Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hey, you! Yes, you! Support the Women's Team in the WNIT!

Hello, folks. It's that time once again where I, a Texas resident, implore you to attend a game at Coleman Coliseum in....Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

While this site is called the Alabama Basketball Blog, we typically only cover the men's team here. Speaking for myself, it's not due to a lack of interest in women's basketball. It's time. Or a lack of time that can be devoted to the women's team. I hate that because Kristy Curry has done a great job with a program that was in a smoking crater when she arrived, and her efforts deserve more recognition. In her fifth season, she has taken the program to its third straight postseason appearance, and she's got a great recruiting class coming in next season, headlined by ESPN top 100 recruit, Gabriella Crawford. 

That's right, while the men's team has ended its season, Coach Curry and her team play on in the WNIT. The ladies have won the first two games in the 64-team tournament, and will be looking to make the quarterfinals of the WNIT for the second straight season when they host Georgia Tech on Thursday. Game time is 7 P.M. CT. There is no television so anyone in the area that can get out to Coleman and cheer these ladies on, please do. If you're a UA student, you will receive free admission to the game. I hope those of you in the area can make it to Coleman and cheer on this team.

A quick note on the men's side: Ar'Mond Davis will transfer for his final year of eligibility as a grad transfer. This has been the rumor for months so it doesn't come as a big surprise. I thought Ar'Mond looked good in the games he played in Canada (8.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), but he suffered a knee injury, and either he was unable to return from that or he got lost in the numbers game as the team took shape. Best wishes to Ar'Mond as he prepares for the next step in his life.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

No Hope Against 'Nova, Villanova 81 Alabama 58

Alabama's season came to an end with a blow out loss to #1 seed Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

We hung with them for a half, but they were just way too talented and they weren't missing their shots.  We probably could have defended the perimeter better in the second half, but it would not have mattered. 

The Wildcats got off to a slow start and allowed us to hang with them in the first half.  With the exception of Divencizo, their shots weren't falling and they had some foul trouble.  We also had to deal with foul trouble as both Collin and Herb picked up a couple early.    If we could shoot free throws, we could have been tied or leading at the break.  The end of the first half and beginning of the second was the key to the game.  We were really struggling to get open looks against their long, athletic defense, and psychologically I knew if the lead got to double-digits it would be practically insurmountable. 

We managed to scrap to within 2 in the final minute of the first half, but Divencizo made his Fifth 3 of the half, with a hand in face,  at the buzzer to stretch the lead to 5.  Nova got the ball to start the second half, scored to push it to 7, then following a Braxton Key turnover, Herb picked up his 4th foul by hacking a 3 point shooter.  Bridges made all 3 free throws, the deficit was 10, and our best defender was relegated to the bench, and for all intents and purposes the season was over at that point. 

Collin Sexton played well with 17 points, but is taking some criticism in the media for ending the season on a technical foul for trash talking late in a blowout loss.  For starters, I don't think calling someone a "little bitch" should warrant a technical at the college level, especially in that situation.  Secondly, I don't have a problem with his actions here.  I appreciate the fact that he was still competing at that point and looking to get an edge anyway he could. 

We emptied the bench and Lawson got 3 assists, including an incredible behind the back, no-look pass to Dan Giddens for a dunk.  Otherwise it was all Villanova with Bridges and company bombing 3s and slamming dunks the whole second half. 

The arena was nearly packed, with about half the crowd rooting for Villanova, and the Duke and Rhode Island fans mostly watching with disinterest.  There were several local Pitt/Penn State/WVU fans sitting in our section who mostly started cheering for us.  Again, our small crowd was VERY positive and enthusiastic, especially in the first half.  All of the players and coaches waved to our section acknowledging us after the game, we gave them a standing ovation and the "Roll Tide" chant as they walked off the floor for the final time this season. 

Braxton Key's father was sitting in front of us, and after speaking with him, I'm much more optimistic about Braxton returning next year. 

Thanks to the City of Pittsburgh for being wonderful hosts.  The venue was perfect, and it's a beautiful, clean city, and the locals could not have been more welcoming.  Even the police went out of their way to speak to the visiting fans.  I hope I have a reason to go back there soon. 

