Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Bama v. Belmont in 2019 Rocket City Classic

It was announced today that the Tide will take on the Belmont Bruins in Huntsville on December 21.  Attendance has been a bit down at the Huntsville games the past couple of years, but with this being a mid-major program that's had a lot of recent success, located just a little over an hour away in Nashville, and the game being on a Saturday, I expect there will be some renewed interest in the game this season.


Monday, June 03, 2019

Annual Season Re-cap and Off Season State of the Program Manifesto

I apologize for posting this much later than I normally do, but the day job has been taking up most of my time, and I wanted to wait and see how the roster moves would shake out.

Before we get into basketball, I want to Congratulate our Softball team on an amazing season!  They were a lot of fun to watch, and fought hard to the end before finally being eliminated in the semi-finals of the WCWS last night.  They were under-rated all year and badly under seeded in the tournament, but I expect they will be a national championship contender again next year.  Now, on to hoops.

2018-19 Season Re-Cap

It was another up and down season that ended with a first round NIT loss and the dismissal of Coach Avery Johnson.  There were some terrible losses including a blow out to Northeastern, and blowing huge leads at home to Georgia State and Texas A&M.  There was some hope after we upset Kentucky and played Tennessee to the wire on the road.  Unfortunately, another poor stretch in February left us on the wrong side of the bubble.  Mercifully, the season came to an end with a loss to 16 point underdog Norfolk State in the NIT.

Avery Johnson left the program in much better shape than he found it.  He recruited well and promoted the program, restoring a lot of fan interest.  In the end, he just couldn't adapt his coaching style to the college game. 

The Search and Nate Oats

Greg Byrne ran a very efficient and professional coaching search, unlike the unmitigated crap show Bill Battle put us through the last time we went through this process.  It is rumored that he wanted to hire Rick Pitino, but could not get approval from the Board of Trustees.  Byrne made it very clear in his first press conference that we would not be taking a chance on anybody with NCAA baggage.  He also warned us that agents will sometimes float names to try to generate interests for their clients.  I think we saw a bit of this with the Andy Kennedy, Kelvin Sampson, and even John Pelphrey rumors that were circulating.  I am very curious as to what happened with Thad Matta, as several fairly well respected writers were reporting he was going to be the man right up until the point that Coach Oats was officially announced.  Many have speculated that Matta doesn't really want to get back into coaching but needs to search for employment to maintain his buy out from Ohio State, but I'm not really buying that.  If anything, it seems to me Ohio State would have a stronger case for ceasing his payments if they can prove he is turning down opportunities like Bama and UGA.  I have a theory that we may have leaked that info to put some pressure on Coach Oats to make a quicker decision.  In any event, it doesn't really matter how we got here, the Nate Oats era has begun!

Coach Oats promises to bring an up tempo style with a focus on defense and three point shooting.  His four out offense led to back to back NCAA tournament appearances, including an upset of Arizona, and a top 25 ranking in Buffalo.  Originally from Michigan, where he was a successful high school coach, he has ties to both the Midwest and North East. 

As is the case with all up and coming coaches from mid-majors, the big questions will be: 1) Can he recruit at the level necessary to win in the SEC and 2) Can he adjust to the higher level of competition.  It's obviously way too early to make a determination, but the early returns have been mostly good. 

He convinced Kira and Petty stay, and also signed Coach Johnson's previous commits of Gary, Forbes, and Shackleford.  He's signed a couple of  PG transfers in James Bolden from West Virginia and former McDonald's All American Jahvon Quinerly from Villanova.  Unfortunately, we lost Trendon Watford to LSU, but signed a Juco small forward in James Rojas instead.  Coach Oats is also bringing his former Buffalo commit Raymond Hawkins, a 3 star center from NV.

Looking Ahead- Next year

One thing I like about Coach Oats is that he seems very forthcoming in his interviews.  There's not a lot of coach-speak or attempts to manage expectations.  He seems genuinely, pleasantly surprised with the talent already on the roster, and has openly stated that he expects to make the NCAA tournament in year one.  Any time there is a change in coaches and systems there will be an adjustment period, but if everyone buys in and the team can develop some chemistry, I think it could be an exciting year.  As I stated above, Coach Oats is inheriting a pretty talented roster that was only one spot out of the tournament last year.  A good first season would go along way toward legitimizing Coach Oats in the eyes of local prospects.  We will know fairly early in the season how good we can be, as a November trip to the Bahamas could see us matched up with the likes of Gonzaga, North Carolina, or Michigan.

Overall State of the Program

I'm going to be brutal here.  We've been mostly irrelevant for the better part of three decades now.  Anthony Grant, Avery Johnson, and the other failed coaches before them are not the problem.  They are a symptom of the problem.  We just hired a coach who was coaching high school basketball five years ago.  We may or may not eventually get around to renovating our antiquated arena.  Meanwhile other schools like Ole Miss and auburn (who just went to a final four, by the way) are playing in brand new facilities, and the rest of the conference has landed established, proven coaches.  If we are honestly ranking the SEC coaches based on what they've accomplished in the college game to date, we would probably be next to last (thank God for Vandy).  The reality is that mid-major coaches are much more likely to turn out like Stan Heath than Billy Donovan.  Regardless, even if he is successful, unless something changes at the top and our administration makes a commitment to the sport, the best case scenario is he that he does so well we lose him to a blue-blood and are back in the same position.

Meanwhile there is still a lot of uncertainty in the college basketball world with the FBI trials wrapping up.  The fact of the matter is that unless the NCAA decides they want to cook their golden goose, not much is going to happen to the likes of Bruce Pearl and Will Wade.  As long as Pearl is at auburn, Wade at LSU, Howland at $tate, and Penny in Memphis, it's going to be very difficult for us to recruit at the level necessary to compete. 

All of that said, there is still reason for hope and optimism.  Ronald Steele pointed out on this very blog a couple of years ago that our teams had a couple of major problems.  I'm paraphrasing because I'm too lazy to go back and find the exact quote, but basically he said 1. We don't have an identity.  Successful teams have a system and implement it well, and 2. Our players don't have the freedom to make plays.  Coach Oats teams certainly have an identity, always ranking near the top in tempo, defensive efficiency, and three point attempts.  His comments seem to indicate that he doesn't want anybody to be afraid to shoot.  I think this team is going to be fun to watch, and will have a chance to be successful.

The roster is set and we should have scheduling news soon.  Otherwise, enjoy the off-season.  November will be here soon enough. 






Sunday, June 02, 2019

Offseason Post #7: The Jahvon Quinerly Edition

Posting this in the middle of a huge Alabama softball game because it is big news. Former McDonald's All-American Jahvon Quinerly has committed to Alabama after transferring from Villanova. The 6'1, 175 lb guard, with three years eligibility remaining, is expected to sit out this upcoming season, but he will apply for a waiver to play immediately. My guess is he won't receive a waiver, but the NCAA has also been, shall we say, inconsistent where it concerns transfer waivers.

  

 

While receiving a commitment from a former 5-star McDonald's All-American is always a cause for celebration, it does need to be pointed out that his first and only season in Villanova was somewhat of a struggle. He only averaged 9.1 minutes per game, finishing his season with modest averages of 3.2 pts, 0.9 ast, 0.8 reb, and 0.2 stls with shooting averages of 33.7% FG, 25% 3-PT and 73.3% from the foul line. I didn't watch enough Villanova games last season to offer an opinion on why Jahvon struggled, but I'm more likely than not to bet on a former McDonald's All-American to figure things out. Hopefully, the future is bright for Jahvon in Tuscaloosa.

 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

2019-20 Schedule News: 2020 Conference Opponents Announced

Hi. It seems like only yesterday that I wrote about Bama Hoops. Wait, it was yesterday. Huh. Well, it's wonderful to see you again just the same.

SEC coaches are currently in Destin, FL for the conference summer meetings. In recent years the conference has taken the opportunity to release the conference basketball opponents for each school, and they were kind enough to do so again.

