Alabama Basketball Could Compete for SEC Title as Early as Next Season
The weekend addition of 2020 four-star forward Alex Tchikou to the University of Alabama men’s basketball team showed us just how quickly the trajectory of the program has shifted over the last year or so.
Think about it.
Roughly, 16 months ago was the infamous game against Norfolk State in the first round of the NIT, where the Crimson Tide lost on a buzzer beater as time expired, in one of the biggest point-spread upsets in NIT history.
Just days later, Nate Oats was hired by Alabama to lead the program, and fast forward to when the 6-foot-11 Tchikou announced his decision on Sunday, the Crimson Tide jumped up to the ninth-best recruiting class in the country according to Rivals and No. 12 on the 247Sports Composite, during his first full cycle as head coach at the Capstone.
In between those two moments, was an up-and-down season that was riddled with ACL tears before it began, moments filled with hard-nosed, “blue-collar” basketball that came to head when, now senior wing, Herbert Jones hit two one-handed free throws to defeat a nationally-ranked LSU squad, and no postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last two times Crimson Tide fans saw this team on the court, back in early March, was a mid-week home loss to Vanderbilt, who had not won a road in two years before then, and then a horrific offensive performance on the road against Missouri, that led to a double-digit defeat.
With no chance at a postseason run in the SEC, NCAA, or NIT tournaments, Oats and his staff focused all of their attention on the recruiting trail. Already having four-star forward Keon Ambrose-Hylton signed in the fall, the primary focus became the team’s backcourt and how to replace guard Kira Lewis Jr.’s All-SEC First Team production.
Five-star combo guard Joshua Primo and four-star JUCO transfer Keon Ellis pledged to the Crimson Tide next. Both stand at 6-foot-6 and are elite scorers that provide length to disrupt opponents on the defensive end as well.
The next pair of players to land with the Crimson Tide were three-star forward Darius Miles, who is comparable to the aforementioned Jones to some degree, and the coveted grad transfer out of Yale, Jordan Bruner, who will provide some rim protection alongside Tchikou, which Alabama needed in a big way last season.
A big portion of the perception change all happened so quickly in the span of the last four months and all of it on the recruiting trail. As for the other part of it, was the offense output night in and night out that showcased why Oats and company were able to land some of the nation’s big name prospects.
There is also the slew of talent Alabama fans have not even really seen yet, due to injuries with James Rojas, Juwan Gary, and a transfer wavier being denied with former McDonald’s All-American and Villanova transfer Jahvon Quinerly, who will presumably take the reigns as the team’s main ball handler.
Not to mention, one of the nation’s most underrated freshman from a year ago, sharpshooter, Jaden Shackelford, who averaged 15 points a game, is a year older.
Then, you have the two seniors, Jones, who is in the conversation for one of the nation’s best defenders, and forward Alex Reese, who have both seen just about everything during their time in Tuscaloosa.
While everyone awaits word on what John Petty Jr. will do regarding his professional prospects, this team, as currently constructed, is ready to compete for an SEC title as soon as next season, and is one of the best rosters from top to bottom that Crimson Tide fans have seen in a really long time.
Immediately after Tchikou, who has drawn comparisons to the reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, went public that he was committed to Alabama, he took to Instagram Live, to mingle with fans and followers.
“Why Alabama,” the native Frenchman was asked.
“Because I am going to make Alabama a basketball school,” was his response and I am sure that brought a devilish grin to Oats face.