Saturday, October 24, 2015

4 Star Small Forward Commits to Bama

The 2016 recruiting class under Avery Johnson continues to grow. This past week Braxton Key, a 4 star small forward from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, committed to Alabama. Key originally hails from Nashville, and was long considered a Vanderbilt lean, but Alabama made up ground a few weeks ago once Key made a visit to Tuscaloosa. Texas and Kansas were also recruiting him. Key is a 6'7 small forward and is a top 75 ranked recruit for the class of 2016. Last season at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville (Key transferred to Oak Hill this past summer), he averaged 20.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg and 4.9 apg. With Key's commitment, 247 Sports currently ranks Alabama's class in their top 5 team rankings for 2016.

Here's what some recruiting analysts had to say about Key:

Evan Daniels [Scout] - "This is another good pick up for Alabama. Braxton Key is a versatile forward prospect that can fill multiple roles. At 6-foot-7, Key will likely played both the power forward and small forward positions at Alabama. He likes to play with the ball in his hands and is skilled enough to attack defenders off the dribble. He played with good effort, makes good decisions and is a quality passer. Improving the consistency in his jump shot is one of the next steps in his offensive development."

Eric Bossi  [Rivals] - "I think that Braxton Key is a versatile addition and potentially the rare forward who can help to ease the ball handling burden of the guards. Key can play as either a big three or a matchup problem four man and his biggest strengths are his abilities to create for himself and others with his dribbling and passing out of the high post and from the wings. He’s a good defender, good athlete, good kid and another strong addition for Avery Johnson."

Josh Gershon  [Scout] - "Braxton Blackwell projects as a good four-year player for Alabama. He's an undersized four that can potentially play some three who plays hard and impacts the game in multiple ways. On offense, Blackwell is comfortable facing the basket or posting up. He's got a good feel and is a talented passer for the position. Blackwell's motor and instincts make him a productive rebounder. He's not necessarily a super high ceiling guy, yet he's a winning player whose versatility and basketball IQ should help make him an important piece to the puzzle in Tuscaloosa."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Schedule Preview - December

The Alabama men's basketball team will only play two games in Coleman Coliseum in November. They will begin December on the road as well, but will have the luxury of playing the majority of the month at home.

December 04, 2015 - at Southern Miss - Alabama opens December on the road in lovely Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This game is the return game of a home-and-home series that began last season. It was a tough first season for Southern Miss head coach, Doc Sadler. He was already facing a rebuilding job in the wake of Donnie Tyndall taking the Tennessee job, but then the NCAA began a probe into the program under Tyndall's watch. This cast an even larger cloud over the program. All together, it aided in a tough 9-20 record for Sadler in his first season there. In the wake of that, the program had a housecleaning of sorts. Only one player returns that averaged more than 20 minutes per game. Sadler and his staff recruited transfers and juco recruits to try and turn things around quickly. There's nowhere to go but up after losing 20 games last season, but this is still a program that is going to need some time to rebuild after putting together strong seasons under Larry Eustachy and Tyndall.  Norville Carey (10.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg), the lone returning starter, will be counted on to do a lot for this team. Another player to watch is Dayton transfer, Khari Price, who will be eligible this season after sitting out last season. Price averaged 22 minutes per game as a sophomore at Dayton, and 6.2 ppg and 1.8 apg while making 88% of his free throws and 39% of his 3-pt attempts. He should settle in as one of the top players for this Southern Miss team.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Schedule Preview - AdvoCare Invitational

Alabama will complete the November portion of the schedule by spending Thanksgiving in Orlando for the AdvoCare Invitational. When reviewing the college basketball season in April, this event may be considered among the top three of the early season tournaments behind only the Battle 4 Atlantis and the Maui Invitational. The event may only feature one preseason top 25 team (Wichita State), but there are several teams that could be hovering outside the top 25 such as Xavier, Notre Dame, Dayton and Iowa. It will also feature a USC team that is expected to be improved, and a potential rising mid-major in Monmouth. Alabama will be challenged all three days of the event, and their performance could set the tone for the remainder of the season. I have left Dayton out of this preview due to their scheduled game with Alabama on November 17th. You can find their preview in my previous schedule preview post.

