How to watch: No. 10 Alabama basketball vs. Iona
No. 10 Alabama basketball is looking to take its perfect start on the road. After opening its season with four wins inside of Coleman Coliseum, the Crimson Tide will head to Florida this week to take part in the ESPN Events Invitational. Alabama’s first game in the tournament will be against Iona. The game will serve as a rematch of last season’s matchup where the Tide beat the Gaels 68-55 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s all the information you need to know about Thursday’s game.
How to watch
Who: No. 10 Alabama (4-0) vs. Iona (5-0)
When: 4 p.m. CT, Thursday, Nov. 25
Where: HP Fieldhouse, Kissimmee, Fla.
Watch: ESPN/ESPN2 (play-by-play: Doug Sherman; analyst: Daymeon Fishback)
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (play-by-play: Chris Stewart; analyst: Bryan Passink)
Alabama's projected lineup
Jahvon Quinerly: 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, redshirt junior
Stats: 15.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, 45.3% FG, 26.7% 3-pt
Jaden Shackelford: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, junior
Stats: 19.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 41.5% FG, 35.9% 3-pt
Keon Ellis: 6-foot-6, 175 pounds, senior
Stats: 14.5 ppg., 8.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 51.5% FG, 42.1% 3-pt
Noah Gurley: 6-foot-8, 215 pounds, graduate
Stats: 7.3 ppg, 4.3, rpg, 0.8 apg, 37.5% FG, 20.0% 3-pt
Charles Bediako: 7-foot, 225 pounds, freshman
Stats: 9.3 ppg, 4.8, rpg, 1.0 apg, 66.7% FG
Iona projected lineup
Tyson Jolly: 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, graduate
Stats: 16.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 47.4% FG, 46.2% 3-pt
Colton Cashaw: 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, graduate
Stats: 0.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0% FG,
Berrick JeanLouis: 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, senior
Stats: 3.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 43.8% FG, 16.7% 3-pt
Quinn Slazinski: 6-foot-9, 215 pounds, junior
Stats: 10.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 34.1% FG, 40.0% 3-pt
Nelly Junior Joseph: 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, sophomore
Stats: 16.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 56.3% FG, 50.0% 3-pt
Alabama preparing to run the gauntlet
Alabama has navigated a challenging start to the season, but the Tide will have to ratchet the difficulty up a notch this week as it looks to face three quality opponents in the span of four days. Following the game against Iona on Thursday, Alabama will face either Belmont or Drake on Friday in either the semifinal or the consolation bracket. From there, the Tide will wrap up play on Sunday against one of four teams on the other side of the bracket ¸— Dayton, No. 4 Kansas, Miami or North Texas — in either the championship game or the consolation bracket.
This is Alabama’s third major non-conference tournament under Oats. The Tide went 1-3 in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in The Bahamas in 2019. Last season, Alabama went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational, which took place in Asheville, N.C., due to COVID-19. Alabama lost its opening games in both previous tournaments. Tuesday, head coach Nate Oats discussed the team’s approach this year, stating that he will look to play several players throughout the week while also noting that it is imperative that his team focuses on one game at a time.
“You have to go all in to win Thursday, but at the same time, if you’ve got a chance to deepen your rotation a little bit, play a few more guys that are playing well, I think it’s smart to do that,” Oats said. “I think it’s also smart to make sure your practices going in were good. We gave them Saturday off. We had the option to go Sunday. We really just came in and cleaned up video and shot Sunday, so we really didn’t practice.
“I didn’t wanna practice them Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – four days in a row – and then play three out of four. So we pretty much gave them Sunday off. We went hard Monday, Tuesday. We’ll back it way off [Wednesday] and then hopefully they have fresh legs for those three games on Thursday, Friday, Sunday.”
Oats, Pitino have a growing friendship
Two coaches separated by more than 1,000 miles in distance and 22 years in age don’t seem like they’d be this close. However, Oats and hall of fame Iona coach Rick Pitino have become somewhat of college basketball’s odd couple over the past year.
It started this spring when No. 2 seed Alabama pulled off a gritty 68-55 win over No. 15 Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A couple of days after the victory, Oats dialed up Pitino for advice heading into his second-round matchup against Maryland.
The relationship grew over the summer as the two got together for a round of golf at Indian Creek Country Club in Florida. Pitino joked about the outing over social media, tweeting, “First he beats me in the tournament and now takes my money on the golf course! Fun Day!”
Tuesday, Oats recalled the round a bit differently.
“I hit more sand traps there on one hole than I think entire courses elsewhere,” Oats said. “I don’t know if I’m showing my swing off to anybody. You have to be a pretty terrible golfer for me to be showing my swing off. But we did have fun.”
Unlike their summer outing, Oats joked that he’s not exactly looking forward to meeting Pitino again on the court Thursday. After winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season, Iona is off to a 5-0 start to the season.
The Gaels will be without guards Isaiah Ross and Asante Gist, who combined for 35 of Iona’s 55 points against Alabama in the NCAA Tournament. However, Pitino did bring in a trio of talented transfers in SMU guard Tyson Jolly, Tulsa guard Elijah Turner and Louisville forward Quinn Slazinski. Iona also returns sophomore forward Nelly Junior Joseph, who is averaging a team-high 16.6 points and 7.2 rebounds so far this season.
“They’re better than last year,” Oats said. “They’ve added some new guys. They’ve upgraded their roster. They’re a better team.”
Davison beginning to heat up
Following the worst game of JD Davison’s young career, Nate Oats approached his five-star freshman with some words of encouragement. Davison has just come off of an underwhelming 22 minutes against South Alabama in which he recorded 2 points, two rebounds and two assists while committing three turnovers. Oats’ message at the time: Don’t panic.
The head coach reminded his young point guard that then-freshman Joshua Primo also had a slow start to his Alabama career last season before developing into a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The talk seemed to work as Davison responded by recording 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists during Alabama’s 86-59 victory over Oakland last week.
“He just said that he believed in me a lot,” Davison said after the game of his conversation with Oats. “He’s just telling me to go out there and play hard and everything else will fall into place. So you can see that tonight. I just went out there and played hard on both ends of the court and everything just fell in place.”
Davison joined Alabama as the No. 13 overall player and No. 2 point guard in this year’s class. Tuesday, Oats said it will be key for the high-rising freshman to continue his hot play over the weekend as Alabama looks to come away with a successful run in Florida.
“I mean, he’s super-talented. We need him playing aggressive, going downhill using his athleticism,” Oats said. “He’s a great passer. I think he makes guys around him better. The biggest areas of improvement with him come on the defensive end. He’s an unbelievable athlete so he should be a great defender, he’s just got to continue to study and he’s doing that. He’s studying hard.”
— Four Iona players average in double figures as Joseph and Jolly lead the way netting 16.6 and 16.0 points per game respectively. Dylan van Eyck has come off the bench in all five contests to average 12.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game while Slazinski contributes 10.8 points per outing.
— Iona was unanimously selected to finish first in the MAAC Preseason Coaches Poll by the league’s 11 head coaches. Joseph was selected to the Preseason All-MAAC First Team. Last season, the sophomore guard earned MAAC Rookie of the Year honors.
— Pitino became the third coach in college history to take five different teams to NCAA Tournaments with last year’s automatic bid. He is now in his 34th season as a collegiate head coach, boasting a 787-277 (.739) overall record.