Alabama Basketball: Time for Nate Oats to make adjustments

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

While Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats and his staff are enjoying a deserved holiday respite, attention will also be focused on the upcoming SEC schedule. The Alabama Crimson Tide opens on the road in Starkville, against the 11-1 Bulldogs, on Dec. 28.

Mississippi State was undefeated until a Tuesday night loss to Drake. The Bulldogs are currently No. 6 among Division One teams in field-goal percentage defense at 35.85%. The stat might be somewhat misleading. Mississippi State has played two of college basketball’s worst teams in Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State.

Looking to the Crimson Tide’s SEC opener and beyond, the highly talented Tide faces three challenges. One is playing effective defense without Nimari Burnett. Burnett is expected to miss at least 10 more games. Burnett was helping the team on both ends of the court, but especially on defense. He could take on any opponent’s best perimeter player. The work Burnett did on Marcus Sasser in the Houston game was outstanding.

A problem for Nate Oats is other than Mark Sears and Jaden Bradley, the Crimson Tide does not have another dependable guard or wing player. Rylan Griffen has shown much promise but has not settled in as a college player. His thin frame makes it tough to be a physical defender.

Otherwise, Oats must use Jahvon Quinerly and Darius Miles, both of whom have been turnover prone. Transfer Dom Welch was brought in for his three-point shooting, but hopefully, when he is fully healthy, he can help defensively.

Another challenge has been turnovers. As a team, the Tide’s assist-to-turnover ratio has been inexcusably poor. At, . 91, Alabama is No. 267 among D1 teams.

In the Alabama Basketball loss to Gonzaga, the Crimson Tide’s biggest defensive weakness was in the paint. Gonzaga’s Drew Timme made 67% of his field goal attempts, with almost all his makes coming within three steps of the basket.

Alabama lost the Gonzaga game because the Tide’s defensive performance was insufficient to limit the offensive output of a talented and well-coached team. In five of its 2022 games, Gonzaga’s made field goal success had been less than 46%. In a loss to Baylor, the Zags shot just 36.1%. Last Saturday, in Birmingham, Gonzaga shot 57.1%. Except for the Gonzaga game, Alabama has been very good defensively. But there are SEC teams able to change the Tide’s inside defense as the Zags did.

Does Alabama Basketball have room for Pringle?

On Tuesday night. against Jackson State, Nick Pringle got his first significant minutes for the season. Jackson State’s big men are far from stiff competition, so Pringle’s game performance needs to be measured against tougher opposition. But Pringle looked good on Tuesday, while providing a physical presence the Tide has lacked at times this season. It could be when (if) Nate Oats settles in on eight or nine players that Nick Pringle needs to be one of them.

Review the Jackson State win. dark. Next

Bring on what will be an exciting SEC season. Alabama must be considered one of the league’s top teams.