Sunday, October 21, 2018

2018-19 Schedule Preview: January

Saturday, January 5 - 11:00 A.M. or Noon CT - Kentucky (TV: ESPN) - Alabama opens conference play with a big one. The Wildcats had a down season by their standards a year ago. Kentucky finished the 17-18 season with a record of 26-11 (10-8), and a final KenPom ranking of 17. The Wildcats did win yet another SEC Tournament title and advanced to the Sweet 16. But for a fanbase that demands final fours and national titles, the season didn't quite measure up. This season is expected to be more along the lines of what we've come to expect from Kentucky. They will likely be ranked 1st or 2nd in the country when the first polls are released. As usual, the Wildcats lost a number of players to the NBA draft (three of their top six scorers departed). But they also return three key players from last season (PJ Washington, Quade Green and Nick Richards), add the 2nd-ranked class in 2018, and also added arguably the top transfer in the country, Reid Travis (averaged 19.5 ppg and 8.7 rpg last season at Stanford). Kentucky is loaded....again.

Tuesday, January 8 - 8:00 P.M. CT - at LSU (TV: SEC Network) - The Tigers are one of the more intriguing teams on paper in the conference. Will Wade's first season in Baton Rouge was considered a success. LSU finished the 17-18 season with a record of 18-15 (8-10), and a final KenPom ranking of 66 despite being picked to finish 14th in the league in the preseason. The Tigers advanced to the second round of the NIT. Will Wade signed a top five recruiting class for 2018. LSU also returns star guard Tremont Waters. In my opinion Waters was the second-best freshman in the league last season, just behind Collin Sexton. Combine Waters and a top five class, and expectations are high in Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

2018 Tide Tip Off




Last night Alabama Basketball hosted its annual "Tide Tip-off" event.  It seemed less marketed than in years past but featured a lot more actual basketball this year.  The last two years was mostly about dunk, shooting, and dancing contests, whereas this year the women's team opened with a 15 minute scrimmage followed by the men's team scrimmaging for two halves.  The white team started AJ, Petty, Herb, Alex Reese, and Dan Giddens with Javian Davis-Flemming coming off the bench.  The crimson team started Dazon, Riley, Tevin Mack, Galin Smith, and Donta Hall with Kira Lewis coming in off the bench.  The White team won 66-52 in front of about 3,500 in attendance.   Here are my takeaways, for what little they are worth:

- The women's  starting 5 can probably play with almost anybody in the country, but beyond the top 5 or 6, yikes.

-Depth should not be a problem for the men's team.  This is the best combination of size, depth, and experience that we've had in a long time.

-Kira Lewis is a bit under-sized, as one would expect for a 17 year old playing in the SEC.  He's also fearless.  He scored 17 points, mostly in the open court, and showed plenty of raw talent.  It's going to be fun to watch him get stronger and improve over the course of the season.

-Javian Davis Flemming has great size and will give us some muscle in the post.  He showed a few decent moves, and appears capable of setting a good screen without picking up a foul.

-Tevin Mack looks the part, and I think he can be as good as he wants to be.  He has a nice shot, and made a few jumpers, and also has good quickness and the ability to get to the rim.  His shot selection was poor at times, but he's probably going to have nights when he's hot and that won't matter.

-Alex Reese and Galin Smith both appeared to be in better physical condition than they were last year, and they should be a bit quicker and more effective.

-Herb Jones looked great on both ends of the floor.  He even ran the point some.  He can lock down 4 positions, and his offensive instincts appear to be improved.  He will be the best all-around player on the floor most nights. If his outside shot improves at all he could have a real chance at being a first round NBA draft pick.

-Petty handled the ball well and made some plays inside the arc.  He will still be the primary three point threat, but I think he's trying to get away from relying exclusively on the jump shot.

-Donta Hall showed off  his ridiculous leaping ability with a few monster dunks.

-Giddens seems more fluid and made some great plays around the basket on both ends of the floor.  We've seen flashes from him in the past, but if he's improved to be more consistent we will be difficult to handle in the post.

