A fresh start: Nate Oats’ first season in review

Clayton Connick, Contributing Writer

Nate Oats’ first season as the head coach of Alabama Men’s Basketball had almost every twist and turn a basketball fan could imagine. There was excitement before the season, a rough start, upset wins against top 25 teams and a disappointing finish due to turnovers and injuries. 

But not all of the season was disappointing. Oats installed a new offense but could not see it through to completion because a worldwide pandemic suddenly ended the SEC and NCAA tournaments before they could even start. 

Oats just finished his first regular season with the team in March, leading them to a 16-15 record, with an 8-10 record in SEC play.

Oats has an aggressive offensive play style, focused on scoring quickly. This proved to be effective as the Tide averaged 82.0 points per game (PPG), which ranked third in the country. Alabama ranked No. 188 in the 2018-2019 season scoring 72.0 PPG, but a similar roster to 2019-2020 showed the team’s true capabilities under Oats. Oats’ fast-paced offense utilized the speed of the players and spaced the floor to create more scoring opportunities.

 Alabama had two major home victories that opened the eyes of the college basketball world. Oat’s overall game plan led the team to a 19-point victory over the fourth-ranked Auburn Tigers in mid-January at Coleman Coliseum, displaying the team’s speed and shooting ability. A month later, the team upset the No. 25-ranked LSU Tigers by six in Coleman Coliseum. These two wins were the high points of the season as Oats proved that the team could compete with the best in the conference.

But Oats could not muster the team to win on the road. Alabama lost its away games against Auburn and LSU. In addition, late defeats to easier opponents like Arkansas, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt hurt the team’s chances to have a high seed in the SEC tournament or be placed into the NCAA tournament. Since college basketball was canceled in March due to COVID-19, Oats did not have the chance to coach Alabama through the postseason and give fans a more expanded look at how the team performs when the season is on the line.

Oats went to work recruiting once the season was over, landing the No. 9-ranked recruiting class for the upcoming fall. In addition, seniors John Petty, Herb Jones and Alex Reese have elected to return for the 2020-21 season. This gives the team a balance of experience and young talent to provide a versatile attack in the transition where the team has thrived in its victories. 

Oats led the Tide to a winning record despite it being his first year and having recruited few players who fit his system. With this new top-ten class incoming, Oats will be able to make the team his own and continue to bring players in who will fit his “blue-collar, hard-hat” mentality. Overall, the 2019-2020 basketball season for Alabama and Oats should be counted as a success because of the progress in points scored and exciting style of play that drew high rated recruits to the program. If the team can cut down on the turnovers, there is a bright future for Oats and Alabama Basketball.