he wasn’t the most highly touted player, but his combination of size, strength and athleticism makes him a perfect fit for the SEC.

Jimmy Taylor has been a tough post defender while showing limited offensive ability, but remains one of the best shot blockers in the conference. Every roster needs a player like Riley Norris, a guy who can knock down shots and seems to embrace doing all the little things when he’s on the floor. He takes charges and rebounds hard, plus he’s a solid defender. Donta Hall is a capable big man, but another guy we might need to watch out of this group is Nick King, a versatile former four-star recruit who spent two years at Memphis before transferring to Alabama.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Alabama vs Kentucky
Shannon Hale playing consistently to his potential will go a long ways towards lifting Alabama this season.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Shannon Hale | SENIOR | COMBO FORWARD

Bama has an interesting list of returners coming back and it starts with Shannon Hale. Hale has the ability to be a go to level player, but has never shown the urgency or aggressiveness needed to take ownership of the team. As it is he’s become something of an after thought, but still a productive player when he has opportunity. I’m sure the coaching staff would love if he sought that opportunity with more regularity.

WHO’S NEW?

class player ht wt rating ranking pos
Fr Braxton Key 6'8 220 68 CF
So Daniel Giddens 6'7 240 TRANSFER -- Ohio St POST
Jr Ar'Mond Davis 6'5 175 6 WING
Sr Corban Collins 6'3 190 GRAD TRANSFER -- Morehead St CG
Sr Bola Olaniyan 6'7 220 GRAD TRANSFER -- SEMO POST

Braxton Key was a big pickup for Johnson and company. Another player with a lot of versatility, Key has the ability to play the small forward position with great size at 6’8, or play almost a point-forward position and be a cog at the high post. Ar’Mond Davis could have a big impact as well as a high level athlete is good productive shooter out of Junior College, Davis had offers all over the country and chose Alabama. Corban Collins and Bola Olaniyan should be solid contributors as 5th year transfers. Another big pickup was former 5-star post Daniel Giddens, who will obviously sit out after transferring from Ohio State but will play a big role in 2017-18.

DEPTH CHART

Point Guard Combo Guard Wing
Dazon Ingram Ar'Mond Davis Nick King
Corban Collins Riley Norris Braxton Key
Combo Forward Post
Shannon Hale Jimmie Taylor
Bola Olaniyan Donta Hall

I feel like this roster has 43 guys who can play that swing forward position. Guys big and physical enough to play the four spot, while also athletic enough to guard on the wing. The problem is finding all of those guys minutes, and it also puts pressure on the ball handlers. Shannon Hale, Nick King, Riley Norris and Braxton Key will all fight it out for minutes over a few of those positions. I’ll give the edge to King and Hale to start, but Key is immensely talented and Norris does so many things well. They’ll all find ways on to the court.

SCHEDULE

My Projected Record 17 - 13 | KenPom Projected Record: 16 - 13

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Duke vs Oregon Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Non-Con: Dayton, Valparaiso (n), BYU/SLU (n), @ Texas, @ Oregon, Clemson

After an embarrassing loss to Dayton in Dayton last year the Tide welcome to the Flyers very early in the season to give them a chance at redemption and us a chance to find our expectations. Texas, Oregon and Clemson round out the other power conference foes who will give us a pretty clear picture of how good Alabama can be. They also trek to Las Vegas for a tournament against Valparaiso, and will face BYU or St. Louis in the other game. If there is regression, a 7-5 or 6-6 non conference schedule would be the most likely result. Progress would be more of a 9-3 or 10-2. There’s opportunity there.

Conference: Mississippi St (2x), Auburn (2x), Missouri (2x), Georgia (2x), LSU (2x), @ Arkansas, @ South Carolina, @ Texas A&M, Kentucky

The Tide were a little lucky with the schedule makers by only getting Kentucky and Florida both once and at home. Meanwhile they play Missouri, Auburn and Mississippi State all twice, all three of which I’ve got ranked below Alabama. The other two home and home games are against Georgia and LSU, two could-be good teams, but none of the five are too scary to see on your schedule. With the schedule laying out the way it does, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if they won 12 games, because like I said above, the opportunity is there. To do that, the TIde can’t have many let downs, they have to beat everyone they can beat.

OVERVIEW

I tabbed Avery Johnson as my coach of the year last year because I did not expect Alabama to be able to cobble together a decent season. Somehow Johnson found his muse in Senior guard Retin Obasohan and was able to push the Tide to some unexpected wins. Things were going about how you’d expect until, coming off wins over Mississippi State and Missouri, the Tide upset Texas A&M at home, then Florida and LSU on the road. The five-game swing was enough to buoy Alabama and the support of Tide basketball fans to think that Johnson was the right pick moving forward. While an 18-15 record isn’t anything to get excited about, it was a step in the right direction as the assumption is Johnson will be able to recruit the difference.

Alabama Shot Chart 2015-16
Shot chart of Alabama’s returning players from last season

The difference starts with a healthy Dazon Ingram and newcomers Ar’Mond Davis and Braxton Key. It also increases with the top targets the Tide have in their sights for 2017. Building up Alabama as a potential landing spot of top level players has happened in the past but not consistently, and Tide faithful believe Johnson can do it. But beyond that, the 2016-17 season will have to be played and Alabama has to find a way to replace the production lost by Obasohan. All signs point to Ingram, Davis and Key, along with Nick King and Shannon Hale as being good enough to provide the production needed to make Alabama a threat in the SEC this season.

If you’re looking for positives on this roster you have it with a ton of flexibility, if you’re looking for holes, well the backcourt could certainly be deeper. Alabama’s top guard is coming off a broken foot from a season ago, and they don’t really have a true point guard (on scholarship) on the roster. There are a few guys who can handle the duties, so much of the offense will rely on Avery Johnson (a former point guard) and his ability to coach up guys who would be more natural playing off the ball. A season ago the loss of Ingram hurt Alabama’s back court depth and this season won’t be very different if they lose one guy from the rotation. It’s nothing they can’t overcome, but it’s enough of a concern to be noted. The strength of the roster is at the Combo Forward spot, with four quality guys who are able to log minutes as a small “4” or as a big “3”. If Johnson is able to manage the talent he does have and get production from the four combo forwards, the ceiling of the season gets raised in Tuscaloosa.

So where does this all end up? The floor for Alabama is probably about 13-14 wins and only 5 or 6 in league play. This is an “everything goes wrong” scenario. The “everything goes right” scenario sees them get to 10 wins before conference play and 12 wins in conference play for 22 wins and an NCAA appearance. Entirely possible, though the odds would be tough. Most likely I think they hover around .500 in conference and surprise on a few games to go 9-3 in non conference. Another 18 win season (probably 19 or 20 after post season tournaments) isn’t anything too exciting but considering the roster make over that’s been underway, I think Tide fans should take it and wait for Johnson’s bigger fish to hit campus, then Alabama basketball can start to take shape.

<— #11 Auburn Tigers


About the preview: Each SEC site was asked to submit one representative to pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.

If you’d like to submit your picks, here is the Google Form we used:


GLOSSARY

GP - Games Played

%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury

%pts - percentage of teams points scored

%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team