Monday, March 25, 2019

Greg Bryne holds press conference to discuss coaching search.

The key points:

- He wants someone with college experience and ability to develop players and recruit.
-Is not concerned with "geographical footprint."
- The reputation of the University will be at the forefront of everything we do, and it will be a person with a history of academic and NCAA compliance.  (Welp, there went my first two choices)
-Everybody needs to be patient.
-Coaches and agents start rumors for leverage, don't believe anything or anyone.
-No search committee or outside headhunters, he got this.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Official- Avery Johnson out as head coach at Alabama

Here's the link.

First off, like DJC said below... I want to thank Avery Johnson for his efforts here. While it didn't turn out the way either side wanted it to, there is no doubt his first 3 years here he was doing everything he could to get the program off and running. He left his program in much better position than the previous 3 coaches before him.

To put the blame on Avery Johnson for the recent failures of the program is short sighted. Sure there were things he could've done better, but in the end it came down to execution on the court and I'm going to point the finger at the players on the team. With the exception of a couple... most of them played with little heart or desire. You could see Avery's frustration on the bench when someone would jack up ANOTHER ill-advised 3 that a mason would've been proud of to further bury the team in a deficit. There were no leaders on this team. ZERO. For anyone that thinks Kira should've taken that role... yeah, no one is going to follow a 17 YO's lead. He should be that person next year though.

We all complained about Avery's weird rotation of players. My understanding of this was out of pure frustration as communication on the team wasn't very good and he kept trying to find ANY 5 that could play in sync. Rarely did we have more that 3 players have a really good game within the same game. You can blame that on team chemistry.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Head Coaching Wish List

I previously said I would not discuss this topic until and if we have an opening.  While it's not official, with the news breaking that we are negotiating Coach Johnson's buyout, I think it's obvious he's not coming back and it's now an appropriate time to have this conversation.

First of all, I am saddened that things didn't work out with Coach Johnson.  I appreciate his relentless recruiting and marketing efforts, and he seems like a genuinely good guy.  Our program is in much better shape, and it should be a much more attractive job than when he found it 4 years ago.   To Coach Avery Johnson, I say Thank you for your service to this program and our University, and I wish nothing but the best for you and your family in the future.

Before I get to my list of names, let's take a quick, honest look at the pros and cons of our job opening. 

Pros:  1) We can and will pay top dollar.  We are loaded.  Thanks largely to Nick Saban and football, we have one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country.

2) We return a talented roster.  At least on paper, we are only losing Riley and Donta from a team that missed the NCAA tournament by one spot, and we have a top 20 recruiting class signed.  The new candidate will have a lot to work with and should be able to hit the ground running.

3) Facilities- We can sell a potential coach on the commitment to the program by pointing to the planned renovations and facility upgrades.

4) We have an AD who loves basketball and has a strong background with good hoops programs.

Cons: 1)  It's fair to question our Board's commitment to the program by pointing out that we are only renovating rather than re-building, and even that is being pushed back to phase 2 and contingent upon fundraising success.  Before reaching out to the top names on my list below, I would announce that we are moving the renovations into phase 1.  I would love it if we also announced we are building a new arena, but I know that's not realistic at this point. 

2) Football- it's a double-edged sword.  A lot of coaches have big egos, and no matter what you do here, you won't be the big dog on campus at least for the foreseeable future. 

3) Expectations- We have a small but passionate and knowledgeable fan base that expects to be in the NCAA tournament more often than not.  The reality is we play in a very competitive conference with many already established program, and we haven't been a consistent NCAA tournament team in over two decades. 

Other schools with a current opening include UCLA, Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt.  LSU may soon have one.  I think we are as attractive as any of them with the exception of UCLA.  Texas A&M can likely outbid us with their oil money if they choose to do so.

Now, I'm going to list these in order of my personal preference, with some comments on their resume and the likelihood of us being able to land them.  Hit the break for more...

