A healthy Alabama Basketball team can make a run in Nashville

Arkansas v Alabama
Arkansas v Alabama / Brandon Sumrall/GettyImages

Alabama Basketball has been a fascinating case study in 2023-24. Running Coach Nate Oats’ fast-paced system, Bama has simultaneously been one of the most exciting and one of the most frustrating teams to watch in all of college basketball. 

The Tide finished the regular season as the highest-scoring team in the nation, yet still lost 10 games and was virtually uncompetitive in several of its most important matchups. 

While the roster is deep with talented shot creators and shot-up shooters, the current iteration of Alabama Basketball has some glaring weaknesses.

It has struggled to defend all season, frequently allowing opposing teams to score almost at will. Additionally, as good as Bama has been offensively, it has not responded well to physicality and has shown that it can be taken out of its rhythm by high-level defensive teams.

When this Achilles’ heel is paired with Alabama’s own defensive struggles, the trend of getting repeatedly blown out by such quality opponents starts to make sense. 

Injury Report and Alabama’s prospects in Nashville

While Alabama was unable to claim its third SEC regular season title in four years, the tournament championship is still on the table. The road certainly won’t be easy. In fact, there are multiple plausible (and even likely) scenarios in which Bama would have to play three straight games against opponents that beat the Tide by 18 or more in the regular season. This alone makes Bama’s chances at a title run seem bleak. 

However, this is still a team that can beat almost anybody in the country when it plays to its potential. Alabama will need its full assortment of weapons, meaning Rylan Griffen will have to make a speedy recovery from a calf injury he suffered at Florida.

If Griffen can somehow go, he gives the loaded Alabama offense yet another perimeter threat. When it’s at full strength, Alabama Basketball has more shot-makers than anyone in college basketball. 

Mark Sears, a veteran guard and three-level scorer, is the straw that stirs the drink. He averages more than 21 points per game, and his consistency and tenacity has kept the Tide afloat in many games this season. 

Backcourt mate Aaron Estrada is a streaky shooter and, frankly, has played below his capabilities in terms of efficiency for much of this year. Still, he is capable of erupting at any time.

Estrada went for 27 points on 6-8 from three-point range against a good Indiana State team back in November. In his career, he has 17 games of 25+ points and has hit the 30-point threshold eight times. In a game against Elon last December, Estrada hit 8 triples and poured in a career-high 40 points.

Aaron Estrada is long overdue for one of the scoring explosions that made him one of the hottest commodities in the 2023 transfer portal. He is one of the biggest “swing” players on the Alabama team, and will probably have to go off at least once if Bama is going to win three straight in Nashville.

Coach Oats surrounds his talented guards with an arsenal of spot-up shooters, as Rylan Griffen, Latrell Wrightsell Jr., and Sam Walters are all shooting over 38 percent from three while getting a majority of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. If this group can get hot, Alabama becomes arguably the most dangerous team in this tournament. 

Freshman Davin Cosby is another knockdown shooter who has stepped up in the absence of others at different points throughout the season. While they are very streaky, even bigs Grant Nelson and Jarin Stevenson can stretch the floor in the Tide offense. 

Given how it has performed against the league’s top teams all year, it’s tough to expect Alabama Basketball to play with the level of sustained consistency needed to win the SEC Tournament. While it would hardly be surprising if the Tide got knocked out in the quarterfinal round, this team is one of very few that has the capability to take home the hardware.