Thursday, May 25, 2017

SEC/Big 12 Challenge Field Announced

The match-ups for the 5th annual 2018 SEC/Big 12 Challenge have been announced. Alabama will host the Oklahoma Sooners. The games will take place on Saturday, January 27, and will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. It will be Alabama's first appearance in the event since the 13-14 season, which was the first season the event took place. Oklahoma holds a 5-2 advantage in the series history between the two schools. The Big 12 holds an overall advantage of 25-15 in the challenge.

For Alabama, this is another good home game to add to the non-conference schedule. The Sooners finished a dismal 11-20 a year ago, but Lon Kruger is a top 20 coach and I expect the Sooners to be a much better team in 17-18. If Alabama is off to a great start, this should be an easy sellout in late January.

The other match-ups:

Texas A&M at Kansas
Kentucky at West Virginia
Baylor at Florida
TCU at Vanderbilt
Oklahoma State at Arkansas
Ole Miss at Texas
Tennessee at Iowa State
Georgia at Kansas State
Texas Tech at South Carolina

The logic used in pairing the match-ups seems dubious. West Virginia and Vanderbilt receive a home game for the second straight season, while Baylor has to travel for the second straight season. Also, there should never be a rematch in these types of events (okay, I'll forgive consecutive Kentucky/Kansas matchups), but that's what we get with Arkansas/Oklahoma State. Also conspicuous is the absence of Missouri and Mississippi State. This will be the third straight season Missouri has been left out, and the fourth for Mississippi State. In recent years that wouldn't be a bad thing for the league, but Missouri could be one of the more improved teams in the league next season thanks to a top 10 recruiting class, while Mississippi State is expected to be better in Ben Howland's third season.

That said, the match-ups look really fun on paper. Morgantown should be lit when the Cats come to town; Baylor at Florida is a really meaty game; and if A&M has the type of bounce-back season I expect, that should be a great game in Lawrence. The SEC is as deep as it's been in a decade, if not longer. If they're going to win this event outright for the first time in five tries, this is the year.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Braxton Key is coming back


This isn't a surprise, but is great news. If the freshmen live up to their potential and the coaching staff can get everyone playing well together, the potential is there for a special season in 2017-18 that could restore the program to national relevance.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

5 Star 2018 Recruit Will Visit Alabama

Here's some recruiting news that I thought was interesting. Shun Williams (@OntheRadarHoops) of On the Radar Hoops tweeted earlier this week that 5 star 2018 recruit Khavon Moore (Macon, GA) will visit Alabama in June. Moore (6'8, 187 lbs, SF) is ranked 10th nationally by 247 Sports, and ranked number one in the state of Georgia.

Moore may be listed as a small forward, but to my eyes he's a point guard. Or "point forward", a hybrid position that has become more popular in recent years. In the video below you can see that Moore has great court vision. The "on-time, on-target" passes in the video below must excite Avery Johnson. But Moore also shows scoring ability in the video below and other videos I've watched of him. Avery is building a roster of players that can be called "positionless" due to their versatility. Moore certainly checks that box, and I'm excited that he's scheduled a visit for next month.



In other news: some details have been released regarding the team's trip to Canada in August. Two games will be played in Ottawa (August 9 and 10) against Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, with a third in Montreal (August 7) against McGill University.

This trip sounds awesome. In addition to seeing the team play three games in August, a trip to Ottawa and Montreal would be pretty sweet. Alas, I am economically challenged, and have little shot of making this trip (cue sad music now). If Bobby or DJC make the journey, you can expect full recaps here. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2018 Recruit D.J. Stewart Visits Alabama

This is a few days late, but 2018 recruit D.J. Stewart (Benoit, MS) made a trip to Tuscaloosa on Monday to visit with the Alabama coaches.




The trip went well, and 247 Sports currently lists Alabama as the favorite for Stewart. Stewart is a 6'6, 190 lb SF. He's currently unranked at 247, but expect that to change heading into his senior year of high school. You can read more about Stewart in our 2018 recruiting post below.

HoopSeen have updated their Alabama rankings for the class of 2018. You can see it here. Diante Wood is ranked number one, with Trey Jemison (both have been offered by Alabama) coming in 2nd. Myreon Jones is 3rd, but he's had a great summer so far and could continue to blossom as his senior year unfolds. 247 Sports already lists him as the top prospect in the state. Alabama has yet to offer Jones, but I expect that to change if his stock continues to rise.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Texas Transfer Tevin Mack Commits To Alabama

Well, that didn't take long. Texas transfer Tevin Mack has committed to Alabama following a visit. Mack will have to sit out the 17-18 season, but could have a big impact in 18-19 after averaging 14.8 ppg last season at Texas. It's another recruiting win for Avery and this coaching staff. Mack's commitment fills the scholarship limit for the 17-18 roster, assuming Braxton Key returns. If not, Avery has already said that the staff will look to recruit a grad transfer to fill the spot. Who's ready for November?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Texas Transfer Visiting Alabama

Texas transfer Tevin Mack is currently on a visit to Alabama. Mack, a former 4-star, top 60 recruit from Columbia, South Carolina averaged 14.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg this past season at Texas, but was suspended from the team in January and did not return. If he commits to the Tide, he will sit out the 17-18 season, and have two years of eligibility remaining. For what it's worth, Mack was recruited by Georgia during Yasir Rosemond's tenure so there's an existing relationship.

TideSports.com published a great interview today between Cecil Hurt and Avery Johnson. Topics covered include Braxton Key, Bob Simon (though Avery's answer doesn't give any information as to why Simon was relieved, his comments about Rosemond suggest that recruiting had a lot to do with the decision), the trip to Canada in August (Avery confirms the tour will start on August 2nd) and the non-conference schedule. You can read the interview here.

An interesting comment from Avery regarding the roster this summer is that, in addition to trying to land a transfer to be eligible for the 18-19 season, the staff will also look into signing a graduate transfer should Braxton Key elect not to return to Alabama. The deadline to remove his name from the draft is May 24th.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yasir Rosemond Joins Alabama Staff

Avery Johnson has hired Bob Simon's replacement. Yasir Rosemond, previously an assistant coach at Georgia, has joined the Alabama staff. Rosemond, a native of Atlanta, brings over a dozen years of coaching experience to the bench. Prior to Georgia, Rosemond was an assistant at Samford, Seattle University and Oregon, which is his alma mater.

I don't have an opinion on this hire. Honestly, this is the first time I've heard of Rosemond so it's impossible for me to have an informed opinion on this hire. He's got some experience, and I trust Avery to make the best possible hire so I support it. It's never a bad thing to have an assistant coach with Atlanta connections. I still hope that we will receive some kind of statement regarding Bob Simon's dismissal because I would like to know what happened. That said, it's good to have the staff in place before the summer workouts begin. Onwards and upwards. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Recruiting: The 2018 Class

Happy weekend, people. I promised a recruiting post. I'm writing a recruiting post. Full disclosure: I am a novice when it comes to recruiting. I don't follow it closely. Everything written here was researched in the last few days. For a deeper analysis of these players, I would recommend checking out the various recruiting websites such as 247Sport, Rivals, Scout, and there are many others.A good Twitter follow is "Alabama Roundball" (@BamaRoundball). This account does a great job of following Alabama basketball recruiting. The user also has a website (bamabasketball.wordpress.com). They did a good breakdown of some of the 2018 targets in a post from January that adds quite a bit to what I wrote here today. I encourage support of all sites that feed our Alabama basketball addiction so add that site to your favorites if you haven't already.

The 2018 class does not appear to be the powerhouse class that the 2017 class appears to be on paper, but how Avery and his staff fare in signing this class will be no less important. Assuming that the 2017 class proves to be the missing ingredient that can help push the Alabama program over the hump and back into SEC title and NCAA tournament contention, it will be the 18 class that will be significant in making sure that the program stays relevant. The staff have offers for at least 20 players in the class so far, and I'm not going to go into detail for each player because, frankly, some of those players will not seriously consider Alabama. If something changes, I'll do an update and include them in a future post. For now, I want to focus on the players that look like the best bets to schedule visits and seriously consider attending Alabama. Click the player names for links to highlight videos.

Robert Woodard - Columbus, MS - 6'6, 220 lbs - SF - I mentioned Woodard in a previous post, and he remains one of my favorite players that the staff are currently recruiting. 247 Sports currently ranks him in the national top 40, and ranks him as the top player in Mississippi. The first thing that stands out when watching Woodard is he's advanced from a physical standpoint. He could check into a college game right now and hold his own physically. Woodard will likely be an immediate contributor wherever he commits because he's very good on the defensive end. He's a solid ball handler, and a decent shooter. His length, strength and athleticism make it tough to keep him from getting to the rim. I wouldn't be surprised if his stock continues to rise through his senior season. The early favorite for his signature is Mississippi State. Other schools that have offered include Baylor, Iowa State, Florida State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Bama Hoops News and Notes - 05/01/2017

Okay, let's try this again. Mental note: the next time I get a wild hair to write a news and notes post I should probably wait a day just to make sure nothing else comes down the pipe.

Let's start with the obvious: Bob Simon, the associate head coach, has been "relieved" of his duties. And this is something that likely happened weeks ago, despite being announced today. Simon was not present at the postseason banquet, nor was he on the recruiting trail with the other coaches so this news might not be as surprising for those who have kept up with the team's activities. At this point, we can only speculate what led to the dismissal. University officials have said that a comment regarding the change will be made at a later date. Let's hope so. By all accounts Bob Simon is a good dude, and is well-respected in coaching circles; I would certainly be interested in Avery's reasons for the move in a new direction. Simon is the second assistant coach in Avery's two seasons to be dismissed. My guess is that Pelphrey will be promoted to associate head coach.

There are rumors going around that Braxton Key, despite not being invited to the NBA combine, is not likely to return to Alabama, preferring instead to pursue other professional opportunities. The rumor is that Braxton is happy at Alabama, but "personal issues" are pushing him to leave school earlier than anticipated. If any of this scuttlebutt is true, I hope the best for Braxton. I hesitated even to share this rumor, but I've seen enough people repeating it to believe there may be some smoke to it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it wouldn't be a Bama Hoops off-season without some kind of drama.

How about some good news?

The non-conference schedule continues to come together. Jon Rothstein, that robotic fount of college basketball information, reported tonight that the fourth host school in the Barclays Center Classic will be Minnesota, joining Alabama, BYU and Umass. Minnesota finished 24-10 this past season, making the NCAA Tournament, but falling in the first round to Middle Tennessee. Despite the early exit, it was a 16-game turnaround for Richard Pitino and the Gophers, after winning only 8 games in the 15-16 season. The Barclays Center Classic semifinal and final rounds will take place during the Friday and Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend.

My early prediction for the matchups: Alabama vs BYU; Minnesota vs Umass.

Recruiting is in full effect. Several offers have been made today. Time permitting, I will try and compile a recruiting post this weekend detailing who currently holds offers for the 18 and 19 classes.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bama Hoops News and Notes - 04/30/2017

The final day of April is here. Only 194 days until the 2017-18 season tips off (unless the NCAA decides to start the season earlier than November 10th - more on that later). There are a couple of noteworthy topics to mention so let's get started.

The NBA combine invitation list was revealed earlier today. The list includes more than 60 players. Noticeably absent from the list is Braxton Key. The general consensus is that if an underclassmen testing the waters does not receive an invite to the combine, it's a good idea to return to school. Hopefully, Braxton will announce his intentions to return to school in the coming days.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweeted earlier today that Alabama and Rhode Island have agreed to a home-and-home series, which will start in Tuscaloosa for the 17-18 season. The Rams finished 25-10 this past season, making the NCAA Tournament and knocking off Creighton before losing a tough 3-point game to Oregon in the round of 32. With 6 of the top 8 scorers expected to return, Rhode Island should be a preseason favorite for the A-10 title.

For those keeping track, here's what the Bama schedule looks like so far:

Memphis [Veterans Classic at Annapolis, Maryland]
Rhode Island [Game will most likely be played in Tuscaloosa]
Barclays Center Classic [Based on Umass press release from July of last year. Umass, Alabama, BYU and TBD team will be the four host schools]
Texas [Return game in home-and-home series. My guess is that Texas will be the opponent in the 2017 version of the Vulcan Classic]
SEC/Big 12 Challenge [Alabama will take part in the event this season. My prediction: Alabama will travel to Iowa State to face Bama alum Steve Prohm.]

The NCAA is discussing the possibility of a new start date for college basketball, one that will be more uniform than what we have now. What is being discussed is making the Tuesday before the second Friday in November the uniform start date for the sport. The belief is a mid-week start date might bring more attention and excitement to the sport. There is also hope that by starting the season earlier, it will create a less compressed schedule, particularly in the non-conference months. With that in mind, the NCAA has also discussed the possibility of a standardized 21-week playing season with a mandatory 3-4 day break for the student athletes during the winter vacation period.

I'm for a uniform start date to the season, but there has to be high profile games to go along with it, or casual fans still won't care. The first weekend of college football has become dotted with exciting games that pull in viewers from every part of the country. College basketball will have to do something similar if it's going to make an impact in early November. And as far as the break during the winter vacation period: I'm all for it. Without students on campus, home games lack energy, and the games themselves suffer because of this. Avery has dealt with this problem by scheduling games in Birmingham and Huntsville during the winter break, but giving the players extra time during the break would be in the best interest of the student-athlete from a mental and physical standpoint, which is what all of this is supposed to be about, right?