Alabama Negotiating Buyout With Avery Johnson

It appears the Avery Johnson era at the University of Alabama is coming to an end. Multiple outlets are reporting that the university and Johnson are negotiating the terms of his buyout. This seemed inevitable following yet another late-season collapse, plus a dispiriting loss in the first game of the NIT. Steve Prohm, an Alabama alum and current head coach at Iowa State, is expected to be the favorite for the job. Feel free to share your coaching wishlist in the comment section.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Norfolk it all, NSU Spartans 80 Alabama 79

This roller coaster season mercifully came to an end with an overtime loss in the first round of the NIT tournament.  Alabama wraps up the campaign with an 18-16 record. 

I didn't go to this game.  Work obligations, the general admission seating situation, my inability to get reserved floor seats, and an unprecedented level of personal apathy all added up to make it not worth my while.  I haven't seen a box score yet so this recap is going to be quick and short on stats.  I doubt many of you care much about this game anyway. 

We started slow and fell down early, so CAJ called a timeout and did a line-change substitution that proved to be effective for a time.  We evened up the score and the game went back and forth through much of the first half, despite our usual sloppy play leading to at least 9 turnovers. 

Alex Reese went off for 14 straight points on a run that gave us a double-digit lead.  We maintained a 7 point advantage at the half.  After stretching the lead to 10 again, we stayed in the zone too long and allowed the Spartans to bomb their way back in it from 3.  With the game tied in the final seconds, Donta went for a block and allowed a wide open put back opportunity that they missed to send it to overtime. 

We continued to have issues rebounding the ball, dribbling or passing the ball, and defending the 3 point line as NSU was able to take a 5 point lead late in the overtime period.  Herb and JP made some great plays down the stretch to keep it close, and NSU even gave us the ball on a turnover in the final 10 seconds with a chance to win the game, but Riley's shot came up just short and that was that. 

Donta was mostly a non-factor till the overtime period despite them not having anybody over 6'8."  We stunk it up from the free throw line again. 

Kudos and thanks to the fans who showed up to support this team in their final game tonight.  Up next, the off-season, and with rumors abound, it promises to be an exciting one.  We'll try to post any breaking news as we hear it, and I'll have my annual end-of-the-season/state of the program manifesto up at some point in the coming weeks.  Otherwise, enjoy the off-season. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Game Preview: Norfolk State [NIT]

The NIT it is. Unfortunately, the Alabama men's basketball team (18-15, KenPom: 59, NET: 59) did not receive a bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but will have the opportunity to continue playing. The Tide are a 1 seed in the NIT, and will host the Norfolk State Spartans (21-13, KenPom: 264, NET: 260) in Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night. Game time is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Something to keep in mind: The NIT will once again have experimental rules in place. These include an extended 3-point line (the FIBA distance of 22 ft, 1.75 inches), the free throw lane will be widened from 12 ft to 16 ft, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of 30 seconds, team fouls will reset at the 10-minute mark of each half and one-and-one free throws will be eliminated (teams will shoot two free throws after the fifth team foul in each 10-minute segment). If a game should go into overtime, team fouls will reset, and the teams will shoot two free throws at the fourth team foul or the second team foul that is committed with under two minutes remaining if the foul comes before the fourth team foul of the overtime period. While I love all of the rules being implemented for the NIT because I think all of them improve pace of play, this overtime rule is a bit much. Anyway, on with the preview.

My Two Cents: Alabama lost three one-possession games this season. If they win just one of those games (Georgia State, Texas A&M, at Tennessee), they're likely preparing for an NCAA Tournament game this week. Sometimes a season comes down to one game or one possession, and it's the inattention to small details that this team struggled with all season that ultimately cost it a shot at a second consecutive NCAA bid.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

You're Out! Bama Misses The Cut

Alabama came close, but fell short of making it back to the NCAA Tournament. Our guys were the second team out of the field (UNCG, Bama, TCU and Indiana are the first four out). This insures Alabama a 1 seed in the NIT, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed. The goal every year is to make the NCAA Tournament, and to fall short, particularly when this team had so many opportunities to lock up a bid down the stretch, is very disappointing.

