Alabama will play its first true road game of the season at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio against the Xavier Musketeers. The game is a return game in a home-and-home series, which began last season in Tuscaloosa. Xavier overcame a 12-point deficit in the 2nd half to defeat Alabama, 77-74. For Alabama, it will be an opportunity to notch a quality road win for their resume, something they were unable to do last season, finishing 0-11 in true road games, and 0-15 overall in games played outside of Coleman Coliseum.
In the last 30 years, Xavier has been one of the most consistent programs in the country. During that time, the program has averaged 22 wins per season, and has played in 22 NCAA tournaments and 3 NIT tournaments. Last season, the program became a member of the new Big East conference, after spending the previous 18 years in the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers finished 3rd in their new conference, were selected for the NCAA tournament, but were beaten in the opening round in Dayton by N.C. State.
Despite losing 3 of their top 4 scorers, Xavier's consistency isn't expected to wane this year. For starters, they have 5 of their top 8 scorers returning, add a transfer from Indiana, and welcome in arguably the best recruiting class of head coach Chris Mack's 5-year tenure. Factor in one of the best home court environments in college basketball, and Xavier seems likely to remain in place as one of the top teams in the Big East.
Xavier's biggest strength may be their balance. In the post, they return Matt Stainbrook, Jalen Reynolds and James Farr. Stainbrook was the leading rebounder for Xavier last season, while Reynolds and Farr are expected to take on a bigger role this season. They were the 4th and 5th leading rebounders for the team a year ago at 4 rpg. By comparison, Alabama's leading rebounder was Rodney Cooper at 4.9. Oh, and they also add two 6'10 freshmen who were rated 3-4 stars coming out of high school. Size for days.
In the backcourt, they also return quality, experienced guards in Dee Davis and Myles Davis (no relation). They're also hoping for increased production from Brandon Randolph, a sophomore who was a 4 star recruit out of high school, as well as Remy Abell, a transfer from Indiana. And I may have mentioned that they have a really good recruiting class coming in as well.
Factor in a talented roster, coaching staff, and what should be an intimidating environment, and Alabama will be challenged to put an end to their road losing streak.