 

Alabama will play home-and-homes with Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State all made the NCAA Tournament last season, and will likely be projected to return to the tournament in 19-20. I remain confused what the schedule rotation process is because Alabama played a home-and-home with Vandy just last season and will do so again. I thought the purpose of rotating two home-and-home opponents was to create a different matchup each season. Whatever.

Conference home games for Alabama: Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Road games for Alabama: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Ole Miss.

The league has been on an upswing the last few years, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Once again, the conference should be in contention for 7-8 bids.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Offseason Post # 6: The Tevin Mack Will Not Be Back Edition

Hello again, everyone. The deadline for early withdrawal from the NBA Draft is today. The only decision that Alabama was waiting for was that of redshirt senior, Tevin Mack. Tevin sat out the 17-18 season after transferring from Texas. This past season, he averaged 9 pts and 3.3 rebs. He had flashes of brilliance during the season, but I would have to judge his 18-19 season as a disappointment overall. Yesterday, Tevin announced that he was withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but he will not be returning to Alabama. Instead, he will transfer as a graduate, thus insuring he can play immediately wherever he chooses to go. Good luck and best wishes to Tevin moving forward.

Tevin's decision to transfer means the coaching staff have a scholarship to give. It appears their primary recruiting target for that scholarship is Villanova transfer and former McDonald's All-American, Jahvon Quinerly, who was in Tuscaloosa earlier this week for a visit. Quinerly is a 6'1, 175 lb guard. The four schools that appear to have emerged as leaders for him are Bama, Pittsburgh (he's visiting there today), Arkansas and Georgia. Quinerly will have to sit out a season per NCAA transfer rules.

 

In Other News:

1] Not long after Trendon Watford elected to commit to LSU, Alabama announced that Juco All-American James Rojas had signed. The 6'8, 215 lb forward led Hutchinson Community College in scoring at 19 pts per game (his points per 40 minutes was an astounding 29.4), while also averaging 6.8 rebs and 1.5 stls. His shooting percentages were impressive: 50.4% FG, 38.4% from 3, and 79.5% from the free throw line. While I was disappointed to see Trendon leave the state, signing a Juco All-American isn't a bad consolation prize. If Rojas is able to transition his game successfully from Juco to major college basketball, he could be a pleasant surprise for the team this season.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Offseason Post # 5: The Trendon Watford Has Left The State Edition

As most of you reading this likely know by now, Trendon Watford, a 5-star forward and the top player in the state of Alabama in the 2019 class, made his college decision on Monday, choosing to take his talents to Baton Rouge and play for the LSU Tigers. For any Alabama fans angry at this development, let me just remind you that Trendon wasn't likely to come to Alabama if Avery Johnson was still the coach. What once seemed like a sure commitment got away over the last two years as the leadership of the program began to be openly questioned by fans, media and, it would seem, recruits and their families. If Nate Oats had more time to build a relationship with Trendon and his family, I think Alabama would have remained a strong leader for his commitment, but there just wasn't time.

I wish Trendon was suiting up for Alabama next season, but I'm guessing Will Wade made a strong a** offer. It is what it is. In all seriousness, I wish Trendon the best at LSU. He's a great player that is doing what he feels is best for his basketball future, and any sane, rational fan has to accept his decision process. That said, I hope Alabama sweeps LSU next season. Will Wade has quickly become, for me anyways, one of the more loathsome characters in college basketball. The fact he still has a job after the revelations that have surfaced the last few months is further testament to the now open embrace of the rot and corruption at the heart of college basketball, and, if I may be so bold, our society as a whole. One thing is for certain: the game between the two programs in Coleman Coliseum next season should be quite interesting. I suspect the Alabama students will not be kind.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Offseason Post #4: The Andrew Steele Returns Home Edition

It's not official yet, but it's being reported that former Alabama basketball player Andrew Steele will be returning to Tuscaloosa for a position with Coach Oats staff. The reports say that he's likely to be hired as the director of player personnel. Previously, Andrew was the director of basketball operations at Troy University. Prior to Troy, Andrew was also the director of basketball operations at South Alabama and spent two years as the head basketball coach at John Carroll High School. Andrew always struck me as a standup guy when he was a player, and I think I speak for many when I say I'm excited to have him back in Tuscaloosa.

