Alabama Basketball: Previewing the Liberty Flames

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama basketball continues its non-conference schedule tonight, hosting the Liberty Flames from Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty returns the vast majority of its roster after going 22-11 last season. The Flames finished second in the Atlantic Sun Conference in the regular season, and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament. They also went 1-1 against SEC teams last year, losing at LSU 74-58 and beating Missouri 66-45.

The undisputed star for Liberty is diminutive guard Darius McGhee. The 5’9” McGhee was second in the nation in scoring last season with 24.6 points per game. He was also second on the team in rebounds (4.5 RPG) and assists (3.6 APG). McGhee has 1,881 career points, and can score from anywhere on the court in spite of his reliable size disadvantage.

LU also returns a trio of senior forwards in the frontcourt. At 6’7”, Shiloh Robinson averaged 9.5 points and 4.4 rebounds while starting all but two games for the Flames. Also standing 6’7”, Kyle Rode brings a lot of value as a wing facilitator for Liberty. He averaged 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and a team-high 4.2 assists per game while shooting over 42 percent from the three-point line. Blake Preston adds size to the Flames front line at 6’9”, and averaged 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 2021-22.

Liberty opened their 2022-23 season against NCCAA Regent University, winning 84-38. McGhee led five scorers in double-figures with 17 points and five assists in just 17 minutes. Reserve guard Brody Peebles also had 17 points, and Blake Preston added 16. The Flames hit 12 three-pointers in the contest.

Alabama Basketball matches up well

Alabama basketball has a size advantage once again, though not as big as the one it had against Longwood. The Crimson Tide’s massive frontcourt will look to overpower Liberty in the paint. Look for Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Nick Pringle to gobble up rebounds and challenge shots around the basket all night. Noah Gurley is battling injury but could also contribute down low.

Alabama also has a lot of perimeter length it could throw at Darius McGhee to bother him. Both of Alabama’s point guards, Mark Sears and Jaden Bradley, have significant size advantages on McGhee. If Nate Oats wants to defend him with extra length and athleticism, he could turn to 6’4″ Nimari Burnett, 6’5″ Dominick Welch, 6’6″ Darius Miles, or even 6’9″ freshman wing Brandon Miller.

Keep an eye on Miller to have a breakout game on the other end of the floor as well. He is Alabama’s most gifted scorer, and is a mismatch nightmare against a team like Liberty.

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Alabama basketball began its season with a convincing win over an NCAA tournament-caliber team, and this will be another good test against a seasoned Liberty squad with an electric scoring guard.