-I've been critical of AJ getting so much playing time in the past, but he could be a key part of this team at PG.  He's not going to fill up a stat sheet, but he brings great leadership to the position and the team seemed to have better chemistry with him running point.  He gets the guys in position to make plays.

-I'm not convinced Riley Norris is 100% healthy yet.  He air-balled a 3 and generally looked out-matched most of the night.

-Coach Johnson was mic'ed up, and mentioned that we would like to play fast and more in the middle of the floor.  He said last year we had a tendency to get too wide and bring the extra defender (in reference to the sideline) into play.  He explained a few plays and said we will look to get our bigs the ball at the elbow to open up the defense and with proper off-ball movement we should have some options.

-The team as a whole needs to do a better job of finishing.  Several times we made great moves to get a good look only to miss a layup.

-It was a little sloppy.  There were too many fouls, turnovers, and missed free throws, but that's to be expected for an early season scrimmage.

Overall, I was very pleased, keeping in mind the standard disclaimer that you can't really tell a whole lot by these types of scrimmages.  I plan to attend the Tide Pride BBQ practice next week and will report back.

It's great to be watching Alabama basketball again!





Sunday, October 14, 2018

2018-19 Schedule Preview: December

Tuesday, December 4 - 7 P.M. CT - Georgia State (TV: SEC Network+) - Alabama's second opponent from the Sun Belt conference, Georgia State is expected to be the preseason favorite in the league. They return four of their top five scorers from last season (all seniors), including 2018 Sun Belt Player of the Year D'Marcus Simonds (21.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.4 apg) and former Alabama player, Devin Mitchell (12.0 ppg, 44.7% from 3). The Panthers finished the 17-18 season with a record of 24-11 (12-6), and a final KenPom ranking of 101. They made the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four seasons. Head Coach Ron Hunter has thrived at Georgia State, compiling a 140-85 record in seven seasons and five postseason trips (two NCAA tournaments).

Sunday, December 9 - 12:00 P.M. CT - Arizona (TV: ESPN) - This is a big one. It's not often that Alabama plays host to a top ten program in the sport (Kentucky being an exception, of course), but that's the opportunity they've been given after traveling to Tuscon a year ago. Arizona finished the 17-18 season with a record of 27-8 (14-4), and a final KenPom ranking of 28. The Wildcats won the Pac 12 regular season and conference tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The top five scorers from last season all departed so Arizona could be in rebuild mode this season. The roster has a total of ten freshmen and sophomores on it, but more than enough talent to remain a presence in the Pac 12 standings.

Tuesday, December 18 - TBA - Liberty - Huntsville, AL (TV: TBA) - The team returns to Huntsville for the third annual Rocket City Classic. Liberty, formerly a member of the Big South conference, is now a member of the Atlantic Sun conference. The Flames finished the 17-18 season with a record of 22-15 (9-9), and a final KenPom ranking of 184. Liberty returns four of their top five scorers from last season so they have an opportunity to make an early impression in their new conference.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Offseason Post #10

Just a few things to post about.

1) Alabama will scrimmage against Jacksonville State on October 27th. These scrimmages are closed to the media and public, but the results typically leak out.

2) Top 50 prospect Drew Timme is in Tuscaloosa this weekend for an official visit. The 6'10, 235 lb center from Richardson, Texas has become a top priority for the Alabama coaching staff.

3) Another priority recruit for the Bama staff is DJ Jeffries, a 6'7, 218 lb forward from Olive Branch, Mississippi. Like Timme, Jeffries is a top 50 prospect. If comments from Jeffrie's father are any indication, Alabama is in his final three schools. The three schools mentioned are Memphis, Mississippi State and Alabama. A decision could come as early as next week.





Sunday, October 07, 2018

2018-19 Schedule Preview: November

In just over four weeks, the 2018-19 college basketball season will begin. Alabama will be looking for consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in thirteen years. It won't be easy. Once again, Avery Johnson and his staff have put together a challenging non-league slate. In addition to that, the SEC could be primed for an even better season than a year ago when the league sent a record eight teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Tuesday, October 30 - 7 P.M. CT - Montevallo (TV: SEC Network+) - As a result of the NCAA moving up the start date of the season by a few days, we'll be treated to exhibition basketball in October. Montevallo finished the 17-18 season with a record of 15-15 (Conf: 10-10). With only four players from that team returning, head coach Danny Young will be breaking in a lot of newcomers.

