On Friday the Alabama men’s basketball team opened 2011 with a 64-44 win over North Florida.
It was a bit of a sluggish win, offensively speaking, but defensively Alabama has picked up right where they left off last season.
The Crimson Tide held UNF to 23.2 percent shooting, extending their home winning streak to 21 games, making it the sixth longest in the nation.
Alabama will need that defensive intensity when Oakland comes to town tonight.
Who is Oakland, you ask?
Well, for starters, they are located in Michigan and not California.
Second of all, the Golden Grizzlies are coming off back-to-back Summit League titles and NCAA tournament berths.
Oakland also fields one of the best point guards in the country in Reggie Hamilton. Hamilton averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 assists a game last season.
He will be paired with sharp-shooting guard Travis Bader. Bader, a sophomore, was ninth in the nation last season in three-point field goal percentage, draining 94 threes.
That tandem should push the Crimson Tide defensive effort, which has been the backbone of the program under Anthony Grant.
Offensively Alabama will continue to rely on veterans JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. Green led the Tide, scoring with 18 against UNF along with Mitchell’s eighth career double-double.
They’ll need that production as Alabama brings along young talent in Levi Randolph, Trevor Lacy and Rodney Cooper.
These young players can shoot the ball, but finding their way in their first season is going to take some time. On the bright side, playing at home and having both that reliance and a strong defense are a plus.
Speaking of home, Alabama had an announced crowd of 11,662 for the opener against North Florida. That type of crowd is rare for the Tide during the height of football season.
Coleman Coliseum was a rocking joint last season as Alabama went 19-0 at home, and the buzz this season is that the crowds will be even better and more consistent.
The Crimson Tide will need it to get off to a good start, which is key, especially after the early-season disasters of last year.