In just over 2 months as Alabama’s new head coach, Nate Oats has performed numerous eye-opening moves to immediately elevate the level of this program. His first miracle was convincing the team’s leading scorers, Kira Lewis Jr. and John Petty, to remove their names from the transfer portal and return to the program. Next, depth pieces were added with the commitments of SF James Rosas (Hutchinson JC) and C Raymond Hawkins. He plucked James “Beetle” Bolden from Bob Huggins West Virginia program, after the guard left Morgantown mid-season. The cherry on top occurred this week, as former 5-star Villanova guard Jahvon Quinerly announcing his move to Tuscaloosa.Embed from Getty Images
While some key players from last year’s roster have departed (Donta Hall – NBA, Dazon Ingram transferred to UCF, Tevin Mack transfer), this roster has become dangerous. Shaping up as one of the toughest in the country, the SEC has the potential to send a high number of teams to the field of 68 next March. To get there, Oats is going to transform the Crimson Tide’s style of play to mimic the 32-win Buffalo Bulls team he coached last season.
Heavy on guard play, this team will be asked to run an up-tempo offense. Compared to Avery Johnson’s scheme last season, the Tide received ~5 (69.8 to 74.5) fewer possessions per game with an assist rate ~3% (52.5 to 55.3) lower than Oats Buffalo squad. Crashing the glass, playing the passing lanes and prioritizing the 3-ball are the other main aspects of Alabama’s incoming system. Buffalo shot the 3 on 43.6% of their attempts, finished 35th nationally in steals and 8th in rebounds (12th on the offensive glass, 11th on the defensive end).
The biggest question regarding next year’s team is how Oats will handle the sudden depth on this roster. Quinerly is expected to sit out next season per the transfer rules, however he announced his intention to submit a waiver for immediate eligibility in 2019. If he is indeed cleared, a three-headed monster will develop at the point guard position between Lewis, Quinerly and Bolden. Under this assumption, my expectations for Alabama’s starting lineup will look like the following:
PG: Kira Lewis Jr – James Bolden
SG: Jahvon Quinerly – Jaylen Forbes – Jaden Shackleford
SF: John Petty – Juwan Gary
PF: Herb Jones – James Rojas
C: Galin Smith – Javian Davis-Fleming – Raymond Perkins
Quinerly and Lewis are exceptional athletes that thrive in space, creating chances for themselves or others to score. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Lewis is benched for Quinerly, but also unlikely Bolden jumps the 5-star transfer as well. The best chance for this roster to mimic the style Buffalo used is to keep both guards on the floor with John Petty as a small 3. All natural scorers, the Tide would have a dominant backcourt that would give most teams.
Herb Jones was a valuable piece on the wing last season. Agile, tall and strong off the dribble, he proved to be a consistent asset on the offensive end. Additionally, he had no issue guarding opposing players in the post. Under Oats system, Jones can be a mismatch and cater to the small-ball tendencies that make this offense so potent.
The overnight transformation of this program has been incredible and increasing fan and media excitement daily. Oats will have success with this team next season, but how much and which players stand out are the details we must wait to see.