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No. 20 Alabama seeks chemistry in opener vs. Longwood

Sportsnaut
Oct 19, 2022; Birmingham, Alabama, US; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats during the SEC Basketball Media Days at Grand Bohemian Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 Alabama opens the season at home against a Longwood team coming off its first NCAA Tournament trip on Monday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Crimson Tide finished 19-14 in 2021-22 but ended the campaign on a sour note by dropping their final four games.

The Lancers enjoyed a 26-7 campaign, with the Virginia school going to its first Big Dance by winning the Big South Conference crown.

Alabama got its first taste of live action in an Oct. 29 exhibition game against Southern Illinois and held on for a 73-67 win.

Alabama’s newcomers scored 61 of the team’s points, including 14 out of freshman forward Brandon Miller, a five-star prospect and 2021 McDonald’s All-American.

The Crimson Tide shot just 41.3 percent in the win and head coach Nate Oats said his team has to improve on shot selection.

“We have got to figure out why we’re not getting better looks,” Oats told RollTide.com. “I thought we did get some good looks, but we just got to make them. Some of that’s going to come with just playing together and getting our chemistry a little better.”

Along with Miller, senior guard Jahvon Quinerly will be key to making that happen. Like Miller, he’s a preseason All-SEC pick and averaged 13.8 points per outing last season for the Tide. But Quinerly isn’t expected to be available until January, according to Oats, after tearing his ACL in March.

Facing an SEC team like the Crimson Tide won’t be anything new to the Lancers, who fell to Tennessee 88-56 in the opening round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Lancers are led by Isaiah Wilkins and DeShaun Wade, both preseason all-conference picks, with Wilkins coming into the year as the reigning Big South tournament MVP. He averaged 12.7 points per game.

Wade poured in 11.8 points per outing and buried the fourth-most 3-pointers (74) in a season in program history.

One thing the Lancers have focused in on in is their work off the court. The newly opened basketball performance center on campus should play a huge role in helping the Lancers be even better this season.

“This elite training center — along with the addition of Luke Toburen (director of basketball performance) to oversee it and supervise the training of our student-athletes, will provide us a critical tool to help our players develop more effectively,” Lancers coach Griff Aldrich told the school’s website.

Alabama’s game against Longwood is one of three home games in the month of November before heading to the Phil Knight Invitational in Oregon over Thanksgiving. Alabama was 13-4 at home last year.

Longwood is facing Alabama for the first time in program history, and this will be the first time it has played an SEC team in the regular season since Nov. 9, 2013 at South Carolina. The Lancers are seeking their first-ever win against an SEC program.

Alabama comes into the season picked to finish fifth in the SEC.

–Field Level Media