Up next, the offseason.  It's certainly been an up and down year, and even with the disappointing performance, making the tournament and winning a game is good progress for our squad.  There's certainly cause for both concern and optimism at this point.  I will have my annual end of season recap and state of the program manifesto posted sometime this week before I turn my attention to baseball season for the next few months. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Know Your Enemy- Villanova Wildcats

Before I start... for those that wish we were in UVA's bracket... UMBC would've beaten everyone the way they played last night. Still... the 1st #1 seed to go out in the 1st round and it being the overall #1. WOW!

Nova has been one of the 8 teams people have been picking to win the tournament this year. They come into this game 31-4 overall with a Big East Tournament title under their belt.

Starting five are 4 juniors and a freshman... experienc, but not a deep roster. More often than not 6 get the majority of time on the court.
Common opponent- Tennessee (85-76 win in the Bahamas)
Nova likes the 3 ball... shot around 47% of their shots from beyond the arc led by Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson (43.5 and 42%). Those 2 are also the leading scorers.
Omari Spellman grabs 8 boards a game while adding 10.7 PPG.

More stats:
- 87.1 PPG
- .507 FG/.401 3pt FG
- +2.9 rebound margin
- 104. TOs/game with a +2. TO margin
- 6.7 steals
- 4.0 blocks

Prediction- My realist side says this isn't a good match up for us. A team that scores a lot, shoots the 3 well and have multiple slashers could make for a long day BUT I'M GUMPING IT!

Bama wins 84-79 with Donta Hall being the surprise tonight going for 18/11. Sexton opens the door for others and I see Avery Johnson Jr also contributing with 8 or so.

Game time is 12:10PM EST on CBS.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tide Pokes Hokies, Alabama 86 Virginia Tech 83

Alabama advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in twelve years with an 86-83 win over Virginia Tech. 

It was a slugfest of a game that neither team was able to fully take control of.  The score was within 5-6 points either way until the final minute.  Our guys relentlessly attacked the basket and finally got them in foul trouble and wore them down in the second half. 

Things did not look good in the first half.  Buzz schemed to limit Sexton's touches, and he had only 3 points at the half.  To make matters worse, Virginia Tech was shooting over 60% in the first half, including a ridiculous 7 of 9 from 3 point range.  Despite all of that, Petty made a basket at the end of the half to send us to the locker room only down 2. 

Collin was a beast in the second half and ended up with 25 points, including going 10 of 14 from the charity stripe.  Donta did not look 100% to me, but he still played 25 minutes and ended up with 10 points and 3 rebounds.  Dazon had a nice game with 9 points and 7 boards.  AJ played very well with 8 points in 10 minutes, and I thought he was crucial in keeping us in the game during the first half after Collin picked up a couple of early fouls.  JP was the MVP in my opinion with his 6 of 8 shooting for 20 points.  Key really struggled, he had one rebound, four fouls and did not score in 17 minutes of playing time.  He's got to be more aggressive on the offensive end.  He is playing tentative right now. 

Dazon got the benefit of a block/charge call in the final minute when we were clinging to a 4 point lead.  Buzz lost his cool and was hit with a technical foul, which allowed us to finally stretch the lead to 7.  While we only made 18 of 27 free throws, we converted enough down the stretch, and got a few stops on defense to put the game away. 

It was a great win for the team and program, and anything we accomplish beyond this point is gravy.  If we're going to continue playing next weekend, we will have to defend the 3 better, limit the turnovers, and get another great performance from Sexton and Petty.  It's a tall task, but not totally impossible. 

PPG Paints Arena is a nice venue that holds around 19,000.  It was nearly packed for the Villanova game, but probably a third left before our game tipped off.  We were probably outnumbered 3 to 1, but I would say half of the crowd was neutral observers from fans of other teams.  Villanova clearly brought the most fans, followed by Duke.  While we were outnumbered, I don't think we were out yelled.  Our little section was very vocal, to the point I'm actually a little hoarse today, and I never lose my voice.  The team seemed appreciative and all came over and acknowledged us after the game.  It was great to see President Stuart Bell and Athletics Director Greg Byrne in attendance.  Byrne actually went through the crowd shaking hands.  He introduced himself to me, shook my hand, and said "thanks for making the trip."  I thanked him for supporting basketball and he seemed appreciative. 

