Alabama Basketball: Nate Oats must do a nearly complete rebuild

Alabama basketball may not be at its lowest point in 15 seasons but it is close. No matter how this season limps to conclusion, Nate Oats must rebuild the roster.

In less than a week, Alabama basketball went from a competitive team with NCAA Tournament aspirations to something much less. What that much less is, will play out over the next week or two.

Nate Oats is taking some undeserved heat from a portion of the Crimson Tide fan base. Those that understand basketball know this season’s team did not have the roster required of an NCAA Tournament contender. Injuries made fundamental roster weaknesses even worse.

Still, it is fair to ask questions about Nate Oats after 31 games. Does his pace of play require a roster deeper in talent than Alabama basketball has seen in many years – or ever? Is a five-out offensive scheme a kind of mid-major gimmick that cannot be sustained against elite opponents? Is Nate Oats the coach (not the man) something of a one-trick pony, well suited to mid-major competition rather than challenging basketball’s top tier programs?

Those questions may or may not be valid. None can be easily answered. Five-out, motion offenses are used by more than mid-majors. Bob Huggins at West Virginia and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke are proponents. Particularly in the case of West Virginia, defense comes first. No offense is enough to win consistently without tough defense and rebounding.

There is a perception this season’s Alabama basketball team is better defensively than last season. That perception is largely driven by the outstanding defensive efforts of Herbert Jones and the improved defense of John Petty Jr. Statistically, Alabama basketball is slightly down from last season in 3pt. field-goal percentage defense (7th in the SEC, compared to 5th last season) and the same in overall field-goal percentage defense at 11th in the SEC.

The one area of big improvement by the Crimson Tide is 3pt. field-goal shooting percentage. An actual percentage comparison is invalid because of the 3pt. line having changed. But last season the Tide was 9th in the SEC in made-threes, percentage and this season it is No. 1.

Other somewhat telling stats are turnover and rebound margins. The turnover margin was 11th in the SEC last season and is 11th again. The rebound margin was 6th in the SEC in 2018-19 and this season is 11th in the conference.

By the middle of next season, Crimson Tide fans can draw fair conclusions on Nate Oats’ coaching suitability for the Tide. The above stats will improve or Alabama basketball will continue to languish. Until then, one statistical fact should be remembered.

In the last four years under Mark Gottfried, the six years under Anthony Grant and the four years under Avery Johnson, Alabama basketball has had season losses of 12 games only three times. In the other 11 seasons, the range of season losses has been 13-19 games. Check the record at sportsreference.com and it is easy to see the consistently weak performance of the Alabama basketball program. Anthony Grant was a good coach at VCU. This season he has Dayton on the brink of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama basketball and Anthony Grant proved to be a bad fit. Will Nate Oats find a similar fate or will he be able to build a winning basketball culture, in a place that has not known one, in now 16 seasons?

All we know is Nate Oats has learned how difficult is his task. Check out the tweet below for an encouraging sign.

Without a significant roster upgrade, the 2020-21 season is likely a repeat of the 16 seasons before it.

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The Crimson Tide meets Tennessee Thursday in Nashville. Just like the Missouri game, it will be an audition for next season’s roster.

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