Drilling down on Alabama Basketball's championship chances based on the Crimson Tide defense

Alabama Basketball fits the standard for a championship team in every way but one. What is lacking is a top-30 defense and Bama is not close.

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

Nate Oats has the Alabama Crimson Tide flying high as college basketball's most explosive offensive team. Is that enough for the Tide to win championships? Based on conventional wisdom, great offense and not-great defense may not be a championship combination. Let's consider whether the conventional wisdom is correct.

Diving into numbers can be a chore. For brevity, one data point is used. It is Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (AdjD) provided by Ken Pomeroy. There can be debate over how essential the data point is to college basketball championships. Many close followers of college basketball believe there is little chance for a National Championship for teams with an AdjD ranked outside the top 30. Currently, the Alabama Crimson Tide has an AdjD of No. 76.

In the all-important, current NCAA NET rankings, among the top 30 ranked teams, four teams have a worse AdjD than the Crimson Tide. In the top 10 of the same rankings, the range, excluding Alabama, is No. 1 to No. 24. Seven of the top 10 have an AdjD of 15 or lower.

Ken Pomeroy has been doing the calculation since the 2002 season. Since then there have been 84, Final Four teams. Only 15 of them had an AdjD higher than No. 30. Only three had Adj's higher than Alabama's current No. 76. They were Marquette at No. 109 in 2003, Miami at No. 99 in 2023, and VCU at No. 78 in 2011.

Marquette lost by 33 points in the 2003 semi-final. VCU and Miami also lost in Final Four semi-finals.

Based on the NCAA Tournament history going back to 2002, a sound conclusion is any team ranked at No. 50 or higher is at best a longshot to make a Final Four. During that same period, the worst AdjD team to win the Big Dance was the Baylor Bears at No. 22. Baylor won the 2021 National Championship. The average AdjD ranking for the 21 national champions going back to 2002, is No. 9. Eleven of the 21 champions have been in top 10 AdjD rankings.

What it means for Alabama Basketball

Nate Oats has repeatedly stressed the Crimson Tide must improve defensively. Oats may well be college basketball's, offensive wizard, but the wizardry cannot work against top teams, without Bama playing sound defense.

How much the Crimson Tide can improve defensively hinges on interior defense. So far two the Tide 'bigs' have been too foul prone to provide consistent rim protection. The other two, Grant Nelson and Jarin Stevenson don't have the bulk and strength traditionally required at the '5' position.

How much should Alabama fans be concerned? One clue is Nate Oats has adjusted his primary coaching task to defense. Not insignificant is the Tide's two double-digit, SEC road losses came against Tennessee with an AdjD of No. 7 and Auburn with an AdjD of No. 4. In those two games Nate Oats' wizardry came up well short.

The Crimson Tide is having another good season under Nate Oats. In the coming weeks, it can turn into a very good season. Can it become a great one?