SEC Season Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide

Posted by David Changas on November 4th, 2014

The SEC microsite will preview each of the league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Alabama.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Strengths. As with prior Anthony Grant teams, this year’s version should be able to defend at a high level. Alabama has always featured athletic teams that will guard its opponents and make it difficult to score, and as usual, the Crimson Tide will do so without an abundance of size inside. In his preseason ratings, Ken Pomeroy ranks Alabama at #32 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. With big guards like Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper patrolling the perimeter, Alabama has an ability to make things very difficult for its opponents to run offensive sets. And though they do not have any shot-blocking presence to speak of, there is no question that the Crimson Tide will make their opponents work to get good shots. In each of Grant’s five years at the school, his teams have been stellar at halfcourt defense, and this year should be no exception to that trend.

Levi Randolph is Alabama's top returning scorer. ( Hunt)

Levi Randolph is Alabama’s top returning scorer. ( Hunt)

Weaknesses. As well as Grant’s teams defend, they often have just as much trouble putting the ball in the basket — there is significant concern about what his team will produce from its halfcourt offense. The Tide lost their only double-figure scorer from last season, Trevor Releford — also the team’s only reliable outside shooter — but they do return four other starters. Alabama shot only 44.4 percent from the field and 33.4 percent from three-point range, though, and there is little reason to believe those numbers will improve significantly with virtually the same cast. In particular, perimeter scoring will be a problem, as no returning player shot better than 35 percent from beyond the arc. Grant will try to supplement his backcourt with the best freshman class he has had in his six seasons in Tuscaloosa. In addition to point guard Justin Coleman, Alabama added shooting guard Devin Mitchell and wing Riley Norris. Each will have to contribute early on the offensive end for the Crimson Tide to compete in the SEC.

Toughest Non-Conference Test. Unlike many of his SEC counterparts, Grant has not shied away from quality competition in the non-conference slate. Last year, a tough schedule may have been too much for his team, and it put the Tide in an early hole it never climbed out of. Furthermore, the Crimson Tide did not win a game away from Tuscaloosa all season. This year, they will travel to Xavier and host UCLA, but a November 24 game against Iowa State in Kansas City will be their first real test and should give us an indication of what may lie in store for this season.

Toughest Conference Stretch. The Crimson Tide faces a brutal stretch early in the conference slate that starts with a home game against Kentucky on January 17 and ends with the return game in Lexington two weeks later. The stretch also includes games at Arkansas and home contests against archrival Auburn and Florida in the middle. While the remainder of the schedule is not nearly as daunting, Alabama will be hard pressed to win more than one game in that stretch and it could be looking up the standings at most of the league before February arrives.

Could this be Grant's last season? (Getty)

Could this be Anthony Grant’s last season? (Getty)

Projected Starters:

  • G Levi Randolph (6’5″ – 9.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 APG)
  • Rodney Cooper (6’6″ – 7.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG)
  • Retin Obasohan (6’1″ – 9.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.6 APG)
  • Shannon Hale (6’8″ – 8.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.0 APG)
  • Jimmie Taylor (6’10” – 3.o PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG)

While Alabama returns four starters, it also gets quality minutes from Obasohan. None of the five returnees scored in double figures last season, though Randolph, Obasohan, and Hale could very well break that mark this year. Obviously, one or more of them will have to fill the void left by Releford’s departure.

Projected Bench:

  • Justin Coleman (5’10”)
  • Devin Mitchell (6’4″)
  • Ricky Tarrant (6’2″)
  • F Riley Norris (6’7″)
  • Michael Kessens (6’8″)

The addition of a top-30 recruiting class can only help things, and Tarrant and Kessens, who transferred in from Tulane and Longwood, respectively, bring some experience to the table. Given the offensive struggles Grant’s team had last season, it is likely that one or more of the newcomers will eventually crack the starting lineup and will certainly be crucial to any success the Crimson Tide may have.

If Everything Goes Right… As with most Grant teams, the Crimson Tide will play hard, and with their coach on what appears to be a very hot seat, this group will need to overachieve to assure that he gets a seventh year. If Alabama can steal two of the three tough non-conference match-ups and can survive the early SEC gauntlet, it has a chance to make a run at finishing in the top half of the league. Doing so might be enough to allow Grant to survive and build some momentum going into the 2015-16 season.

If Nothing Goes Right The possibility that this will be Grant’s last chance is very real, and if the relatively young Crimson Tide cannot win any of the early season match-ups in which it will be the underdog, a long season may be on the horizon. As with many SEC teams, there are a lot of unknowns with this group, and the opportunity to surprise people and win more games than expected is there. On the other hand, if the freshmen do not produce and this team once again struggles to score, things may unravel quickly, and the coach with more pressure on him than any other coach in the conference likely will be headed to the unemployment line.

David Changas (166 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *