For Alabama Basketball a healthy Latrell Wrightsell is a maybe and a necessity

On a Final Four Saturday against UConn, a return of Latrell Wrightsell Jr. is for Alabama Basketball a maybe and a necessity.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The latest news on Monday was Latrell Wrightsell Jr. did not participate in Alabama Basketball's first practice of Final Four week. Nevertheless, there is optimism that Wrightsell will soon be cleared for more than a shoot-around.

Alabama basketball fans believe Wrightsell is a key to beating Connecticut. Some Tide fans wonder when Wrightsell returns to practice if he can wear protective headgear. Louisville players used headgear in their 2012 season. practices And Louisville's use of the vinyl-covered foam was specifically to protect players who had suffered concussions.

A boxing-style helmet is a possibility. They have been worn in college basketball games. Latrell might not want to wear one, but the boxing helmets provide additional safety and do not limit vision. However the situation unfolds from now until Saturday, Lattrell Wrightsell's long-term health will be the primary concern.

According to Blake Byler, Wrightsell is determined and confident he will play against the Huskies. On Monday, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach, Nate Oats said, "I think he's gonna give it a go. He's gonna get in a practice. If everything goes well after the practice this week, then he's gonna be able to go on Saturday, would be the hope."

As Nate Oats also said, making a Final Four with a key player missing for two-plus games indicates the strong resolve of Wrightsell's teammates. They want him back on the court and until then they have been playing for him.

Why Wrightsell is so important to Alabama Basketball

There is an old basketball axiom that maintains some relevance today. Specifically, it applied to the challenge of zone defenses when multiple opposing players were drilling threes. The axiom was that a good zone could handle one hot shooter and sometimes two but could never succeed against three.

Statistically, Latrell Wrightsell is Alabama's best three-point shooter at 44.3% on the season. Mark Sears is close behind at 43.4%. Rylan Griffen and Sam Walters are both over 39%. Going back to mid-January, Latrell Wrightsell has had eight games in which he made threes at over 50%. He was 6-of-9 in the Tide's February contest against LSU and was 5-of-6 in Bama's NCAA Tournament First Round game against Charleston.

The UConn Huskies are a good defensive team. In three-point defense they are No. 30 in Division One, at 30.9%. For perspective, SEC teams Auburn (30.2%) and Mississippi State (29.8%) are better.

The Huskies have lots of ways to win games. Three-point defense is just one of several keys to UConn victories. But if Alabama frequently has three guys on the floor hitting open threes, no college basketball, zone, or man defense can neutralize such firepower.

After Jarin Stevenson's 5-for-8 threes against Clemson, he might be one of a Tide trio, or Aaron Estrada, Grant Nelson, or Sam Walters might join Sears and Griffen in drilling Final Four threes. Best of all would be a healthy Latrell Wrightsell Jr. shooting lights out.

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