First things first: Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope your holiday is peaceful. I'm going to do my best to keep this post short due to the holiday and the time I'm writing this (hint: it's late) in order to get it posted in advance of the game. Alabama (2-3; KenPom: 78) battled and did some good things on Wednesday, but ultimately couldn't overcome a poor shooting performance (38.2% from the field; 44.4% from the foul line) and UNC's interior size, falling 76-67. The Tarheels didn't play their best game either, turning it over twenty times, and making only 40% of their shot attempts.
Our guys will need to bounce back quickly because another tough opponent awaits in the Iowa State Cyclones (3-2; KenPom: 43) from the Big 12. And yes, Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm is an Alabama alum. I'm telling you this because I'm sure the ESPN broadcast will not mention this.....Game time is 5:30 P.M. CT, and will be televised by ESPN2.
My Two Cents: Whoever put this Alabama schedule together is a real jerk. Alabama could potentially play three power conference teams in the Bahamas this week. They will then return home and host Stephen F. Austin, who just went to Duke and knocked off the number one ranked Blue Devils. Alabama is battling injuries, trying to adjust to a new style and coaching staff, and having to do it against the toughest non-conference schedule so far of any SEC school. I know some fans are upset with the slow start, but I think it's far too early for hot takes (and I say that as someone who does occasionally let my emotions override my brain when it comes to basketball).
One thing Alabama did a better job of in the UNC game was limiting turnovers. They entered the game with a 22% turnover pct, but only had a 17% pct in that game. Turnovers will once again be a key stat in this one because Iowa State's opponents currently have a 24.9% turnover pct. The Cyclones also don't turn it over with just a 12.6% rate, which is third in the country. Iowa State has not been a great rebounding team, but neither is Alabama so that stat is another one to keep an eye on.
Players to Watch: Alabama's chances of winning are going to be good most nights when Kira Lewis and John Petty score 20 or more points together. They combined for 43 vs UNC. It remains to be seen if John can string some games together, but if he and Kira can play at a high level, and a consistent third scorer emerges, Alabama should be okay on the offensive end.
After successfully defending one of the best guards in the country in Cole Anthony, Alabama will once again be tasked with defending another one of the top guards in the country. And Tyrese Haliburton is that. How's this for a stat: Haliburton is averaging 10.3 assists per game, and only 1.8 turnovers per game. He's also averaging 10.8 pts, 4.8 rebs, and 3.5 stls. And he's considered a first round draft pick in most mock drafts.
Prediction: Some of the schedule was already completed by the time Nate Oats was hired so it was out of his hands, but for a new coaching staff trying to build a culture and implement a new style of play, I'm guessing the staff would have preferred to ease into the schedule a little more. It is what it is now, and there is a very real scenario in which we get to January and Alabama has a losing record entering conference play. A tough schedule giveth, and a tough schedule taketh away.
Iowa State - 83 Bama - 78