Friday, December 09, 2016

Game Preview - at Oregon

After a week off, Alabama will travel to the scenic Pacific Northwest to Eugene, Oregon to face the 24th-ranked Oregon Ducks. This is a return game from last season when the Ducks narrowly escaped Birmingham with a 72-68 victory. The game will tip at 5:00 PM CT, and will be televised on ESPNU. Bobby and DJC are making the trip to see the game in person. Have a great time guys, regardless of the final score.

DJC touched on this in the previous post, but Nick King will not travel with the team due to an undisclosed illness. According to Avery Johnson, King has lost 10 lbs in ten days, and the Alabama coaching staff is very concerned about his health. Nick is currently undergoing a series of tests to determine the cause of his illness and will be out indefinitely.

Stats

Alabama                                                Oregon


69.3 PPG 79.3
62.4 OPP 63.6
42.8 FG% 45.9
41.6 OPP 36.5
50.7 EFG% 51.5
47.9 OPP 43
36.4 3PT% 31.5
36.6 OPP 29.3
64.7 FT% 72.9
67.1 OPP 73.4
40.2 FTRATE 37.4
40.2 OPP 28.7
35 RPG 43.1
34 OPP 32.7
28.9 OREB% 37.5
26.6 OPP 28.1
12.3 TOPG 14.6
16.4 OPP 14.4
18.2 TO% 21.3
24.3 OPP 20.7
81 KenPom Ranking 21

My Two Cents: Oregon got off to a shaky start despite strong preseason expectations, but they have rebounded and appear to be back on track. They have a nice stretch of games coming up in which they won't leave the state of Oregon for the month of December. That should give them an opportunity to get healthy and improve. Our guys may be catching this Ducks team at just the wrong moment, as they begin trending upward. For Alabama to win this game, they will have to play the best 40 minutes of basketball that they have in them. With the continued roster uncertainty, that may be too much to ask. In their previous game vs Savannah State, Oregon scored 128 points (70 in one half!). Regardless of the competition, that is impressive. Alabama allowed Texas to score 51 in the 2nd half last Friday so they'd better bring their defense or this one could get really ugly.

Players to Watch: The roster (mis)management has been one of the biggest disappointments through seven games this season. Last season, it was a strength for Avery and the staff as they seemingly determined a rotation and the allocation of roles rather quickly. This season, it has been a real puzzle for the staff to solve. Having a full compliment of scholarship players is great, unless you're unsure of the hierarchy. Based on Avery's comments (and Nick King's absence), expect continued shuffles in the starting line-up (Donta Hall could get the start on Sunday, based on Avery's comments) and bench rotation. The only reliable guys right now from a minutes standpoint appear to be Braxton, Dazon and Corban (and Avery Jr. has certainly played well enough in recent games to deserve a continued role). After that, it's a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Dillon Brooks is one of the best players in college basketball, and he is the unquestioned leader of this team. It's not a coincidence that Oregon struggled early this season while Brooks was out, healing from offseason surgery. His return has sparked the team, and he has to be the focal point of the scouting report. There are other guys on this Oregon team that can beat you, but limit the heart and soul of this team, and Bama might have a chance at the upset.

Prediction: This Alabama team needs a quality win, but this probably isn't the game they get it. I just don't see a path for Alabama to win this game, barring a crazy-hot shooting night or a complete off night by the Ducks themselves. Avery Johnson mentioned the players had a team meeting so I hope we see a focused Alabama team in this game as they try to iron out the challenges that have faced them so far. That might result in a respectable showing, but not a victory. Oregon - 71 - Alabama - 59

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Sleeping with the Enemy- Oregon Ducks, also Nick King out with sickness

I reached out to Alex Rider of Addicted to Quack to get the Oregon perspective on Sunday's game.  He was kind enough to provide us with the insight below.  If you visit Addicted to Quack, please follow their site rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama:

Strengths: In the early going this year, Dana Altman has tinkered more with the 
rotation and lineup than perhaps he did at any point last year. I think we’re 
already starting to see some dividends of that. Last year this team with seven, 
eight deep max. Now with a healthy Dillon Brooks this team can bring any combo 
of Casey Benson, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Dylan Ennis, and Keith Smith off the 
bench. Obviously with this Oregon team the strength is the interior shot 
blocking with the combination of Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher and Bigby-Williams. 
The offense finally seems to be coming along, they’re sharing the ball better 
and starting to knock down shots that weren’t being hit in the losses to Baylor 
and Georgetown. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the rebounding numbers in 
the early going as the 43.1 points per game rank 14th in the country. 