Up next, we face top seeded Villanova tomorrow at 12:20 EDT.  The game will be televised on CBS.  Honestly, it's hard for me to see us pulling off the upset, but if Buffalo can beat Arizona, anything can happen.  It's that time of the year, and after today we will be one of only 32 teams still playing meaningful basketball.  Enjoy this, it's been far too long, and we deserve it.  If anybody is thinking about making the trip (or local alumni reading this) I will likely have an extra ticket to the game, so hit me up. Roll Tide.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Know Your Enemy- VA Tech Hokie (pokies)

Been a while since I've done this so I'm going to throw a bunch of stats at you:

Season schedule and results
Season stats
Game by game stats

I'll highlight some things here:
- Biggest conference win- @ UVA 61-60 in OT
- Best non-conference win- @ Ole Miss 83-80 OT
- Conference record- 10-8
- Other wins of note- UNC, Clemson

Team stats:
- .498 FG/.385 from 3
- 71% FT
- -1.5 rebound margin
- 12TOs/game
- 79.7 PPG

I have not watched much of them this year, but what I noticed is the team is balanced with 5 in double figures in scoring. Justin Robinson leads the team in scoring and has a better than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. He also leads the team in assists and is by a few percentage points their best FT shooter.

Prediction- I'll keep this short and sweet... if the Hokies can stop Sexton they win by 7, but I don't think they have the talent to contain him. Sexton goes for 25 and Bama advances... 78-68.

Tip-off... around 9:20PM EST

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mark Gottfried to Cal State Northridge

Close to his old stomping grounds of UCLA so him and Alford can take shots at each other.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Official Bamahoops Blog Bracket Contest

For entertainment purposes only.  To celebrate our return to March Madness, I thought it would be fun to have a bracket contest.    The password is Buckleup  You will need a yahoo account.  Please name your bracket the same as your username here, so we'll know who you are. 

Bamahoops Bracket Contest

Good luck!

Alabama is a 9 seed vs. Va Tech in NCAA tournament

Alabama was awarded a 9 seed, and will travel to Pittsburgh to play Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday.  The winner will play #1 seed Villanova.  This is a difficult draw for us.  I think we match up reasonably well with Virginia Tech, they are an up-tempo, but physical team.  I think Buzz Williams is an excellent coach, and we have a 50/50 chance at best.  Villanova has only lost 4 games all year and are a legit final four contender.   The committee didn't do us any favors geographically, as both potential opponents are in the same region and they will likely feel like road games.  I would have much rather had the 10 seed and been playing in Nashville in Texas' spot, but hey, we're in, and it's time for madness so anything can happen.   

Dancing! Alabama a 9 seed in the East Region

Alabama will play its first NCAA Tournament in six years when Alabama plays 8 seed Virginia Tech on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Time of the game is TBD. Click here for a printable bracket.

I like this first round matchup for Alabama from a talent standpoint. My concern would be that Virginia Tech is a very physical team, and Alabama has at times this season been soft, which is reflected in their struggles on the glass. If Alabama plays as well as they did in St. Louis though, not only do I think they can win on Thursday, I think they could give Villanove some headaches in round 2.

Feel free to discuss the tournament here. Make your picks, rip the format of the selection show, continue to laugh together over Gumbel referring to the Auburn head coach as "Mike Pearl". We're dancing again, folks. Let's enjoy it.

Roll Tide.

Cat Scratched from the SEC tournament. Kentucky 86 Bama 63

Despite the lopsided score, Alabama did not play that badly.  They just ran into a more talented team who played almost perfectly. 

We were short-handed with Donta Hall out due to his head injury, and went with a starting lineup of Collin, Herb, Dazon, Alex, and Smith.  I was a little surprised that Alex started over Key. 

