No. 24: Alabama Crimson Tide

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Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 25-12 (12-4), first in SEC West
Lost NIT title game

Coach: Anthony Grant, 42-27, 3rd year (118-52)

Last NCAA appearance: 2006

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: Alabama’s coming off its most wins in a decade, a sign that Grant’s rebuilding project is progressing nicely. It helps when you have a potent 1-2 punch in senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell.

Green is one of the nation’s elite players. He’s a beast on the blocks, whether it’s grabbing rebounds or providing consistent post scoring for a team that needs consistent scoring from somewhere. The All-SEC forward lead the team in scoring and rebounding last season and figures to do so again. Mitchell’s a better athlete, a more efficient scorer and does a little bit of everything. And point guard Trevor Releford is an efficient, reliable scorer who made the All-SEC freshman team last year. He’s a future star.

And there’s that defense. No SEC team had a better defense, which forced turnovers and made life difficult for opposing shooters.

The bad: Good thing the defense was so good. The Tide’s offense reeked.

They were horrid beyond the arc (29.8 percent, among D-I’s worst) and were sloppy with the ball, too. Without Senario Hillman, the backcourt pressure figures to be a little less intense as Ben Eblen and Charles Hankerson Jr. vie for the starting backup point guard spot and spell Releford when needed.

Until a few threes start falling, teams will continue to collapse on Green down low.

The unknown: How does Alabama handle its improved non-conference schedule? The pushover opponents sunk the Tide when at-large bids to the NCAA tournament were awarded last year, so Grant’s group beefed up this season by adding Georgetown, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, along with a trip to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Then again, simply adding better teams won’t be enough. Part of the problem last season was that ‘Bama barely had a .500 record when it began SEC play. Win those games, then they can focus on a top-4 SEC finish.

The Top 25 countdown:

No. 25: Creighton Bluejays

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