Weaknesses: Sure, the interior defense is great but the team is still reeling on 
the exterior defense after the losses of Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin. I’ve 
seen this team play a lot more zone in the early going where it seemed like last 
year they would stick with the matchup zone often. In the losses, the team has 
been heavily isolation focused and it hasn’t worked out well at all. Overall the 
free throw shooting has been good, but in the losses and close games theres a 
serious trend of poor shooting. Turnovers have been the other sticking point in 
the early going. So far this year the team averages right around 15 turnovers 
per game with Jordan Bell leading the way with three per game. 

Matchup: After over a week off I’m going to be curious to see how the Ducks come 
out of the gate in this one. I expect a slow start but the Ducks to get it 
together, similarly to last year’s matchup. Bell and Boucher had big interior 
games last year and I think Altman will look to push that again this year. On 
another note in another sport, I don’t know if I can speak for all Duck fan’s 
but I certainly know I’ll be rooting for the ‘Tide on New Years Eve. 

Hopefully they will come out sluggish and won't have much of a crowd to get them going due to the winter break.  This is obviously a terrible matchup in the post for us.  I suppose I would mix some press in with a 2-3 zone to try to slow them down and force turnovers, and hope we have a couple of players who can get hot from 3 point range.  If they play up to their ability and we continue what we've been doing, this one could get ugly, fast.

More importantly, Nick King is sick will not be making the trip.  According to Coach Johnson, Nick has lost over 10 lbs and is still being diagnosed, so please keep him in your thoughts.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Way too early predictions on SEC and NCAAT

I don't think any of us saw South Carolina's impressive start coming. 2 wins over top 25 teams and a very favorable non-conference schedule coming up puts them in a great position to make the NCAA tournament assuming they play at least .500 ball in the conference.

Elsewhere... lots of 'meh' for the conference. Kentucky got surprised by UCLA, but we know they'll be top 5 when their players mesh. Florida will be tested this week (Duke and @ FSU) so we should know if they're contenders or pretenders. Auburn has a pre-Christmas showdown with Oklahoma and @ UConn so we will see if Bruce Pearl's magic is for real on the Plains.

Other than that... not getting a good vibe about the conference as a whole.

I predict we'll have 4 teams in the NCAA Tournament with one of them being the conference tournament champ:

Kentucky
Florida
South Carolina
Auburn

I'll be touring Eugene this weekend and hopefully bringing back a W, but not expecting it. This board might get more photos of the Oregon coastline, Corvalis, the beer pubs in Portland, and the city of Eugene from me.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Texas tackles Tide, Longhorns 77 Bama 68.

If you haven't already, please read Ron Steele's comment to Msmilie's preview below. He provides great insight and far more detail than I will be able to here.

That being said, we were outplayed, out coached, and out hustled.  The first half went about as well as we could hope, so that's the good news, the starting lineup appears to be set.

I question several of Coach Johnson decisions in the second half.  Shaka made adjustments, and we didn't.  Our bigs could not defend theirs one on one in the post, but there were no double teams and no weak side help.  Frankly, I was surprised that Shaka didn't exploit this more.

Texas had a huge question mark at pg, and we didn't even try to take advantage of that. Outside of the rare made free throw, we never pressed. When their shots were not falling they went to the dribble drive, and we could not stop them.   Against a team that has struggled to shoot and rebound, we never bothered to even try a zone defense.

Texas did what we should have, and pressed . I thought we were timid against the press, and it took us out of our comfort zone on offense.

Despite all of that, after blowing the 12 point halftime lead, we were still in a tie game with 4 minutes to play, but we showed no poise down the stretch. It was like every offensive possession was pre scripted and we wouldn't adjust come hell or high water. Most of the time it involved jacking up a contested, off balance 3, but there were also a few ill conceived drives to the basket resulting in blocked shots mixed in.  What's maddening is we had open, better options on many of these plays, and the longhorns kept missing free throws or turning it over to give us opportunities that we failed to take advantage of.

Watching this team shoot free throws makes me want to bang my head against a wall.  I am thinking of petitioning the NCAA to add a rule allowing teams to "decline" awarded free throws and take the ball out of bounds instead.

As for individual performances, I thought Collins and AJ played well.  Dazon had a solid game but needs to finish around the basket. Jimmie had an awesome dunk but didn't do much else.  Riley knocked down a 3 that was huge at the time and played well offensively, but was a liability on the other end.  Hale was at least more aggressive but fouled out in about 12 minutes.  With Key and Ingram both on the bench, we predictably endured a scoring drought that allowed Texas back in the game.