In Other News: 

1] Former Alabama assistant coach Yasir Rosemond was named in federal court on Thursday as part of testimony given by Marty Blazer. Rosemond was one of several college basketball assistant coaches named by Blazer, who is cooperating with the government's investigation into bribery and corruption in college athletics. Blazer has pleaded guilty to a number of crimes, including wire fraud and lying to the SEC (the Securities and Exchange Commission). He's facing 67 years in prison, which would be my guess as to why he's cooperating with the investigation.

According to journalists covering the trial, Rosemond was videotaped at a meeting in Las Vegas with Blazer, agent runner Christian Dawkins and undercover FBI agents in July 2017. At this meeting, he allegedly told those in attendance that "whatever you need me to do, I'll do it." in an effort to gain resources to aid in recruiting. However, it's also being reported that Rosemond did not receive any money at that meeting. Furthermore, Blazer testified that Rosemond and the other assistants named didn't receive money because they didn't have enough pull yet with prospects. I recommend clicking the link above for more information. As if the basketball revelations weren't enough, Blazer also testified to paying college football players, including players at the University of Alabama.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Coaches in the SEC and their previous experience (WEST)

Continuing with the West (which doesn't really exist in SEC Basketball) as I was waiting for Arkansas to blund... hire their next coach.

Alabama-  Nate Oats... 4 seasons at Buffalo and 3 NCAATs to show for it. Seems like it was his team the last 2 years and not Bobby Hurley's so that makes me feel a bit better (when we hired Grant he has 3 years at VCU). Obviously going to give him a chance, but the older I get the more cynical I become about Alabama becoming a force in hoops again... especially with the coaches listed below and the ones in the EAST making noise.
Unrelated, isn't it sad that Buffalo has as many NCAAT appearances in the last 4 years as we have in the previous 13?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Offseason Post #3: The Beetle Bolden Edition

Big news today as West Virginia grad transfer, James "Beetle" Bolden, announced on Twitter that he will be transferring to Alabama. Bolden was in Tuscaloosa this weekend for the A-Day festivities.


This is more great news for the new coaching staff. They desperately needed more ball-handlers at the guard position, and Bolden will fill that role nicely. But like Kira, he's also a more than capable scorer (12.2 ppg in an injury-shortened 2018-19 season). Assuming he's been able to overcome the injuries that limited him this past season, Bolden should be a fun player to watch next season.

In Other News:

1] Tevin Mack announced that he will test the NBA Draft waters. He has submitted the paperwork for the draft, but will not hire an agent. It's possible he returns to Alabama, but it's also worth keeping in mind that he will turn 22 years old next month and is expected to graduate in May. My guess is he's likely moving on.

2] Freshman guard Diante Wood has decided to enter the transfer portal and will likely join Dazon Ingram and Daniel Giddens as expected departures. Wood redshirt this past season due to a leg injury, and it was likely a numbers game that led him to decide that a transfer was in his best interests. Best of luck to Diante as he moves on.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Offseason Post #2: The Kira Lewis Edition

After Avery Johnson and Alabama parted ways, Kira Lewis chose to enter the NCAA transfer portal. He did not rule out the possibility of returning to Tuscaloosa once a new coach was hired. Fortunately, it appears that Nate Oats and the new staff have made an impression on Kira and his family as Kira announced today on Twitter that he will withdraw from the transfer portal and return to Alabama.



This is big news for Nate Oats as he prepares for his first season. In my opinion, Kira, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, was the top returning player on the roster. Based on his skill set, Kira should thrive in Oats' system. John Petty, who also entered the transfer portal and elected to return, is no worse than the second-best returning player. To get both of these guys back is huge. A successful first season for Oats in Tuscaloosa is now very possible.

In other news:

1] Nate Oats finished fourth place in AP Coach of the Year voting after he led Buffalo to the best season in school history with a 32-4 record and a top 25 KenPom finish.

2] The coaching staff is also taking shape. Nate Oats has brought assistant Bryan Hodgson from Buffalo to join the staff. Hodgson has a reputation as being an elite recruiter and many Buffalo fans were lobbying for him to get the head job after Oats left.