JNixon's Countdown to the NCAA Season: Top 35 Teams (#34)
34: Alabama Crimson Tide
Backcourt- The leader for the 3rd straight season in the backcourt is talented Jr. Trevor Releford, who has been a very steady and solid player for Alabama. The 6’0 200 Releford is a quick and crafty player off the dribble, and really is nice as an up-tempo lead guard. He also is a great ball thief and strong on-ball defender (2 spg). He handles the ball very well, shows some tricky moves and plays with a low center of gravity, which allows him to slash effectively. He’s a good pick and roll player and did a better job last year of picking his spots better , and not forcing himself to turn corners and try to force plays that aren’t there. The Kansas City native also plays well with athletic teammates, and is good at throwing lobs. Releford makes few mistakes when finishing, using his 6’6 wingspan to play taller than he is around the hoop. Still, he isn’t a true pass 1st guard and is not especially known for his floor vision, which is way he averaged under 3 apg despite being a bit ball-dominant. Releford also is a little below average as a jump shooter, and doesn’t show much 3-point range, which he needs to work on. Teams sometimes disrupted the overall flow of UA’s offense because of how they hedged his screens, making him have to pass and taking some of his favorite spots away. Look for Releford to be around 13 ppg next season and 3 apg. He’s a fringe NBA prospect and one of the better guards in the SEC. His backup is the steady rSr. Andrew Steele. Steele is a very big combo guard at 6’4 230, and he does a good job of playing unselfish. He has had plenty of injury problems (like his older brother Ronald), but he’s a good player who can defend both guard spots and conservatively set up teammates. Decent group here overall, high level experience.
Wings- Although they lost athletic freak Tony Mitchell, who got dismissed midseason, this is hands down the deepest core on the Alabama roster. The player most likely to really headline in this committee is 6’3 Soph. SG Trevor Lacy. Lacey was a top 25 recruit in 2011, and showed some potential and also was able to play a solid role for UA last year. Lacey has always been a little undersized for a SG, but he also has always had a solid build too. Lacey is a very smart player who picks his spots well, and likes to work the mid-range area. He has some 3 point range but he’s only OK from deep right now. Lacey isn’t a great athlete, but he’s got nice potential as a scorer. He should be AT LEAST a 10 ppg scorer this season, he got stronger as the season wore on last year, which is a great sign for a young player. Also on the wings are 2 Soph. in 6’6 210 Rodney Cooper and 6’5 195 Levi Randolph, and 5-star recruit Devonta Pollard. Cooper showed his upside when he scored 28 points on the road against LSU, and has prototype size for a wing. He is a little raw as an overall player, but is a solid athlete who is still developing as a shooter and ball-handler, although he’s OK at both. Randolph is an unselfish all-around player with decent passing ability, shooting skills and athleticism, but he can disappear from games and needs improve his handles. He does chip in rebounds and solid perimeter defense though. Look for Randolph and Cooper to be around 7 or 8 ppg scorers next year. Fr. Devonta Pollard, a Mickey D’s AA, will chip in production as well. He’s a thin, long southpaw combo forward who has great athleticism and who runs the floor well. He’s a very energetic player who plays a game that reminds of a young Travis Outlaw. He lacks strength and his skill level is still behind his athleticism. He also will need to get a lot stronger to deal with the SEC physicality, especially since he isn’t a pure wing player at all. Expect around 7 ppg and 5 rpg from his as a Fr., he’s a bit raw. This is one of the deepest groups in the nation, but someone will need to emerge (probably Lacey) for them to be their best.
Frontcourt- They lost their bookend in the frontline in JaMychal Green, who was a 4-year starter and an above average player every season in college. His production (led the team in ppg and rpg his last 3 years) will be missed. The best player in the group in Soph. Nick Jacobs now. Jacobs is a physically impressive back to basketball post at 6’8 260, and he’s still figuring everything out. He has naturally good feet and hands, and 2 moves that he likes to go to already, in his right hand jump hook and a basic drop step that is effective at his size. He wasn’t a great rebounder as a Fr. and isn’t a great athlete either. Jacobs also never passed the ball. Still, he will be looked to to provide around 10 ppg and 5 rpg next year, and he has the talent to do that and continue to develop more. Pollard will also play some time at PF as well. The C spot has a lot of pure size and length with 2 7 footers in Jr’s. Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye. Both are fringe players, but at their size they bring shot blocking spurts. Neither is likely to play more 10-12 mpg though. This group has size, but is a bit inexperienced and will need to grow up as the season goes on.
Overall- Anthony Grant is one of the absolute most underrated coaches in the nation. He’s a strong in-game coach, a nice recruiter who gets good fits for the up-tempo style he prefers, and they are fun to watch. They aren’t going to be consistent as a jump shooting team for the 3rd straight year, and that will limit them from being a top team, but they are athletic again and I think they wings and backcourt are are deep and good as you can find. And as the season ends, guard play is what carries teams. Look for Alabama to be a 1 and done or 2 and out team though, but one who somewhat overachieves.
some talent but no shooting do not like this team to make the field of 68
Alabama does have some nice pieces, but they have limited upside because of a thin and inexperienced frontcourt. Pollard and Jacobs figure to be the starters and will have to match up with bigger, more talented and more experienced bigs in the SEC. I also see this team being one and done in the tourney.
I agree that Alabama will struggle. KState from the last post at 35 I think is definitely a better team. Down year for the Crimson Tide imo.