It's not a question I ask lightly. I've been a fan of the Anthony Grant hire since day one, but following yet another non-conference loss that could have dire repercussions for the team come March, I think it's now a fair question to ask.
DJC attended the game so I'm sure he will write a full recap. However, the majority of the readers who visit this site no doubt watched the game. Alabama's inability to ice the game in regulation will obviously be the hottest topic, but I would prefer to concentrate on the 1st half of this game as I think that's where the game was lost. There was a concern from DJC in his Duke recap and BJ's preview that Alabama might come out flat today. That fear was justified as Alabama played with no sense of urgency in the 1st half and found themselves trailing by 11 at the half to a pretty good basketball team that, unlike Bama, played with a real sense of urgency. Alabama came out in the second half with some renewed energy and played much better, overcoming the deficit and putting themselves in a position to win. It didn't happen of course, but it does make one wonder if the team had played for 40 minutes the way they did in the second half, would we actually be celebrating a double digit win? I think we would have.
Players are expected to play with focus and energy, but I do think the coaching staff must play some part in making their guys understand the urgency of a game and injecting some energy into them out of the gate. I thought the bench was lifeless in the 1st half and really contributed to the stale play on the floor. Drexel didn't exactly overwhelm Alabama to start the game. With a better effort from our guys, no doubt the game would have been much closer at the half, and Alabama may have even took the lead into the second half. The mantra of this team in the summer was learning how to finish games and getting back to the NCAA tournament. This loss today has sucked some of the momentum out of the season. With a tough schedule in front of them, can this team regain some momentum? Last year, this team went into conference play already behind the 8 ball in regards to March. There are opportunities remaining to overcome this loss today, but only if this team embraces the urgency that you must play with if you are to take part in the greatest sporting event on the planet.
For Anthony Grant, this latest setback is only going to increase the percentage of the fanbase who are of the opinion that Grant is not the guy to lead this program. Continuing to lose games such as today makes it harder to argue in his favor. There's been a consistency to this non-conference struggles. In 2010-11, the team went 0-3 in a November tournament, losing to Seton Hall, Iowa and St. Peter's. None of these three teams could have been considered a good loss that season. Alabama went on to have a great season, but missed the NCAA tournament primarily due to those losses. Last season, Alabama lost three home games to Dayton, Tulane and Mercer in December. Those three losses crushed Bama's RPI and contributed to them once again missing the tournament. The one season that these types of losses didn't happen was in 2011-12 when the program made its only tournament appearance under Grant. These types of losses have killed momentum and have made it even tougher to get the rather apathetic Bama fanbase to buy in and pledge their full support.
After this latest setback, it's put up or shut up time for Anthony Grant and his staff. They've got a veteran group that, frankly, has not played like one through the first six games. It's time for this team to get together and figure it out. Either they're going to continue this trend of mediocrity or they're going to say enough is enough and decide to kick some ass while taking names.