The Alabama men’s basketball program has released their 2014-15 schedule. Alabama fans have been anticipating a new season after suffering through a very tough 2013-14 season, which resulted in a 13-19 record, and has left the program at somewhat of a crossroads during the Anthony Grant era. Either Coach Grant is able to regain the momentum and promise he showed in his first four seasons in Tuscaloosa, or else his seat could become unbearably hot.
Perhaps with that in mind, the 14-15 schedule is noticeably lighter on power teams than what we saw last year. In the opinion of this writer, that is a good thing. While the schedule last season was admirable in its ambition, the truth of the matter is the program was (and is) not yet in a position to confidently tackle a schedule like that. The end result – a 6-7 non-conference record in 13-14 – should be the only argument necessary to back up that opinion.
That’s not to say the 14-15 schedule is cupcake city; far from it. Alabama will play a combination of Iowa State, Maryland and Arizona State in Kansas City as part of the CBE Classic, welcome traditional power UCLA into Coleman Coliseum, and will play in two of the more intimidating road environments in college basketball at Xavier and Wichita State. In conference, Alabama will face Kentucky twice and travel to Arkansas and LSU, two teams who should be projected in the top half of the league. The hardwood version of the Iron Bowl is also expected to become more interesting in the wake of Auburn hiring Bruce Pearl.
Anthony Grant is not running away from challenging himself or his team, but there’s a fine line between challenging yourself and putting yourself in a no-win situation. After a tough lesson learned last season in regards to non-conference scheduling, it appears that Anthony Grant is content to remain in the middle of the road.
Alabama will play its first game of the season on Monday, November 10th when the Montevallo Falcons visit for an exhibition game. Typically, exhibition games are not supposed to be nail biters, but Alabama has been taken to overtime in 2 of their last 3 exhibition contests. In Montevallo, they will face a successful D-II program that has been selected for the NCAA tournament 9 out of the last 11 seasons, and are being projected as a preseason top 10 team at that level for the 14-15 season.
The Falcons won 26 games a season ago and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Their coaching staff has also been superb. Head coach Danny Young has a current record of 303-114 in 12 seasons. His teams have made the NCAA tournament five straight seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 in four of them. This year they will return a seasoned group with four starters and 6 of their top 8 scorers overall. All six of those players are seniors. This is a tough, experienced team that has defined roles that won't be willing to play sacrificial lamb in order that Alabama can prepare for Towson. The Bama players and coaches will have to treat this game seriously or they could find themselves in a serious battle.
Player to watch: Troran Brown is a 6'3 guard that averaged 18.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 6.7 apg, while shooting a stellar 47% from three and was a Division II All-American.