Norfolk State enters with a 5-9 record. Like many small schools Norfolk has played most of their non-conference games on the road, with only two homes games so far. Their non-conference schedule is rated one of the 25 toughest. With that in mind, their 5-9 record is understandable. Their most impressive win so far was over UTEP in El Paso. Anyone who follows basketball in that region knows how tough it is to beat UTEP in El Paso. That win alone shows this team's competitive character. After a close call last Tuesday, Alabama needs to be focused and ready to play or could find themselves once again trying to avoid an upset.
Norfolk has three players currently averaging double figures, Jeff Short (17.0 ppg, .40% from 3, .83% FT, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 apg), Charles Oliver (12.4 ppg, .39% from 3, .83% FT) and D' Shon Taylor (11.9 ppg, 40% from 3, 81% FT, 5.1 rpg). Those three do the bulk of the scoring as the next guy averages only 6 per game. On raw numbers alone, that's a dangerous trio. All three have great 3 point shooting percentages as well as terrific numbers at the free throw line. In fact, the team as a whole is stellar at the free throw line. That could be huge if our guys find themselves in another close game down the stretch. Alabama will have a size advantage in the post as Norfolk only has one player at 6'8 or taller that plays consistent minutes. Of course, that only matters if our guys make a concerted effort to hit the glass. With a trio of scorers like Short, Oliver and Taylor, Alabama must limit second chance opportunities.
Based on Avery's comments prior to this game, it appears that Shannon Hale will return for this game. How much he will play is unknown, but he will be back in some capacity. That's good news. Whatever the "medical issue" is, hopefully it's behind Shannon and he can get back to the solid season he was having prior to this setback. With Shannon probably limited, it will be important that Retin, Justin and Art have good games. And with a size advantage in the post, it would be nice to see Jimmie get some early touches. Most importantly, win the game. Norfolk's RPI is currently in the 200s. If a team wants to continue playing into March, you have to win the games you're supposed to win.