In game three of the Nate Oats era, Alabama basketball showed it is a long way from competing at an NCAA Tournament level.
There is a well-known phrase that fits Alabama basketball hopes in the months following the hiring of Nate Oats. That phrase is “irrational exuberance” that came to fame describing unrealistic stock market expectations in 1996.
The Nate Oats hire sparked a similar exuberance in Alabama basketball fans. The choice was a good one by Alabama Athletic Director, Greg Byrne. Expecting big things from a Nate Oats led Alabama basketball program is still warranted. It is going to take longer than hoped.
Crimson Tide fans believe in Oats. Many have been confident Oats would orchestrate an immediate return to the NCAA Tournament next April. It could still happen. The season has just begun.
Friday night’s game at Rhode Island was a sobering wake-up call. The Alabama Crimson Tide team looked like a team that would struggle in the NIT next spring. Having two of the next three Tide games against North Carolina and either Michigan or Iowa State is daunting.
Against Rhode Island, the Crimson Tide played one of its worst halves of basketball in years. The pace of Tide turnovers in the first half was nearly one per minute. With 5:55 left in the first period, the Tide trailed 36-18. Tide three-point shooters were 0-for-8. The team had committed 12 turnovers. The turnovers were driven by six Rhode Island steals and led to 19 points for the Rams. The only positive for the Crimson Tide was a 17-11 rebound advantage.
Give Oats some credit. After the point described above, the turnover pace slowed. His team did not quit. It still missed some threes but it made enough baskets to eventually claw back from a 22-point deficit to cut the Rhode Island lead to five points. The final was Rhode Island 93-79 over the Tide.
The game sapped confidence in Alabama basketball but the post-game interview with Nate Oats was absolutely encouraging.
Alabama basketball fans are going to suffer through some other hard nights while Oats builds the Tide program. Realistically, he needs a strong signing class to bring in talent to fit his schemes. Until then, Crimson Tide fans will need to do something we don’t do well – be patient.
Kira Lewis Jr. led the Tide in scoring with 21 points, followed by Herbert Jones with 17 and Javian Davis with 11 points. John Petty led the Tide in rebounding with eight boards, followed by Davis with seven. The Tide had 22 turnovers, shot 47 percent (22.7 percent outside the arc) and 75 percent at the foul line.