TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Its roster is less top-heavy. There's more uncertainty, undoubtedly.
But the anchors are strong: Two experienced senior guards who provide a backcourt presence that should help establish the team identity.
Alabama women's basketball, that is.
Megan Abrams and Hannah Barber fielded questions as part of the Crimson Tide's media day last week, and if they were previously unsure of their need-to-be-steadying roles for the 2021-22 Crimson Tide then head coach Kristy Curry did well in removing any doubt.
"One of our core values that we're really focusing on is this idea of cohesion and unity, and we've really worked to build that," Barber said. "Whether it was through our team retreat last month or, like Meg said, doing things off the court, I think we've really been intentional about wanting to build team chemistry this year."
They're the selected faces of the program, after all, having earned the privilege with their play.
That’s significant, especially since the previous group's three leading scorers, forwards Jasmine Walker and Ariyah Copeland and guard Jordan Lewis, departed from the Crimson Tide after it snapped a 22-year NCAA Tournament drought.
"The thing with that is, it's going to come by committee," Curry said of a more distributed offense. "I think you'll have new faces step up. We won't make any adjustments. We're going to continue with the system in place."
Post players will also have a larger impact this season for the Crimson Tide. Two transfers, Jada Rice from NC State and Khyla Wade-Warren from Texas Tech, should provide more rim protection for a roster that lacked such last season.
There's also Ruth Koang, a senior center who returns after being out with an ACL injury she suffered in September 2020, to give Alabama three players down low who are at least 6-4.
How these pieces coexist with a backcourt, which has been pass-first, and previously had a deferential-for-the-team's-sake mentality to forwards like Walker and Ariyah Copeland is what has Curry "really excited" looking ahead.
Abrams and Barber were the fourth and fifth-leading scorers as juniors, though, averaging 8.1 and six points-per-game. The latter also led Alabama in assists with 3.9 per game.
Alabama will need to rely on them more as scorers, though, as the veterans bring the younger players along — particularly with their now-gone ability to defer to Walker, the seventh-overall pick of the 2021 WNBA Draft, who was the go-to when the Crimson Tide needed a bucket.
They're the lone returning starters, but have the advantage of both being on-ball guards who know how to direct the traffic in an offense.
"Hannah and Meg, they bring a toughness in our backcourt I think that's contagious," Curry said. "Your best teams are player-led teams, and for those two to have the opportunity to learn from who they've learned from, now it's their turn."
The guard pairing started a combined 52 of 54 games a season ago, with Abrams making 27 of 27 starts, and 69 consecutive, and Barber making 25 appearances in the Crimson Tide's opening lineup.
Sophomore Myra Gordon is the only other returner to have started a game at the Capstone, named in the first five twice in 2020-21.
During one practice last week, the Alabama coach referred to Abrams as the quarterback of the team and pointed out how important it is for the point guard to be vocal in leading. She quickly added that Barber already succeeds that role as shooting guard.
It was a moment of instruction, even to two seniors, for Curry who's tasked with replacing more than half the Tide's offensive production.
As for how:
"Just taking what got us there last year and implementing that to our new team and getting one-percent better each day, is how we're going to get there," Abrams said. "And, honestly, being a leader."