The 2014-15 season ended in yet another disappointment for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but with some stark offseason changes, the future is bright for Alabama basketball.
Anthony Grant is out as the head coach, and former 2006 NBA Coach of the Year Avery Johnson is in. The coaching change suggests a change in mentality for the Crimson Tide’s basketball program as a whole, because the former NBA Finals runner-up with the Dallas Mavericks is sure to up Alabama’s recruiting game.
As of now, Johnson has already added the No. 2 ranked shooting guard in the class of 2016, Terrance Ferguson. Grant never had a consensus five-star recruit in his time at Alabama; Johnson has yet to coach a game and already has one. The influx in recruiting is desperately needed, because what this team boasts in depth is countered by what they lack in top-notch talent.
Levi Randolph, Ricky Tarrant and Rodney Cooper are gone, meaning that Alabama returns no players who averaged more than 8.2 points per game last season. However, six players return who played at least 18 minutes per game, including Shannon Hale and Retin Obasohan.
Hale and Obasohan will likely be the team leaders in 2015-16 in terms of scoring and ball distribution, but highly underrated junior forward Jimmie Taylor looks primed for a huge season. A highly-touted recruit out of high school, Taylor has made noticeable strides in both years with the Crimson Tide and was ranked No. 4 in the SEC in terms of blocks per game. Keep an eye on Taylor, because he has the skill set to be one of the breakout SEC players of 2015-16.
Alabama’s non-conference slate includes three opponents that went to the 2015 NCAA tournament, the Xavier Musketeers, Dayton Flyers and Oregon Ducks, as well as the consistently on the bubble Clemson Tigers. None of these matchups are at home for the Crimson Tide, so winning at least two of them could be crucial to Alabama’s postseason chances.
This is not the season that a team wants to be rebuilding in the SEC, and it looks like it might be even harder for Alabama than other rebuilding conference teams. The Crimson Tide have a home-and-home with the Kentucky Wildcats, LSU Tigers, Auburn Tigers and Mississippi State Bulldogs, all teams which are either ranked in the top 25 or have made massive improvements in the offseason.
Couple those tough conference games with in-conference away games against the Ole Miss Rebels, Vanderbilt Commodores, Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs, and Alabama could be looking at the toughest conference schedule in the SEC. The Crimson Tide are not built to win big road games just yet, so Alabama could be in line for a long, disappointing season.
Johnson will have this team competing in the SEC within the next two or so years, but in 2015-16 this team is not ready to surprise everyone with a run to the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide are primed for a big future, but it is still a little bit further down the road.