#20 Alabama Men's Basketball Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide

Overall Rank: #20
Conference Rank: #4 SEC
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2010-11: 25-12, 12-4
2010-11 postseason: NIT
Coach: Anthony Grant (42-27 at Alabama, 118-52 overall)

Alabama has a very interesting mix of returning talent and newcomers. The Crimson Tide returns their top three scorers from a team that reached the NIT final. Coach Anthony Grant is also bringing in one of the most talented group of freshmen in the SEC. The question is if those two groups can come together to make a team that can get this program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

Who’s Out:
Alabama may return their top three scorers, but just about everybody else is gone. Charvez Davis, Senario Hillman, Chris Hines and, when he was around, Andrew Steele, comprised the majority of the rest of the regular rotation. Davis only shot 34.6 percent from beyond the arc, but he was easily the best shooter on a team that lacked shooters. If it was not for Davis’ ability to hit the long ball relatively consistently, the Tide would have had absolutely no outside shooting dynamic to their offense. And they may not this year if one of the newcomers cannot fill that role. Hillman was a good all-around guard who could rebound and pass. Hines was a great rebounder and a pretty good shot blocker last season and this team will look a little different without him. Like Steele, Kendall Durant and Jason Carter are gone after playing in a limited amount of games in 2010-2011.

Who’s In:
This is the list that has Alabama fans excited. Levi Randolph and Trevor Lacey could be starting from day one. Randolph is the best recruit in a class of great recruits. The 6-5 wing is a little scrawny, but he is a great scorer who can shoot and get to the basket. With a little more strength he will be a dynamic scorer who will have a much easier time attacking the rim, but for now he is still a very talented player. Lacey, Alabama’s reigning Mr. Basketball, could have gone just about anywhere, but opted to stay home. Lacey is not as athletic as Randolph, but he is a hard worker and a smart player who knows how to play the game and could start at the shooting guard position. At 6-6, Rodney Cooper is another big guard, but he will spend most of his time shooting the long ball. The backcourt also adds walk-on transfer Keon Blackledge and incoming freshman Retin Obasohan. The frontcourt has a couple new faces, but a torn ACL will likely keep Moussa Gueye on the sidelines for the season. Without the 7-0 junior college transfer, freshman Nick Jacobs will have to play quality minutes off of the bench. Jacobs is a traditional big man who can score with his back to the basket, but Alabama will need him to hit the glass and play tough defense.

Who to Watch:
The big three returnees are JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford. Green led the Tide with 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks during his junior campaign. The 6-8 forward is a double-double threat every night and he has a bright future in the NBA. Mitchell’s production nearly matched that of Green last season when the 6-6 forward tallied 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest. The only thing that usually stops one of those from tallying a double-double is the production of the other one. Mitchell may be a little undersized, but he is extremely tough and can step outside and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency. The SEC has some great frontcourts, but Alabama may just be the best of them all and that is saying a lot. Releford is the man who will get Green and Mitchell the ball. His turnover numbers were a little high last year and the shooting numbers from long range were pretty bad, but that was characteristic of the entire team. Releford is at least a quality scorer who can attack the basket and either finish or find an open player for an easy bucket.

Final Projection:
Much of the depth for this team will have to come from freshmen, but there are a few other options. Charles Hankerson Jr., a 6-5 wing, averaged 2.3 points per game as a freshman and had moments of promise offensively and is a proven defender. Ben Eblen will likely see some quality minutes as the backup to Releford at the point. Carl Engstrom is one of the few post options. The 7-1, 250 pound Swede is gaining weight and strength and could be a pleasant surprise this season if one does not expect more than ten minutes per game out of him. The key for Alabama will be finding depth, especially in the frontcourt. If they do, they could win the SEC. Shooting a little better from long range would be nice too, but it will be tough to shoot much worse than they did last season.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Trevor Releford, Sophomore, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Levi Randolph, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Charles Hankerson Jr., Sophomore, Guard, 2.3 points per game
Tony Mitchell, Junior, Forward, 15.2 points per game
JaMychal Green, Senior, Forward, 15.5 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#40 JaMychal Green

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#30 Trevor Lacey
#31 Levi Randolph
#86 Rodney Cooper
#106 Nick Jacobs

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