Alabama Basketball freshmen stepping up in NCAA Tournament play

Clemson v Alabama
Clemson v Alabama / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

In 2023-24, the freshmen for Alabama Basketball haven’t been nearly as impactful as they were last year. Just a season ago, Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney combined to average 28.6 points and 16.1 rebounds per game en route to becoming one-and-done first round picks in the NBA Draft. This duo headlined a 4-man freshman class that carried Alabama to an SEC Championship in a lot of ways. 

This season, Bama’s freshman trio of Sam Walters, Jarin Stevenson, and Mouhamed Dioubate (as well as the injured Davin Cosby) all play reserve roles for the Crimson Tide.

Collectively, they average just 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and don’t make an enormous impact on paper. For reference, Alabama’s highest-scoring freshman (Sam Walters, 5.6 PPG) doesn’t even average as much as its lowest-scoring freshman from last year (Rylan Griffen, 5.9 PPG).

Still, this group is much more important than a glance at the stat sheet would indicate. All three are long and versatile players who make up the majority of Alabama’s bench rotation. Throughout the year, they have found ways to situationally impact games. In postseason play, they have continued to step up. 

Mo Dioubate had one of his best games of the season in Alabama’s second-round NCAA Tournament win over Grand Canyon. He came off the bench with tremendous energy, scoring nine points and grabbing five offensive rebounds in just 12 minutes of action. 

Two games later, it was Jarin Stevenson’s turn to have a career outing. Against Clemson in the Elite 8, Stevenson hit a career-high five three-pointers, scoring 19 total points and blocking two shots to help send Alabama to its first-ever Final Four.

Of this freshman trio, only Sam Walters has yet to have a breakout game on the tournament stage. Even he hasn’t necessarily played poorly; he scored nine points in Bama’s first round win over College of Charleston and has hit a three-pointer in three of its four NCAA Tournament games.

Walters has shown the capability to have big games offensively, with seven double-figure performances in the regular season. At 39.4 percent, he is one of the better three-point shooters on a team full of them.

If Alabama is going to upset the UConn Huskies, everyone’s title favorite after their dominant Elite 8 win over Illinois, it will likely need at least one surprise effort. Based on recent trends, that could very well be Sam Walters.