To be brutally honest,  at a high level I saw two mediocre at best basketball teams that will be lucky to sniff the NIT barring vast improvements.

The Erwin center is nice enough, and would probably rate in the top 5 of SEC arenas,  but that's more of an indictment the conference's facilities than anything else. It's a bit cavernous and the seats aren't close to the floor, so it's not a very intimidating environment.  I would guess there was only about 5,000 at most people there, with a couple hundred Bama fans scattered throughout.  The few Texas fans I talked to were pleasant hosts and passed along well wishes to our football team.  To their credit, the small crowd got behind them during their comeback run and down the stretch and I thought their players fed off the energy.

Despite the poor basketball, it was a real pleasure to finally meet Msmilie and his wife. I enjoyed watching the game and hanging out with them.  He's a good guy and knows the game, but he should probably consider letting his better half handle the driving duties :)

Up next, we go to Oregon for a 5pm cst, 3 pacific tipoff in Eugene next Sunday.  The ducks were picked to be a top 5 team, but have been up and down. It's a bad match up on paper, but of course would be a huge win if we can somehow pull it off.  Bobby jack and I are making the trip to give you a first hand account.







Friday, December 02, 2016

Game Preview - at Texas

Alabama will play their first true road game of the season tonight in Austin vs the Texas Longhorns. The game will tip off at 8:30 PM. The game will be televised on ESPNU. This will be the 12th meeting between the schools. Texas holds a 7-4 edge. I'm looking forward to taking in the game with DJC. Hopefully we will see our guys pull out a win.

Stats

Alabama                                                Texas


69.5 PPG 69.3
60 OPP 66.8
42.4 FG% 42.7
40.6 OPP 39.6
50 EFG% 47.6
47.2 OPP 44.9
36 3PT% 26.2
36.7 OPP 28.2
65.9 FT% 63.2
65.5 OPP 74.4
41.2 FTRATE 38.1
37.3 OPP 21.6
36.3 RPG 37.5
33.8 OPP 39.2
29.6 OREB% 28
24.9 OPP 32.2
12.3 TOPG 12
17.2 OPP 12.7
18.3 TO% 17.2
25.4 OPP 18.1
71 KenPom Ranking 70

My Two Cents: If the stats are any indication, this will be a close game. And close games on the road can be tricky affairs, especially when you factor in a home crowd and the way the game is typically officiated. Texas enters this game having lost three straight by a combined 44 points (that's not good, in case you're wondering). They don't have a true point guard, which has likely contributed to an average of 10.5 assists vs 12 turnovers per game. They're struggling shooting the ball, particularly from the three point line. Both teams are solid on the defensive end, but could be better based on the talent on paper. Both teams need a quality win so I expect both teams to come out ready to play.

Players to Watch: Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram have emerged early as the top two players for this team so they need to play well. But the key for this team, based on what we've seen so far, is what random guy for Bama will step up to make a difference in the game? The depth and balance of this team is nice, but I believe that the allocation of roles must emerge sooner rather than later if this Bama team is going to hit its ceiling. This game could go a long way towards identifying that 3rd or 4th guy for this team.

Like Avery Johnson, Shaka Smart is also searching for the right combination of players that gives them the best chance to win. It remains unclear who the leader of this Texas team is. Tevin Mack and Kerwin Roach, Jr. are leading the Longhorns in scoring, but I believe Texas' best path to victory will be their size in the post. Jarrett Allen is 6'11, 235. He leads the team in rebounding (7.8) and is third in scoring (10.5). Shaq Cleare is 6'8, 275. He's more of a role player for this team, but his size and power in the post will be a problem for an Alabama frontline that hasn't reacted well in recent years when faced with a physical opponent.

Prediction: I really think Alabama has a chance to come into Austin and leave with the victory. Shaka Smart is really good, and I believe this Texas team will improve as the season unfolds. By March, this could be a really nice resume win if Alabama can take care of business. Unfortunately, I'm just not sold on this Alabama team as it currently stands to predict a road victory against a team with comparable (or better) talent and coaching. It won't surprise me if our guys win, but I think they fall short. Texas - 70 - Alabama - 65.  

Sleeping with the Enemy, Texas Longhorns

I reached out to Cody Daniel at Burnt Orange Nation to give us the Texas perspective on tonight's game.  He graciously provided us with the response below.  If you visit Burn Orange Nation, please follow their site rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama.

