Alabama Basketball: Clueless against Missouri, young team needs answers


In the Missouri loss, the young Alabama basketball team appeared clueless. Does Avery Johnson have the answers for a quick remedy?

For Alabama basketball, youth can be a reason but it cannot be an excuse. Being almost the youngest team (348th out of 351 teams) in college basketball is a fact. It does not have to be a curse. As a point of reference, Kentucky is No. 351 in roster experience. Even with always elite talent, the Cats inexperience has made them more vulnerable this season.

Alabama basketball also has talent, though not near the abundance enjoyed by the Wildcats. Talent is a big advantage, but talent without cohesive teamwork does not win basketball games. John Calipari has many detractors but his teams play with intensity and unselfishness. Of course, Calipari is aided by athletically blessed subs for any player not committed to team basketball.

Avery Johnson is not in the same situation as John Calipari. Except for the necessity of playing inexperienced young players. Avery is trying to build a deep bench at Alabama. It appears to be working for the future, but the frequent rotations may not be best for the short-term.

Let’s take an unvarnished look at the team’s performance. Dean Oliver came up with what is known as the Four Factors which are four independent but necessary components for winning basketball games.

Ken Pomeroy has mastered the ‘Four Factors’ system and Pomeroy’s data is now considered by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Pomeroy’s algorithm calculates Alabama basketball at No. 59 among the 351 teams.  The success of Alabama basketball has been achieved predominantly by defensive play. The Tide’s ‘Adjusted Defensive Efficiency’ is ranked 29th. Its ‘Adjusted Offensive Deficiency’ is ranked 109th. Seven of the Tide’s remaining regular season games are against teams rated higher in the Pomeroy Ratings.

Can the Tide improve road weakness quickly?

The challenge for Alabama is to improve its offensive and defensive efficiency and quickly. Both were at a low point against Missouri. There are no high offensive efficiency numbers without good shot selection and making baskets. Against Missouri, Alabama was too frequently stagnant in player movement and took too many low percentage shots. As was evident in earlier losses, the team seemed content to let Collin Sexton create whatever he could.

Collin Sexton is not a selfish player but he has not learned to effectively help his teammates get shots. He had only two assists against Missouri. Avery often relies on ‘two-man’ games with Sexton and a screener. In too many possessions, that leaves three players watching.

Missouri took advantage of the Tide’s almost constant switching on defense. Alabama basketball had less than its normal defensive intensity and Missouri gained too many uncontested shots.

Adding to the defensive and offensive woes was poor performance on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded the Tide by 10 boards.

Bottom line was Missouri played harder, tougher and smarter than Alabama. The young Tide team has fed off Coleman crowd enthusiasm in big games. With a smaller crowd Wednesday night and little to cheer about, there was not much enthusiasm to fuel the team.

Avery has much to correct quickly. The Tide will have to create its own intensity and enthusiasm Saturday afternoon in Gainesville. Alabama basketball fans can hope the team will quickly learn that talent guarantees nothing. If not, this promising season could unravel this month.

Next: The Tide could break its NFL Draft record

After the Florida road game, the Tide travels to Starkville on Tuesday, February 6th. The Bulldogs are 16-6, having won their last two games against Missouri and South Carolina.