When Alabama hired Nate Oats, I had a buddy of mine that’s a life-long Crimson Tide fan text me, “Who the hell is Nate Oats?” I replied, “A great hire, that’s who.”
Alabama (12-3 straight up, 10-4-1 against the spread) has won eight consecutive games both straight up and against the spread, including Tuesday’s 105-75 win at LSU in a pick ’em affair. The Tide is undefeated in SEC play with a 7-0 record.
All of those aforementioned numbers are impressive, but they don’t tell the real story. Alabama isn’t just beating respectable opponents — it is destroying them.
In fact, six of Alabama’s wins during its eight-game winning streak have come by margins of 15 points or more.
Since losing a 73-71 decision to Western Kentucky, five of ‘Bama’s victories have been by 16, 18, 20, 31 and 30 points. The exceptions were a 71-63 win at previously-undefeated Tennessee and a 94-90 win at Auburn (with Sharife Cooper).
In the Tide’s last three wins — 85-65 at Kentucky, 90-59 vs. Arkansas and 105-75 at LSU — it has beaten the closing lines by 80.5 combined points.
With a nice blend of players out of the transfer portal, freshly signed talent from the last two recruiting classes and several quality players left behind from the Avery Johnson Era, Oats has a deep roster with few weaknesses.
The three players left over from Johnson’s tenure are Herb Jones, Alex Reese and John Petty. Jones is a versatile defensive stopper who is averaging 12.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He’s also shooting at a 47.8 percent clip from 3-point range.
Petty (14.3 PPG) is one of the SEC’s top 3-point shooters, draining 42.4 percent of his launches from downtown. His 39 treys made this year pace the SEC by seven. He put on a show Tuesday in Baton Rouge, burying 8-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc.
Point guard Jahvon Quinerly is a former McDonald’s All-American who committed to Villanova out of high school as a five-star recruit. After sitting out last season, Quinerly is averaging 13.3 points and 3.3 APG.
Sophomore Jaden Shackleford was the prize of Oats’s first recruiting class. Shackleford (13.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG) averaged 15.0 PPG as a freshman last season.
Alabama senior power forward Jordan Bruner, the coveted grad transfer from Yale, has missed the last 2.5 games due to an injury. Bruner, who averaged 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocked shots in Alabama’s first 13 games, is expected to return sometime in mid-to-late February.
For all of the reasons noted above, I think Alabama at 40/1 odds to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament is worthy of a small wager. If the Tide makes the Sweet 16, there will be hedge options to ensure a solid profit.
Alabama went to plenty of Sweet 16’s during Wimp Sanderson’s tenure. Mark Gottfried took his alma mater to the Elite Eight once. However, the Tide has never been to a Final Four.
Whether that happens this year or not remains to be seen but if ‘Bama can keep Oats around for the next decade, I guarantee that berth in the national semifinals is on the horizon.