Early Returns: Alabama Crimson TidePosted by Greg Mitchell on November 21st, 2013
Alabama doesn’t play again until November 27 in New York against Jabari Parker and #6 Duke. In honor of this mini-break, let’s take a look at what the Tide have done in the early part of their season.
Wins (plus Kenpom rating): Georgia State (#114), Texas Tech (#144), Stillman (NR, Division II)
Loss: Oklahoma (#55)
The Good: Rebounding and free throw shooting. Alabama has rebounded well considering Nick Jacobs is the only player taller than 6’8” who is playing more than 20 minutes per game. The Georgia State win is a good illustration of how the Tide will have to attack the boards the rest of the season given their guard-oriented lineup. Seemingly everyone chipped in: five players had more than four rebounds, and Trevor Releford and Levi Randolph had six each. Another key statistic is that of the six players with more than eight free throw attempts on the season, five are shooting above 75 percent. This includes a perfect season (11-of-11) from Releford thus far. Alabama can help itself immensely by keeping this up given the new hand-check rules.
The Bad: Taking care of the ball. The Tide have turned the ball over too much and are not creating opportunities off the bounce. The only positive assist/turnover ratio the team recorded was against Division II Stillman, and they had an ugly four to 14 ratio in their loss to Oklahoma. A team at the Tide’s level simply can’t cough it up 10 more times than they dish it out and hope to win many games against quality competition. Some of that can be attributed to early season rust and Releford sitting on the bench with foul trouble, but he is off to an especially tough start, averaging a turnover more and assist less than his career averages. Given that he’s the active SEC assist leader, though, there’s a good chance he’ll turn this around, and that would have a big impact considering he is Alabama’s primary ball-handler.
Surprise Player: Retin Obasohan. The Belgian sophomore has emerged as Releford’s best side-gunner thus far, bumping his scoring up to 15.5 points per game after averaging 3.9 PPG as a freshman. He’s been an effective slasher, gotten to the free throw line over six times per night, and shot 77 percent while there.
X-Factor: Carl Engstrom. The international flavor continues with the 7’1” Swedish junior. Engstrom is recovering from a torn ACL and averaging only 10 minutes per game, but this is already near the peak per-minute average of his career (12.3 points per game last season before his injury). He’s never been an exceptional rebounder with a 13 percent career total rebounding percentage, but has the size that the Tide lack.
Reading the Tea Leaves: The Tide haven’t moved the needle either way in their first four games. It would’ve been nice to beat Oklahoma in Dallas, but losing to a decent Big 12 team is no pox on their season. They have four big games coming up against Duke, Wichita State, UCLA and Xavier. Splitting that run of games would be a boon heading into SEC play, but the Tide haven’t shown anything yet that makes you think they certainly can or cannot do it. However, if they are more disciplined with the ball, rebound as a group, and continue to hit their free throws, they could find themselves with a healthy number of wins heading into conference play.