Alabama Basketball 2014-2015 Non-Conference Previews: Wichita State


The University of Alabama men’s basketball team announced its 2014–2015 non-conference basketball schedule on August 8. Although several headline matchups are carryovers from last year, there were a few unexpected teams added to the lineup.

Alabama basketball limped to a 13–19 (7–11 SEC) record last season and many believe that Alabama’s extremely difficult non-conference schedule was a limiting factor to the team’s success on the court.

With Anthony Grant coaching for his job and one of the best point guards in Alabama history gone to play professionally, this is a pivotal year for the Crimson Tide.

Grant’s first losing season as a head coach wasn’t well-received, to put it lightly, but an easier non-conference schedule and some promising returning talent could allow the Tide to rebound from a horrendous season a year ago.

Alabama finished the 2013–2014 regular season with the seventh toughest schedule in the nation, thanks in part to early season matchups against Duke, UCLA and Wichita State. Although the Tide will see several tough opponents in the early going this year, it should be smoother sailing into conference play in 2014–2015.

Join us as we preview the Crimson Tide’s 2014–2015 non-conference schedule over the next 13 days.

December 16 – @ Wichita State

The non-conference schedule rolls on and mid-December brings yet another rematch from last season, this time a road trip to play the Wichita State Shockers (35–1, 18–0 MVC).

Wichita State became the ultimate Cinderella story last season in college basketball, cruising to an undefeated regular season and dominating the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Although the Shockers couldn’t end their magical run with a National Championship, they did make history and solidified head coach Greg Marshall as one of the biggest coaching names in college basketball.

Alabama has a bit of a history with Wichita State during the Anthony Grant era. Of course, the Crimson Tide lost at home last season to the Shockers, but Alabama also lost to Wichita State in the NIT Championship game in 2011.

The Shockers’ leading scorer from last season, Cleanthony Early, is off to the NBA, but don’t expect a major scoring drop off in 2013–2014. Sophomore guard Ron Baker should be able to step up to Early’s scoring mark of 15.8 points per game and sophomore forward Fred VanVleet is extremely exciting to watch.

ESPN2 has already claimed the broadcast rights to this game, and rightfully so. It will be one of Alabama’s toughest non-conference tests of the season.

Keep in mind, if Alabama would have knocked down some key free throws in Tuscaloosa last season the Crimson Tide could have spoiled the Shockers’ undefeated season long before Kentucky did in the NCAA Tournament.

Charles Koch Arena is a hard place to play anytime, but you can expect a packed house for a big non-conference opponent like Alabama.

With lingering question marks on the low block and without a defined leader heading into the season, this will be a tough game for Alabama to pull out, but it could be a measuring stick for the rest of the season.

Greg Marshall has transformed Wichita State into a basketball powerhouse and their undefeated season and run to the Final Four in 2013 are no joke. Alabama and Wichita State are on different ends of the basketball world and that is a fact that can’t be ignored.

Tomorrow’s game preview: December 19 – vs. Stillman