November 26, 2015 - Xavier - Alabama will open the event against what has become a familiar foe in recent years. Xavier and Alabama have faced off the last two seasons with Xavier getting the better of Alabama both times. Once thought of as a mid-major, Xavier has become one of the most consistent basketball programs in the country thanks to a revolving door of great coaches, great players and a supportive fanbase that creates one of the best home court environments in the country. In the last 25 years, the program has reached the NCAA Tournament 19 times with two trips to the Elite Eight and seven trips to the Sweet Sixteen. There are plenty of power conference teams who didn't have to work their way up the basketball food chain that would love to have accomplished what Xavier has done during that time frame. The 15-16 Xavier basketball program will be expected to continue that run of success as they return 6 of their top 8 scorers from a season ago, while welcoming in a recruiting class that reflects the profile boost that the program has gained by joining the Big East. Xavier was an incredibly balanced team last year (7 players averaged at least 5 points, and no player averaged more than 12), and is expected to be a similar team. The strength will lie in an experienced backcourt headlined by Trevon Bluiett (11.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Myles Davis (10.6 ppg, 2.1 apg) and Remy Abell (8.4 ppg). Jalen Reynolds (6'10, 232 lbs, 9.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg) and James Farr (6'10, 247 lbs, 4.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) are the muscle in the post.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Tide Tipoff Event Scheduled for October 27th

The university announced yesterday that a special event for fans, dubbed Tide Tipoff,  will be held at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday, October 27th. The event will begin at 6 PM. Admission to the event will be free for students and season ticket holders. The event will feature members of the men's and women's teams taking part in activities such as a skills competition and a 3-pt shooting contest. There will also be a dunk contest with celebrity judges (to my knowledge, they have not been named) as well as an autograph session with the players and coaches of both teams. Later that night there will be a concert featuring a hip hop act, Rae Sremmurd (I'm officially old because I have no idea who they are).

This is yet another feather in the cap for the coaching staffs and the university itself as they seek to improve and promote the image of Alabama basketball. This is an event that should bring in a wide array of interested parties such as students, faculty, parents bringing their kids, general fans, etc. I assume one of our writers will be in attendance and will provide a recap of the event. If any of our readers attend, please comment and share your opinion of the event.

More information can be found here

Monday, October 05, 2015

Schedule Preview - November

It's October. Practice for the basketball team is underway. We are 33 days away from the first game of the Avery Johnson era, an exhibition game against Trevecca Nazarene. We are 40 days away from the first official game of the season with Kennesaw State. Even though expectations are tempered for this first season under Avery Johnson, there is an excitement for the start of this basketball season that we have not seen in some time.

Being his first season as a college coach, it would have been understandable if Avery Johnson and his staff had scheduled light. Instead, they put together a challenging non-conference schedule that will test this team early and often. In addition, the SEC conference is slowly making improvements across the league that will make rebuilding in this conference a much tougher assignment. Depending on what preseason magazine you prefer, Alabama could play as many as 12 teams projected to make the NCAA tournament.  This preview will focus on the games in November played before Orlando (the AdvoCare Invitational will get its own post).

November 06, 2015 - Trevecca Nazarene - Alabama will open the 2015-16 season with an exhibition game against the Trojans of Trevecca Nazarene from Nashville. The Trojans finished 13-15 last season, but are expecting improvement as they return their top 10 returning scorers from last season. The Trojans were successful in scoring  last season (77.5), but struggled to defend (opponents averaged 79.1). The scoring load was passed around as four different players averaged double figures for this team last season, but the leader appears to be Byron Sanford, a senior guard from Louisville, KY. Sanford averaged 18.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg (despite being listed as 6'0) 4.4 apg and 2.7 spg. This will be an interesting test for an exhibition game as Trevecca returns a lot of experience, a head coach with 23 years at the helm, and appear to play at a quick tempo.

November 13, 2015 - Kennesaw State - The Owls from Kennesaw, Georgia will be the first official game on the schedule. Kennesaw State is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Last season was not a memorable one as the program only won 10 games, prompting a coaching change. To their credit, Kennesaw made a great hire in Al Skinner, a former national coach of the year and a two-time Big East Coach of the Year at Boston College. He was also voted the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1992 when he was at Rhode Island.  He took Rhode Island to two NCAA tournaments during his tenure there, and took Boston College to seven NCAA Tournaments in a 13 year span. The guy can coach. Kennesaw will return 4 of their top 8 scorers from last season, including their top two scorers, Yonel Brown (15.2 ppg, 38% 3-pt, 90% FT) and Nigel Pruitt (12.2 ppg, 37% 3-pt).

