Breaking Down The Crimson Tide’s Chances Of Success In March Madness
If sports fans have “Bama fatigue” from football, then they will be disappointed to learn that Alabama’s basketball team won both the SEC the regular season and conference championships and is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Yes, it is possible that the Crimson Tide could win national titles in football and basketball in the same sports year.
This breaks down Alabama’s chances of doing just that, of making a deep run in the tournament, whether or not it can make the Final Four and even cut down the nets as National Champions.
I have watched every single game and know the team about as well as Nate Oats. This is a pull-no-punches analysis of the Tide’s chances of making a deep run in March Madness and into the Final Four. Maybe more.
Alabama Makes The Final Four And Win It All If This Happens
Bama will be cutting down the nets if:
• It gets opponents without a dominating big man or inside game. The Tide does not have a true center or a rotation player taller than 6-6. Defensive rebounds have been a problem all year.
• It hits its 3-pointers. When Bama is hot, it’s a very difficult team to beat. Lately, tho, it has been shooting at or below 30%.
• It doesn’t turn the ball over; turnovers are the team’s biggest problem and they often come at critical times just as the team is seizing control of a game.
• It plays defense. Alabama plays sticky D and needs to bring it every game. The defense can make up for its shooting shortcomings; it’s why Alabama beat both Tennessee and LSU in the conference tournament leading to the SEC Championship.
• It plays with focus and intensity. Alabama is not a team that can win by hitting a lot of 3s; it must hustle, fight for rebounds on the boards and dive for loose balls.
Breaking Down Alabama’s Basketball Team
It’s a tall challenge for Alabama to make it to the Final Four and win it all, because the one thing Alabama doesn’t have is a dominant inside player.
March Madness success often comes down to matchups and Alabama’s bracket has a potential challenge in Texas, Florida State and Michigan.
Alabama’s is known nationally for taking 30+ three-point shots a game, but this is not a pure-shooting team that can stop-and-pop from anywhere on the court. The 3s come from an NBA-style of play which is drive and dish. The offense is designed to get a “paint touch” in the first six seconds of a possession. From there, it’s either drive to the basket or dish to a player on the perimeter. Alabama scores in the 80s, generally, and 98% of those points come from inside shots, 3-pointers and free throws.
Another key for this team is eliminating turnovers, especially what I call “momentum turnovers.” Those are the ones that kill momentum – it starts to pull away in a close game and just when the team can seize control, it commits a turnover. The Tide is going to be in some close games and those untimely turnovers could be the difference in advancing and going home.
Breaking Down The Alabama Basketball Roster
Forward Herb Jones is the heart and soul of the team. He’s kind of a skinny guy and at 6-6 isn’t big, but he plays like a giant. He does it all – rebound like crazy, drive to the basket and even shoot 3-pointers. Jones is as tough as nails and emotionally leads the Tide.
Shooting Guard John Petty is the most overrated player in the SEC. But it’s not his fault. It’s the ridiculous over-hype he receives from the broadcasters. Bottom line: he’s not a pure catch-and-shoot scorer; he must square his shoulders to the basket in order to make a shot. He often plays too fast and that leads to turnovers. The best thing he does most fans don’t see: he fights under the basket for rebounds, particularly on the defensive end.
Point guard Jahvon Quinerly is pretty solid and he can make incredible drives to the basket that will have you leaning back and saying “wow.” He’s also pretty good from behind the arc and often hits a key 3 when other players are clanging their shots. Oddly, he doesn’t start, but comes off the bench and plays most of the game.
Those are the three main players yet Alabama has a deep roster. Head Coach Nate Oats shuffles in eight or even nine players during the course of a game.
Jason Shackleford is a lefty who – like Quinerly – can make amazing drives to the basket. He’s primarily a three-point shooter and can get hot with two, three or four in a row. Josh Primo is a freshman who is the purest three-point shooter on the team (he just needs to take more shots) and forward Keon Ellis is a thin forward who is a smooth operator on offense and tenacious on defense.
Alex Reece is a forward who is quick to toss up three-pointers (sometimes too quick; when he gets the ball he shoot it) who is an emotional leader, Juwan Gary can a bit of a force inside but he’s lost a bit of spring in his jump after suffering a leg injury in January, Jordon Bruner is the same but he’s coming off a shoulder injury and also inside, James Rojas is the “enforcer.”
That’s a deep roster and every player can all hit three-pointer so there’s no slacking off one player to focus on another. Another benefit is that if several players are having off shooting days (like Petty) then there are others who can step up and have a big game. Any player is capable of putting up 25 points in a game.
Alabama does not have a good history of success in March Madness. Even the school’s best teams couldn’t advance past the Sweet 16 (one made it as far as the Elite 8).
Could this be the year the Tide breaks through to the Final Four or even the championship? Yes, it’s possible but it needs to do those four elements listed above to have a realistic chance at it.