It was obvious our game plan was to pack the lane and try to keep the Cats off the boards and away from the rim.  We played a lot of zone and soft man, generally going under screens.   With our primary rim protector out, and UK generally known as a big but poorly shooting team, it was a reasonable approach, and I would have done the same thing.     It worked, for a while.  The first 10 minutes or so of the game were an ugly, low scoring slugfest.  Unfortunately, we really struggled to hold on to the basketball and get good looks at the basket.  Most of the credit for that goes to Kentucky, they are a very good defensive team when properly motivated.  They finally started making some shots and stretched the lead to 10 at 29-19 going into the half. 

Kentucky shot 84% from the field in the second half.  Gabriel was 7 for 7 from 3 point range.  One can argue we should have switched defenses sooner, but it would not have mattered.  That's the game of basketball, sometimes a team defies their scouting report, and when that team is more talented overall to begin with, there's just not much that can be done. 

I thought the effort was outstanding, and there were a couple of positives we can take from this game heading into next week.  UK is a great rebounding team and we actually controlled the boards, which is especially impressive given Donta's absence.  We had 13 offensive rebounds to their one, but of course, they simply didn't miss many shots.  Dan led the way with 7 rebounds, and I was very pleased with his effort and strength displayed by often securing the basketball in traffic.  Key was too tentative offensively in my opinion, but he did his work on the glass and got 5 rebounds.  Collin was playing like his hair was on fire, and ended up 5 rebounds to go along with his 21 points.  Despite being double teamed much of the night, he kept us in the game as long as he could.  He seems to be taking his game to another level in March, and that gives me a lot of excitement going into the NCAA tournament. 

The team did not quit when UK pushed the lead to 17 in the second half.  John Petty responded in a big way, and we started pressing aggressively with Collin and AJ in the back court, which forced a few turnovers.  Petty was draining 3s from NBA range with a man in his face, and that opened things up a bit for Collin.  We managed to cut the lead to 9, but UK answered with more 3s of their own, and that was that. 

JP finished 5 for 9 from 3 point range and 18 points.  If he can continue to shoot like that, and we get Donta back and healthy, and Collin continues playing as his recent level, we could be a tough out for somebody. 

At the end of the day, this was a hugely successful tournament for Alabama.  We found a way to win a close one to keep the season alive, and then did exactly what was needed in convincing fashion to secure a tournament bid.  Sure, I would have loved to see us cutting down the nets today, but if this loss keeps us on the 10 seed line instead of the 8 or 9, it will be a blessing in disguise.  Personally, I'm sort of glad I was able to drive home last night so I can rest today and watch the selection show from the comfort of my own home and make plans accordingly.

Obligatory Arch Pic.  I know it's distant, but I've seen it plenty before and had no motivation to go down there.

I'm still not a fan of having this tournament in St. Louis.  Scottrade Arena is not a bad venue, it holds about 18,500 and was 80% full for this game.  We had a decent crowd of maybe 1,000 or so scattered throughout, but it otherwise felt like a UK home game.  The sight lines are good and the large scoreboard gives a lot of information along with a good view of video replays.  We watched the first 10 minutes or so in our seats in the 300 level, but then moved down to some open seats near my friend directly below us in the 100 level.  There are only a couple of escalators connecting the two levels, so it took a while to walk around, and there are no televisions on the concourse so we watched a portion of the first half standing in a portal.  Also, the scoreboard operator made a few mistakes, only putting up 2 points on a 3 or not putting made free throws on the board, and PA guy several times announced wrong information such as "fouled on the shot" when it was on the floor or "shooting one and one" when it was a 2 shot foul.  Moreover, it just isn't a focus of the city like it is in Nashville, New Orleans, or Atlanta.  The locals really didn't seem to follow it or care, and part of that is probably due to Mizzou's early exit.  St. Louis is not a southern town, and it really isn't a college sports town.  Honestly, it's not much of a sports city in general.  They will support their Blues when they are willing, but the only thing they are really passionate about is their obnoxious, cheating baseball team.

Up next, today is the most wonderful day of the year.  It's Selection Sunday, and it's almost unanimous among the experts that for the first time in six years we are going to see "Alabama" on the screen this afternoon.  The season has had it's ups and downs and been disappointing in some ways, but I for one am proud of this team for finding a way to keep playing meaningful games when everyone counted them out.  5 pm can't get here soon enough.  Just a reminder that it will be televised on TBS this year as opposed to CBS.