Once again, some of the committee decisions didn't make much sense on the surface. Alabama had a top 20 strength of schedule (SOS: 17), but St. John's (SOS: 69) and Arizona State (SOS: 70), with the same number of Q1/2 wins, and a lower NET ranking, get in ahead of Alabama. Arizona State had two quad 4 losses and get into the field. Doesn't make much sense to me. I will give the committee props for giving Belmont, a strong mid-major that lost in their conference tournament, a chance to play in the tournament. That has been an area where they have failed in recent years. Happy for Rick Byrd and the Belmont Bruins.

The NIT selection show will air at 7:30 P.M. CT. I'll update this post with the NIT first round opponent and bracket breakdown. I'm disappointed, but will hope our guys can pull together and go out on a high note.

Update: The NIT bracket has been released. Alabama will host Norfolk State from the MEAC on Wednesday (March 20). The NIT selection committee obviously has a sense of humor because Alabama could play Dayton, coached by former Alabama coach Anthony Grant, in the second round. Dayton will travel to Colorado in their first round game. The teams on the bottom of the bracket are Xavier/Toledo and Texas/South Dakota State so there will be challenges awaiting Alabama in this tournament. I'll start working on a game preview for the Norfolk State game tonight. I hope you guys will continue to read despite the team falling short of the NCAA Tournament.

Click for the complete NIT bracket.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Feeling Blue? Kentucky 73 Alabama 55

Predictably, Alabama was eliminated from the SEC tournament in a 73-55 loss that drops them to 18-15 (8-10) on the season. 

We stuck with the same starting lineup that scored about 6 points in the first 8 minutes against Ole Miss.  They fared a little better in at least ugly-ing up the game and keeping it close through the first media timeout.  The turning point came when we forced a turnover and should have had a transition opportunity.  Instead Herb derped it up and turned it over, creating a fast break chance for the Cats.  To his credit, he recovered with great effort to foul and prevent a layup, but unfortunately he caught the guy in the head and was called for a flagrant.  That seemed to wake the sleeping giant. 

For some reason we tried to run with them, even with 2 centers on the court.  The faster pace predictably led to a flurry of turnovers.  Kentucky went on a 17-4 run and the game was never really in doubt.

Alex came in off the bench and hit a couple of 3s as we made a run in the first half to cut the deficit to 6.  Kentucky answered and took a double digit lead into the half. 

I want to talk a bit about the clock management at the end of the first half.  We had the ball with a minute to play down 9.  Alex misses a 3 with 50 seconds left, I'm thinking, "okay, good, at least we went 2 for 1."  UK scores with 25 seconds left to go up 11.  We should be holding the ball for the final shot at that point, but for some reason T-Mack jacks up a 3 with 25 seconds still left in the half.  We're lucky enough to get the rebound, then Kira jacks up another one 5 seconds later.  I mean, what in the hell?  Do we not have one coach competent enough on the bench to get someone's attention and yell "ONE SHOT!?"  We then pick up an unnecessary foul and give them another point at the line.  Next, Dazon drives in and draws a foul, again leaving 3 seconds on the clock.  Thankfully UK's shot at the buzzer came up just short, or that terribly mis-managed situation could have ended up a lot worse than it was. 

We generally did a better job handling the ball in the second half, but the defense couldn't get stops and Kentucky just methodically pulled away and the game was never in doubt. 

We kept trying to attack the basket and their bigs were dominant in defending the rim.  They ended up with 11 blocks.  Alex was our leading scorer with 15 points, making 3 of 6 from 3 point range.  Donta had 14 points but only 6 rebounds.  He was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line.  One positive in this game was we actually shot 15 of 19 from the charity stripe. 

We went back to the 10 man rotation and nobody played more than 30 minutes.  At one point in the first half we had AJ, Galin, and Herb all in the game at the same time. 

Regardless, I don't think it mattered much what we tried to do in this game.  At the end of the day, we don't have a single player that could start for them, and I'm not even sure we have more than one or two that would break into their playing rotation.  They are a talented, national championship contender who was motivated to avenge a previous loss in front of their home fans. 

Up next, selection Sunday.  The bubble is so weak this year I think we have an outside shot at playing in Dayton next week.  The NCAA selection show will be on CBS at 5:30 pm CST.  The NIT selection show will follow at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.  If our name doesn't appear on the former, someone text me and let me know who we are playing and when in the latter, as I'll be watching the Birmingham Iron game instead at that point.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Staying Alive, Alabama 62 Ole Miss 57

Alabama overcame a 16 point deficit to defeat Ole Miss and keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, for now.

