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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Men’s basketball to face gantlet of nonconference opponents

CW Archive / David Gray
Alabama basketball player Rylan Griffen (#3) playing against San Diego State in the Sweet Sixteen tournament on Mar. 24 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY.

On Aug. 29, Alabama basketball released its out-of-conference schedule. Like last season, the Crimson Tide will have several tests before conference play begins.  

This time around, however, head coach Nate Oats will be working with an almost entirely new cast as Alabama will look to yet again prove itself against the best in the country on a national stage. 

The treacherous trilogy 

The Crimson Tide will play all three of its toughest out-of-conference opponents of the season consecutively, starting on Dec. 9, when it faces off against the Purdue Boilermakers at the Hall of Fame Series in Toronto, Ontario.  

Like Alabama, the Boilermakers are coming off of a season in which the team earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Unlike Alabama, though, Purdue is returning all five of its starters from last season, including 2023 Naismith Trophy winner Zach Edey.  

This game has a high chance of being Alabama’s toughest matchup of the regular season. Edey, arguably the best player in college basketball, will no doubt make it difficult for Alabama’s newly formed frontcourt. Oats and his staff will have to have a set plan for limiting Edey’s effectiveness in the paint, as well as his relentless ability to clean the offensive glass, if the team wants to stay in this contest.  

A week after its meeting with the Boilermakers, Alabama will travel to Omaha, Nebraska, to face off against the Creighton Bluejays. 

The Bluejays are coming off an Elite Eight run that, similar to Alabama’s tournament run, ended at the hands of the San Diego State Aztecs. Creighton is returning three starters from last season, so the team is most likely going to be as good, if not better, than last season, creating a dangerous situation for the Crimson Tide. 

Similar to Edey, Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner could be the difference in this game if left unchecked. On top of being a potential threat inside the paint, Kalkbrenner has developed a respectable 3-point game, shooting over 30% from long range last season. This could open up the Bluejays’ offense and cause Alabama to struggle defensively. 

Finally, the Crimson Tide will wrap up this three-game test in Phoenix, Arizona, taking on the Arizona Wildcats.  

The Wildcats will be dangerous, because, like Alabama, they have added a significant amount of talent through the transfer portal, including Caleb Love from North Carolina as well as former Alabama guard Jaden Bradley. 

Unlike the first two contests, this matchup could prove to be a more difficult undertaking for Alabama’s backcourt than for its frontcourt. If Love and Bradley have good chemistry, it could get dicey for Alabama’s defense.  

To make things even harder on Alabama, the Wildcats will also be returning their All-Pac-12 center Oumar Ballo, again threatening Alabama’s frontcourt, which, at this point, will have truly been tested.  

Is Alabama up to the task? 

Oats has been very busy this offseason, landing some top-tier talent in Tuscaloosa on both the playing and coaching fronts. 

  Alabama was able to land North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson, a 6-foot-11-inch forward coming off a season averaging 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. Nelson is a much-needed addition to a team that lost much of its size and paint presence in the offseason.  

In addition to Nelson, Alabama was able to land West Virginia forward Mohamed Wague to help fill the void left in the frontcourt by Clowney’s and Bediako’s departures.   

Oats didn’t forget about his backcourt, though, landing guards Aaron Estrada and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. from Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton respectively.  

Not all talent from last year’s team is lost, however.  

Mark Sears returns alongside Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen and Davin Crosby, all of whom will look to step into larger roles this season.  

While much of the newly added talent has come through the transfer portal for Alabama, the program has also done well in recruiting, landing three four-star prospects and finishing with a top-15 recruiting class in the nation.  

Most notable of these recruits is Jarin Stevenson, a 17-year-old from Pittsboro, North Carolina. The young 6-foot-11-inch forward skipped his senior year of high school to join this year’s Alabama squad. Like both Nelson and Wague, Stevenson’s size will be an immediate factor in the new-look Alabama frontcourt. 

While recruiting all of this playing talent, Oats was also busy rebuilding his coaching staff seemingly from scratch, after all three of his assistants left the team to take head coach positions at other programs. Oats acted swiftly, however, filling all the vacant spots in the staff in under three months.  

Oats filled one of these spots with Ryan Pannone, whom Oats was able to bring in from the New Orleans Pelicans organization. Pannone brings over 20 years of coaching experience to the staff, including over 10 years with professional teams.  

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