Alabama Basketball: Previewing Purdue

Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) is defended by Iowa Hawkeyes forward Owen Freeman (32) during the NCAA men’s basketball game, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) is defended by Iowa Hawkeyes forward Owen Freeman (32) during the NCAA men’s basketball game, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. /

Alabama Basketball looks to get back on track in a gargantuan matchup with no. 4 Purdue on Saturday afternoon in Toronto.

The Crimson Tide (6-2) fell out of the AP Poll after losing two of its first three games against high-major opponents this season. Nate Oats’ team largely got the benefit of the doubt in the preseason rankings after coming off of a second SEC title in three years, but many college basketball pundits are wondering if the 2023-24 Alabama squad is legitimate.

Meanwhile, the Purdue Boilermakers are generally considered one of the top teams in the sport, led by 7’4″ reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey. Edey is averaging over 23 points and 11 rebounds with nearly three blocks per contest, and will be a major challenge in the paint for the Tide.

Alabama Basketball is expected to have its full arsenal in the front court, but the group may not be at full strength. Starting forward Grant Nelson was injured in last week’s game against Arkansas State. While he is expected to suit up against Purdue, it could be in a limited capacity. It would be huge for the Tide if Nelson can be effective; the transfer forward averages 14 points per game this season with team-highs of 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Additionally, forward Nick Pringle is expected to play after missing the Arkansas State game due to suspension. Pringle is Bama’s biggest and most physical body, and will likely draw the assignment of checking Zach Edey. He will have to play fundamentally sound defense and use his quickness to bother Edey, preferably doing most of his work to prevent the big man from catching the ball.

Behind Nelson and Pringle, transfer forward Mohamed Wague and freshman forward Jarin Stevenson could see significant minutes. Edey tends to rack up fouls on opposing front courts, so depth will be critical for Alabama Basketball. Wague (12 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) and Stevenson (13 points) were both solid in their extended minutes against Arkansas State.

Alabama Basketball: Boilermakers improved across the board

In addition to Edey, Purdue has an improved backcourt and a much more well-rounded team this season. Guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer took their lumps as true freshmen last season. Both have made significant strides this year, but can still be susceptible to inconsistent play. Smith (11 points, six rebounds, seven assists per game) runs the offense while Loyer (11 points per game, 38.5 percent from three) stretches the floor for the Boilermakers.

Transfer guard Lance Jones (Southern Illinois) was easily the best offseason acquisition for Matt Painter’s team. Jones is averaging double figures and brings a gritty element to the Purdue backcourt.

Veteran forwards Mason Gillis and Caleb Furst are physical defenders and shot-makers, while Trey Kaufman-Renn is an elite athlete.

This will be the toughest game to date for an Alabama Basketball team that has already shown vulnerabilities. Can the Crimson Tide do enough to bother and limit Edey? No one has been able to do so all year. In fact, Edey has scored at least 23 points in all six games against high-major competition, averaging 27.3 points per game in such contests.

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Edey will get his, but if Bama Hoops can get out in transition and dictate the pace, it has enough perimeter shot-makers to give Purdue serious problems.