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Vanderbilt Basketball Opponent Preview: Alabama State

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Yep, I’m starting basketball stuff. Deal with it.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama State at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Opponent: Alabama State Hornets

Date: November 10, 2021

Time: TBA

Last season: 4-14 (4-14 SWAC), 354th in KenPom

Head Coach

Mo Williams (yeah, that Mo Williams) took over as Alabama State’s head coach prior to the 2020-21 season. Playing a SWAC-only schedule, his first season with the Hornets was not a good one; Alabama State went 4-14, with the four wins coming against Mississippi Valley State, Southern, Arkansas Pine Bluff, and Alabama A&M. They also lost to MVSU, which was ranked 357th of 357 Division I teams, at home.

I don’t really have that much more to add about the former Alabama and NBA player, except that you probably didn’t know he was Alabama State’s head coach these days.

Who’s Gone

Well, this is awkward. Alabama State hasn’t actually updated its roster for the 2021-22 season — and keep in mind, we’re a little more than a month away from the season starting, and preseason practice has already started.

What we do know is that per verbalcommits.com, five Alabama State players entered the transfer portal after last season, and that list includes the team’s leading scorer Brandon Battle (11.6 ppg/7.7 rpg), along with LaTrell Tate (9.3 ppg), Kevion Stewart (8.2 ppg), Jordan Cousin (4.4 ppg/3.1 rpg), and Mike Stone (0.7 ppg/0.6 rpg.) In addition, starting point guard D.J. Heath (9.0 ppg/2.5 apg) was listed as a senior last season, though he could be back I guess.

Who’s Back

With Battle gone, 6’4”, 195-pound junior guard Kenny Strawbridge (10.5 ppg/7.2 rpg) is the team’s leading returning score, though his shooting percentages are ghastly — 40.7 percent on twos, 23.4 percent on threes.) Two more part-time starters also return — 6’6”, 195-pound junior Jordan O’Neal (5.6 ppg/4.8 rpg) and 6’2”, 195-pound sophomore Devin Jackson (4.4 ppg/2.9 rpg.) 5’11”, 160-pound senior reserve guard E.J. Clark (5.8 ppg/2.1 rpg) returns as well.

And, uh, that’s it for guys who saw significant action last year, though the Hornets had a few players who didn’t play much (or at all) in 2020-21. The most significant of these is probably 6’8” junior Trace Young, who averaged 6.8 ppg and 3.4 rpg at Wyoming in 2018-19. 6’8” senior Tyrese Robinson averaged 4.1 ppg and 4.4 rpg in 2019-20 before sitting out last season.

Who’s In

Mo Williams tried to bring in some talent via the transfer portal. 6’8” Gerald Liddell is a former top 100 recruit who was a disappointment at Texas, averaging 2.9 ppg and 2.3 rpg in 34 career games over three years. Williams also brought in 6’6” guard Christian McCray via Cal State Fullerton and 6’3” Isaiah Range from Tarleton State. Also in are a pair of freshmen, 6’8” Darrell Reed and 6’2” Juan Reyna III.

Outlook

I’ll probably get into more detail with some of the other teams on the nonconference schedule, but as to Alabama State, there’s not much to write. It doesn’t help that they haven’t even updated their roster so I’m just making a guess as to who will actually be playing for them this season, but Alabama State is one of a bunch of SWAC teams that are reliably bad and willing to come to your gym to cash a check and lose by 40. This will be Vanderbilt’s first game of the season, and if the game is still in doubt at halftime we may want to get prepared for a long season.