You may have to do a double take if you were to look at the SEC hoops standings right now just to make sure you didn’t search football results by accident. Your eyes are not deceiving you; Alabama basketball is indeed comfortably atop the league through eight games. Coach Nate Oats has the Crimson Tide flying high through the first month of conference play. His team just jumped into the top ten in this week’s AP poll. Their ninth place ranking is their highest spot in the poll in 14 years.
Alabama Basketball Putting it All Together
This program has been an enigma for the past few seasons. They have had plenty of talent, but inconsistencies have left fans scratching their heads. This year the Crimson Tide have begun to put it all together and are playing very well on both ends of the floor. Alabama basketball is thriving on aggression this season. They play an up tempo style on offense, looking to score as quickly and often as possible. This team is just as intense on defense, looking to force turnovers and pressure opponents for 40 minutes.
In their victory over LSU last week, Coach Oat’s team broke an SEC record with 23 made threes. They are 14th in the country with 65 field goal attempts a night, and 3rd from beyond arc in both makes and attempts. Alabama plays fast, and has little to no conscience when it comes to putting up shots. They are allowed this freedom because they are playing with effort and focus on the defensive end.
A home loss to Western Kentucky dropped the Tide to 4-3 earlier this season, and things looked similar to the inconsistent performances from recent years. Since then Alabama has reeled off nine consecutive victories including an 8-0 start to SEC play. During this streak, they won their first game at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena since 2006. Coach Oats’ high octane group has scored 80 or more points in all but one game since. This team has found its identity on offense, playing fast and letting it fly from deep. They have also stepped up on the defensive side, creating havoc with deflections, steals, and blocks. They have only allowed one SEC opponent to score more than 75 points.
John Petty has been a known commodity in this conference since his freshman season. As a senior, he is trying to put all of his skills on display. Last week he showed just how explosive he can be as he went 7-7 from three to start the game against LSU. His range and ability to score in bunches has been on full display in league contests. Petty has scored in double figures in each of the last nine games, including two 20 point games. He is the lead dog on offense, but definitely not their only option on the perimeter.
He is joined in the backcourt by Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. Like Petty, each of these two has the ability to get hot in a hurry from outside. This trio makes Alabama extremely hard to deal with, because it is not likely for all three to have an off night at the same time. Each of them are capable of putting up big numbers. If more than one of them get going at the same time, opponents are in for a long night. They are all averaging over 13 points a game and shooting over 36% from deep.
For the past few seasons, Herb Jones epitomized the inconsistency of this Alabama basketball program. Some nights he would look like the best player on the floor, then other nights you could forget he was playing. As a senior, he is mirroring his team’s growth by playing at the same high level night in and night out. Last year he emerged as one of the best defenders in the SEC. This season he has improved his offensive game and has become a complete player.
Now that he has put it all together on both ends of the floor, Jones is looking like a Player of the Year candidate in the SEC. His length, activity, and instincts make him a terror on the defensive end. Jones has improved his shooting and ball handling on the offense. He was always a problem on the glass, but now he can hurt defenses in multiple ways. He provides Coach Oats a matchup problem for opponents, and has the ability to lock up the other team’s best player.
Conference plays is moving right along, with the midway point to come with this week’s game Kentucky. After that, the Tide face a road trip to Oklahoma in the Big XII – SEC challenge. That matchup will give Alabama a chance to add to is nonconference resume. This team is explosive and deep, and seems to be improving each time on they step on the court. They will get even deeper when senior transfers Jordan Bruner returns a knee injury. He will provide added experience and size. Alabama has things rolling at the moment. They will need to maintain their consistency with six of their last eleven games on the road. For now they are in pole position in the SEC standings, and looking to secure a lofty seed for March’s NCAA tournament.
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