Alabama basketball is in deep water – Update Alaba

For former Alabama basketball coach CM Newton, the non-conference schedule was designed to be tough. “To be the best, you have to beat the best,” was his philosophy.

There is more than one way to succeed in approaching a non-conference schedule. Wimp Sanderson, who would succeed Newton and continue the Crimson Tide’s basketball success, seemingly scoured the college basketball landscape to find teams that would be easy picks for early season games as he developed his team.

Bama basketball wasn’t in the baby pool at the start of this season, but it was in the shallow end. He’s in deep water as of tonight.

Nate Oats believes in a tough non-conference schedule. It was rated as the toughest in the country last year and will be in that conversation again this year as the Tide will face the likes of Houston, Gonzaga and Oklahoma.

And Michigan State, the Crimson Tide’s opponent Thursday in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon. TheSpartans are already in a division that plays a really tough schedule and this will be Bama’s first real test.

Tipoff will be at 9:30 PM CST (7:30 AM PT) at the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trailblazers. ESPN will televise the game. They don’t wander, but the announcers are Roxy Bernstein and Bill Walton.

Potential opponents for Bama in Portland are Oregon and UConn.

Michigan State (3-1) is No. 12 in the nation, Alabama (4-0) No. 18.

The Tide had an easy time eliminating four mid-major opponents, Longwood, Liberty and Jacksonville State in Tuscaloosa and South Alabama in Mobile.

Michigan State negotiated a more difficult path. After a 73-55 upset against Northern Arizona, the Spartans lost a 64-63 heartbreaker to No. 2 Gonzaga before defeating No. 4 Kentucky 86-77 in double overtime. and Villanova, 73-71.

“We’ve been tested enough,” Oats reflected going into tonight’s game. “We had three good middle years. That’s not Gonzaga, Kentucky.

“They are 3-1 and should be 4-0. They played tougher teams but we played decent teams and played well.

“With a young team, I think we did it right.

Alabama is a really young team, a rookie team. Bama opened the season with the same lineup every game — 7-0 sophomore center Charles Bediako (4.3 ppg, 6.8 rebounds), junior transfer guard Mark Sears (15.3 ppg), soph guard Nimari Burnett (9.3 ppg), 6-10 freshman forward Noah Clowney (6.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and 6-9 freshman forward Brandon Miller (20.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg). The Tide has good production off the bench, including freshmen Jaden Bradley (8.89 ppg) and Rylan Griffen (10.3 ppg).

Veteran Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo returns nine lettermen from last year, including seniors — 6-8 forwards Malik Hall 12 ppg) and 6-9 Joey Hauser (14 ppg) and guard Tyson Walker (13.5 ppg) — who played a collective 278 games with 177 starts.

The comparative stats don’t mean much given the differences in competition, but Alabama averages 84.8 points per game, Michigan State 73.8. The Tide allows 57.5 ppg, the Spartans 66.8. Alabama leads the nation in rebounds per game (56), offensive rebounds per game (19.5) and rebounding (24.5). Michigan State is pulling 38.5 per game, its opponents 35.3.

Alabama and Michigan State have met only twice before, Alabama won 81-69 in Atlanta in December 1983, the Spartans won 75-58 in Hawaii in December 1988.

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