From a sheer talent standpoint, Texas is the kind of team that can compete and beat anyone outside of college basketball's bluebloods on any given night. But talent alone doesn't win basketball games, evident in Texas' three-game losing streak to borderline NCAA Tournament competition. The concerns that Texas entered the season with are proving true, as the lack of a point guard and interior talent and depth has been highlighted as of late. Though there's capable shooters on the roster, the team-wide efficiency has been horrible, ranking 341st of 351 teams at 26 percent. 

In short, this team has the potential to be good, but that's a reality that may not happen until it's too late for Texas. I think Texas matches up well considering Alabama isn't the most imposing group on the glass and isn't quite as experienced as the teams Texas has recently lost to. To be honest, I'm not quite sure this Bama team is much better than Texas at this point. The losses to Dayton and Valpo certainly aren't what one may consider bad losses, but just like Texas, the wins have been against underwhelming competition and it's hard to judge a record when that's the case. 

I think Texas gets back on track with a narrow victory after winning the rebounding battle and finally seeing some perimeter shots fall. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bama Buries Bucs, 76-46

If you haven't watched Coach Avery's pregame press conference linked in MSmilie's preview below; I highly encourage you to do so.  It's not the typical "coach speak" PC we normally get.  He expresses a lot of the same concerns we have voiced here following the Vegas trip.  I was curious to see how the team would respond in this game after being somewhat "called out" publicly by their coach.  For the most part, I think the effort was improved.

To be brutally honest, Charleston Southern is a bad basketball team.  It's hard to make many judgments based on this game, and this win certainly won't move the RPI needle for us, at least not in a favorable direction.  That being said, the team did exactly what they needed to do, take control of the game early and win in convincing fashion, and there are some positive takeaways before we embark on a very challenging two game road trip.

The defense was much better.  We shut them out for the first five minutes of the game and held them to 15 points in the first half.  It helps that we were playing a team that can't shoot, can't make free throws, and has no post presence, but still.

The starting 5 was actually Dazon, Corban, Key, King, and Jimmie.  I was a little surprised King got the start over Riley, but I heard Riley has been a bit under the weather lately so perhaps that played a role.  Nevertheless, I like this lineup.

Key seems to be handling the starting role just fine, leading all scorers with 14 points.  Dazon had a solid overall game with 9 points, 4 assists, and just one turnover, but could have scored more if he finished some easy chances near the basket.  AJ had a great game with 11 points, and Davis was impressive coming in off the bench, albeit with the game already well in hand, going 2 for 3 from 3 point range and scoring 10 points.

Coach Avery actually let the guys play together for at least 2 or 3 minutes at a time in the first half, so hopefully the substitution rotations are getting more settled.  I think abandoning the Chinese fire drill off the bench contributed greatly to holding them to only 15 points in the first half.  Davis and Bola did not get into the game until long after the outcome was determined.  Hale had 5 turnovers in 17 minutes, but did make a couple of 3s in the second half.  I thought Hall played well in the post, particularly on the glass.  While we only made 15 of 25 free throws, Jimmie and Donta were a combined 4 for 4.  I would not expect that on a regular basis.

Lawson Schaffer made a long, pull up 3 in the final minutes to put a cap on it and bring the crowd to it's feet.

At least, to the extent there was a "crowd" there.  I would guess no more than 4,000 turned out for this one.  The student turnout was particularly disappointing with this being the last game before winter break.  In fairness, the team was coming off a disappointing performance in the holiday tournament, the 6pm start is difficult for many of us from Birmingham as well as students with early evening classes, and Tuscaloosa was under a tornado watch for the duration of the game.

Up next, we travel to Austin, TX for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff Friday night against Shaka Smart's Longhorns.  Texas is a talented team, but they've lost 3 straight in ugly fashion, including a home loss to UT-Arlington, and are in danger of playing themselves out of NCAA bubble contention early in the season.  I'm looking forward to attending the game with MSmilie, those of you who cannot make it to Austin can watch on ESPNU.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Game Preview - Charleston Southern



The Alabama men's basketball team will make a brief return to the comfortable confines of Coleman Coliseum for a Tuesday night home contest against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers before road games to Texas and Oregon. The trip to Las Vegas made it clear this team has much room for improvement. The hope is that the guys can use this game to work out some of the kinks.

