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7 Things We Learned from Alabama Basketball's European Tour

The new-look Crimson Tide went 3-0 on its trip to Barcelona and Paris, including a win over a very stout opponent.
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Last week, the 2022-23 iteration of Alabama basketball got its first chance to compete against an opposing teams, and had to go all the way to Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France to do so.

In addition to the biggest positive from competing in a foreign tour – which have the added benefit of extra NCAA-sanctioned practices – Alabama was able to test its chemistry and new additions to the program against international competition, including a FIBA top-30 ranked national team. 

The Crimson Tide completed the tour with a perfect 3-0 record, defeating the Spain Select Team 108-64, the Lithuania B Team 120-61, and the Chinese National Team 89-77.

Here are seven things that we learned, or previous thoughts that were reinforced, during Alabama's foreign tour. 

1. Brandon Miller is a special talent

After head coach Nate Oats held an open practice in late July, fans began to rave about what they saw from freshman Brandon Miller.

That excitement has only grown as Miller led the Crimson Tide in scoring in every game. He averaged 22 points, with 17 against Spain Select, 28 against Lithuania B, and 21 against China. 

In the second and third games of the tour, Miller emerged to carry a heavy scoring load out of the second-half break and scored in double-digits in both second halves. 

His 30 points in an open scrimmage were one thing, but topping 20 in a win over a team of professional basketball players from China proved that Miller is ready to be Alabama's offensive leader and one of the best talents to come through Tuscaloosa in a long time. 

2. Noah Clowney looks ready to contribute

Noah Clowney was another name that began to excite fans after the sneak open practice. 

The 6-foot-10 freshman was not hyped liked the rest of Alabama's standout recruiting class, however he was still a four-star prospect and a consensus top-100 player. 

This past week, Clowney made his impact felt and proved that he may already fill a key role. The big man averaged double-figure scoring and had a minimum of six rebounds in every game. He also posted a double-double against China.

In addition to returners Noah Gurley and Charles Bediako, there's plenty of room for Clowney to emerge as a surefire piece in the rotation if he continues to develop. He has a unique fluidity to his game despite his height, and his rebounding prowess and respectable shooting make him a great fit as a small-ball center in Alabama's system.

3. No more questions about Nimari Burnett's health

After tearing his ACL last September, second-year guard Nimari Burnett suited up for his first games in a Crimson Tide uniform. 

If anybody was still concerned that he had not yet fully recovered or that his injury would affect his play, those worries were put to rest. Burnett averaged just over 12 points per game and showed his capabilities as a high-level shooter, defender, and finisher around the rim. 

Additionally, his effort was at a high level. Burnett was awarded the 'Hard Hat Award' for accumulating the most blue-collar points in the win over China. 

4. There's a lot of offensive balance

Although Miller continually put up impressive scoring numbers, he was not the only Alabama player showing out offensively. 

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As previously mentioned, Clowney and Burnett averaged double figures for the tour, but juniors Darius Miles and Mark Sears also consistently reached double figures as well. Additionally, there were notable contributions from senior Dom Welch and freshman Rylan Griffen on the scoring front. 

With plenty of other weapons in the lineup, it's going to be difficult for opposing defenses to stop Alabama offensively even if they're able to zero in on Miller. 

Moreover, senior Jahvon Quinerly who averaged 13 points per game last season, is due to return from his knee injury before SEC play begins.  

5. The defense should be improved

Alabama was mediocre, to put it simply, on the defensive end last season, barely ranking in the top 100 in efficiency according to the analytics service KenPom. 

From both a personnel and an early-results standpoint, this season the defense has the potential to return to the top-5 form it had in 2021.  

Miller and Burnett have immense versatility defensively with their long builds, size, and quick hands. Sears can be an incredibly pesky defender for opposing point guards, and freshman point guard Jaden Bradley was one of the best defenders at the guard position in the entire 2022 high school class. 

Coupling them with the return of Bediako's rim protection, Clowney's versatility, and Miles' and Gurley's returning experience, and on paper Alabama should have a stout defense.

The results from the tour support this as well, specifically against China. During the win, Alabama shot a mere 18 percent from beyond the arc, a stark contrast to the previous two games (41 and 43 percent). Despite the drop off in shooting, Alabama was still able to hold on for a double-digit win due to its ability to create turnovers and make stops.

6. The backcourt has very capable passers

In terms of distribution and running the offense, Alabama knows it has two outstanding point guards in Sears and Bradley. Both made their mark on the foreign tour from a passing perspective. 

They combined for 10 assists in the first two games, averaging 10 each. A full box score has not been released from the China victory, but in the highlight clips posted by UA Athletics, impressive passes can be seen by both. 

Bradley was one of the best passers in high school a year ago and Sears was Ohio's top assist man last season. Alabama has a two-headed monster leading its backcourt, and both will serve Nate Oats well as the unselfish initiators of the offense. 

7. The team chemistry is building

As the team spoke to the media after the open practice at the end of July, both Oats and Gurley specifically cited the team's chemistry as something that had been elevated in the offseason. 

UA Athletics has put out a wealth of social media content showing the players spending time together on the tour, and the content backs up the claims of Oats and Gurley of this being a tight-knit group.

"We've got some guys that are pretty talented. We've got some guys that are going to be great role players, and they seem pretty happy in their roles right now," Oats said in a postgame interview with walk-on Adam Cottrell. "I like where we're at now. I like our culture now, I like our camaraderie, our chemistry."

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