Edwards: ‘Bama gets ex-Rutgers center Cliff Omoruyi

Edwards: ‘Bama gets ex-Rutgers center Cliff Omoruyi

Alabama’s incredible offseason continued Sunday when it scored a commitment from ex-Rutgers star center Cliff Omoruyi, who chose the Crimson Tide over North Carolina, Kansas State and Georgetown.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound center is a perfect fit for Nate Oats’s 2024-25 squad. Omoruyi doesn’t need touches offensively and will get his own off the offensive boards. He’s one of the nation’s premier rim protectors thanks to his outstanding length and athleticism.

The 22-year-old Omoruyi, who will turn 23 in October before the season starts, was named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team in each of the last two years. His presence in the paint is exactly what Oats needs after taking his program to the Final Four for the first time in school history despite a porous defense.

KenPom had Alabama ranked second in the country in offensive efficiency, but it was ranked #111 nationally in defensive efficiency. The Tide gave up an average of 80.4 points per game to rank #353 out of 362 Division-1 programs.

In 2023-24, Omoruyi averaged 10.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per game. He made 51.2 percent of his field-goal attempts and 61.0 percent of his free throws. The Scarlet Knights struggled to a 15-17 record, missing the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season.

However, Rutgers ended its NCAA Tournament drought in 2020-21, earning its first bid since 1991 and advancing to the second round thanks to a win over Clemson.

Then in 2021-22, RU garnered another NCAA Tournament bid, but it lost a heartbreaker to Notre Dame in double overtime at the First Four in Dayton.

When Omoruyi was a true freshman in 2020-21, he started six of 23 games and logged an average of 14.9 minutes per contest. He averaged 3.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocked shots per game.

In Rutgers’ 60-56 win over Clemson in the NCAA Tournament, Omoruyi had three rebounds in nine minutes of playing time. In a 63-60 spread-covering loss to Houston in the second round, he finished with four points and five rebounds in 13 minutes of action.

As a sophomore, Omoruyi started all 32 games, averaging 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 BPG. He made 62.4 percent of his FGAs and 60.2 percent of his free throws. In the double-OT loss to the Fighting Irish, Omoruyi produced 15 points, six rebounds, one block and three assists compared to just one turnover. He hit 7-of-9 FGAs.

Omoruyi started all 34 games in 2022-23, averaging 13.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.1 BPG. The Scarlet Knights were a bubble team, but they didn’t hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

Instead, they settled for an NIT bid and were given a #1 seed, only to lose to Hofstra in overtime at home in the opening round. In the losing effort, Omoruyi had 14 points, five rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot, making 6-of-8 FGAs.

With the addition of Omoruyi, FanDuel adjusted Alabama’s odds to win the 2025 NCAA Tournament from 16/1 to 15/1. The betting shop moved the Tar Heels from 16/1 to 18/1. Like FanDuel, DraftKings also has ‘Bama at 15/1.

On3’s Joe Tipton reported Sunday that Omoruyi received a $2 million NIL offer while going through the transfer portal process, but that offer didn’t come from Alabama. It had previously been reported that UNC had a $1.7 million offer for Omoruyi. Perhaps the Tar Heels upped that offer by $300,000, or it was another school that got turned down by Omoruyi?

Whatever the case, I think ‘Big Cliff’ made the right decision in terms of having the best shot at winning a national title. Within 2-3 minutes of the news breaking on Omoruyi’s decision, I made a wager on Alabama to win the 2025 NCAA Tournament at 20/1 odds. I think the Tide is worth a shot at 16/1 or better.

BetOnline has ‘Bama at 16/1.

Oats currently has 11 players on his 2024-25 roster, but there are two spots expected to be filled by Mark Sears and Jarin Stevenson to push that number to 13.

Sears and Stevenson are both testing the NBA waters while retaining their college eligibility. They have until May 29 to withdraw from the 2024 NBA Draft.

Sears, who was a third-team All-American this past season, was one of 78 players invited to the NBA Combine on May 3. The NBA Combine will take place from May 12-19 in Chicago. Stevenson did not receive an invitation.

Opinions vary on how Sears’s game will translate to the next level. The latest Big Board released last month by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has Sears ranked as the 19th-best player in the 2024 NBA Draft.

However, nbadraft.net has Sears going undrafted altogether in its latest mock for this year and the 2025 NBA Draft. He isn’t selected in ESPN’s latest mock by Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo from April 17, either.

In the mock released on April 29 from Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, Sears again goes undrafted. Likewise, he isn’t picked in SI.com’s most recent mock from May 2.

The NBADraftRoom’s latest mock that was updated on May 5 has Sears being selected with the #53 overall pick late in the second round by the Indiana Pacers.

There are 58 picks in the 2024 NBA Draft, but contracts are only guaranteed for first-round selections that go in the Top 30.

In addition to Omoruyi, Oats has also added Houston Mallette (Pepperdine), Chris Youngblood (South Florida) and Aden Holloway (Auburn) from the portal. Youngblood was the catalyst for the 2023-24 Bulls, who won the AAC regular-season title. He was named the AAC’s Co-Player of the Year along with Johnell Davis.

Holloway struggled as a true freshman at Auburn, but the former five-star recruit did start 26 of 35 games for a team that won the SEC Tournament and was a #4 seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Holloway (7.3 PPG, 2.7 APG) had a solid 94/31 assist-to-turnover ratio, but he obviously needs to improve on his 31.8 percent shooting on FGAs and 30.2 percent shooting from downtown.

Mallette and Youngblood drained 41.5 and 41.6 percent of their launches from 3-point range in 2023-24, respectively. Sears buried 43.6 percent of his treys last year, while Latrell Wrightsell hit triples at a 44.7 percent clip.

Wrightsell, Grant Nelson and Mouhamed Dioubate are the three players who are definitely returning from last year’s squad. They’re joined by the four transfers and four incoming freshmen and, presumably, Sears and Stevenson.

The 247Sports Composite has Alabama’s recruiting class ranked second nationally. Each of the transfers has a four-star tag. Incoming freshmen Aiden Sherrell (#30), Labaron Philon (#32) and Naas Cunningham (#43) are four-star prospects, while Derrion Reid (#15) is a five-star recruit.

My thinking in betting ‘Bama at 20/1 odds was obviously based on being confident that Sears returns. Unless he dominates at next week’s NBA Combine and sees his stock rapidly soar, Oats and his staff have every reason to remain confident that they’ll have their veteran point guard back and determined to lead the Tide to another Final Four appearance.