Thursday, October 24, 2013

Schedule Preview - January

Robert Morris - Saturday, January 4th - Do you remember Robert Morris? It was just seven months ago Robert Morris notched one of the biggest victories in the history of their program by knocking off Kentucky in the first round of the NIT. That win brought a lot of attention to the program, but the fact is Robert Morris has been an improving program for years. In the last five years, the program has averaged 23 wins a season. And the Colonials are expected to be in contention once again in the Northeast Conference. However, head coach Andrew Toole lost three critical players in Velton Jones, Russell Johnson and Coron Williams. Those three guys combined for 3,748 points, 1,305 rebounds and 870 assists.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bama Basketball and BBQ

The team had the annual open practice and bbq for Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa Tip Off Club members yesterday afternoon.  When we arrived at 5 pm they had already started practicing.  The practice was fairly brief and it was hard to tell a whole lot.  They mostly did 5 on 5 half-court drills against the man and zone, ran through some offensive sets, an then did a bit of full court work.  The coaching staff would stop play after nearly every possession to address issues or set up the next plays.  The practice concluded with the players stretching while new strength and conditioning coach Lou DeNeen screamed at them.  He seems to be quite a character.

I primarily focused on the new guys, as I think we all have a good idea of what the returning players are capable of.  I was impressed with both Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale.  Shannon made a 3 pointer from the corner, but was also able to play some defense and effect some shots in the paint.  I can see him being a very effective 6th man type for us and help us stretch some defenses and open things up in the lane.  Jimmie Taylor already seems more ready than Pollard was a year ago.  He's skinny, but more than strong enough to defend in the post, and I think he has better instincts offensively as well.  He's still a bit raw, but he had one dunk where he beat his man with a cut to the basket, and also had another play where he got open on the low block but mishandled the pass.

Algie Key is quick and athletic and will be a good defender.  Hopefully with the new rules he will be able to get to the free throw line some.  He won't be much of a perimeter shooter.  I did not watch Tarrant and Kessons as closely since they can't play this year, but from what I saw they both have some talent and should be able to contribute next year.  A year in our system of practice and watching games will help.

Nick Jacobs has lost a lot of weight.  Coach Grant joked that he gave birth in the offseason, he's dropped about 30 lbs.  Unfortunately, he was not noticeably quicker or able to jump higher from my estimation.  Carl Engstrom is still wearing a knee brace, and not surprisingly did not play as well as he was before the injury.  Coach Grant said both Jacobs and Carl need to take the next step mentally.  Nick needs to play with more confidence that he can do some things he hasn't been physically able to do in the past.  Carl was just starting to play more instinctively without having to think everything through when he got hurt last year, and it will take some time for him to get back to that point.

On the positive side, I think this team's talents may be more suited for Coach Grant's system than any others we have had.  We have several guys who are capable of playing multiple positions and different roles, so we should have a lot of room for flexibility in match-ups.  It may take some time to find the best combinations and playing rotation.

My concerns are that outside of Releford and maybe Hale, we don't have anyone that has a consistent perimeter jump shot.  Obviously the lack of depth is a concern, as any injuries could really hurt us.  Perhaps my biggest concern is how the new rules combined with our style of play and short bench could put us in some tough positions, especially early in the season.

For those who do not know, there are about 28 new rules or added points of emphasis this year on how the officials will call the game.  The general philosophy is to call games much tighter against the defense to create more movement and increase scoring.  Putting a hand on a player in a way that even slightly restricts his movement or impedes his balance is to be called a foul, using a forearm bar in the post is going to be called a foul, reaching in will be called more tightly, and two hands on a player is supposed to be an automatic foul.  The block/charge rule was changed, now to take a charge the defender must have established legal guarding position by the time the offensive player makes his first upward motion with the ball to pass or shoot.  Previously, he only had to establish position before the offensive player left his feet, or at the point of contact.  The practice was not officiated in this manner (and who knows if the refs will actually call it this way once the season starts or not), and we foul, A LOT.  I'm afraid we are going to have to make some adjustments on defense or else we're going to see a lot of Dakota Slaughter and Isiah Wilson toward the ends of games.

After practice, new AD Bill Battle addressed the crowd and introduced Coach Grant.  Coach Grant said we are not satisfied with last year's results, and our goal is to make it into the tournament.  He talked about the preseason schedule, and said he doesn't want to be at the mercy of the SEC portion of the schedule's RPI.  He said Levi hyper-extended his knee and we dodged a bullet that it did not require surgery.  He said we would err on the side of caution but he couldn't say for sure when he would be back, could be 2-4 weeks, could be longer.  Regarding the new rules, Coach Grant said that we need to take advantage of them and get to the line and make our free throws. He said he expects to see some ugly basketball early in the season, but the coaches just want consistency, for the game to be called the same way in March as it is called in November.  Also of note, Coach Grant mentioned this was really the first practice where they've had everyone healthy, with the exception of Levi, as Tarrant and Kessons have been banged up as well.

The event was not nearly as well attended as last year's version.  I would guess 200 or so were there.  As always, it was great to see Alias there, maybe he can add some things that I might have missed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SEC Media Days

The SEC media days are being held today and tomorrow. The Bama men's and women's coaches and player representatives (Releford for the men, Daisha Simmons for the women) will kick things off tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM.

