Let’s Preview Bama…
This is an honest preview of Alabama Basketball in 2016-17 and there is an audience that cannot handle this, in fact they react with threats of violence or actual violent acts when things do not go their way or when exposed to a different viewpoint or even skin color. So consider this a TRIGGER WARNING for those that are not UGA folks and are hypersensitive stumbling upon this somehow.
Now onto the good stuff…
Alabama Scholarship Depth Chart
Avery Johnson’s team had low expectations last season and found a way to reach the NIT, which has Alabama fans, alumni and students rather excited about what is to come. Avery Johnson’s brand of defense was what sustained the Crimson Tide last season and pushed the team to outperform. Beating expectations and keeping ace recruiter Antoine Pettway on the staff has given the program a boost on the recruiting trail. Expectations are a tricky thing in Tuscaloosa, just ask Anthony Grant and Mike Shula, but this season Alabama is looking to bridge the gap from a successful Year 1 to a Year 3 that should be filled with possibly unreasonable expectations.
Alabama played a grinding pace of play last season and Avery Johnson’s slogan for Alabama Basketball is “Buckle Up”, which implies a fast pace of play. Will Avery Johnson live up to word? Let’s check his track record in the NBA.
Do not trust this data? Take a look at TeamRankings.com.
Avery Johnson barely sped up the pace after significantly slowing it down in Dallas and then with the Nets he negligibly sped up the pace in his first season. After his first season, he slowed down the pace to a relative crawl.
Alabama’s adjusted tempo last season was 65.9, which was 318th fastest in the country. In Alabama’s 33 games last season, eight were played at a pace of 70 possessions or more and in eleven games the pace was below 65 possessions. Alabama slowed the “Fastest 40 Minutes in College Basketball” Arkansas Razorbacks to a 60 possession game. LSU was the fastest paced team in the conference last season (73 possessions per game) and Alabama held them to 68 possessions and 65 possessions in their two matchups. Opponents are not trying to slow down Alabama, Alabama is bringing these games to a crawl.
17.8% of Alabama’s shots were taken in transition last season. Their effective Field Goal percentage in transition was 61.6% (20th best in the country) and their effective Field Goal percentage in the half court was 47%. They did not need to buckle up when they were driving with the parking brake still on.
The loss of a leader like Retin Obasohan at Point Guard is going to be difficult and there is much scoring to be replaced, but the talent infusion should make up for it. Effective ability to share the ball will be something to watch for this Alabama team as well, it will not be surprising if Alabama is turnover-bit especially during the non-conference slate. Alabama lacked toughness on the glass last season and notably had an extremely embarrassing performance where Georgia had more offensive rebounds than Alabama had total rebounds. Can Alabama regain the aggressiveness that was emblematic during the best seasons under former Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant?
Alabama was not a strong three point shooting team last season, but they lost two of their three best three point shooters. How does Alabama replace Arthur Edwards and Retin Obasohan? Find out shortly. Keep in mind, Alabama was a three point happy team last season. They attempted 43.6% of their shots from three point range, which was 24th in the country. The most three point happy team in the SEC last season? Auburn.
Alabama was not attempting shots in the restricted arc last season and they were 299th in the country in percentage of shots in this zone. Jimmie Taylor is Alabama’s best returning scorer in this area of the court.
Then there is always the matter of defense. Alabama kept opponents out of the restricted arc, their defense was extremely effective at doing so. Alabama was 47th in the country in percentage of shots taken within four feet of the basket and when opponents took shots there 16.2% of those shots were blocked. However, the blocked shots were only just so effective because Alabama opponents were still able to shoot at 56.6% rate in this zone (107th in the country). Alabama did one of the best jobs in the country of keeping opponents from shooting in the money zones. They were 36th in the country last season doing this and credit belongs to Avery Johnson’s predecessor Anthony Grant for instilling a defensive culture that Avery Johnson could leverage.
Alabama’s defensive weakness last season? They were average in their ability to prevent opponent transition opportunities. The good news is that their opponents shot almost as well in transition as they did in the half court.
Featured Members of the Roster
Collins gives Alabama a proven three point shooting threat and he is back in the SEC. Collins returns matured and ready for what the opposition has to offer. Collins is not going to blow anyone away with his performances, but Avery Johnson would be wise just to use him as a shooter. Do not expect Collins to turn the ball over much this season, he should fill in as a Point Guard, but not be the primary ball handler.
Speaking of primary ball handlers, here he is. Dazon Ingram is the Point Guard to watch for this Alabama team. The main concerns with Ingram are his lack of experience in game situations and his propensity for turnovers (he had five in the exhibition game against Faulkner). He’s a tall Point Guard who could be a far better than average rebounder for member of the backcourt. In fact, Ingram may be a better rebounder than Shannon Hale or Jimmie Taylor.
Ingram is a very good dribble driver with a quick first step and he can finish efficiently at the rim, but if he gets to the Free Throw Line it is a bit of a mystery whether he can hit his Free Throws.
Ingram is a solid defender with good footwork and lateral movement, but his aggression goes too far and he can rack up fouls. If Ingram is in foul trouble, Corban Collins gets the nod.
Ingram missed much of last season due to a fractured left foot, which is not enjoyable. However, he is fully healed and ready to go this season, which is bad news for opponents. Ingram helped the Crimson Tide to victories over Wichita State and Notre Dame. He’s an incredibly important student-athlete for this team.
Would it be wrong to call Shannon Hale the softest Power Forward in the SEC since Tim Dixon? No. Is and was Shannon Hale misplaced as far as position is concerned? Absolutely. Shannon Hale is a perimeter player, he has zero business inside the perimeter outside of defending a dribble driver coming off the perimeter, cutting to the basket, taking a Free Throw or any sort of fast break activity.
