MBB Analysis | Oats’ ‘culture of winning basketball’ hinges on one thing

Live by the three. Die by the three.

Alabama basketball is ranked No. 9 in the country for the first time since 2007. The Crimson Tide is 9-0 in SEC play, and the team shows no signs of stopping as they head into a matchup with No. 24 Oklahoma. 

That is, if they can find their stride behind the three-point line. 

Alabama basketball owes its only three losses to poor three-point shooting this year. Against Stanford, Western Kentucky and Clemson, Alabama shot below 30% from three-point range and combined that with about 25 threes attempted per game. 

This is not the recipe for success. 

But head coach Nate Oats has confidence that the three-point shot is not the only path to victory. Alabama edged out a close victory against Kentucky on Jan. 26 and completed its first sweep against the Wildcats in 32 years. But unlike most SEC games this season, Alabama played down to the wire in the 70-59 victory. This is mainly due to the fact that the team shot 30% from three-point range and only made six total. 

“To go from making 23 threes a few games ago to only hitting six, this was a game we easily could have lost,” Oats said after the victory. “What I think it shows is this team’s capable of winning many different ways. We can hit 23 threes and blow a game open – we’re more than capable of doing that.”

In the most dominant showing this year, Alabama blew out LSU in a 105-75 landslide on Jan. 19. The Crimson Tide broke its own SEC record for most threes in a game, 23, and allowed most of the starters to rest for the majority of the second half. 

“We keep breaking our own record, but without one of our best shooters on the team making a three in Shackelford,” Oats said after the win. 

The key component for Oats this season compared to last is the growth of the new senior class. He’s said multiple times after victories that the veteran leadership is the most important part of why Alabama is destroying its SEC counterparts.

“Just to have senior leaders that just care about winning is huge,” Oats said. “I think that’s why we’re 9-0 and we’ve established that culture of winning basketball here.”

For the coaching staff and players on the team, the flow of the game is more important than getting playing time. Oats said during a postgame press conference that multiple players have asked him not to be subbed in so that those on the floor could continue playing. 

A prime example of this was that special night against LSU. In the first half, both senior guard John Petty Jr. and freshman guard Josh Primo combined for 11 of 12 shooting from three-point range. During that stretch, Oats did not sub out Petty and let him play the entire first half to keep ‘the hot hand going.’

“I really can’t say enough about the job Petty, Herb, Reese and Bruner, being our seniors,” Oats said. “Even Tyler Barnes, our walk-on senior, has been great. He captains that scout team, and they do an unbelievable job of making sure our starters are fully aware. Tyler calls every play out from the bench. We’ve got five seniors that are fully locked in and having a great senior year.”

Alabama currently has six key rotational players shooting above 35% from behind the arc. The team as a whole ranks seventh in the country in threes made per game. This trend gives Alabama a true shooter’s chance at sweeping the entire SEC during the regular season.