Reflecting on the old and previewing what’s to come for men’s basketball

Nick Robbins, Contributing Writer

This story was featured in Horizons, a special edition of The Crimson White for freshmen and transfer students. Horizons can be found on newsstands across campus, or online here.

Alabama Men’s Basketball and Head Coach Nate Oats hope to build on a decorated 2020-21 season as they prepare for the 2021-22 campaign. 

Spirits were high in Tuscaloosa this past season as the Crimson Tide won both the SEC regular-season and tournament titles for the first time since 1987. Alabama then concluded its breakout season under Oats with a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance — its first since 2002.

However, these triumphs were not expected out of the Crimson Tide last season. Many journalists expected Alabama to be one of the better teams in the SEC, but not the top dog. 

Due to the great success of Oats’ squad last season, it’s safe to say expectations are even greater for the 2021-22 campaign. Alabama looks to not only be a powerhouse in the conference, but also in the nation due to the combination of a top 10 recruiting class, returning starters and new transfers. 

The 2021-22 regular season schedule will have an NCAA tournament feel. Not only is the SEC continuing to grow in basketball, sending six teams to last year’s “Big Dance,” but it will also feature out-of-conference games against three of the Final Four teams from the 2020-21 season — Gonzaga, Baylor and Houston.

The Crimson Tide is set to host 2021 national champion Baylor at Coleman Coliseum as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, take a road trip to Seattle in December to compete against national runner-up Gonzaga, and square off in a home game against Houston. 

Highlighting the returning players are Keon Ellis and Jahvon Quinerly. Ellis was a constant figure, averaging 17.5 minutes per game last season.

Quinerly had a breakout season last year, averaging 25.0 minutes per game. The former Villanova player still has three years of eligibility left. 

Aside from Quinerly and Ellis, there will be new faces in Coleman Coliseum this season through a combination of transfers, new recruits and graduations. The Crimson Tide will lose both senior Herbert Jones and senior John Petty Jr. to the NBA draft.

Sophomore Josh Primo looks to forgo the rest of his collegiate career as he has entered the draft and is anticipated to be a late first-round draft pick or high second-round selection.

Rising junior Jaden Shackelford entered the transfer portal on July 5, but announced on July 23 that he will return to the Crimson Tide. 

Despite these players leaving Tuscaloosa, an influx of talent will make its way to Coleman Coliseum. This offseason, Oats was busy in the transfer portal picking up two players for the Crimson Tide. Alabama will welcome Nimari Burnett from Texas Tech and Furman’s Noah Gurley.

Burnett was once a former four-star recruit, and Gurley was a two-time All-Southern Conference player during his time at Furman. 

Alabama’s top 10 class is led by five-star prospect JD Davison. Davison was named Alabama Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year in 2020 during a year when his school won the Class 2A state title. He was also named to the McDonald’s All-American team in 2021. He has drawn comparisons to Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant.

Due to the quick turnaround the program has had with Oats, expectations will remain high not just for the 2021-22 season, but for many years to come.