Since Nate Oats arrived in Tuscaloosa in the spring of 2019, we’ve talked about How? ‘Or’ What Oats likes to put his teams together – long, mostly positionless athletes who can shoot and defend. The 2019-20 squad was obviously pretty short on those expectations, considering it was basically Avery Johnson’s squad. Even the 2020-21 SEC Championship-winning squad was mostly led by remnants of Avery. Still, this team certainly fit the bill better than last year’s team, which often couldn’t defend a soul or take down a three-ball to save its life.
That won’t be the case this season. With Oats and the company’s complete roster overhaul, the 2022-23 Crimson Tide will look like what Alabama fans imagined when Oats hired – the 2018-19 Buffalo Bulls, but with a elite talent and perks.
Starting in the backcourt, as Alabama will be without preseason first-team All-SEC point guard Jahvon Quinerly to start the season, this might be the best status the point position has been in. since the beginning of the Oats era. Quinerly himself is expected to be back in December. Prior to that, primary ball-handling duties will be shared by true five-star freshman Jaden Bradley and Ohio 2022 All-MAC first-team transfer Mark Sears.
Alabama struggled mightily with turnovers last season, returning the ball on nearly a fifth of all possessions. A lot of that was because there were only two real ballhandlers in Quinerly and JD Davison – and Davison was really prone to the turnover bug. Sears will likely get the first crack at some point next week, and while he’s shaping up to be more of an off-ball scorer (46.1%/41.0%/88.3%), his TO% wasn’t than 17.8% in 2022, compared to 21.3% for Quinerly and 29.2% for Davison. Granted, he will certainly face some intensified competition, but the hope is that he will eventually become a secondary ball handler when Quinerly returns and Bradley starts to come back. Bradley’s game has been compared to Chris Paul’s in that, while he can score himself, he’s much more of a distributor who can also use his 6’3 frame to defend at a high level at the other side. He was a McDonald’s All American for a reason.
Ultimately, I’m looking for Bradley to take over as the starting point guard for this team at some point. He’s exactly what Alabama has been desperately lacking in positional point in recent years — a 6’3 slickball handler and elite distributor who can run the offense like a well-oiled machine both in halftime. -pitch and in transition and can also play hard defense at the other end. It would also allow Quinerly and Sears to play off the ball and focus on using their elite skills (Quinerly’s dribbling penetration and Sear’s shooting) instead of carrying the charge as primary handlers. ball.
Finally, Rylan Griffen is a four-star freshman who I personally like very much. He finished his senior year of high school strong and, at 6’5, can score at all three levels and has the advantage of being a very good defender in second place. I wouldn’t expect a ton of playing time from him this season, but he should be in the rotation and profiles to be a big contributor and future starter in Tuscaloosa.
The oats on the list are most noticeable on the wing. Along with Nimari Burnett, Dom Welch, Darius Miles and – of course – Brandon Miller, this group plans to be the strength of the 2022-23 squad. You have to start with Miller. As I wrote in last season’s preview, the five-star McDonald’s All-American has been turning heads left and right this preseason. He’s starting to appear in the top 10 simulations of the 2023 NBA draft, and Roger even said that Miller was the best player he has ever seen in an Alabama basketball uniform. Keep in mind this list includes Latrell Sprewell, Reggie King, Leon Douglas, Robert Horry, Gerald Wallace, James Robinson, Derrick McKey, Antonio McDyess, Mo Williams, Erwin Dudley, Ronald Steele, JaMycal Green, Alonzo Gee, Trevor Releford , Collin Sexton, Herbert Jones, etc. Need I say more?
Burnett is the ideal two-way swingman – a long, strong frame, physical stature and ability to knock down shots. He’s listed at 6’4, but he plays a lot bigger than that. Yet another former McDonald’s All American, Burnett tore his anterior cruciate ligament last October, and Alabama badly missed his two-way ability last season. Imagine adding a 38% 3P shooter and an elite defender to last year’s squad. Additionally, Burnett was known as a leader for the club despite his injury, an element that seemed to be lacking in many players on the pitch.
Welch was a four-year starter at St Bonaventure, a team that won quite a few games over the past two years and even made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2021. Last season, Welch averaged 12.3 PPG on 41.4%/37.4%/77.8% split, while mustering 6.0 RPG and dealing 1.6 APG. It also forced 1.3 SPG. Originally recruited by Oats while Nate was at Buffalo, Welch is a fantastic fit with a wealth of experience playing winning basketball. And we all know the potential of Darius “Sky” Miles, one of only three returning players from last season to log minutes. The 6’6 athlete has occasionally shown flashes of being a starting from a high level. Unfortunately, he was recently spotted in a boot, so he may not be ready to go next week.
The lack of size and depth inside has hurt Alabama in recent years, as the Tide has had issues keeping several bigs healthy for long stretches. A quartet of post players make up the frontcourt this year, including returners Noah Gurley and Charles Bediako. Both guys had somewhat disappointing starts, as end four Gurley shot a career-worst 25.4% from three, and Bediako really struggled to adjust to the physics of the college ball high level. A simple regression for Gurley and the development of Bediako should greatly benefit both players in 2023. We’ve seen the two blink at times – there were a few games Tide wouldn’t have won last season had it not been for Gurley. suddenly lights up. If these two play like the bona fide starters we hoped for when they signed on, a position of relative weakness could turn into great strength.
That’s partly because four-star freshman Noah Clowney has been a pleasant surprise this preseason. The 6’9 South Carolina product was originally thought to be more of a long-term contributor than a guy who could make an immediate impact, but as Bediako nursed an undisclosed injury, Clowney showed up at five points. His energy in painting was electrifying as he consistently towered over the glass on the foreign tour and even displayed a few double-doubles. Being able to curl up Bediako and Clowney in the middle would go a long way to maintaining a solid force in the middle of the paint all season. Bediako had decent trouble last season.
And, like I said earlier, Clowney wasn’t even supposed to be the guy who contributed immediately, either. It was supposed to be a transfer of 6’9 JUCO, Nick Pringle. Pringle was considered one of the top JUCO prospects available in 2022. If he’s fourth in the rotation in the paint, Alabama will be a little deeper in the front zone than they have been in a long time.
The cap on this team is really high. As mentioned, this year’s group should most closely resemble the type we envisioned when hiring Oats. Long, deep, with scorers all over the floor looking to pick up the tempo and throw shots. Based on preseason shows, defending, shooting and turnovers are still an issue. There might be issues with those areas of the game at the start of the season, but this year’s team has a lot more – and better – answers to those issues than last year’s team.