Alabama Basketball once again has a loaded non-conference schedule. What are the key games and opponents for them this season?
The non-conference campaign for Alabama Basketball was one of the most up-and-down roller coasters in all of college hoops. They started out strong with four straight wins to open the season, followed up by losing to Iona in the opener of the ESPN Events Invitational. Yet in the next couple of weeks, the Crimson Tide defeated then-No. 3 Gonzaga and top-15 Houston.
Then came the blowout loss to a Memphis squad that was reeling, before losing to Davidson in an impromptu matchup at the end of December. Overall, the team went 9-3 and had two of the best resume wins of anyone, which helped them get a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Alabama is hoping for some more marquee victories to start out this upcoming season, now that its schedule has been fully released. But who are their top matchups before SEC play? Here are the ones to watch.
Liberty Flames – Nov 11th (H)
An early matchup against the powerhouse of the Atlantic Sun may not seem like much trouble but the Flames return one of the best players in the country in Darius McGhee, who averaged over 21 ppg last season. Liberty also is one of the best defensive units in the country and will be tough to score on. This isn’t your typical “buy game” but the Tide should be careful here.
Michigan State Spartans – Nov 24th (N, PK Invitational)
The opening game of the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament has Alabama taking on Tom Izzo and Michigan State. However, this isn’t one of their most talented rosters on paper, lacking a true star and go-to option. Still, Alabama has plenty of talent and as long as they win the backcourt matchups, should be able to get the win.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits – Dec 3rd (H)
Alabama won last year’s matchup, 104-88, and expect this one to be just as high-scoring between two of the best offensive teams in the country. It’ll look different on the Jackrabbits side, as both Douglas Wilson and Baylor Scheierman, two former Summit League Player of the Year winners, are now gone. Still, South Dakota State returns a bunch of key role players that are primed to take over such as Zeke Mayo, Luke Appel, and Alex Arians.
Houston Cougars – Dec 10th (A)
The Tide won by just a point against Houston in one of the more entertaining battles last season. Both Marcus Sasser (25 points) and Tramon Mark (0 points) played in that game before each suffered season-ending injuries soon after. They’re back, along with point guard Jamal Shead and incoming five-star forward Jarace Walker. It’ll be one of the toughest games for Alabama all season long and Houston will be looking for revenge.
Memphis Tigers – Dec 13th (H)
Speaking of “revenge”, Alabama will want to get some after its awful performance at the Tigers. Their roster is very much different, including not having five-star freshmen, Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. Instead, Memphis is older via the transfer portal, including landing AAC Player of the Year and SMU point guard Kendric Davis. Assuming Javhon Quinerly is still out for this game, Davis will be a big test for both Mark Sears and Jaden Bradley.
Gonzaga Bulldogs – Dec 17th (H)
Arguably the best team performance last season, Alabama defeated Gonzaga in a shootout, 91-82. There isn’t a Jaden Shackelford to go off for a career-high for the Tide but they’ll have not only plenty of talent but will be playing a defacto home game in the state. They’ll have to deal with All-American center Drew Timme one more time, along with incoming grad transfer and former SoCon Player of the Year, Malachi Smith.
Oklahoma Sooners – Jan 28th (A)
The Big 12/SEC Challenge has the Tide heading to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners, who have big man Tanner Groves back, as well as mid-major transfer guards, Joe Bamisile and Grant Sherfield. The offense should be improved next season and they’ll likely be on the bubble, making this matchup against Alabama highly important.