Alabama Basketball Opponent Preview: South Dakota State

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Alabama basketball looks to follow up its big win over North Carolina last weekend when it hosts South Dakota State on Saturday evening in Coleman Coliseum.

Traditionally a good program, SDSU is off to a rough start this season. The Jackrabbits are currently sitting at 3-5, and have already lost as many games as they did last season when they posted a 30-5 record. South Dakota State has already faced one SEC opponent, losing to Arkansas 71-56 on the road.

The Jackrabbits are a young team, led by star sophomore guard Zeke Mayo. Mayo started 21 games last season as a true freshman on a loaded veteran team. He averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 41.5 percent from the three-point line. He is in a bit of a slump so far this year, shooting just 30.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Still, he leads SDSU with 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, adding 2.5 assists per contest. Alabama basketball has already seen one of the best mid-major guards in the country in Liberty’s Darius McGhee and defended him well, so the Tide should be ready for Mayo as well.

Fellow guard Alex Arians is a five-year starter in the Jackrabbits’ backcourt. He is averaging 7.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and a team-high 3.3 assists per game this season. Like Mayo, Arians isn’t shooting the ball particularly well this year. He is connecting on 33.3 percent of his treys after hitting an eye-popping 49.3 percent last season. Arians has started 122 career games, amassing 1,083 points, 630 rebounds, and 287 assists.

Charlie Easley is the third returning starter in the South Dakota State backcourt. He is averaging 8.9 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent from three. The former Nebraska transfer has shot the three at a 46.9 percent clip over his three years at SDSU.

Senior forward Matt Dentlinger is averaging 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 2022-23. The 6’8” Dentlinger has appeared in 130 games and started 83 in his career. While he took on a lesser role last season largely due to the emergence of Mayo, Dentlinger started every game for the Jackrabbits and posted double-figure scoring averages in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Freshman forward William Kyle III gives SDSU its only semblance of a post presence. He is averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game this year. He is an athletic player with a slender frame at 6’9” and 215 pounds. Junior guard Matthew Mims and redshirt freshman forward Matthew Mors provide quality depth off the bench.

The frontcourt of Kyle III and Dentlinger will be woefully undersized against the front line of Alabama basketball. Noah Clowney may be inactive for the Tide due to a lingering lower body contusion, but Charles Bediako, Noah Gurley, and Nick Pringle should feast on the glass just as they have been doing all season.

The Jackrabbits’ veteran backcourt will provide yet another good test for a group of Alabama guards that is beginning to gel. It could be argued that Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, and Jaden Bradley all played their best game of the season against North Carolina, combining to outplay one of college basketball’s premier backcourt tandems. Factor in the contributions of Nimari Burnett and Rylan Griffen, and the Crimson Tide are in good shape at the guard positions.

If all else fails, the difference-maker in this game should be freshman wing Brandon Miller. There is not a player on the SDSU roster that can match up with the projected lottery pick. Miller is looking to bounce back from a frustrating individual performance against UNC, and he should have a field day in this one.

Next. Playoff hopes still alive. dark

Alabama basketball defeated a much more talented South Dakota State team by a score of 104-88 in Coleman Coliseum last season. If Alabama plays to the standard it has established so far in 2022-23, this game won’t be nearly as close.