Alabama has dropped two consecutive games, both in SEC play. The losses to Missouri and Auburn were very tough to take, but the two losses are different in the way they should be viewed.
Against Missouri, the Crimson Tide didn’t play a lick of defense. The interior defense was decimated time after time by Kobe Brown, who scored 30 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
Free throws were likewise an issue in the game against Missouri. Alabama only hit 68% of its foul shots, which no doubt contributed to the 92-86 loss on the road in Columbia.
In the loss to Auburn, defensive intensity was much improved. While it could have been much more consistent, the defensive side of the ball kept the Tide in this game throughout.
Free throws were certainly not a contributing factor in the loss, as Alabama went 24 of 29 at the charity stripe.
Three-point shooting wasn’t near the quality Oats has come to expect and fans have grown accustomed to. Hitting on just seven of 31 attempts comes out to a percentage value of 22%. Unacceptable in SEC play.
With that said, Alabama still holds the keys to all it wants to accomplish this season, and here are five things the Crimson Tide must improve on if they want to turn this thing around.
5. Still room to improve defensively
Jan 11, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers forward Jabari Smith (10) shoots against Alabama Crimson Tide forward Juwan Gary (4) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
The defense showed much improvement in the home loss to Auburn when compared to how they performed against Missouri days before.
Auburn only shot 26% from the three and was severely limited inside through much of the contest. Unfortunately, however, the defense wasn’t consistent enough, and every time the Tide fought back into the game, the deficit would increase yet again.
Moving forward, Alabama needs to play defense with high intensity in a more consistent manner if they want to compete in a very tough Southeastern Conference this season.
4. Limit the turnovers
Dec 18, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard JD Davison (3) drives to the basket against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks during the first half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Jahvon Quinerly and JD Davison each average nearly three turnovers per game.
While Davison looked much more polished with his handles and passing, Quinerly lost the handle a couple of times in the loss to Auburn and made some bad passes.
As a team, the Crimson Tide averages 13.2 turnovers per game, a number that must improve if the Tide wants to beat anybody of note. Cleaning up turnovers is a big task, but completely possible.
3. Get the playmakers more involved
Mar 20, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats yells towards guard Keon Ellis (14) against the Iona Gaels during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Keon Ellis is one of the best guards wearing crimson and white this season.
He has consistently been one of Alabama’s best shooters, but he only took five shots against Auburn.
Getting Ellis more involved is a key to success moving forward. It could be said that had he gotten more shot opportunities the outcome would have been different.
Ball movement and offensive pace have been off since mid-December and need to improve significantly to allow for more open shots from the shooters.
Beyond Ellis, situational awareness needs to improve. Knowing what circumstances you’re in and how to react is a very important aspect of the game. Whether you drive inside to kick out to an open shooter or run a ball reversal to find openings in the lane, it needs to improve.
Isolation ball isn’t going to work with a team as talented as Auburn. Shots in iso were blocked easily multiple times when it was clear that Oats wanted to move out of it.
Getting the playmakers involved and knowing who to go to and when must be improved.
2. Stop fouling when it isn’t necessary
Dec 29, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Tennessee Volunteers forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (2) shoots over Alabama Crimson Tide forward Juwan Gary (4) during the first half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Juwan Gary earned himself three fouls in three minutes of playing time and spent a lot of time on the bench as a result.
This is a no-brainer, but the fouls are getting ridiculous, especially in moments that never warrant a silly foul.
Reach-ins and fouls on rebounds are killing the Tide and putting playmakers in foul trouble at the worst possible moments. Cleaning this up will keep opponents off the free-throw line and keep playmakers on the floor when they’re needed.
1. Hit the three-point shots!
Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford (5) lofts a three point attempt against Auburn guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021.
Alabama Vs Auburn Men S Basketball
And I mean soon.
This shooting drought is starting to unravel the Crimson Tide faithful, myself included.
The offense is what it is: a high-velocity, high-pace machine that loves to shoot the three and get the ball to the rim. Not a whole lot in between.
That said, when the threes don’t fall, it puts a strain on the defense, which has struggled a lot this season. With the NBA style of offense Alabama runs, three-point makes open up a whole lot more in terms of options on the floor.
Defenders start to guard the outside more, leaving the inside open for business. Or, at least open enough for one of the Tide’s fast, talented guards to drive the lane for an easy layup.
Fixing the shooting woes will go a long way in keeping the Tide in games against anybody.
Next up for Alabama is a road matchup against Mississippi State in Starkville.
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