Alabama has been picked to finish 6th in the preseason media poll. This is the same spot they were picked to finish a year ago, but our guys ended up tying for second. The complete order of finish is

1. Kentucky
2. Florida
3. Tennessee
4. LSU
5. Missouri
6. Alabama
7. Ole Miss
8. Arkansas
9. Texas A&M
10. Vanderbilt
11. Georgia
12. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State
14. Auburn

I think Mississippi State could finish a little higher than 13th. I also think Arkansas could be better than 8th. It's Mike Anderson's third year and he's finally got a team made up primarily of his type of player.

Trevor Releford has been voted by the media to the preseason All-SEC team. Other players voted to the team are Julius Randle (Kentucky), Johnny O'Bryant (LSU), Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss) and Jordan McRae (Tennessee)

UPDATE: Grant and Releford have completed their SEC media day obligations. Here is a video of Coach Grant, and here is one of Trevor. The best news from Grant is that Levi's knee has no structural damage and he doesn't expect Levi to miss any significant time.

Also of note is Dakota Slaughter, formerly a walk-on, is now on scholarship. That's awesome news for Dakota and his family. And well-deserved. I thought Dakota played very well last season when he did have an opportunity to play. Dakota should have more opportunities this season and here's hoping he has a very productive junior season.

Nashville gets one step closer to being permanent SECT host

I'm not a big fan of it to be honest as the SEC Tournament is mostly bad basketball. Keeping the tourney in the same place will quickly dwindle interest in that city IMO.

Link

I think it should rotate between 4 cities since the SEC footprint stretches from Missouri to Florida. Bounce them around between Atlanta (my preference), New Orleans, Nashville, and St Louis. Florida, UGA, and South Carolina fans wouldn't travel if the tourney was in their backyard so I mostly disregarded them in my 4 cities list.

ATL obviously favors Alabama, Auburn, UGA, SC Lite, and UTK
Nashville favors Kentucky, Vandy, UTK, Bama, and Ole Miss
New Orleans favors LSU, but no one minds 3-4 days in NOLA
St Louis favors Missouri, Kentucky, Vandy, Arkansas, and maybe Ole Miss

Mi$$ $t, Texas A&M, and Florida fans have to travel far regardless, but their travel fanbase is in the low 100s so there is no reason to accommodate them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Levi Randolph Suffers Knee Injury

It almost makes you want to cry. When you have a team with only nine eligible scholarship players, what do you hope doesn't happen? Injuries, my dear Watson, injuries. You never want to see a player injured, but you understand they are part of the game. To expect any team to slug it out for 31 games without a few bumps or bruises is unrealistic, but you just hope that there are no severe injuries. As a player, a coach or a fan, you understand that injuries can undermine an otherwise great opportunity.

Well, lo and behold, it was announced today that Levi Randolph suffered a knee injury at practice on Saturday. No idea on the extent of the injury yet, but it was announced he will be sidelined for "several weeks". Several weeks implies it's not a serious injury and Levi may be back for the start of the season, but he's going to miss valuable practice time. And who knows if this will be a lingering injury? Here's hoping Levi comes back quickly and is ready to roll.

If he doesn't return before the start of the season, I expect Retin and/or Algie Key will see an increase in minutes. It's not a bad thing for them as I think both are capable of stepping in and playing well, but Levi is an experienced guy who was playing as well as anyone at the end of last season. Hopefully, this is just a minor bump in the road.

Unfortunately, Levi is not the only player nursing an injury. In a video posted at rolltide.com Anthony Grant revealed that Carl Engstrom was experiencing some soreness in his knee, Ricky Tarrant is nursing a back injury and Michael Kessens has not only experienced a "minor" knee injury, but also a broken nose. Tarrant and Kessens are both sitting out this year, but both are being counted on to improve practices. Hopefully these injuries remain minor and everyone will be relatively healthy in three weeks when the season tips off.

Schedule Preview - December

North Florida - Wednesday, December 4th - December was the month to forget last season as Alabama bumbled through a 1-5 stretch. Injuries, a lack of leadership and nothing more than poor play all played a factor. That 1-5 stretch would hover over Alabama's NCAA tournament hopes for the remainder of the season, finally dumping the rain on our heads when the field was announced. December begins this season with a home game against North Florida, an A-Sun team expected to finish somewhere in the middle of that conference race. North Florida returns two starters in Beau Beech (7.9 ppg) and Travis Wallace (14.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), but it will be their newcomers (7 total) that will determine how successful their season is.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Schedule Preview - November

It's 35 days until college basketball returns (I'm not sure if I should be excited for the return of basketball or distressed over how quickly the months have passed by in my own life). With the season just around the corner let's take a look at the schedule, which starts fast and doesn't dip much afterward. An apology up front. Due to the number of potential match-ups in the NIT Tipoff, this post is rather long.

Oklahoma - Friday, November 8th - Alabama kicks off the 2013-14 season with a real challenge in the Oklahoma Sooners. This game is part of the Tip-Off Showcase in Dallas at the American Airlines Center. It's also a concerted effort by college basketball to tip off its season with a little more fanfare, similar to the handful of high profile college football games that put a little zest into its opening weekend.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Alonzo Gee youtube clip

Sent to me a couple of days ago... sorry I was late in posting it.
Good to see Gee doing well in the NBA.