Top 68 Team Previews: #16 Alabama Crimson Tide
JaMychal Green is one of the top returning big men in the SEC. (Icon SMI)
By Keith Levinsky
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Season: 25-12 (12-4)
Key Losses: Charvez Davis, Senario Hillman, Chris Hines, Andrew Steele
Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Trevor Releford 6-1 So.
SG: Trevor Lacey 6-3 Fr. SG
SF: Levi Randolph 6-5 Fr.
PF: Tony Mitchell 6-6 Jr.
C: JaMychal Green 6-8 Sr.
Key Reserves: Ben Eblen 6-0 Jr. PG, Carl Engstrom 7-1 So. C, Nick Jacobs 6-8 Fr. PF, Rodney Cooper 6-5 Fr. SF, Charles Hankerson Jr. 6-5 So. SG
It has been almost a decade since Alabama has been considered one of the top teams in college basketball, but this year could be the year that the Crimson Tide return to the forefront. The Tide are coming off a 2010-11 season when they gained a number-one seed in the NIT but ultimately fell to Wichita State in the championship game.
Alabama should have even higher expectations this year as it returns one of the best trios of players in college basketball and the nation’s 13th ranked recruiting class. That trio consists of Trevor Releford, Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green, Alabama’s three top scorers from last year. While the Tide return these three core players, they also have lost a lot of depth and experience from last year. Besides Releford, Mitchell, and Green, the rest of Alabama’s top seven scorers left, mostly as a result of graduation.
The Crimson Tide still should start one of the best frontcourts in the country led by all-SEC forward JaMychal Green. Green returns for his final season in Tuscaloosa after finishing eighth in the SEC in scoring with 15.5 points per game last year. The 6-foot-8 senior also was one of the best rebounders in the SEC as well, grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game. Green was essential in the semi-finals against Colorado, recording 22 points and five rebounds.
Green’s sidekick in the post, Tony Mitchell, is almost just as dangerous on offense as Green. Mitchell averaged 15.2 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game last year and was named Second Team All-SEC.
Alabama’s third leading scorer last year was Trevor Releford, who had an impressive freshman campaign. Releford tallied 11.0 points per game and led the Tide with 125 assists on the year. The 6-foot-1 guard also played a huge role in the quarterfinals of the NIT in which he had a team-high 22 points.
Depending on how quickly they develop, Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph will both have good shots at starting for Anthony Grant. Randolph is the 30th ranked overall recruit in the ESPNU and the 9th best shooting guard according to ESPN.com. The freshman shooting guard is a very versatile player who still has room to improve. Randolph is a long, wiry wing player who has the ability to knock down outside jumpers or drive past his defender to the basket.
Lacey is not far behind, as he is No. 40 overall and No. 13 among shooting guards. He can knock down jumpers from anywhere on the court. Lacey is a smart player who knows how to make the right play time after time.
Rodney Cooper is another highly-ranked recruit who could crack the starting lineup. The 6-foot-5 small forward is a lefty who can absolutely stroke it from beyond the arc. His length and athleticism allows him to defend multiple positions.
The fourth stud recruit is Nick Jacobs, a 6-foot-8 power forward who will back up Mitchell and Green. Jacobs, a strong, physical big man checking in at over 250 pounds, is a pure post player who excels with his back to the basket. The lefty can score in a variety of ways in the post.
Alabama has a unique combination of one of the top recruiting classes and one of the top returning trios in college basketball. It’s been a while since the Tide have been a legitimate power in college basketball, but this is perhaps their year. Exactly how successful they are depends on how quickly the freshmen develop and how well those freshmen mesh with the returning players.