Stats

Alabama                                                 Charleston Southern


68.2 PPG 80.2
62.8 OPP 67.8
41.7 FG% 46.6
41.9 OPP 43
49.3 EFG% 47.3
48.8 OPP 55.4
36 3PT% 35
38.5 OPP 28.1
67.3 FT% 57.7
67 OPP 68.5
40.6 FTRATE 31.5
39.5 OPP 32.6
35.4 RPG 41.4
34.2 OPP 33
31.1 OREB% 30.5
28 OPP 28.1
12.2 TOPG 13.6
16.2 OPP 15.4
18.4 TO% 18
24.4 OPP 16.1
76 KenPom Ranking 287

My Two Cents: The season through five games has been a mixed bag. This team hasn't looked as good as I thought they might, but it is obvious that the potential is there for this team to improve. Unfortunately, for a fanbase starved for a return to the NCAA Tournament, can this Alabama team improve enough between now and March to pick up enough quality wins to nab an at-large spot? First and foremost, our guys need to take care of business in this game. They just barely missed what would have been a resume-crushing loss in Vegas vs Saint Louis, and a struggle on Tuesday won't do much to quell the nervousness that has developed about this team's prospects.

Players to Watch: After dropping 14 points in the opener (including 3-5 from the 3-point line), Riley Norris has been somewhat quiet offensively. This team doesn't need Riley to be a big scorer every night, but they must get better scoring production than the 1-5 performance in the Saint Louis game. Braxton Key may have emerged as a go-to player in the Saint Louis game; he certainly saved the team's bacon with his performance down the stretch of that game. But it was one game. Now that he appears to be part of the starting line-up moving forward, can he consistently produce in the manner he did this past Wednesday?

Christian Keeling leads the Buccaneers in points at an average of 16 per game. He's also a 41% 3-point shooter. This team rebounds well, averaging a total of 41 boards per game despite only one player 6'8 or taller averaging double figure minutes. That would be Jarvis Howard (10.4 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 bpg, 61.1% FG).

Prediction: I'm hesitant to predict a blowout, simply because Alabama has not been sharp on either end of the floor; however, this Charleston Southern team has also compiled their three wins against Columbia International, Abilene Christian and something called Toccoa Falls so you have to take their game stats with a grain of salt at this point. In their lone game against a power 5 team (Florida State), they lost by 21 points, with shooting averages of 40% FG, 28% 3-pt and 15 turnovers against a FSU team that has been less than thrilled with the concept of defense in the last two seasons. If our guys bring some defensive intensity to this game, a similar result should follow. Alabama - 78 - Charleston Southern - 54

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bama barely beats Bilikens, Bama 62 Stl 57

Disclaimer : I'm posting this from my tablet on my flight home, so please forgive any typos.
Obligatory strip at night pic

A win is a win, I suppose, but we are not a very good team right now.  Once again we struggled against the zone and couldn't finish near the basket.  This team misses more bunnies than Elmer Fudd.  An even bigger concern, to me,  is we are playing way below our potential defensively.  We aren't closing out on shooters and aren't communicating.  There is no way a team like Stl should be 40% from 3 point land against us.

St. Louis was in control for  nearly the entire game, but we made the plays and they fell apart down the stretch, as we closed the game on a 17-3 run to avert disaster.

On the bright side,  Braxton Key is emerging as a star player. He scored 16 points and may prove to be that "go to" guy we've been looking for.  Dazon had 10 pts but 5 turnovers is way too many, although a couple weren't really his fault as Hale wasn't paying attention and not expecting the ball.

I question some of Coach Johnson's decisions this game. I don't understand why we played so much zone. It led to the aforementioned 40% from outside and being out rebounded by an inferior team.  If we are going to go 12 deep, we need to take advantage of our numbers and press more.  I understand not pressing against teams like Dayton and Valpo with talented, experienced back courts, but we could and should have easily ran these guys out of the gym.

Also, the Chinese fire drills substitutions, particularly in the first half, has got to stop. We are hesitant and have no chemistry as guys aren't used to playing together.

I told Bobbyjack that Hale was going to struggle as soon as he was responsible for a turnover the first time the ball was passed in his direction. when things don't go his way early, it's usually going to be a long night. I would have taken some minutes from him, but to his credit he did make a huge 3 late in the game.  Also, Davis is going to have to stop jacking up bad shots when he is off .

