Alabama Basketball: Can Crimson Tide play small ball?

(Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)
(Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images) /

Charles Bediako’s decision to leave Alabama Basketball and stay in the 2023 NBA Draft came as somewhat of a surprise, but how do Coach Nate Oats and company move forward?

It is well known that Bediako’s exit leaves Bama in a pinch, with only one true post player currently on its 2023-24 roster. The first priority, which should be obvious, is to find more frontcourt players. Bama not only needs depth; it could use one or two SEC starter-level players, though this appears to be an unlikely prospect.

At this point in the offseason, quality options will be tough to find. Oats will have to skim the transfer portal, or rely on a 2024 recruit (like 5-star forward Jarin Stevenson) to not only commit, but reclassify into the 2023 class.

At the current moment, 6’9″ senior Nick Pringle and 6’7” incoming freshman Mouhamed Dioubate are the Tide’s only options down low. Sam Walters, another incoming freshman, is a big wing at 6’8”, but is slight of frame. At less than 200 pounds, Walters should not be expected to compete in the frontcourt this winter.

Assessing the rest of the Alabama Basketball roster

If Bama has to lean on perimeter play this season, the returns of senior guards Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears will become even more important. Ideally, Coach Oats will be able to pair his returning backcourt with two electric transfer additions in Aaron Estrada and Latrell Wrightsell Jr.

While the Crimson Tide could enter the upcoming season perilously thin up front, it could also potentially field one of the best backcourts in college basketball.

On the wings, it won’t have a Brandon Miller-level scorer, but the roster is loaded with high-upside shotmakers. Rylan Griffen returns for his sophomore season after outperforming expectations in year one.

If he can make a jump in his development this offseason, he projects as a borderline All-SEC “three-and-D” wing. Behind Griffen, redshirt freshman Davin Cosby and true freshmen Sam Walters and Kris Parker may have no choice but to contribute on the perimeter.

Unless Alabama Basketball is able to reel in at least one more post player, the Crimson Tide may have to go small this season. While this isn’t ideal, the good news is that Coach Oats has loaded up on playmakers in the backcourt.

Bama may have the ability to roll out three-guard (or even four-guard) lineups that other teams simply can’t keep up with. Even in this case, the Crimson Tide would have to make shots at an impressive rate to account for the presumed rebounding disparity it could face against bigger opponents.

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This necessitates a massive adjustment for both the coaching staff and the fan base. After leading the nation in rebounding in 2022-23, Bama will lose at least 75 percent of that production and could really struggle on the glass.