Alabama's style isn't the problem
The problem is not being able to guard
Alabama occupies an odd corner of the college basketball consciousness.
For most of the past half decade, Nate Oats’ project has been held up as a paragon of modern programmatic revitalization. Oats arrived at a previously mediocre SEC outpost with clear, modern ideas of how to play the game, and then installed those concepts to significant success. Not only was his system an antidote to a sport that in just the past decade had to force itself to speed up and stop fouling so much, but, hey, it actually worked. What’s not to like?
Buzzer by Eamonn Brennan is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Yet some people don’t like it. (And by the way, just to get this in here: There was very good reason to dislike Alabama last season, when the Tide were extremely successful on the court but off it handled the Brandon Miller situation with basically zero sensitivity or care.) Why don’t they like it? It’s fuzzy. There is a kind of traditionalist impulse that sometimes runs through college basketball discussion, a list of notions we all grew up with, that we return to reflexively. There is an idea that a coach can go too far, be too extreme, fail to hew to the classic maxims about how the game should be played, and then find himself punished as a result. Too many 3s. Playing too fast. Do not disregard the old ways. The basketball gods will humble you.
This impulse returned during and after Alabama’s 87-74 loss to Arizona Wednesday night, when the Crimson Tide went 8-of-40 from 3 — yes, 8-of-freaking-40 from 3 — in a raucous and ridiculous 40 minute game of basketball. (Arizona was spectacular, it should be said, a topic we’ll cover in more detail soon.) It was Alabama’s fifth loss in 11 games. Early in the game, when Alabama was 2-of-17 from 3, I jokingly tweeted that maybe Oats had gone too far. There was a fair bit of broadcast chatter about shot selection and moderation. And after it was over, Alabama was indicted for the classic crime of living and dying by the 3: