Friday, February 15, 2019

Game Preview: Florida

Alabama (15-9, 6-5, KenPom: 48; NET: 45), will attempt to bounce back from a poor performance in Starkville when they return home to host the Florida Gators (13-11, 5-6, KenPom: 38; NET: 41) on Saturday. Game time is 1 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

My Two Cents: It wasn't disappointing that Alabama lost in Starkville on Tuesday; it was  disappointing how Alabama lost on Tuesday. Frankly, the team didn't look prepared. They were sloppy with the ball, leading to 18 turnovers. Mississippi State crushed them on the glass again. State just looked tougher, faster, ready to play. And while our guys had enough mental toughness to keep themselves in the game for most of the evening, they lacked the mental toughness needed to protect the basketball and make the plays necessary to get over the hump (no pun intended) when they did reduce the deficit to 6-10 points. They simply never put much game pressure on a team desperate for a win. To State's credit, that was one of the better defensive efforts I've seen them put forth this season. They're talented at every position, and if they buy in on defense, the sky's the limit for that team. Alabama has shown a resiliency this season in bouncing back from poor performances. Let's hope that trend continues on Saturday.

Here's an interesting nugget to chew on: Alabama hasn't defeated a Gator team in Coleman Coliseum since 2006! For those of you playing at home, that was thirteen seasons ago. Mark Gottfried was the head coach. Billy Donovan was the Gator head coach. That Florida team would go on to win the first of two national titles. While Avery has led the program to back-to-back wins in Gainesville, his teams are 0-2 in Coleman vs Florida, losing both games by an average of 17 points. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy looking ahead to Saturday?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bulldogs Bully Bama, Mississippi $tate 81 Alabama 62

Alabama fell to 15-9 (6-5) after being blown out in Starkville.  This was not a game anybody was expecting us to win and it doesn't really hurt our NCAA tournament chances, but the effort and sloppy play was very disappointing.

Both teams started off hot, with $tate making some early 3s and an aggressive T-Mack and Kira matching them on the offensive end.  Unfortunately, when both teams cooled off, $tate began dominating the glass while we regularly coughed up the basketball. The result was the Bulldogs building a 10-14 point lead that they would more or less maintain for the rest of the game.

We made a few runs to cut it to 8 or 9 and it seemed like we might be able to hang around, but we always made critical mistakes when we had a chance to get closer, and they always answered to push the lead back to 14 or 15. 

We ended up with 18 turnovers.  It wasn't just the fact that we were turning it over, but they were the kinds of turnovers that led to easy baskets at the other end.  $tate converted those 18 turnovers into 28 points.  Meanwhile they out-rebounded us 35-26, leading to 19 second chance points.  If you are keeping score at home, that's a whopping 47 of their 81 points off turnovers and offensive rebounds. 

$tate is a good team and was playing in a must win situation at home.  They were intense on defense, and their bigs did a great job on the glass.  We couldn't stop Q, and I question why we kept Riley on him for so long when it was obvious he wasn't going to be able to stay in front of him. 

Kira and T-Mack were our leading scorers with 17 and 13 points each, but they also combined for half of our turnovers.  Dazon had 12 points and 3 turnovers.  Donta ended up with 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks.  JP failed to score in 23 minutes of playing time. 

Up next, a huge game at home against the struggling Florida Gators.  Despite the losses piling up, the Gators somehow still have a top 50 NET and are arguably a bubble team.  Tip off is set for 1pm Saturday afternoon and will be broadcast on one of the ESPN stations.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sleeping with the Enemy- Mississippi State, Part 2.

I reached out to Collin Wilmes at For Whom the Cowbell tolls to get an update on the Bulldogs since our last meeting.  His response is below.  If you visit For Whom the Cowbell tolls, please follow their site's rules and be a good representative of our University.

First thing that comes to mind is free throws. Free throws have been a huge weakness as of late. Regie Perry has become a spark plug for the team as well (Freshman of The Week announced Feb. 4). He's been starting in place of ARic Holman now. Before last game he had  double-doubles in three of his last four appearances, so hopefully he can get back to that because he was limited to just four points against Kentucky. I think a big thing is that the Bulldogs have to start out fast. The comeback against Kentucky was great (down 18 and came within one point), but that's obviously not something that you can do on a nightly basis. If Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters start out hot and we can knock down our free throws, I like our chances. 

Game Preview: at Mississippi State

Two weeks after holding off the Bulldogs at home by a score of 83-79, Alabama (15-8, 6-4, KenPom: 46; NET: 43) will travel to Starkville for their second game with Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6, KenPom: 26; NET: 29). As of Sunday afternoon, tickets were still available for this game for those of you interested in attending. Game time on Tuesday is 8:00 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: Alabama had a great week, finishing 2-0 vs Georgia and at Vanderbilt. Obviously, all wins are important, but taking care of business against two teams in the bottom of the league standings had an ounce more of importance because of what losses to those two teams would have meant to the postseason resume. And of course, winning at Vanderbilt, after all of the struggles there we've witnessed, had some extra sauce to it. Alabama is now 6-4 in league play, and very much in the conversation for the 4 seed in the league tournament, and the bye that goes with it.

If you've been reading this blog long enough, you've likely seen one of the writers or someone posting a comment write that the upcoming game is a must-win for Alabama. You've likely even seen it this year. For a change, at least for this week, the shoe will be on the other foot on Tuesday night. A win for Alabama would be huge, of course, but this game arguably means more for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs will enter this game with a 4-6 record in league play. They've lost two straight and three of their last four. This State roster is talented, and I believe they will ultimately be in the NCAA Tournament; but if they lose on Tuesday night, they'll fall to 4-7 in league play. If that happens, the word "bubble" will start being used more frequently when discussing the Bulldogs.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Memorial Magic Muted, Alabama 77 Vanderbilt 67

For just the second time in nearly three decades the Crimson Tide got a road win over the Commodores to improve to 15-8 (6-4). 

Galin Smith was still out with a concussion and Alex Reese was out with the flu, leaving the bench a little short.  Donta Hall got into early foul trouble again, further exacerbating the problem and forcing us to change the game plan a bit.  Normally, shooting 24 from three point range in that place is inviting disaster, but we were able to make half of them and actually shot better from 3 point range than Vandy did.  Donta Hall even made his first and only career three pointer despite bricking it off the back of the iron. 

It was close through much of the first half, but Vandy had a prolonged scoring drought that allowed us to stretch the lead to 7 going into half time.  For all of Coach Avery's faults, we should really give him credit for his ability to make adjustments at halftime.  We've been really good in the early parts of the 2nd half of most games lately, and this was no exception.  We were forcing turnovers and running after Vandy misses to speed up the game.  Dazon, Riley, and Kira all made big 3s to extend the lead to 19 points with about 9 minutes remaining. 

Unfortunately, we weren't able to put them away.  Dan was called for a flagrant foul after a lengthy review, and that seemed to give the Dores a spark.  We had stretch of bad turnovers that led to a 10-0 Vandy run.  I thought Coach Johnson waited about 3 possessions too late to call a timeout, and suddenly Vanderbilt was back to within 5.  That's when Riley Norris stepped up by making 3 free throws, then drilling another 3 pointer to put the game away for good.

Riley was the MVP in my opinion.  He had a double double with 15 points and 12 rebounds on a night he was desperately needed with a short bench.  Kira was unstoppable much of the game until he got frustrated during Vandy's second half run, but he still finished with 18 points and 4 assists.  Dazon was also in double figures with 12, and Herb had a solid game with 9 points going 4 of 6 from the field.  Hopefully this is a sign Herbert is coming out of his funk. 

Memorial Gym is still the same out-dated horrible arena that it's always been, but they have made one positive change by going to a traditional goal support.  See the picture at the beginning of this post that I took from my seats at the game, compared to this old picture below.  I'm not sure when they made the change, but I do believe it somewhat neutralizes one of their advantages, as that old support was very unusual and made the shooting background even worse.

The gym holds about 15,000 but because of its goofy configuration it is very difficult to estimate the crowd as you can only see a portion of the seats.  There seemed to be quite a few empty seats and my wild guess at the attendance is in the 6,000 range.  The North Alabama and Nashville area alumni were out in force.  We probably had nearly a third of the crowd, with our section being overwhelmingly crimson.  I thought we were louder than the Vandy fans all night.

There was one Vandy fan sitting in front of me, who asked me after the starting lineups, "do you all have any white boys on the team?"  I prefaced my answer with, "I'm not sure why that matters."  We also witnessed a verbal altercation between some drunk Vandy students and a group of Bama fans outside the arena after the game.  I guess those racist, elitist pricks will just have to look elsewhere for their first conference win.  It wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if it never comes.

Up next, speaking of obnoxious fan bases, we travel to down highway 82 to take on the Mi$$i$$ippi $tate Bulldogs Tuesday night in Starkville.  Tip off is set for 8 pm on the SEC Network.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Game Preview: at Vanderbilt

That collective sigh you just heard is the Alabama fanbase preparing for another trip to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores (KenPom: 131; NET: 115) in Memorial Gymnasium. For those of you new to the party, Alabama has beaten Vandy just twice in the last twenty-eight years in that building. That should help explain why we're stressed despite the Dores entering this game with a record of 9-13 (0-9). Game time on Saturday is 7:30 P.M. CT. SEC Network will televise the game.

My Two Cents: After a shaky first half, Alabama handled its business at home vs a rebuilding Georgia team. As DJC mentioned in his recap, it was nice to see the guys take control of a game and simply be the better team. Once again, turnovers and struggles at the free throw line in the closing minutes was concerning, but not enough to seriously threaten the outcome. Now if Alabama can overcome the Memorial nightmare, the team will win consecutive games for the first time since January 5th when the win over Kentucky capped a 5-game streak.

Everyone knows about the struggles in Memorial, but if Alabama fans could ever be forgiven for expecting a win there, this is the year. Yes, Vanderbilt lost Darius Garland, arguably its best player, for the season back in November, but this team doesn't have the record it has simply because of that injury. One look at the advanced stats reinforces that opinion. Based on the data at KenPom, Vanderbilt is ranked 11th or worse in the conference in offensive efficiency (14), defensive efficiency (12), effective field goal pct (12), opponent effective field goal pct (14), turnover pct (11), opponent turnover pct (13), offensive rebound pct (14), opponent free throw rate (11), 2-pt fg pct (13), opponent 2-pt fg pct (13), 3-pt pct (11), free throw pct (14), block pct (12) and steal pct (12). Whew. That's a lot of bad, folks. 

Of course, none of those stats mean anything for one forty-minute game. College basketball is littered with games in which the perceived superior team doesn't play well or the perceived inferior team plays out of its mind. And for all of its poor stats, two of Vandy's nine losses in league play were by one possession, and another loss was an overtime loss to Tennessee, a game that Vanderbilt seemingly had in the bag before a controversial late foul call helped turn the tide for the Vols. It's easy to get lost in the poor numbers for Vandy, but this is still a road game at Memorial and I'm not taking anything for granted.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Bama Batters Bulldogs, Alabama 89 Georgia 74

Alabama improved to 14-8 (5-4) with a 15 point beat down of the Georgia Bulldogs behind great nights from Kira Lewis and Tevin Mack. 

Things did not start out so good.  We came out flat, turned it over a few times, and the UGA bigs were having their way with Donta in the post to build an early 9-3 lead.  I know this is going to sound hypocritical coming from me given how much I've harped about the need for consistent lineups, but....I think it's time to change the starting lineup.

Petty should be starting over Herbert.  I really feel bad for Herbert.  By all accounts he's one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, and he always plays hard, but he has regressed to the point that he's a total liability on offense. Perhaps coming off the bench might help him get over the yips?  Now, it may be that JP prefers the 6th man role, in which case you could even make an argument for starting Riley over Herb, though I'm not too crazy about having Riley, T-Mack, and Dazon all in the starting lineup.

In any event, things  improved when we first went to the bench.  Donta picked up a couple of early fouls and Galin Smith came in and gave us a spark.  He was much better holding his position against the UGA bigs, and he scored 6 points in just 5 minutes of play.  Unfortunately, he had to leave the game with a concussion, on a play that he was called for a foul.  Give credit to Dan Giddens for stepping up when needed and being more than serviceable.  He managed to play decent defense without fouling, got some big rebounds, and even made a 9 foot fade-away with the And One!

We took a 41-38 lead into halftime, and then dominated much of the second half.  Our guards and wings forced a lot of mistakes from the Georgia guards and we were able to get into transition for some easy baskets.  Kira Lewis carved up their defense at will.  T-Mack was on his game too, and Georgia had no answers for either of them. We ran out to a 15 point lead and maintained a comfortable margin most of the way, but started turning it over and missing free throws again in the final 3 minutes.  UGA cut the lead to 10, but we got enough stops and enough free throws in the final minute or so that the game was never in danger. 

UGA isn't a very good team, they don't have the personnel to run the system Crean is trying to run, but this was still a big win for us.  In the recent past we've had a bad habit of playing well against the better teams but struggling at home against inferior opponents.  It was nice to see us take care of business. 

T-Mack finished with 25 points and 6 rebounds.  Kira played 36 minutes (THANK YOU!) and ended up with 24 points and 7 assists with only one turnover.  Dazon got into double figures with 11 points and his obligatory 3 turnovers.  Donta only played 18 minutes due to foul trouble but did pull down 8 rebounds. 

It was a small, strange crowd.  I would guess no more than 6,000 in attendance and many were apparently in town for football signing day festivities.  It wasn't much of an atmosphere to be honest, so kudos to our team and staff for finding a way to stay motivated and focused without much crowd support from the home fans.

Up next, a trip to our personal hell, the house of horrors known as Memorial Gym on the campus of Vanderbilt University, where the Tide will take on the last place Commodores Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.  The game will be televised on SEC Network. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Bracketology update- 2/5

I'll copy this for entertainment purposes...

Inside the Hall
USA Today

.500 ball should get us in as a 10 seed... which is better than a 7-9 IMO.
If you are dreaming big about a 6 seed... that would more than likely mean we are ranked at the end of the regular season, which I seriously doubt will happen.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Non conference opponents- where are they now

Our non-conference slate has taken a beating.  Current records of the teams we played:

- Baylor: 15-6/6-2
- Stephen F Austin: 11-9/4-4
- Penn St: 7-14/0-10
- Liberty: 19-5/8-1
- Arizona: 14-8/5-4
- GA State: 16-6/7-2
- UCF: 16-4/6-2
- Murray St: 17-4/8-2
- Wichita St: 10-11/3-6
- Ball St: 11-11/2-7
- Northeastern: 13-9/7-3
- Appalachian St: 8-14/3-6
- Southern: 3-19/2-7

It doesn't look as good as it did a month ago.

Game Preview: Georgia

After another unpleasant trip to Auburn, the Alabama men's basketball team (13-8, 4-4) will return home briefly for a Wednesday night matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs (KenPom: 105; NET: 98). Georgia enters this game with a 10-11 (1-7) record. Game time is 8 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: DJC perfectly captured most of my feelings concerning the Auburn game so I have nothing to add regarding that game. If you haven't read DJC's recap of the Auburn game yet, what is wrong with you, first of all. Secondly, please scroll down and read his thoughts on the game.

Alabama just completed a six-game stretch starting with the game at Missouri that I felt was the most important and toughest stretch of the season. It included games at Tennessee, Baylor and Auburn, plus home games vs Ole Miss (ranked at the time) and Mississippi State (still ranked). That Alabama finished 3-3 against that schedule, and had chances to steal road games at Tennessee and Baylor, was encouraging because it came on the heels of the home loss to Texas A&M, which was one of the most disappointing of the season. The team bounced back and competed, with the exception of the loss at Auburn, which helped the team finally crack the NCAA Tournament discussion. Fortunately, the schedule does lighten up a little over the next six games.

Those games include this game vs Georgia, at Vanderbilt, at Mississippi State, Florida, at Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Those teams have a combined conference record of 10-30, and Mississippi State and Florida account for eight of those victories. Alabama has already proven this season that you can't take any game for granted, even if you have a double digit lead at halftime, but the next six games present this Alabama team with a great opportunity to string some wins together. The flip side of that coin is that it also presents Alabama with a chance to add more "bad losses" to their resume should they not play well.