Alabama Basketball: What is wrong with the Tide and can Oats fix it

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Alabama basketball has careened off another NCAA path. What is wrong with the Tide? When can fans hope Nate Oats finds a remedy?

Alabama basketball fans are unhappy. Why is anyone surprised? It’s February. A nod to Cecil Hurt for the reminder Alabama basketball fans try to forget – “Since 2017, the Crimson Tide is now 11-21 in SEC regular-season games in February (and) March.”

Those two months are the ‘put-up-or-shut-up’ times for teams with Big Dance expectations. Plenty of people on Tuscaloosa know that (including several in the Athletic Department) but somehow for Alabama basketball, there is a chasm between knowing and doing.

When will all the coming up short end? Will it ever end?

There are many other, smaller, but still vexing questions. They revolve around the talent level of the players, Nate Oats’ system of play, doubts about recruiting and even is Nate Oats capable of rebuilding Alabama basketball. Correct that last phrase, build, rather than rebuild.

There have been a few NCAA trips since, but the last time Alabama basketball was good was the 2004 season. It was also good in 2002. Otherwise, a look back must retreat to the last century. Nate Oats is tasked with building a program. So too were Avery Johnson and Anthony Grant. Both tried and failed.

Nate Oats shares many of the problems faced by Anthony and Avery. The state of Alabama is not as basketball-rich as it was when Wimp coached. Players today don’t work as much at fundamentals and too many rely only on athletic ability. Coaches don’t work them as hard as Wimp did because the NCAA will not let them.

Think about all those things when you see an Alabama basketball player struggle to dribble, pass or fail to understand a missed finish at the rim is as bad as a turnover. Yes, other teams face a similar situation. But the schools that annually recruit elite players don’t have this problem.

Some schools bridge the gap with less than elite, but athletic and high basketball-IQ players. There has not been an Alabama basketball team of the past 15 seasons that did not need a couple more, high basketball-IQ guys.

The issue is not players being smart. It is very much about playing smart. Under the Nate Oats system, players must play fast and smart. The season’s Tide has only mastered the first part of the equation.

In fairness to Nate Oats and his team, injuries have been devastating. His system requires nine good, healthy basketball players. Not having those resources is a big reason for late-game collapses.

There are other roster deficiencies and they are glaring to many Alabama basketball fans. Ball-handling is too often shaky. Opponents seem to knock balls loose even when held in two Tide hands. There are too many shots at the rim with little chance to go in. Too frequently passing decisions are inexplicable. Players sometimes foul for bad reasons.

Making mistakes is part of the nature of the game. All players and all teams make them. That is why the great coaches have always preached valuing each possession. Alabama basketball is not good at that principle.

The Tide must press on, working to get better. The season is not over. Get better fast or just build for the future. I remain confident Nate Oats is the man for the job.

Next. Nate Oats is the man the Tide needs. dark

Following three losses is not a good time for four of the next six to be SEC road games. The Crimson Tide badly needs a win, starting early Saturday evening in Athens, GA.