Alabama Basketball will open its 2023-24 season with a home game against the Morehead State Eagles of the Ohio Valley Conference on Monday night.
Morehead State has been a solid program under Coach Preston Spradlin. The Eagles have recorded three straight 20-win seasons, finishing in the top-3 in the Ohio Valley in each of those seasons.
They made an NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the OVC tournament title in 2020-21, and are coming off a regular season conference title in 2022-23. Morehead State has amassed a 44-12 conference record over this three-year stretch.
The Eagles were upset in the 2023 OVC Tournament by SE Missouri State, but managed to beat Clemson in the first round of the NIT before falling to UAB to bring their season to an end.
In other games against high-major opponents, Morehead State lost to Indiana 88-53 in its season opener, fell to West Virginia 75-57, and lost to an SEC team in Vanderbilt by a score of 76-43.
Alabama Basketball: Morehead State personnel
The Eagles return their leading scorer from last season in senior guard Mark Freeman. Freeman averaged 15 points and nearly four assists per game, and will likely be the go-to guy again this year. He has over 1,200 career points and over 400 career assists in his time at three different schools.
At 5’11”, Freeman will be tested by the length of the Alabama backcourt with Aaron Estrada, Latrell Wrightsell Jr., and Rylan Griffen all standing over 6’3”. Additionally, senior Mark Sears is expected to suit up for Alabama Basketball. If he does, this will be a good matchup of savvy veteran point guards.
Morehead State also returns senior guard Drew Thelwell, a good shooter and solid all-around player who averaged over 11 points per game last year.
Graduate student wing Kalil Thomas is the last significant returning player for the Eagles. He is a jack-of-all-trades who averaged just under eight points and five rebounds per game last season.
Morehead State did not return a lot of quality size from last season’s team, and could rely mostly on transfers in the frontcourt. At 7’0”, Xavier transfer Dieonte Miles is the Eagles’ best chance to compete with Alabama Basketball down low. 6’10” sophomore Jaden Webb is a shot-blocking JUCO transfer that may also contribute.
Bama should be able to find mismatches with its versatile bigs, namely preseason first-team All-SEC forward Grant Nelson. Freshmen Sam Walters and Jarin Stevenson could also cause problems for the Morehead State frontcourt.
Alabama Basketball has a lot of new pieces and will need to mesh well to even approach the levels of success it had last year. One thing the team will not lack is talent and, more specifically, offensive firepower. Coach Nate Oats is one of the nation’s best, and he’ll figure out the rest.