November 17, 2015 - at Dayton - The schedule picks up considerably with a trip to Dayton, the favorite for some in the A-10 this season. The game will tip off at 12 PM as part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, a scheduling win for Avery Johnson as he seeks to raise the profile of this Bama program. Archie Miller (whose name was mentioned when the Bama coaching search began) has done a great job at Dayton, taking the Flyers to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, including the Elite Eight two seasons ago. As I mentioned, the Flyers are A-10 favorites in some circles, but they will have to replace their leading scorer from a season ago (Jordan Sibert) and play some games without Dyshawn Pierre, their 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder, who is currently serving a suspension for the fall semester due to a sexual assault allegation (despite the charges having been dropped due to insufficient evidence). Pierre is challenging the suspension so there is a chance he could be reinstated by the time this game takes place. Despite those losses, Dayton still returns 5 of their top 8 scorers from last season, including Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith. Another guy to watch is Charles Cooke, a transfer from James Madison who averaged 14.3 ppg in his lone season at JMU. Dayton has the players in place to challenge for the A-10 title and return to the NCAA tournament, but they will need Dyshawn Pierre back in the fold to reach their full potential. With Pierre or without him, this will be a great opportunity for Alabama to make a statement early in Avery's tenure against a nationally respected program.

November 20, 2015 - Louisiana Lafayette - Being that this game falls between the trip to Dayton and the trip to Orlando for the Advocare Invitational, it would be tempting to overlook this game. It would also be a mistake. Lafayette is a solid basketball program (last NCAA appearance was in 2014) that recruits good athletes. They had a first round draft pick with Elfrid Payton two years ago, and could have another draft pick this season with Shawn Long. In his fifth season, Bob Marlin has led Lafayette to back-to-back 20-win seasons, and his team is expected to contend for the Sun Belt title this season. Alabama has struggled in recent years rebounding the basketball, and Lafayette was among the top 10 in the nation last season in rebounding. It starts with Long, a Mississippi State transfer, who leads all active players nationally in double-doubles entering the season. He had a great junior season, averaging 16.4 ppg and 10.2 rpg. At 6-11, 246 lbs, he's going to be a tough match-up for Bama's interior players. Long won't have to do it alone. Counting him, Lafayette will return 7 of their top 8 scorers from last season, all of whom averaged at least 5 points per game. Bama needs to be on upset alert in this one.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Season Schedule posted and predictions

Here are my season predictions game by game... note I've been pretty accurate calling a season :)

11/06/15 vs. Trevecca Nazarene # 7:00PM- W
11/13/15 vs. Kennesaw State 7:30PM- W
11/17/15 at Dayton 12:00PM- UPSET W
11/20/15 vs. LA-Lafayette 7:00PM- W

2015 AdvoCare Invitational (ORLANDO)
11/26/15 vs. Xavier TV 11:00AM- L
11/27/15 vs. Wichita State/USC- W since it should be USC
11/29/15 TBD- W even though it could be any of 4 teams

12/04/15 at Southern Miss TV 7:00PM- W
12/13/15 at Clemson TV 5:00PM- L
12/16/15 vs. Winthrop TV 8:00PM- W

Legacy Arena (Birmingham, Ala.)
12/21/15 vs. Oregon TV 8:00PM- W in front of a almost sold out crowd

12/29/15 vs. Jax State 7:00PM- W
01/02/16 vs. Norfolk State 1:00PM- W
01/07/16 at Ole Miss 8:00PM- L
01/09/16 vs. Kentucky 5:00PM- L although we get them early and could win
01/13/16 vs. South Carolina 8:00PM- W
01/16/16 at Vanderbilt 5:00PM- L 'cause we rarely win there
01/19/16 at Auburn 8:00PM- L
01/23/16 vs. LSU 1:00PM- W
01/26/16 vs. Tennessee 8:00PM- W
01/30/16 at South Carolina 8:00PM- L
02/02/16 at Miss State 8:00PM- L
02/06/16 vs. Missouri 2:00PM- W
02/10/16 vs. Texas A&M 6:00PM- W
02/13/16 at Florida 4:30PM- W because they got a horrible coach
02/17/16 at LSU 8:00PM- L
02/20/16 vs. Miss State 1:30PM- W
02/23/16 at Kentucky 6:00PM- L
02/27/16 vs. Auburn 4:00PM- W
03/02/16 vs. Arkansas 8:00PM- L
03/05/16 at Georgia 1/3PM- L

I have us at 18-12 (if my 7yrs of HS math is correct)... not good enough for the NCAAs, but another NIT trip is reachable.

Adding the SECT, I say 1-1 so that puts us at 19-13.