Alabama’s Defense the Key to Making the NCAA and Beyond

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 20th, 2011

Alabama didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year. Even though they were a bubble team by the end of the year, the Crimson Tide didn’t have the resume necessary to get over the hump. They just weren’t able to string together enough quality wins (or any quality wins other than a home win against Kentucky, a team that struggled mightily on the road in the SEC last season) to make a good argument. But this year, the Tide are hoping things will be different.

If Alabama continues to play the kind of defense they have played thus far this season, there is no reason that Bama won’t make it to the Big Dance. They have plenty of opportunities to get good resume wins (games against Georgetown, Detroit, Oklahoma State and many others, not to mention conference games against the big three in the SEC). But Friday night’s rematch of the NIT championship game against Wichita State proves this year’s Bama squad is much different than last year. Unlike 2010-11, Alabama will win big games because of its improved defense.

JaMychal Green and company hope to go dancing this season

Alabama’s defense has been smothering so far. In four games this year, the Tide are holding opponents to 34.9% shooting from two-point range and 22.5% from outside the arc. They are dominating the rebounding battle as well, including a +18 rebounding margin against Maryland this past week. Here are some quick stats showcasing the Tide’s dominant defensive performances from Alabama’s first four games:

Defensive stats
Opponent FG% 3PT% Reb Margin Total points
UNF 23.2 14.3 +2 44
Oakland 40 22.2 +12 57
Maryland 26.5 16.7 +18 42
Wichita State 33.8 35 -4 60
2011-12 Totals 30.9 22.5 +6.8 51
2010-11 Totals 38.6 31.8 +3 59


Alabama was a good defensive team last year, but in 2011-12 they rank amongst the nation’s best (#1 in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy). If the Tide can continue to frustrate opposing offenses then they will have no problem winning enough games against top 50 opponents, a feat they needed to accomplish more in 2010-11. There is no doubt that with wins such as Friday night’s over Wichita State, Alabama will be dancing at the end of the year. And with a defense as stout as what they have shown so far, Alabama won’t stop at just making the Tournament. With Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green leading the way, we may see them knocking at the door at playing into the sport’s final weekend. While most  conversations about making the Final Four typically start and end with the SEC’s big three, Anthony Grant’s outstanding defense might keep them in the conversation longer than anyone had expected.

Brian Joyce (333 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.

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