Alabama Crimson Tide
Overall Rank: #45
Conference Rank: #7 SEC
2006-07: 20-12, 7-9, 2nd West (t)
2006-07 postseason: NIT
When Ronald Steele announced that he will redshirt this year with a couple banged up knees, it spelled trouble for Alabama. Last year, with the point guard, the Crimson Tide vastly underachieved and did not reach the NCAA Tournament. Coach Mark Gottfried’s team ended up losing their first game in the NIT. Alabama has more depth and talent this year, but without their senior floor leader it will be extremely difficult for them to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Steele saw his scoring numbers drastically decrease last year and only averaged 8.6 points per game, but when he is healthy during the 2008-2009 season, he should be back to his old self. Adding to the painful losses is Jermareo Davidson. The big man averaged 14.0 points and 8.2 rebounds during his senior campaign. Verice Cloyd has opted to transfer after seeing action in just three games last year.
A trio of newcomers will shore up some depth concerns. The most important now is Rico Pickett. The 6-4 combo guard will suddenly play an important role and see plenty of minutes running the show. Pickett has a scorers mentality and he can get to the basket and score quite well. He has the quickness and vision to be a very effective point guard, but he will have to learn quickly how to run a team. Shooting guard Senario Hillman is the most highly touted of the newcomers. He is a great athlete who can do a ton of scoring, as he already showed during the team’s offseason trip to Canada. At 6-2 and 175 pounds, he needs to add some strength, but he will still get to basket and have plenty of spectacular finishes. Justin Knox, a 6-9 220 pound power forward, will add some depth up front. His defensive prowess could earn him some minutes this year, but otherwise it may be difficult for him to crack the regular rotation.
Who to Watch:
Knox has a lot of talented forwards to battle with for playing time. Richard Hendrix will start at the five spot after leading the team with 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds as a sophomore. Hendrix is a tough player who will fight under the basket with anybody and will once again be the team leader in points and rebounds. At 6-6, Alonzo Gee is not really a power forward. He is a slasher who played the small forward spot last year but will likely move up to the four in place of Hendrix. Gee is a decent rebounder, which should help the transition to the four spot, and offensively he is a mismatch against bigger, slower forwards. Mykal Riley is the shooter on the team and averaged 12.6 points per game. He played the shooting guard position last year, but could see more minutes at the three this year. That is unless Yamene Coleman steps up and deserves a starting spot. That would then knock Hendrix back to the four, Gee to the three and Riley to the two, where they played the majority of their minutes last year. Coleman is the only center listed on the roster, but has a lot of work to do in order to be more than just a big body off the bench. Demetrius Jemison showed some promise as a freshman and the 6-7 forward should see an increase in playing time and production as a sophomore.
The frontcourt will keep this team in games, but the backcourt has to step up if the Tide want win those games. Mikhail Torrance is now penciled in at the starting point guard position. He averaged 11.7 minutes per game last year in 21 appearances. Torrance does not have as much raw talent as incoming freshman Pickett, but at least he has a year in the system. As long as those two can keep the turnovers down, Bama will be alright. Brandon Hollinger will get another shot starting as the off-guard. He is a good shooter when he actually shoots, but the junior will be pressed by Hillman for minutes. Sophomore Justin Tubbs rounds out the depleted group of guards after averaging 3.2 points per game last season. The Crimson Tide has a great frontcourt that can dominate most teams, yet somebody has to get them the ball. There is too much talent not to be on the bubble, but winning those close games down the stretch without Steele will not keep the team around for very long in March.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Mikhail Torrance, Sophomore, Guard, 3.0 points per game
Brandon Hollinger, Junior, Guard, 4.9 points per game
Mykal Riley, Senior, Forward, 12.6 points per game
Alonzo Gee, Junior, Forward, 12.6 points per game
Richard Hendrix, Junior, Forward, 14.6 points per game