Alabama Preview - Tide hopes Steele's return means renewed success

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Ron Steele will be back making passes,driving to the basket and directing Alabama's offense.

Coach Mark Gottfried is hoping Steele's presence will translate to more on-the-court success for a team that has failed to make the NCAA tournament the past two years after seemingly becoming a regular presence.

Alabama was picked to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division by league media.

The former All-SEC point guard sat out last season following operations on both knees.

Last year, Alabama fell to 17-16, its worst record in eight years, and winning just five league games.

The return of Steele and the arrival of 6-foot-9 freshman JaMychal Green help take some of the sting off those losses.

Steele, Alonzo Gee and Brandon Hollinger give the Tide three seniors in the backcourt.

That combination plus the loss of Richard Hendrix could mean Alabama turns to a more uptempo style.

Gottfried also added some quickness by signing 5-9 junior college point guard Anthony Brock and freshman guard Andrew Steele, Ron's younger brother.

Alabama's schedule includes nonconference games with Oregon, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech and Clemson.

The Tide opens the season Sunday against Mercer.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)