With the holidays finally here, both Alabama Basketball teams are looking to recalibrate as they prepare to enter SEC play. The two teams are in different predicaments heading into the new year.
The men’s basketball team sits at 7-5, which is hardly an impressive non-conference record on its face. With context, however, Bama’s resume isn’t all that bad. The Crimson Tide has played one of the toughest schedules in college hoops, and hasn’t looked overmatched even against the nation’s top teams.
It has struggled to close out games against high-major competition, beating Oregon but dropping games to Ohio State, Clemson, Purdue, Creighton, and Arizona. The Tide has gone 6-0 against lower-level competition, winning each game convincingly. It has averaged 101.2 points per game in these contests, eclipsing the century mark four times.
Offense isn’t an issue for this Alabama Basketball team, but defense and rebounding have been a concern. The Tide was outrebounded in all but one of its losses, and has given up at least 85 points in all six games against high-major opponents.
Bama is led by guard Mark Sears, who averages 19.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting over 44 percent from the three-point line. Versatile forward Grant Nelson is contributing 14.3 points per game and team-highs of 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Guard Aaron Estrada, who averages 13.8 points per game, is Bama’s third double-figure scorer.
Wing Rylan Griffen and guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. have provided a steadying presence in the backcourt while Nick Pringle and Mohamed Wague have split time at the five. A pair of freshmen forwards, Sam Walters and Jarin Stevenson, give the Tide some offensive punch off the bench.
Alabama will play Liberty on Saturday to close out 2023 and the non-conference portion of the regular season. Bama played a more dangerous Liberty team last season (one that won 27 games and was led by three-time A-Sun Player of the Year Darius McGhee) and won 95-59. It shouldn’t struggle with the Flames this year either, but it must correct some of its flaws before conference play gets underway in January.
Alabama Basketball: Women riding a 5-game win streak
The Alabama women’s basketball team is off to a solid start with a record of 12-2. The women’s team hasn’t exactly played a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule, but it has taken care of business. It has losses to Gonzaga and at Syracuse on its resume, but it also has a quality win against a good Louisville team.
Sarah Ashlee Barker (15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists per game) leads the Tide in scoring and provides veteran leadership. Aaliyah Nye has added 13.3 points per game, shooting nearly 43 percent from three on high volume and notching a team-high 2.3 steals per game.
Veteran guards Jessica Timmons (11.2 PPG) and Loyal McQueen (9.6 points, 3.0 assists per game) give the Crimson Tide a reliable backcourt. Freshman center Essence Cody (9.2 points, team-highs of 7.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game) rounds out the starting five and gives Bama a dominant presence in the paint.
The Bama women will host Mississippi Valley State on New Years Eve for one more tune-up before SEC play begins.
Both Nate Oats and Kristy Curry are looking to turn in impressive conference seasons. After bringing home the SEC crown last year, the Bama men will be operating under heightened pressure and expectations.