Before they embark on their trip to Kansas City to resume the CBE Classic, Alabama will host a tricky opponent in Southern Miss. Alabama will return the favor next season with a trip to Hattiesburg. The casual fan may not realize how good the Southern Miss basketball program has been in recent years. In the last three seasons, the Southern Miss program has 81 wins, and has advanced to one NCAA tournament as well as 2 NIT tournaments. Not too shabby.
Unfortunately, success has a price. For Southern Miss, it's been a revolving door of head coaches. After he rebuilt the program and reached the NCAA tournament, Larry Eustachy left for Colorado State. His replacement - Donnie Tyndall - took the program to two straight NIT tournaments, and watched fan attendance rise in each of his two seasons. And then Tyndall left for the Tennessee job.
To their credit, Southern Miss moved fast, making yet another great hire in Doc Sadler, whose previous experience was as head coach at UTEP and Nebraska, and most recently as an assistant under Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State. Sadler is a respected coach in the profession. His teams at UTEP and Nebraska were typically blue-collar teams that won with grit and defense (not unlike Grant's teams at Alabama). While his tenure at Nebraska did not go smoothly, I think an argument could be made that the facility upgrades and the success that current Cornhusker coach Tim Miles is enjoying are, at least partially, a result of the foundation that Sadler and his staff laid. I think Southern Miss is a good fit for him, and he will keep the program moving in a positive direction.
With that said, his first season may be a bit of a rebuilding job. The top five scorers from last season's team are now gone, meaning Sadler and his staff will have to lean on some veteran players who were previously role players, along with a handful of newcomers. That's a lot of moving pieces for a first-year head coach. In a Conference USA that currently appears to be solid at the top, maintaining their place at the head of the league could be difficult for Southern Miss, at least this season.