As many Alabama basketball fans understand, there is no value in sugar-coating the problems with Crimson Tide hoops. A team that can be good enough to beat any opponent can also be bad enough to lose to very bad teams.
There are nearly 150 Division One college basketball teams ranked lower in the NCAA NET rankings than Georgia, but the Bulldogs are an inexcusably bad No. 207. They would not be ranked that high had one of their six wins not come against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
After last season’s multiple successes; an SEC regular-season Championship, an SEC Tournament Championship and two wins in the NCAA Tournament, expectations were high for the 2022 season. While the AP Poll is no longer significant in college basketball, it is a measurement of media belief in teams. In mid-December, Alabama moved up to No. 6 in the AP Poll. The Tide has now been unranked for a month.
What went wrong for Alabama Basketball?
Two problems stand out. One is the Tide’s defensive efficiency has not recovered from the loss of Herbert Jones and John Petty Jr. Jones was heralded as one of the best defenders in college basketball last season. His effort and focus carried the entire roster in many games. John Petty, though less acknowledged for his defense, was solid and the team’s second-best defender.
There is no replacement for either one on the 2022 roster. Keon Ellis and James Rojas are consistently hard-working defenders. Ellis is capable of big defensive stops but neither player provides the leadership lift of Jones. In Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly, length is lacking to effectively contest perimeter shots.
The other obvious weakness is three-point shooting. Being in college basketball’s top ten in attempted threes and in its bottom 25 (among 358 Division One teams) in made threes is staggering.
Put the two problems together and the wins over Gonzaga, Houston and Baylor become almost unexplainable.
Alabama Basketball Roster Development
Why the Tide has such problems goes back to its roster development over the past two seasons. Not to unfairly criticize players who are believed to be trying their best, but Nate Oats has had too many roster fails. Reality has not matched expectations for Keon Ambrose-Hylton, Alex Tchikou and Darius Miles. Progress by Charles Bediako was evident against Kentucky but the freshman still needs more time to develop. Noah Gurley plays well at times, but has been far less, than what it was believed he would provide. James Rojas is tough and gives admirable effort, but does not provide much offensively. Highly heralded JD Davison plays great at times but is inconsistent. So far, Davison is far from the one-and-done player he was predicted to become. Apparently, Jusaun Holt holds real promise, but it has not been seen in games.
Adding to the weaknesses, only three players are on the roster (Shackelford, Ellis and Miles) are making threes at a better than 29.3 percent average.
A healthy Nimari Burnett might have made this season’s team much better. But even with Burnett, there is reason to question if Oats has correctly built his roster with the skills needed to execute his systems of play.
Note: Team and player stats provided by sports-reference.com
Even with these roster limitations, the Crimson Tide will advance to the Big Dance again. More importantly, next season’s incoming class is ranked No. 3 in the nation.