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Clemson Basketball: Alabama Preview

The Tigers take on a high scoring Alabama team in a tough early season test.

Emerald Coast Classic - Alabama v Ohio State Photo by Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images

Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1) - Ken Pom #8 - AP #23

Basic Information

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Type of School: Public

Mascot: Big Al (the elephant)

Head Coach - Nate Oats

Seasons at Alabama: 5

Career Record: 193 - 86

Regular Season Conference Championships: 4 (Buffalo 2, Alabama 2)

Conference Tournament Championships: 5 (Buffalo 3, Alabama 2)

NCAA Appearances: 6

Final 4 Appearances: 0

Kenpom Style of Play

() = National Ranking per Kenpom

Offense

Adj. Efficiency: 122.5 (1)

Avg. Poss. Length: 13.7 (3)

Defense

Adj. Efficiency: 98.3

Avg. Poss. Length: 18.7 (337)

Tempo

Adj. Tempo: 73 (28)

Kenpom 4 Factors

() = National Ranking per Kenpom

Offense

Effective FG%: 62.7 (2)

Turnover %: 16.6 (119)

Off. Reb. %: 38.9 (14)

FTA/FGA: 50.1 (6)

Defense

Effective FG%: 49.7 (176)

Turnover %: 17.3 (206)

Off. Reb. %: 27 (113)

FTA/FGA: 37.4 (252)

Personnel

Alabama Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Center 2 Grant Nelson Sr. 6'11" 230 N.D. State 25.8 14.3 2.2 6.8 2 0.5
Power Forward 15 Jarin Stevenson Fr. 6'11" 210 19.5 8.3 0.3 3.8 0.7 0.3
Small Forward 3 Rylan Griffen So. 6'6" 190 22.8 8.3 1 2 0.3 0.3
Shooting Guard 1 Mark Sears Sr. 6'1" 185 Ohio 28.3 20.3 4.2 5 0 1.3
Point Guard 55 Aaron Estrada Sr. 6'3" 190 St. Peter's 26.7 17 3.3 3.8 0 1.7

Alabama Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Shooting Guard 12 Latrell Wrightsell Sr. 6'3" 190 Cal State Ful 21.8 6.7 1.2 2.7 0 1.3
Power Forward / Center 23 Nick Pringle Sr. 6'10" 230 Wofford 14.8 6.3 0.2 4.3 0.5 0.3
Forward 24 Sam Walters Fr. 6'10" 200 12.3 6.3 2.5 0.2 0 0.5
Center 11 Mohamed Wague Jr. 6'10" 225 West Virginia 10.2 4.2 1.2 3.3 0.8 0.7

Playing Style

Offense

Alabama will push the pace, then push the pace, and when they’re done pushing the pace, they push the pace yet again. Their half-court and transition offense are similar; everything goes to the rim. Their guards are quick, and their big men are athletic and can finish. When a guard goes to the basket, he always has a roll man in tow. Sometimes it’s a pick and roll, and sometimes it’s a big simply rolling down from the top of the foul line. Either way, Estrada and Sears are a problem if you let them get in the paint, and teams have a hard time keeping them out of the paint.

Their outside shooting is mainly set up off kickouts as well. Their guards are shooting an absurd percentage from deep, with both Sears (54%) and Estrada (52%) hitting more than half of their attempts, and they launch a good many of them. They shoot such a high percentage because often times, they take wide-open spot-up 3’s when their backcourt mate has collapsed the defense with a drive to the basket.

Not only do their guards shoot well from deep, but wing Rylan Griffin (41%), power forward Jarin Stevenson (37%), and reserve guard Latrell Wrightsell (50%) all light it up from deep. Clemson can’t overcommit on the drives or Bama will shoot them out of the game. Make their shorter guards drive the ball to score instead of pass. Make them finish tough shots at the rim instead of letting them find open shooters. In transition, they run to the 3-point line. If Clemson plays the traditional “two feet in the paint first, then close out on shooters” defense when the Crimson Tide are in transition, they’ll eat 3’s all night long.

For Clemson to win this game, they have to contain the ball off the dribble and make Alabama run their offense past the normal 14 seconds. If you make them play in the half court, they will turn the ball over. The Tigers need to play this game at a walk, and if anyone can tempt a team into a walkathon, it’s Bradley Robert Brownell.

If the Tigers force a miss, they can’t rest. Alabama is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the nation. They have a ton of size and depth in their front court, and as I mentioned, a forward or center is always lurking on the weakside block looking for a dump-off or an offensive rebound. This is another case where Clemson defenders need to do the job and not overly rely on help. If PJ is constantly having to contest at the rim, Bama will crash the offensive glass hard from the weak side. Ian Shieffelin and RJ Godfrey, along with PJ Hall, have to do the job on the defensive glass.

Defense

Alabama wants to score fast and then make you burn the entire shot clock on offense. They jam ball handlers in the backcourt with 40 feet of man pressure when they are so inclined. Oats turns the full-court pressure on and off, depending on his mood. His press isn’t super aggressive; it’s more annoying than anything, but it makes teams burn clock getting the ball up the court. Clemson’s guards have to be strong with the ball because turnovers are death against the Tide. They tend to lead to open run-out 3’s or dunks for the Tide.

The good news is they don’t guard the 3-point line particularly well, and Clemson, when hot, shoots it particularly well from deep. Much like Clemson, they tend to overreact to drives and leave shooters open on the perimeter. On top of that, Hunter and Girard should be able to shoot over their guards anyway. The Tigers have to hit from deep to win this game because they’ll find the going difficult underneath the basket due to Alabama’s size.

Matchup to Watch

PJ Hall vs Grant Nelson

This is lowkey one of the more interesting matchups you’ll find in college basketball. Nelson and Hall are both high-level athletes who happen to also be extremely tall. Both can run the floor and shoot from deep. PJ is a little better in the paint, but Nelson has better handles on the perimeter.

Foul trouble could be an issue for both players. PJ is going to have to come out and guard Nelson on the perimeter. Nelson is going to have to bang with PJ down low. Let’s hope for a slow whistle because these are two experienced, skilled, athletic bigs with NBA futures. I want to see them decide the game.

Prediction

KenPom

Clemson - 75

Alabama - 85

Confidence: 18%

Drew

Clemson - 72

Alabama - 87

This is much closer at home or on a neutral court. Bama feeds off the crowd and hits big runs in their own gym. I think Clemson keeps it reasonably close in the first half, but then gets hit with a big run in the second half once fatigue sets in.

Bama goes 5 deep with guys 6’10” and above, and they’re going to work to get P.J. out of the game. It’s going to be tough for the big man to fight through all those fresh bodies, but he’s going to need to play out of his mind for the Tigers to have a shot in this one.

In the end, there’s too much shooting, too much pressure defense, and not enough answers for the Tigers on offense.

As always, I hope I’m wrong.