Hale is averse to contact and it impacts his defensive efficiency. Hale is a streaky shooter from beyond the arc and opponents would be wise to tempt him to shoot anything from four to twenty feet. However, when Hale gets three point shooting happy, Alabama tends to lose. Last season, Alabama was 3-9 when Hale attempted six or more three point attempts.
Jimmie Taylor is not exactly a physical presence either. Taylor can block shots rather well and he is not timid, but he has a glass jaw. Taylor rolls over when he is against a more physical opponent. He is an average rebounder at best, but when the starting Point Guard is expected to grab more rebounds, it is a problem.
Offensively, Taylor parks himself on the low block and he can be effectively kept out of the restricted arc. When he does get into the restricted arc, he’s pretty efficient. If he misses, don’t count on him getting that ball back. Taylor was highly touted and poorly developed, stars do not matter.
If the game is close late in a game, Taylor gets pulled off the floor because he is a target for those that wish to foul him. He is a terrible Free Throw shooter and it is preferable with or without a lead in a close game to just foul him with someone who has a low foul count. Putting Taylor at the line should result in a relatively easy defensive rebound and 0 or 1 points scored. Alabama’s opponents can then try to get out in secondary break or slow down the pace whatever approach is most appropriate given the circumstances. Opponent defense is a non-concern late in a game with Taylor out there.
Nick King is going to finally get the chance to play. King is a good defender and he is going to become an even better defender in his second season with Avery Johnson as his coach. King is a Small Forward who can play like a Combo Forward. He is accustomed to dribble driving to the rim as he played in a Dribble Drive Motion Offense with Josh Pastner.
King’s weakness: He’s a terrible shooter. He is a below-average Free Thrower, poor three point shooter and he’s also awful in the mid-range. When he’s not in the money zones, he’s 27.9%.
Ar’Mond Davis lit up Faulkner by going 4-8 from three point range, but he was a poor three point shooter at Southern Idaho. Ar’Mond Davis wants to get out and run, but it is possible that he may end up playing a large majority of his time in half court situations.
He’s the type of guy people will want to root for, he’s had quite a bit of challenges in his life. A lot of people deal with adversity, some of the stories of adversity end up publicized. It is a brave story to tell because some would cower in shame.
Expected Starting Lineup
PG: Dazon Ingram
SG: Ar’Mond Davis
SF: Nick King
Combo Forward: Shannon Hale
C: Jimmie Taylor
What to Expect from Alabama This Season
Alabama starts off with hosting Dayton, which is not exactly an easy home draw at 1:15 PM Eastern Time. Students will be in class and the turnout to Coleman Coliseum will likely be poorer than usual. The reason for this game happening like this is because of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. The Oregon-Baylor rematch in Waco should be a gem.
Alabama will play in Las Vegas for the MGM Grand Main Event. They open with Valparaiso, the media favorite to win the Horizon League, but this publication picks Oakland to win it. Valparaiso will be without Bryce Drew who left to coach at Vanderbilt. The next game will be the winner or loser of the BYU-Saint Louis game. Saint Louis is completely starting over with Travis Ford at the helm and BYU is an offensive dynamo.
Alabama will visit Texas, take Final Exams and then travel to Eugene, Oregon to face the Ducks. These are matchups that are not conducive to Alabama winning games, but it does bolster their Strength of Schedule.
Alabama hosts Clemson and this should be a tough, hard fought game like last season. Clemson is a better team than last season and Alabama is improved in some ways.
Getting out of the gate 3-2 or better is critical going into their game against Auburn. From January 21 through February 11, the schedule toughens up considerably. Visiting Auburn is never easy for Alabama and if Alabama loses the Iron Bowl to Auburn, it could be less easy for the University of Alabama SGA President. Follow that game with a trip to Stegeman Coliseum on a Wednesday Night. Alabama hosts Mississippi State, travels to Bud Walton Arena, hosts Auburn, visits the Colonial Life Arena and then Big Blue Nation invades Coleman Coliseum. Have fun with THAT.
The schedule softens up in the last six games and five of them are quite winnable with the exception of the quick turnaround after hosting Georgia and making the trip to College Station to take on Texas A&M.
Also notice that The Third Saturday in October rivalry is only played ONCE in Basketball. Interesting. If it is was such an important rivalry, why aren’t they playing twice? Alabama closes the regular season out in Knoxville.
Alabama is probably headed to the NIT just like last season. The non-conference schedule is challenging, but the wins will not be of a strong enough quality. Alabama will end up having to make up for it in the SEC schedule. The problem is that their rivals in College Basketball are not strong enough to boost their resume. Beating Missouri twice helps with the win count and improving their seeding in the SEC Tournament. 8 of 18 games are against Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and Missouri. This does not help the Crimson Tide and losses to these schools will hurt them. There are less opportunities for acceptable losses in this conference schedule and there is nothing Alabama could do about it. Alabama scheduled their non-conference games quite well, they did their part. There’s no reason for Alabama to not be in the top half of the SEC.
Alabama could play the role of spoiler for Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, but they just do not have enough conference games against the programs that are more likely to make the NCAA Tournament. The SEC is a 3-4 bid conference this season.
Compare Alabama’s schedule to Georgia’s. Georgia gets two games against Florida, Auburn, South Carolina, Kentucky and Alabama. Georgia gets a statement game in their last regular season game on the road at Arkansas (sometimes timing is everything), Alabama goes to Tennessee in a game that has a high downside to it. Georgia even gets Ole Miss on the road. Georgia’s conference schedule is tougher and it is a bit of a case of luck of the draw.
Alabama’s opportunity will come in Nashville. If they really belong and have grown as a team, they have to outperform in Nashville. Otherwise, they are on the quest to Madison Square Garden.