Tuesday, November 6 - 7 P.M. CT - Southern (TV: SEC Network+) - The official start of the season will come in Coleman against Avery Johnson's alma mater. The Jaguars finished the 17-18 season with a record of 15-18 (10-8), and a final KenPom ranking of 326. In the offseason the school made a coaching change, hiring Sean Woods. In a previous stint in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State, Woods won 61% of his conference games and led MVSU to a SWAC title and an NCAA tournament appearance. Southern returns two of their top five scorers from last season.

Sunday, November 11 - 6 P.M. CT - Appalachian State (TV: SEC Network) - This will be a "non-bracketed" game as part of the Charleston Classic. The Mountaineers, from the Sun Belt conference, finished the 17-18 season with a record of 15-18 (9-9), and a final KenPom ranking of 208. The expectation for Appalachian State should be for an improved 18-19 season. The Mountaineers return four of their top five scorers, including leading scorer Ronshad Shabazz (18.5 ppg). The team will also have two D1 transfer players eligible after sitting out a year.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Allegations Surface That Collin Sexton And Family Received Improper Benefits

I am continuing the season previews this weekend. But before we get to the fun stuff I wanted to post something about the recent allegations regarding payments provided to Collin Sexton and his family by a former runner named Christian Dawkins. These allegations surfaced this past week during the federal trial that is currently taking place in the wake of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.

In short:




So far nothing has surfaced that shows the Alabama coaching staff knew of this arrangement, assuming it took place to begin with. Obviously, if something were to surface that proved the coaching staff knew of these alleged cash payments, well things would get mighty interesting. All we can do is wait this out and see what develops.

For what it's worth: Alabama was just one of many programs that were mentioned in the trial this week. It could get a lot worse before it  gets better. For those of us who have grown up as fans of college basketball, when the smoke clears on this investigation and trial, the sport as we've known it may be irrevocably changed.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

2018-19 Roster Preview: Forwards/Centers



Donta Hall - 6'9 - 230 lbs - Senior - Donta was the most improved player on the roster last season. He had previously been a solid, if raw, player his first two seasons, but his improvement in his junior season provided Alabama its first consistent front court presence since JaMychal Green. If Donta continues that improvement this season, there's a chance he could be a draft pick next June. His numbers from last season: 10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 72.6% FG, 23.7 minutes per game.

Riley Norris - 6'7 - 212 lbs - Senior - After an injury-shortened season in 17-18, Riley was awarded a fifth year of eligibility. It's good to have him back. His experience will be welcomed, and he should be a valuable role player. Assuming he's in good health, Riley's an underrated defender; and while he's not a consistent three-point threat (33% in his four seasons), opposing teams will have to respect his ability to knock down the shot when he's on the floor. Perhaps his greatest asset will be providing more toughness for a team that was, in my opinion, a little soft at times last season.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Diante Wood Out Four Months Following Ankle Surgery; Dazon Ingram Is "Day-to-day"

Tuesday was the first official day of practice for the Alabama men's basketball team. Avery Johnson briefly addressed the media. Freshman Diante Wood will be out four months following ankle surgery. As a result Diante may redshirt this season. Avery also mentioned that Dazon is "day-to-day" with a sprained ankle.

Not great news for the first day of practice. Hopefully the team can avoid the litany of injuries that were an issue last season.



Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018-19 Roster Preview: Guards



It's hard to believe, but we're six weeks away from a new basketball season. While last season had its share of ups and downs, the team did ultimately achieve its goal of returning the program to the NCAA Tournament. That was a big step forward for the program under Avery Johnson. The next step is to build on that success by becoming the type of program that can consistently compete in the tournament.

While Collin Sexton left school for the NBA, and Braxton Key transferred, Avery Johnson does return a talented and experienced roster (three seniors, three juniors, and four sophomores that all played meaningful minutes a season ago) that should be good enough to keep this Alabama program in contention for an NCAA bid. Let's meet the roster, starting with the guards.