The problem with analyzing a basketball schedule is the way the pieces slowly trickle down over the course of about half a year: a game here, a preseason invite there; The SEC gives opponents a month’s notice, then six weeks later see if you get a meet or a road meet or a home meet.
Unlike the Tide’s successful 2021 schedule, 2022-23 followed that path more than usual. We’ve already covered the SEC listing – and for a change, it seems manageable. Today, we’ll look at the non-conference equation. Because, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention or not, but this card fills up very quickly, very quietly, and it’ll be double stamp day at IGA before you know it.
Although we don’t have the October optimization games yet, we do they have virtually all of November and December, as well as the major invites, already taken care of. Here they are:
- 11/15 @ South Alabama
- 11/18 — Jacksonville State
- 11/24 — Michigan State: Phil Knight Invitational (Eugene)
- 11/25 — UConn or Oregon: Phil Knight Invitational (Eugene)
- 11/27 — TBA: Phil Knight Invitational Finals (Eugene)
- 12/4 – South Dakota State
- 12/10 — @ Houston
- 12/13 — Memphis
- 12/17 — Gonzaga
- 1/28 — @ Oklahoma: SEC/Big 12 Challenge
The thing that stands out to you is how much more manageable this schedule seems compared to last season, despite having even more big names on the roster. May is hell week with two of the best in the AAC and Gonzaga; there is still a heavy OOC bent in Eugene. But what is notably missing are everything else really tough low-major games that were nothing but nightmare fuel for ‘Bama’s schedule last season.
Grab a single serving early for Alabama:
They didn’t look like much at the time, but the Ionas, Drakes and Louisiana Techs ended up being killers. Two of those would play for the conference title; all had over 23 wins; and all three went to CBI or NIT tournaments. And these were the games I kind of ignored, considering they were boxed into blockbusters. Many of those types of games are missing this year, and in their place, the Tide is given the relatively “easier” task of cross-fisting similarly positioned Power 5 teams.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather play a team like Oregon that can compete for their conference, but is otherwise just another name on the schedule, than a team like Iona that wants to make a name for itself by killing giants – for that last year, they did. And Alabama’s schedule for 2020 and 2021 was full of garbage with them.
You’ll also notice that many of those perimeter teams that made Alabama matchups last season are largely gone. The teams Alabama picks in 2022 are much more conventional lineups, with balanced conventional rosters, albeit with a greater emphasis on the post game.
Other specific notes of the group:
- Longwood (NET 137) is a pretty good team. They finished 26-7 last season, one ahead of Louisville in NET and RPI. They earned a 14 seed and went to two straight postseasons despite only being a 9 year old program.
- Alabama gets another visit from fiesta SoDak State (NET 60). Baylor Scheierman is headed to Creighton, but the Jacks return plenty of talent, including Charlie Easley, and it will be a sixty-minute game.
- Alabama makes the SoCon / SBC in-state tournament, hosting an always-talented Jacksonville State team and then spending a night at the beach against South Alabama (NET 156). The obligation to travel by road in the state is fulfilled. Rich Riley has a decent team in the US, nothing to write home about. But Jacksonville State earned an at-large (No. 15) last year as the A-Sun runner-up.
- Alabama has a great week on tap, including a trip to NET No. 2 Houston, hosting NET No. 1 Gonzaga and hosting NET No. 31 Memphis. Alabama ran over Gonzaga last year, had a game for the ages against the Cougs, and got absolutely blown away by Memphis. Expect revenge for all four of these teams to be on the line at some point, for some reason. That Memphis game, in particular, was the beginning of the end last season for the Tide. If Alabama ever wants to be a routine Top 10 program, it needs to prove it can handle big physical and talented rosters. So far, this has been one of their bugaboos. Memphis humiliated them.
- The Phil Knight Invitational is actually very winnable if ‘Bama comes to work. Oregon (NET 76) is fast and athletic, but nothing special. Sparty (NET 38) looks to be another Houston-style grinder against a strong defensive team that will try to stop them for forty minutes: good shooting will be a must. And UConn may (NET 18) be the most talented of the bunch, but they also play at a faster pace, and the Tide will have a chance to dictate the tempo there, as the Huskies are a little slow in transition, too.
- The last OOC game is a road trip and a bit of a wild card. Last season the Sooners (NET 39) didn’t quite have the year they expected, but were very competitive in a tough B12. But this year, they have a bit more returning talent, as well as a new head coach, as they were able to convince Loyola Chicago legend Porter Moser to head to Norman. It will be a different team, for sure. More emphasis on defense and transition rather than pure shooting and tempo.
Overall, the schedule is still daunting, don’t get me wrong. But given the absence of the usual Elon, Iona, and Drakes, it’s also a little lighter by my lights. Only one of the smaller ones scares you. And mid-major teams are replaced by Power 5 teams that face conference struggles of their own.
Alabama should be able to muster a 9-4, 8-5 record from this list at worst.
Degree of difficulty: 88 / 100