If there’s been one reason for the SEC’s resurgence in basketball, its been the schools hiring quality coaches. LSU hired Will Wade; Tennessee hired Rick Barnes; Auburn hired Bruce Pearl. Now, it’s Alabama’s turn to bring in the next big name in coaching.
Alabama put the entire SEC on notice when the program hired University of Buffalo coach Nate Oats to take over the program from Avery Johnson. In Oats’ four years at Buffalo the Bulls made the NCAA Tournament three times, got to the second round in consecutive years and won 59 games the past two seasons.
Now Oats moves from the MAC to the SEC and with him is bringing a frantic tempo and upbeat style of ball to Tuscaloosa. To get us more familiar with a new and probably improved Crimson Tide team is Parker Simmons from Roll Bama Roll.
1. Part of the reason the SEC’s seen a resurgence in basketball is that schools have hired quality coaches. Alabama is no different and might have made the biggest hire with Nate Oats who won 96 games in four years at Buffalo and 72 percent of MAC games. What can we expect in year one of the Oats era?
Well, to quote Oats himself, the Tide, “should make the NCAA Tournament”. In all honesty, that’s really not just coach-speak. Alabama has a very talented team, with a good amount of experienced upperclassmen to lead the way. This team should have been dancing in March last season as well. Tide Hoops has vastly under-performed based on roster make-up for years now. The last coach Alabama had who was both a great developer of talent and a strong X’s and O’s guy was Wimp Sanderson in the 80s-early 90s. Mark Gottfried got by on talent alone, Anthony Grant was a great defensive coach that lacked in pretty much every other area of the job, and Avery Johnson was too much of an NBA-style coach to be successful at the college level (in other words, he was great at identifying the shortcomings of the team; not so great at remedying them). Oats has brought an intense focus to a program that has desperately lacked it for decades now.
At the very least, I’m expecting a team that has a much greater attention to detail, better fundamentals, an increased pace of play, and greater consistency than they’ve had in a long time. That alone would be a wonderful sight for Tide Hoops fans.
2. Assuming transfer guard Jahvon Quinerly can play this year, what does he bring to Alabama? And if he can’t play, how does the Tide compensate?
As of right now, pretty much everyone around the program is operating on the assumption that Quinerly won’t be available this season. That said, if he does receive a last-minute waiver from the NCAA, the Tide will get a significant boost. Though Quinerly struggled at Villanova as a freshman, his talent is undeniable. Jay Wright has said as much, noting that it was much more of a bad fit (and a bit of immaturity) than anything to do with Jahvon’s talents. The guy has elite speed and a motor that doesn’t quit, which fits in much better with Oats’ high-octane, run-and-gun style than Wright’s hyper-efficient half-court schemes. The guy was a McDonald’s All-American for a reason, and his ability to handle the basketball and finish at the rim would do wonders for this year’s squad.
3. Alabama has one of the better non-conference slates in the SEC. The Tide travel to Rhode Island, open with North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis and will play either Michigan or Iowa State the next day. And if that wasn’t enough the Tide also have games against Stephen F. Austin, Penn State and Belmont. What are you looking for in the first two months of the season?
Honestly, in the first two months of the season, I’m mostly looking forward to seeing how the team has grown into Oats’ system. I can’t stress enough how long and how badly Alabama has lacked an identify on the offensive end of the court, so some semblance of competence when the Tide has the ball would be a breath of fresh air. As far as results are concerned, the big names you listed aren’t even who I’m most eager to see the Tide play. It’s the Florida Atlantics of the world that have sullied the Tide’s NCAA Tournament resume long before conference play has even started. And that stretches back to the David Hobbs era in the 90s. Again, inconsistent play has plagued Tide Hoops, largely because the team has totally lacked an identity of who they wanted to be on the offensive end. I am absolutely thrilled to be playing some quality opponents in non-conference play, and I question any program who doesn’t, but I’d be lying if I said anything other than how nice it would be to settle in for a Monday night game in November against Furman (granted, they were pretty good last season) without needing to reach for the whiskey.
4. I’ve read a lot about Oats having a real intense practice to start the preseason. Oats wants the Tide to play with tempo, will we see the practices translate to games?
Oh yeah, there’s no question about that. The first few practices were so foreign to Alabama players that they were barely making it off of the court. Hell, we had multiple guys transfer away, or at least consider it, just because of how different the tempo in practice is now compared to what it used to be. It’s going to be weird watching an Alabama squad push the ball and jack up threes like a Bruce Pearl-coached team, after all, the program has always been known best for its post players and forwards. But there is no doubt Oats will be pushing these guys to play at a frantic pace. In their first scrimmage this past Sunday, the Tide dropped 90 points on Jacksonville State, even though the team didn’t shoot the ball all that well. There will be a lot more possessions than usual for the guys in Crimson and White.
5. I don’t think anyone would have picked LSU to win the SEC regular season championship last year, but they did. So, could Alabama do something similar?
Win the conference? Most likely not. Grab a top four seed and a double bye in the SEC Tournament? There’s a good chance that could happen. The SEC is going to be deeper than it has ever been this year, so it’s hard to feel great about picking any four teams to make-up the top of the conference (though I feel pretty good about Kentucky and Florida being up there). But with talented returning players like Kira Lewis, John Petty, Herbert Jones, and Alex Reese, as well as an influx of talent in James Bolden (who averaged 12.2 PPG on 40.9%/34.9%/82.0% at West Virginia last year) and blue-chip recruits Jaylen Forbes and Jaden Shackelford, the Tide has the roster to make some serious noise this season. If Quinerly gets added to the mix, things could be looking really good for Tide Hoops in 2020.