Favored by many to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division, and perhaps even challenge Florida for the league championship, the Crimson Tide was beset with bad luck on all fronts and stumbled to a 20-12 season. Alabama was one-and-out in the post-season for losers tournament, the NIT.
And this year isn't starting out much better. By far the most serious problem for Bama last year was the knee injury that troubled Ron Steele, the preseason All-America point guard. Less than a month before practice was to begin this year, Steele announced he has decided to sit out this season and try to return for the 2008-09 campaign. Steele had undergone two surgeries on one knee and one on the other since the end of last season.
With Steele out, Mark Gottfried begins his 13th season as Bama's coach looking for a point guard. It could be 6-4 sophomore Mikhail Torrence, who gained valuable experience last season, or true freshman Rico Pickett (6-4). Although he is not a true point guard, gutsy 5-11 junior Brandon Hollinger has filled in at the point in the past.
Hollinger is really a wing, where the Tide has excellent players in 6-6 junior Alonzo Gee, a returning starter who averaged 12.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and Mykal Riley, a 6-6 senior who also averaged 12.6 points per outing last year. Long-range shooter Justin Tubbs, a 6-2 sophomore, will get plenty of playing time on the wing. In preseason exhibition games, 6-2 freshman Senario Hillman was outstanding.
In addition to Steele, Alabama lost one other starter from last season. The play of center Jermareo Davidson, now with Charlotte of the NBA, was adversely (and understandably) affected by the shooting death of his brother and fatal traffic accident of his girlfriend during the 2007 season.
Richard Hendrix has been outstanding in his first two seasons at Bama and the 6-8, 265-pound junior should be the leader for Bama inside. He averaged a team-leading 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year. He's expected to be joined inside by 6-7 sophomore Demetrius Jemison, but 6-9 sophomore Yamene Coleman and 6-9 freshman Justin Knox will challenge.
Alabama is expected to stick with its offensive style of trying to pound inside or shoot the three-pointer, but the defense is expected to include more full court play.