David Cloninger

Previewing SEC basketball: Alabama

Avery Johnson
Avery Johnson AP

Men

Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Avery Johnson (18-15, second year/overall)

2015-16 record (SEC finish): 18-15 (8-10)

2015-16 postseason: NIT

Roster

Schedule

2016-17 media predicted finish: 7

DC’s predicted finish: 8

He’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Arthur Edwards (9.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg), G Retin Obasohan (17.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg), G Justin Coleman (7.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, transferred to Samford), F Michael Kessens (3.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, transferred to Florida International)

He’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): G Ar’Mond Davis (Jr., transferred from College of Southern Idaho, eligible this year), G Corban Collins (Sr., transferred from Morehead State, eligible this year), F Braxton Key, C Daniel Giddens (transferred from Ohio State, ineligible this year), F Bola Olaniyan (transferred from Southern Illinois, eligible this year)

Top returners: 6-8 F Shannon Hale (10.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg), 6-5 G Dazon Ingram (7.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg), 6-7 F Riley Norris (7.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

Avery Johnson returned excitement to Alabama basketball last year, selling out Coleman Coliseum five times and getting the Crimson Tide to the NIT after briefly flirting with an NCAA tournament bid. What’s in store for Year 2?

Really, the same as Year 1. Some questions that need immediate answers, lauded but unproven talent on the roster and a program that’s still fighting to make its own identity, rather than filler between football and recruiting season.

Alabama lost leading scorer Retin Obasohan, but returns Dazon Ingram, who was playing very well as a freshman last year before he broke his foot seven games into the season. Johnson reloaded with graduate transfers Corban Collins, a 3-point specialist who was all-conference at Morehead State, and Bola Olaniyan, who came from Southern Illinois.

It’s a quick-fix problem to try and replace Obasohan, who was the best scorer on the next-to-last scoring team in the league. The Tide probably won’t have anyone who can get 20 per game; but if they have six or seven who can score 10-15, that’s not so bad.

Alabama has height and bulk, several players fitting between 6-foot-6 and 6-11 and all toting 200-230 pounds. The problem is many of them have issues – Shannon Hale had surgery during the offseason and fought injuries throughout last year. Jimmie Taylor became a Hack-a-Shaq for opponents when he made just 36 of 97 free throws. Memphis transfer Nick King is eligible and Riley Norris is good for playing defense and then stepping out for a 3-pointer, but Alabama needs consistency in the lane.

Alabama may not play very exciting basketball, but it will win some games it’s not supposed to and may have 10 wins by the time the SEC slate begins. The Tide host Dayton and play Clemson in Birmingham, but are also at Texas and at Oregon in December.

NCAAs? Might have to wait a year, until the next class (currently ranked No. 22 in the country) rolls in.

Women

Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Kristy Curry (42-51, fourth year; 351-200, 18th year)

2015-16 record (SEC finish): 15-16 (4-12)

2015-16 postseason: WNIT

Roster

Schedule

2016-17 media predicted finish: 13

DC’s predicted finish: 14

She’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Khadijah Carter (1.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg), F Nikki Hegstetter (6.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G C’Coriea Foy (2.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg, transferred to N.C. A&T), G Breanna Hayden (6.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg), F Diamante Martinez (1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, transferred to Iona), G Karyla Middlebrook (8.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, transferred to Kansas State)

She’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): F Ashley Knight, G Jordan Lewis, G Lakyesha Stennis (Jr. transferred from Southwest Tennessee Community College, eligible this year), G Alana da Silva (Jr., transferred from New Mexico Junior College, eligible this year), G DaiJia Ruffin (So., transferred from Tennessee-Martin, ineligible this year), G Coco Knight (Jr., transferred from Shelton State Community College)

Top returners: 6-0 F Ashley Williams (13.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), 6-0 G Hannah Cook (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg), 5-8 G Meoshonti Knight (10.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

Alabama should be much improved, but with the SEC being so loaded, it’s a question to how far the Crimson Tide will rise in Kristy Curry’s fourth season.

The good news is Alabama returns Ashley Williams, who led the team in scoring and rebounding in 2014-15 before sitting out last season due to medical reasons. That replaces most of the bad news – guard Karyla Middlebrook, last season’s most dependable player, graduated and transferred closer to her Missouri home.

Curry restocked her roster with two junior college All-Americans in Lakyesha Stennis and Coco Knight while plucking a true point guard from New Mexico Junior College by way of Sao Paulo, Brazil (Alana da Silva). The Tide are guard-heavy, which may hinder them.

Freshman forward Ashley Knight stands 6-foot-5 but has scarce help around her, although Williams will start. After those two, Alabama is down to one true forward in 6-0 Quanetria Bolton.

The media picked Alabama 13th over Ole Miss, but considering Georgia, Arkansas and LSU are all in a similar boat, I think the Tide could get into the 7-8 range. One thing that helps is playing in Coleman Coliseum instead of the cramped and dingy Foster Auditorium, so at least there’s the potential for a few big crowds. A light non-conference schedule will come to a crashing halt with the SEC opener (at South Carolina) but the Tide have Ole Miss, a wounded Missouri team and Kentucky at home in their next three.

I did pick them last, because somebody had to be there. But it could just as easily have been one of five other teams, especially now that Missouri is down two players.

(On a side note, it’s weird that Purdue’s last three coaches – Nell Fortner, Carolyn Peck and Curry – all wound up in the SEC. Peck, who won a national championship the year before Curry took over, is now Vanderbilt’s associate head coach. Her boss is her former star player at Purdue, Stephanie White).

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

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