Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide obviously underperformed fans' expectations this past season. Limited depth, inconsistency on defense, and inexperience all posed problems. These areas are potential “swing-factors” where improvements could be vital to the Tide's success entering the new season.
Alabama lacked any sort of depth following some unlucky preseason circumstances last season. A main focus for the staff, assistant Bryan Hodgson was the lead-recruiter, adding immediate presence from Josh Primo, Jordan Bruner, and Keon Ellis this past summer. Outside of Kira Lewis, the Tide returns its main core from last season while fielding in-program additions of Jahvon Quinerly and James Rojas. Interior help will be added despite the season-ending injury of Alex Tchikou. All three of Alabama’s larger rotation forwards can shoot from outside and space the floor. Bruner will be able to offer some ball-handling and creation opportunities on the fast-break, something fans have not seen from a 6-10 big. If everything goes as planned, depth should be much improved and the rotation will be rounded out with a set of nine guys by SEC play.
Alabama will be able to put up points, but the Tide's success may be a matter of defending on the other end. Herb Jones has been the anchor on defense for the past three seasons, and the inability to get consistent stops was shown while Jones battled injuries and foul-trouble. The Tide added length and size in the backcourt with Keon Ellis and Josh Primo, who are both still filling out physically. These newcomers will show versatility and good movement at 6'-6". Sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford will need to improve, as his defense was lacking at times last season. Getting more out of returning talent and utilizing new players will be key to improved defense. Good defense will translate into quick and easy scoring opportunities, most notably in Oats’s up-tempo offense.
Installing new systems takes time, especially in Alabama’s complex style of play. Those struggles were shown early with turnover woes. Players like Jahvon Quinerly have been in the system for over a year and look to be prepared for upcoming opportunities. He will take the keys to the offense, providing a significant impact. Jaden Shackelford returns as one of the highest scorers in the SEC, and he could take larger steps in his sophomore season. Bama returns nearly all of its core players with prime positioning for a tournament run.
Some might consider the guard play from Quinerly as the most important factor in the team's success, but many variables will determine how Alabama limit those struggles from last season and take strides in the second season under Oats. A secondary ball-handling and creation role from freshman Primo should add to more depth. However, question marks remain on defense, and it is hard to predict team defense until the team takes the floor. Experience and depth should produce improved play from John Petty, Herb Jones, and Jaden Shackelford. There are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited for Alabama Basketball to return!
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