On Saturday afternoon, In Columbia, MO, Nate Oats and his Alabama basketball team looked very beatable. The appearance was not deceiving. Losing to Missouri, even on the road, is the Crimson Tide’s first ‘bad’ loss this season. How bad you ask? Going into the game, the Missouri Tigers were No. 235 in the NCAA NET rankings.
The Tigers had been struggling for much of the season, having lost six of their last nine games before Saturday. Some of the losses were embarrassments. Liberty beat them by 21 points, Kansas by 37, Illinois by 25 and Kentucky by 27 points.
Going into the game against the Crimson Tide, the Tigers were averaging 66.6 points per game. They scored 92 points on Nate Oats’ team. That comparison is more than troubling for the Crimson Tide going forward. Why it happened and what can be done must be answered quickly.
As reported by Mike Rodak, Nate Oats did not mince words after the game.
"If we don’t get our defense figured out, we’re not going to be competing for any championships this year.We told the guys this was a leadership test, a maturity test and we failed in that regard today."
Nate Oats was equally blunt talking about Tuesday night’s game against Auburn.
"If we’re gonna have any shot of winning that [Auburn] game Tuesday night, we’re gonna have to completely turn our defensive intensity around, or we got no shot of winning that game."
Alabama Basketball Zone did not work
What might be worse than lacking intensity are problems that cannot be resolved just by playing harder. Nate Oats opened the Missouri game in a zone defense. He said he did not like the matchups for Charles Bediako in man defense. Maybe he was also hoping using zone would keep the Tide’s big man out of foul trouble. The tactic failed – quickly, as the Tigers took a 9-0 lead. Bediako played just eight minutes in the game. His stats were four rebounds, two points and an assist.
Oats was right about the matchup problems for Bediako. Missouri was too physical for him, but the Tide’s freshman was not alone. Missouri played harder, tougher and smarter than did the Crimson Tide.
Two more reasons for the loss to Missouri were both related to three-point shooting. Alabama did not get an abundance of catch-and-shoot opportunities. The understood menu for beating the Tide begins with aggressive defense outside the arc. Also, Missouri had shot threes poorly all season. Against the Tide, they shot 37.5 percent. In addition, the Tigers had a 12 rebound advantage.
The biggest concern going forward is this Alabama basketball team has physical disadvantages. For all its skills, it can get bullied by bigger or stronger players. Unless it plays aggressively on defense throughout every game, Nate Oats will be correct about not competing for championships.