Alabama Basketball: Comparing Nate Oats’ title teams

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama basketball has won two of the last three SEC regular season championships. What has allowed Coach Nate Oats to reach this level of success so quickly in Tuscaloosa? What similarities and differences are there between his two conference championship teams?

Coach Oats is well-known for his fast-paced style that emphasizes spreading the floor and shooting almost strictly layups and three-pointers. Both of his title winning teams were able to implement this style effectively while also defending at a high level.

Perhaps most impressively, Oats was able to assemble these two dominant yet completely different teams in such a short period of time. Guard Jahvon Quinerly is the only major contributor that was a member of both teams; the rest of the roster was reconstructed by Oats.

Comparatively, the 2020-2021 team was not as good in non-conference play, and took some time to gel. It lost games to Stanford, Clemson, and Western Kentucky during a rocky 4-3 start to the season before finding its groove as the SEC schedule got underway.

The marquee players on that team were senior wings Herb Jones and John Petty, along with sophomore guards Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford. All four averaged between 11.2 and 14.0 points per game, spearheading an efficient but balanced attack.

The 2022-23 team has been more dominant throughout the year, defeating quality opponents convincingly and largely avoiding bad losses. The team reached the top spot in the AP Poll in February, and is on track to become a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The current team is led by SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller, with a deep supporting cast that includes difference-makers like junior guard Mark Sears and freshman forward Noah Clowney. Center Charles Bediako is much improved, and freshman guard Jaden Bradley has been mature beyond his years while earning major minutes.

Quinerly won the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, leading a very impactful bench that also features wings Nimari Burnett and Rylan Griffen.

Adopting Coach Oats’ style, both conference championship Alabama Basketball teams have exhibited potency from the three-point line. The current team has run opponents out of the gym with its ability to shoot the ball, but the 2020-21 team was even more proficient.

This year’s team ranks 14th nationally with 309 made three-pointers and ranks in the top-10 in three-point attempts. The 2020-21 squad led the nation in made triples (348) and attempts (989).

Both squads got out to excellent starts in SEC play. The 2020-21 team was 10-0 before it lost it first conference game, while the 2022-23 team started 12-0 in the league. Another similarity is that both teams were upset by mediocre Oklahoma teams in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, ending lengthy winning streaks.

Both teams also had elite depth, although I would argue that the 2022-23 roster is deeper with significantly more talent.

The biggest difference between the two teams is probably Brandon Miller. The 2020-21 team simply didn’t have a bona fide top-5 pick like Miller who could take over a game on both ends of the floor.

On a related note, the current Alabama basketball team is very youthful. It starts three freshmen and is led primarily by newcomers. Oats’ first SEC championship squad was built around the senior leadership of Jones and Petty, and had just one freshman making major contributions.

That team went on to win the conference tournament championship, but eventually fell to UCLA in overtime in the Sweet 16.

Brandon Miller rightfully named SEC POTY. dark. Next

Nate Oats’ current team hopes to secure another SEC tourney crown, but has Final Four aspirations beyond that.