The following is from Jordan Harper, our BamaInsider.com Basketball Correspondent
After a successful season last year, coach Avery Johnson has his team seeking another NCAA Tournament appearance. This year’s team will have a totally different look to them, even if most of the team from last season is back this year. This year the fans can expect the team to be up-tempo and have a lot of ball movement compared to last season’s team. The main reason for that is 6-foot-3 point guard Kira Lewis Jr, the prized recruit that reclassified from 2019 to 2018.
17-year-old Lewis is as quick as lightning with the ball in his hand and he’s an exceptional passer. I often said last season that Collin Sexton was a combo guard playing point guard, and that was the problem last season not having a true point guard.
Lewis is a pure point guard that has all the instincts that point guards are supposed to have. Another addition that will make the team better is a 6-foot-6 combo forward Tevin Mack, the transfer from Texas who sat out last season due to transfer rules. Mack is a very gifted scorer from different levels, as he is a good three-point shooter, can put it on the floor, and score off the bounce. He will bring an element of scoring to this team that they haven’t had from the forward position in a while.
What to Expect
Losing a player like Collin Sexton could be detrimental to a team, but Avery Johnson has recruited well enough to where that is not the case. Alabama returns 10 players, including 3 starters in Donta Hall, John Petty, and Dazon Ingram and that is a solid nucleus to bring back. They also bring back Herbert Jones, who is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft who may even come off the bench this season as a sixth man. That is how deep this roster is with experience and talent.
With already mentioned Kira Lewis and Tevin Mack, there are two more newcomers from this past recruiting class. 6-foot-10 270 pounds Javian Fleming-Davis a big body who could find some playing time if he keeps playing as he did during the pro day and scrimmage. He is a player who can step back and hit a midrange jumper and score with his back to the basket. 6-foot-4 guard Diante Wood is out for the season after foot surgery, but he was expected to redshirt anyway. He is a very instinctive player who was a four-time state champion at Sacred Heart High School in Anniston, Alabama.
With young players like Alex Reese and Galin Smith who have improved over the offseason, it will be key for them to step up their production from last season. The way this team will make the NCAA Tournament is not from their starting lineup, but if their bench is formidable and can provide quality depth. The rest of the bench includes veteran players such as Avery Johnson Jr, Daniel Giddens, and 5th year senior Riley Norris. Avery Johnson will have a tough task cutting this rotation down from ten to seven or eight.
College basketball is a very difficult season to predict in terms of win total, but I am going to just go with my gut and make a prediction. Looking at the schedule, this is a top 35 strength of schedule on paper. Playing Arizona, at Stephen F Austin, at Baylor, Penn State, and the Charleston Classic will be difficult games.
Not to mention that the SEC will more than likely get a minimum of five teams in the tournament, with as many as eight as a possibility. Playing in the SEC alone will give a team a top 75 strength of schedule in what may be the deepest conference in the country this season. With that being said, I predict Alabama to have 20 wins at the end of the regular season.
Not knowing what the rest of the country or conference will do, I would say 20 wins would get Alabama into the tournament once again with how tough the SEC will be. If Avery Johnson can take this team to the NCAA Tournament two consecutive years with the 2019 recruiting class looking like another top 15 class, that is a lot of momentum that could lead to deeper runs into the NCAA Tournament.
Alabama opens their season against Montevallo on October 30 at 7:00 p.m. CT. The Crimson Tide will also play in the Charleston Classic from November 11 through November 18, their first matchup is with Appalachian State.