Arizona’s nonconference gauntlet of quality opponents continues with a neutral-site clash against Alabama on Wednesday night in Phoenix. It’s the start of a series that will see the Wildcats and Crimson Tide meet next year in Birmingham.
Alabama (6-4) has faced the 20th-toughest schedule in the country to this point, per KenPom.com, with its previous two games being losses to No. 1 Purdue and No. 12 Creighton.
To better understand the Tide, we reached out to Roger Patrick Myers of SB Nation sister site Roll Bama Roll. Here are his glamorous answers to our drab questions:
AZ Desert Swarm: Alabama will be playing a sixth power-conference opponent in the last seven games, with the previous two being top-10 teams. Who thought this kind of schedule was a good idea, and do you think it will be beneficial for the team in the long run?
Roger Patrick Myers: “This is just Nate Oats way. He isn’t afraid to play anyone, anytime, any place. Last year the Tide played a very similar schedule. Oats and Alabama have doubled up, winning the SEC regular season title and tournament championship twice in the last three years. However Oats fully expected (center) Charles Bediako to return before Chuck announced for the draft, and Jahvon Quinerly hit the transfer portal at the last minute.”
The Crimson Tide have the No. 1 adjusted offense in the country, per KenPom. What makes this attack so potent?
“The offense is successful because of breakneck pace of play and volume shooting from the 3-point line. Oats mantra is ‘threes, frees and layups.’ The quickest way to draw Oats’ ire is to shoot a mid-range jump shot. Usually a quick trip to the bench follows, make or miss.”
The defense appears to be the liability, with five of the last six opponents scoring at least 85 points. Was this expected, and what needs to be done to fix the issues?
“The Tide’s offense is near or at the top in the nation. Conversely the team’s defense is near the bottom, which is unusual for Oats-coached teams. Bediako’s last-minute departure has been a killer for ‘Bama. He was such a big part of last year’s success with his rim protection and shot-blocking abilities. This team doesn’t have even a reasonable facsimile of what ‘Angry Chuck’ provided.”
There are a lot of transfers in the rotation. Has there been growing pains with so many new faces?
“The chemistry of the team has been slow coming around. I believe the reason is two fold. Number one only three players from last years squad returned, and when practice began several players missed time with injuries, costing the team valuable time to become cohesive. Last season’s team had a summer European trip where they got to play several games together and also bond through travel.”
Former Alabama guard Jaden Bradley has been a key sub off the bench for Arizona this season. What kind of role might he have had for the Tide had he stuck around for his sophomore year?
“I think Bradley would be a valuable piece of the backcourt for the Tide this year. Last season Jaden had a big role early, but as Quinerly came back from knee surgery Bradley’s role decreased. That along with the fallout from the Darius Miles situation probably lead to the transfer. Then to top things off, Quinerly entered the portal at the last minute and joined Penny (Hardaway) at Memphis.”
6. Prediction time. Can Alabama escape the desert with a signature win or will Arizona bounce back from its first loss of the season? Give us a score pick.
“Typically I am the super optimistic person. I really felt pretty good about Bama‘s chances vs. Purdue and Creighton, and they almost pulled wins in both of those games. Both Purdue and Creighton, like Arizona, have very good, very large, centers. Physicality and size give the Tide big trouble. All that being said, lets go with Arizona 88, Bama 81.”