Countdown to College Basketball: #13 Alabama Crimson Tide

 In a short time since becoming a Division 1 head coach, Nate Oats has quickly emerged as one of the premier coaches in the sport. Last season was just the season where things came together and worked for Alabama and Oats’ three-point, and inside scoring only philosophy, as the Crimson Tide won the SEC regular season and Tournament Championships, while they came close to advancing to their second-ever Elite Eight. The Tide have proven they can win by relying on threes, but the question now becomes is that philosophy one that can lead them to a Final Four or a National Championship. This year’s talented roster will hope that can be the case, and they hope this is the team to achieve that success. 

The engine for this Tide team comes from the backcourt where they have a three-headed monster in Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, and five-star freshman JD Davidson. Quinerly will look to run more of the point for this team and he seems poised to also lead the team in scoring. Quinerly came off the bench for much of last season, and had some early struggles but really started to find his footing, his role will be in attacking the rim, and trying to score or pass, although should he give the ball up, he’s more than capable than finding his way to being a good spot-up shooter. Jaden Shackelford led the Tide in scoring a season ago and probably acts as the team’s best pure scorer. Shackelford is a good scorer, solid shooter, and good defender. The key for him achieving his pro aspirations will be improving upon efficiency, as he’s not a bullseye shooter. The third head of this three-headed monster is freshman JD Davidson, who is a point guard that is an explosive athlete that is great at attacking the rim and finishing. He could potentially be the point guard on some possessions, although he will need to be a good passer and a low-turnover player to get a full reign on the offense. 

While a three-guard lineup seems poised to be the likely starting rotation, Oats’ team needs a good group of switchable players for this team to work. Keon Ellis should be in line to start at the 4, Ellis is a 6’6 wing that is a good defender, solid athlete and while not aggressive, he’s a good shooter. Juwan Gary acts as an undersized big man, but he’s a tough physical interior scorer who should take a bigger role this season. Keon Ambrose-Hylton acts as an undersized forward who is an energetic wing but needs to come a long way to start. Jusaun Holt is a four-star recruit who projects as a good shooter and defender, while he should move the ball in this offense. 

The interesting part of this team comes with what Alabama will do at the 5 spot. Noah Gurley seems to be the option, for now, the 6’8 forward provides the team with a good interior defender, solid scorer, and capable shooter, which will allow them to play a five-out system. Gurley probably is a four at most high major programs but does fit in playing at the 5. Charles Bediako provides this team with a more traditional big man, while he also has limitless upside as a true big man, he is probably not even close to reaching his potential yet. Bediako is a 6’11 big who has shown an ability to be a good interior scorer, while he’s a good rim protector and rebounder as well. Alex Tchikou offers this team with another big body that projects to be a good rebounder and defender, but coming off an Achilles injury, he could be a question mark. 

A Nate Oats-coached Alabama team is going to play their style of basketball and that is shooting an abundance of threes while trying to be a Top-5 defense in the sport. The interesting thing to watch though is whether or not they shoot as many threes as they did a season ago, as they certainly can work as a team by not shooting quite as many. With Quinerly and Davidson being two of the best guards at scoring around the rim, they should excel at driving to the basket, while Charles Bediako also offers a true inside presence. This is not so much to say that the three-ball won’t be their main focus, as it is to say that this team might excel more when driving to the paint. The interesting thing is that scoring around the rim is not as volatile, so while relying on threes does have a higher upside, there also are games where going 7-40 is going to happen. 

For Alabama, the key to achieving high levels of success is through their defense. Last season’s team was one of the best defensive teams in the sport and led them to wins when they were cold. With losing Herb Jones, an SEC defender of the year, as well as a collection of other great defensive pieces, the defense could take a step back. The expectations are for this team to repeat as SEC Champions while being able to make a run to a Final Four, which is a realistic possibility with this high-level backcourt and this Nate Oats system. 

Projected Rotation 

PG: Jahvon Quinerly 

SG: JD Davidson

SF: Jaden Shackelford 

PF: Keon Ellis 

C: Noah Gurley

B1: Charles Bediako 

B2: Juwan Gary

B3: Jusaun Holt

B4: Keon Ambrose-Hylton 

B5: Alex Tchikou

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