Frankly,  Corban and AJ Jr are the only ones who played with any real intensity these games.
Obligatory Bellagio fountains pic

There were only about 1500 or so fans there, about half of which were for  Bama. Great turnout from our Nevada alumni.  Stl only had about 150 tops.  Still, it wasn't much of a"home court advantage" as it was a fairly boring game that we trailed for most of.   Outside of Cassandra Johnson, the arena was pretty quiet.

A few non basketball things,  I met  Mike Crawford (stl player's) family at the concession stand during halftime. His dad complimented me on my (world series champion!) Cubs hat.  I normally wear a Bama hat to the games, but since we played so poorly against Valpo I decided to switch it up.  Admittedly, I more so wanted to troll the St. Louis fans. Anyway, he said they were from Indiana and Cubs fans too, and mentioned that they vacation in gulf shores. They were very complimentary of our state,  and I wish them well.
Luxor

As for Vegas, this was my 7th or 8th trip there,  and I enjoy it, but after about 2 days I'm ready to come home.   If LA and New Orleans somehow got together and had a bastard child, it would be named Las Vegas.  There are parts about all of those cities that I love,  but I can only take them in small doses.  Also, I DO NOT recommend staying at the Tropicana.  For 45 bucks per night,  you get what you pay for.

Up next, Charleston Southern comes to Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Tuesday night. It's our last chance to work out some issues before challenging road games at Oregon and Texas.  The game will be televised on SEC network.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everybody,  and remember,  auburn sucks!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Game Preview - Saint Louis



Following a 60-68 loss to Valparaiso in the semifinals of the MGM Grand Main Event, our guys will look to bounce back on Wednesday night against the Billikens of Saint Louis and new head coach Travis Ford. Both teams enter with 2-2 records. Tip time is 8:30 PM CT. Once again, no television. You can stream the game via Youtube here.

Stats

Alabama                                                 Saint Louis


69.8 PPG 72
64.2 OPP 80.5
41.5 FG% 41
41.6 OPP 42.4
49.1 EFG% 46.4
48.6 OPP 48.4
36.6 3PT% 34.2
38.2 OPP 35.6
64.8 FT% 62.3
65.9 OPP 78.1
40.6 FTRATE 44.4
39.2 OPP 37.6
37.5 RPG 37
34.8 OPP 42.5
34 OREB% 25.9
28.8 OPP 32.1
11.8 TOPG 14.3
15.5 OPP 14
17.6 TO% 18.7
23.3 OPP 18.3
72 KenPom Ranking 262

My Two Cents: Alabama has lost their first two opportunities for quality wins by a total of 14 points. The game last night was certainly in reach, but the team never really played with the type of energy needed to beat good teams. Too many mental errors led to turnovers, missed layups, defensive breakdowns, and free throw shooting continues to be a major concern for this team. Maybe it was the Las Vegas environment or the time zone change, but the team never looked in sync. The only thing that kept the game from being lopsided in favor of Valparaiso is that they didn't play well either. Now the key is for our guys to not allow one loss to become two. I'm guessing a few field trips around town might be canceled today to focus on the practice floor. Going back to Tuscaloosa 0-2 for this trip cannot be an option for this team. Avery and his staff have got to figure out a rotation quickly. Too many guys are playing, and it's affecting chemistry, particularly on the offensive end. Ten guys are currently averaging double figure minutes, with another two averaging 9 and 9.5 minutes.

Players to Watch: This team does not have a go-to guy so it's impossible to determine who will be the guy to watch any given night. This has its advantages, but it also shows up late in games so far this season when Alabama needs a bucket and nobody is there to take the shots. I won't be surprised if Avery elects to sit Dazon for this game after the shoulder injury he suffered last night. If that happens, AJ Jr. and Corban Collins will have to shoulder the point guard duties. It's feast or famine with Ar'Mond Davis so far. Let's hope for a feast on Wednesday.

Saint Louis has three guys currently in double figures: Jermaine Bishop (13.8 ppg, 5 apg, 44% 3-pt), Reggie Agbeko (13.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg), Davell Roby (13 ppg, 2.8 apg, 45.5% 3-pt).  

Prediction: I'm off to a slow start with my predictions. I did not foresee the level of offensive struggles that this team has had so far. Any team studying that game last night is going to throw a lot of zone at this Alabama team going forward. It's up to them to make perimeter shots and finish shots around the rim; the number of missed layups by a team with the length and athleticism of Alabama is tough to comprehend. This team is still very much a work in progress, and may be so for the indefinite future. Again, this is a game that Alabama must win. There is no excuse for coming out flat on Wednesday. Alabama - 74 - Saint Louis - 59