It was a tale of two halves.  We went with a starting lineup of Kira, Herb, Riley, Donta, and Galin.  It didn't work. We scored 8 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.  Thankfully Ole Miss was cold and had their own issues with turnovers so they weren't able to run out to a huge lead.  We closed the half in our traditional sloppy fashion and the Rebels led by 14 going into the break.

After Ole Miss took a 16 point lead early in the second half, a couple of things changed to get us back into the game.  I liked the switch on defense to a 2-3 zone to limit their dribble drive, and we generally did a good job of closing out on their 3-point shooters.  Perhaps even more importantly, Galin Smith got into an altercation with one of the Rebels resulting in a double-technical foul.  The team seemed to play with a lot more intensity and effort following that skirmish.  From that moment we dominated the boards and went on a 15-0 run.  The solid defense combined with the rebounding allowed us to get into transition where Kira was terrific.  It was a close game down the stretch but we actually made the plays we needed, got some key stops, and made just enough free throws. 

We still had some of the same issues that's plagued this team all season.  The 16 turnovers was way too many, and we only made 9 of 18 from the free throw line.  Still, this team deserves a lot of credit for fighting back at a time when almost everyone was ready to write off the season.

T-Mack led the way with 21 points including 4 of 6 from 3 point range.  Kira had 13 points and 4 steals, and as I said he was great in transition and off the dribble.  Galin had 11 points in 29 minutes.  You all know how I feel about playing 2 bigs at the same time, but I thought Galin did an excellent job even if it meant having Donta playing out of position a bit offensively.  Speaking of Donta, though he only scored 7 points he pulled down 15 rebounds.  Riley had 9 rebounds but it felt like a lot more as he tipped several balls to his teammates.  JP only had 2 points in 13 minutes, and I felt like he was not aggressive enough and passed on too many open shots. 

Up next, a battle with Big Blue Nation as we play Kentucky tonight at 6 pm on the SEC Network.  A win likely secures an NCAA bid, but unfortunately that's about as likely to happen as me banging Emily Ratajkowski.  Even with a respectable loss, if things break the right way I think we have a decent shot at playing in Dayton next week.

Game Preview: Kentucky [SEC Tournament]

The dream is alive for the Alabama (18-14, KenPom: 60, NET: 59) men's basketball team following a, dare I say it, gutty comeback win vs Ole Miss on Thursday. The win, plus some other bubble teams losing on Thursday, put Alabama squarely back into the bracket discussion. A golden opportunity awaits in the form of the Kentucky Wildcats (26-5, AP: 4, KenPom: 8, NET: 5). Win this one and Alabama, despite the inconsistency of this season, will likely be in the NCAA field. Lose it and it'll be a nervous couple of days. Game time is 6:00 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: I'm going to try and keep it short due to the quick turnaround. I'll be honest, I didn't have high expectations going into the game Thursday, and I even contemplated not watching. But it was an Alabama basketball game, and I couldn't help myself. And then the first half happened, and I quit on multiple occasions. Fortunately, the team hung in there, and while it wasn't a pristine second half of basketball, they competed in the second half and pulled through. In what felt like the first game in forever, Alabama dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Rebels by twenty. The final minutes were high drama similar to last season at this time, and just as satisfying when the clock hit 0:00. It doesn't erase the continued issues that the program has and must address on and off the floor, but I was happy for the players that they were able to gut one out after struggling with adversity for much of the season. 

The Cats don't play at a high tempo (13th in the league), but they are top five in the league in all major offensive categories. Overall, they are the 3rd most efficient offensive team in the league behind Tennessee and LSU. Defensively, UK is tops in the league in defensive efficiency. However, one area that stands out to me and which gives me some hope for this game is that Kentucky doesn't rate high in the league in defensive turnover and steal pct (ranked 9th in both categories). Even in the win on Thursday, turnovers continued to plague Alabama (10 of their 16 turnovers came in the first half), but if Kentucky struggles to force Alabama into turnovers, that's Alabama's best chance to spring the upset.