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Previewing Alabama

On any given December day, Alabama's athletics website looks kinda like this:

"Tide Football Practices For Bowl Game; Brodie Croyle Seen Applying Butter To Toast During Breakfast"

"Basketball Team Something Something Whatever"

Alabama lost its two leading scorers from a year ago (Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton), but returns its other three starters and--so far, at least--has adjusted to the losses pretty well. While their production from the free throw line has remained consistent, the Tide have become less perimeter-oriented. Last season, they scored about 30% of their points from threes; this season, they're scoring about 25% of their points from threes.

(Four Factors)

Alabama Offense 2004-2005Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG55.68Turnover Rate18.962Off Reb Rate34.192FTM/FGA32.113Alabama Offense 2005-2006Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG52.082Turnover Rate20.067Off Reb Rate39.139FTM/FGA29.372

Last year's Tide team was excellent at the line because its best offensive players also happened to be good free throw shooters. Winston, Shelton and Chuck Davis shot 436 of 736 Alabama free throws in 2005, making 78.9% of them. With Davis the only one of the three returning, Alabama has endured some regression--they're hitting 68.1% as a team compared to 73.6% last year.

Despite losing Winston and Shelton, the Tide aren't having too much trouble scoring, and they've maintained a good offense. In looking at Alabama's personnel, I think NC State is going to have a little more trouble creating matchup problems than it usually does. Quickness should be to State's advantage, but height definitely won't be.

Likely Starters (* = returning starter):

(Go here to read about any unfamiliar statistics you see below.)

Ronald Steele* (6-2, 185) -- The only starter listed as a guard. Not a big factor in the offense; boasts a good turnover rate for a point guard (15%). Steele is not shooting the ball well this season. His eFG% is .423, down from .595 a year ago. Will definitely shoot the three.

Alonzo Gee (6-6, 205) -- Scores at a solid rate (17.5 pts/40) but eats way too many possessions (over 25% while on the court). He's been one of the team's worst FT shooters (10-21, 47.6%).

Chuck Davis* (6-7, 230) -- Alabama's leading scorer and focal point. Along with Davidson and Steele, Davis started all 32 games in 2005. Davis is having a great season so far, averaging 22.7 pts, 7.1 rebs and 2.7 blks per 40 minutes. His PPFGA is a team-high 1.27. It also appears that Davis has improved his range: in 2005 he attempted 15 threes (making two) in 1055 minutes; this season, he's already attempted 12 threes (and made five of them) in just 255 minutes. Not a great rebounder.

Jermareo Davidson* (6-11, 200) -- Jermareo (or, as I now prefer, "Oreo") has also seen his shooting percentage drop significantly this season (down about 10%). The most noteworthy thing about Davidson is his rebounding: he's averaging 13.3 rebs/40 and has an excellent rebounding percentage (18.9%). He presents a big challenge on the glass for Cedric Simmons and I suspect that Bama will get him the ball in an attempt to get Ced into early foul trouble. Davidson shoots pretty well from the line (77.8% this year) and averages 3.2 blks/40.

Jean Felix (6-7, 205) -- Hit 34-75 (45.3%) from behind the arc last season; this year, just 9-34 (26.5%). Felix is not a post player, as the majority of his field goal attempts over the last two years have been three-pointers. Has been turnover-prone this season.


Richard Hendrix (6-9, 250) has been Bama's best bench player. Hendrix is only playing 16.4 minutes per game, but when he's on the court, he gobbles up rebounds like it's nothing. His rebs/40 (15.6) and rebounding percentage (22.1%) are both team-highs. Chuck Davis is averaging fewer rebounds per game despite playing almost twice as many minutes. Hendrix is a pure post player, so he's stuck behind Davis and Oreo. I don't know how often Bama goes with the three of them at the same time, but I doubt we'll see much of that on Thursday.

Justin Jonus (6-5, 210) has hit over 50% of this threes this season, but his 2005 statistics suggest he's been shooting way over his head (as if a 3-pt percentage above 50% didn't suggest that already).

Evan Brock (6-8, 205) and Brandon Hollinger (5-11, 170; holy crap, a short dude!) may also see some time.


Alabama Defense 2004-2005Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG47.059Turnover Rate16.8322Off Reb Rate28.437FTA/FGA25.38Alabama Defense 2005-2006Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG47.093Turnover Rate18.7308Off Reb Rate29.480FTA/FGA28.037

They've remained pretty consistent with 2005, though they are allowing about 4 pts/100 possessions more than they did last season. I think we can safely say that the Crimson Tide are not very good at forcing turnovers, so that bodes well for us. Assuming we don't shoot ourselves in the foot too often, we'll get shots at the goal on a big portion of our possessions--a good thing for any team, and an especially advantageous thing for a good shooting team like the Pack.

OFF EFF / DEF EFF / Difference:

NC State: 107 / 86.8 / 20.2
Alabama: 112.8 / 96.2 / 16.6

We're better, but not significantly so. I'm not optimistic simply because I've seen too many games against OOC opponents like Bama. A Wolfpack win will be a pleasant surprise and an early Christmas gift--and I put this on my list, so Santa knows I want it.

Alabama has lost two of three, including a home loss to Notre Dame.