For his first game as the University of Alabama men’s basketball coach, Nate Oats might have chosen an opponent that gave the Crimson Tide a near-certain victory.

Instead, he chose a challenge.

The regular season opens for UA against the Penn Quakers, a perennial Ivy League contender. Penn returns three 2019 All-Ivy players from a 19-12 team and was the preseason No. 2 selection (behind Harvard) in the preseason Ivy League coaching poll.

“They remind me a little bit of my Buffalo team, not in the style of play but in the fact that they know they can walk in and beat a high major team on a high-major floor,” Oats said. “We’ve got our hands full,”

Oats said Penn players AJ Brodeur, Ryan Bentley and Devon Goodman “are all very good. They’ve got some real talent.”

Brodeur, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior, led last season’s Quakers in virtually every statistical category — scoring (17.6 ppg), rebounding (8.3 rpg), assists (113), blocked shots (41), and field-goal percentage (.528)

“That’s hard to do in junior high, and he’s doing it on a really strong college team,” Oats said. “He is really, really good.”

Alabama is expected to start the experienced five-player rotation that it used against Georgia Tech in last week’s exhibition game: guards Kira Lewis Jr. and John Petty Jr., forwards Herb Jones and Alex Reese and center Galin Smith with freshman guard Jaden Shackelford and senior transfer Beetle Bolden coming off the bench.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Oats said. “We are not where we are going to be but you don’t want to peak in November, you want to play your best basketball in February and March. But I want us to play as hard as we can possibly play.”

Alabama’s sophomore point guard Kira Lewis was named to the Coaches’ Pre-Season All-SEC Team on Monday.

The complete team as chosen by the coaches:

Kira Lewis Jr. – Alabama

Kerry Blackshear – Florida

Andrew Nembhard – Florida

Anthony Edwards – Georgia

Ashton Hagans – Kentucky

Skylar Mays – LSU

Breein Tyree – Ole Miss

Reggie Perry – Mississippi State

A.J. Lawson – South Carolina


Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt