Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cocks Screw Bama, Carolina 78 Alabama 64

Officiating basketball is a very difficult job.  I officiate at the high school level myself, and I'm hesitant to criticize the officials because I generally believe they are doing the best they can.  In this game, however, there were several obviously bullshit calls that went against us. In fact, I can't recall a single questionable or controversial call going in our favor today.  South Carolina shot an absurd 46 free throws to our 25.  Many of the horrible calls that went against us were key fouls like Retin's 3rd that effected our substitution patterns.  To be clear,  the officiating did not cost us the game.  We lost by 14 points, South Carolina was the better team playing at home and they had guys who stepped up and made the plays needed to win.

I'm normally not an advocate of a coach intentionally drawing a technical foul, but I was a little disappointed Coach Johnson didn't do so tonight.  Our chances of winning were slim anyway, and it was obvious that we were getting the screw job.  It would have been a good opportunity to show the players that you've got their back.

I thought the team actually played very well despite the foul trouble.  We were fortunate that USC only made 28 of their 46 free throws which allowed us to stay in the game.  I thought we out-worked them for a lot of 50/50 balls on the floor, but we were often caught not blocking out which allowed them too many offensive rebounds.

Unlike the game in Tuscaloosa, we were only 6 of 24 from 3 point range. We cut the lead to 6 or 7 a couple of different times in the second half, but couldn't get any closer.  Retin, Jimmy, Mike, and Donta all fouled out.  I kind of  regret not making the trip, I probably could have gotten some playing time.

We played basically the same defense as we did in Tuscaloosa, switching from a zone to a soft man and taking our chances with their jump shots. We did not rebound quite as well, but it was generally effective.  USC was only 6 of 19 from three point range.  The Cocks extended their defense and were committed to not allowing us to shoot 3s like we did in the first meeting.  It worked, as our half court offense really struggled to get anything going.  We really need more of a post presence.

Retin had a great game despite being limited by foul trouble.  He scored 23 points, including 16 straight with 4 fouls that effectively kept us in the game in the second half.  Riley and Shannon both had good games, and I thought Shannon especially stepped up with Retin in foul trouble.  He scored 16 points, but he really needs to find his shot from beyond the arc.  I thought Donta Hall played fairly well despite fouling out with only 4 points.  He had 6 rebounds and was a force defensively.  He really ran the floor well.  Jimmie didn't score and fouled out.  The inconsistent at best production we are getting from him is frustrating, especially considering the promise he showed at the end of last year.  Coleman also struggled again.  I understand he's playing through an injury right now, but his lack of size and strength with the ball at the point is an obvious weakness.  He really needs to find his shot if he's going to help us going forward, and we desperately need him to do so.

Up next, we take the short trip to Starkville to take on the Mississippi State bulldogs at 8 pm Tuesday night.  This is probably the most winnable road game we have left, but State is playing better now and they've at least been competitive in all of their games.  If you are making the trip to Starkville, please be weather aware, as the current forecast indicates a high risk of severe storms for that area Tuesday night.  For those of us who aren't battling the elements ant the late tip, the game will be televised on SEC Network.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Game Preview - at South Carolina

17 days after their last meeting, the Tide and Gamecocks will meet again, this time in Columbia. In that first game our beloved Crimson Tide handed South Carolina its first loss of the season by a score of 73-50. No doubt Carolina will be looking for payback and a win to keep pace at the top of the SEC standings. The game time is 5:00 PM. The game can be seen on SEC Network for those of you not making the trip to the Palmetto State.

Stats


Alabama
South Carolina



66.8 PPG 78.2
66.5 OPP 67.9
.430 FG% .441
.400 OPP .387
50.2 EFG% 49.1
46.2 OPP 46.6
.336 3PT% .341
.338 OPP .354
.651 FT% .674
.682 OPP .683
39.5 FTRate 50.7
37.2 OPP 38.0
34.7 RPG 42.3
37.4 OPP 32.3
27.6 OREB% 39.4
33.0 OPP 26.3
13.9 TOPG 14.6
13.2 OPP 15.6
20.7 TO% 19.8
19.6 OPP 20.8


The development of Michael Carrera in four seasons has been astonishing. Carrera began his career as an undersized post player who was known primarily for getting by on pure effort, usually in the form of rebounding and hustle plays. He continues to do those small things that make him the type of guy opposing fans love to hate, but he's also developed into a nice offensive option for Frank Martin. He currently leads the team in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (7.1). He's making 50% of his shot attempts (45% from 3) and 79% from the free throw line. He was the only Gamecock player who had a nice game in the last meeting, finishing with 14 pts, 10 rebs.

The four veteran players for this Carolina team - Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice, Mindaugas Kacinas and Laimonas Chatkevicius - continue to produce, all four are averaging double figures. And the freshmen, PJ Dozier and Chris Silva, continue to show improvement. This remains a solid team, though perhaps not as dynamic as other teams in the conference.

South Carolina is the better team, but they're not light years ahead of Alabama; the game in Tuscaloosa proved that. To win this one, Alabama will need a similar performance from the 3 point line (shot 46% from 3 in game one) and on the defensive end (South Carolina shot 35% from the field, 16% from 3, and 18 turnovers), while taking better care of the ball (17 turnovers in game one) and the free throw line (57%). This game has been announced as a sellout so the environment will likely be loud, hostile, and Alabama will have to get off to a good start. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rough Ride over Rocky Top; Alabama 63 Tennessee 57

Alabama looked awful for much of the night, but managed to come back three times to get the win.

I was concerned that we would come out flat.  No team is up for every game, and it's only human nature to be a little down after losing several hyped games.  When you think about our recent schedule, we started with the first game in Ole Miss's new arena, Kentucky is always a huge event, South Carolina was undefeated and ranked coming in, auburn is a big rivalry game, and LSU has arguably the best player in the country.  After all of that, the team did not look motivated against a middle-of the pack Tennessee team in a half full arena on a rainy Tuesday night.

 The first ten minutes or so were as bad of basketball as I've ever seen.  The offense was lethargic against the Vols' zone.  The jump-shots were not even close, and we had a number of unforced turnovers.  Over ten minutes into the game, Tennessee had a 16-4 lead.  If not for Tennessee also playing poorly and turning the ball over frequently, the game could have easily been out of reach in the first half.   Instead Shannon Hale started playing more aggressively, we capitalized on some turnovers, Riley started controlling the glass, and we cut the lead down to 1 going into halftime.

I'm going to take a brief break from the game analysis here and talk about the halftime show.  I could literally watch the Red Panda do the same routine every halftime show and it would never get old or boring.  She rides around on this 7 foot unicycle, and balances stacks of bowls on her foot, which she then proceeds to flip and catch on the top of her head.  The fact that anybody even thought of doing this as a form of entertainment is amazing to me, but to actually be able to practice and accomplish this on a regular basis is nothing short of astounding.  The science, skill, strength, and everything that goes into this is just incredible.  Here is a short video from the official athletic website: 
Red Panda at Alabama Men's BasketballRed Panda is amazing!  #RollTide to that! Alabama Men's Basketball #BuckleUp #BamaGameday
Posted by University of Alabama Athletics on Tuesday, January 26, 2016
 Also, here is a great article about how she's overcome a lot of adversity to return after a couple of years in retirement:  Red Panda Returns

Back to the game, the first few minutes of the second half were even worse than the first.  We modified our zone defense to trap Punter as soon as he crossed half-court.  It was a similar game-plan that we used against Stefan Moody at Ole Miss, and it was effective the first couple of possessions.  However, Punter adjusted to quickly get rid of the ball, and our interior defense was slow to rotate, giving UT several easy baskets in a row.  Our offensive struggles continued, but even more worrisome was our lack of effort on defense.  We did not even bother to close out on their perimeter shooting, giving up some wide open 3's, which allowed the Vols to stretch their lead to 15 points.

It looked like the game, and possibly the season would go down the crapper for good at that point, but somehow the Tide found the energy to bounce back.  Shannon Hale and Retin led the charge again, defensive rebounding improved, we increased the tempo to negate their zone and went on a big run to cut the lead back down to 1 point.

With around 7 minutes to play, it appeared a key play went against us.  Down 1, we had a solid defensive possession, and Tennessee missed a shot at the end of the shot clock, but got the rebound.  The whistle blew, and much of the crowd wanted a shot-clock violation.  The play was at the other end, and I'm still not 100% sure what happened, but it appeared to me that UT got the shot off and it hit the rim.  Tennessee maintained possession after an explanation to Coach Johnson left him incredulous.  They did not announce the call, but I believe it was an inadvertent whistle.   I think that was the "right" call, but UT was out of sorts and the brief discussion allowed them to set up, and they ended up getting and "and one" three point play.  It seemed to kill our momentum and Tennessee stretched the lead back to 8 points with just 4 minutes to play.

I feared we had used all of our energy in the first come back, but once again, Retin took over, Shannon knocked down some free throws, Riley limited the Vols to one (usually contested) shot at the other end, then Art Edwards hit the dagger in a tie game to give us a 3 point lead for good with 30 seconds remaining.  Retin finished them off with the And one on a break off the rebound in the final possession that mattered.

There were a lot of issues in this game.  We looked unmotivated on defense for much of the night.  The offense was stagnant against the zone.  Justin Coleman continues to struggle, and we really need him to step up at point guard with Dazon out for the year.  We can't ride Retin all season.  I understand we went with a smaller lineup to match up with them most of the night, but even when in the game, Jimmie Taylor gave us nothing on a night he should have been dominant.  The same goes for Kessens.  Those to combined for 3 points in 33 minutes.  Donta Hall played 14 minutes and was a force defensively while scoring 6 points.  He continues to struggle with foul trouble, and that will limit his playing time.  I was surprised we stuck with the zone for almost the entire game, but it worked, since with the exception of their big second half run, UT could not consistently make open shots.

Retin ended up with 22 points and Hale had 20.  It was good to see Shannon being aggressive and more importantly making his free throws.  He was 9 of 10 from the line, and we actually shot 11 of 13 from the stripe.  The team did not get discouraged when shots weren't falling.  We were only 4 of 21 from 3 point range, but Art made the big one when needed.  Riley Norris only scored 6 points, his shot was off, but I thought he played an outstanding game, and we don't win without him.  He was the only one who consistently brought good effort on defense, and his 13 rebounds were critical for a team that has struggled on the glass.

The late tip-off, recent losses, and the nasty weather contributed to a crowd that was disappointing in numbers but not in spirit.  It was an absolutely miserable drive down from Birmingham, and I would estimate the crowd to be around 7,500.  There were maybe 50-100 UT fans scattered throughout which was a little more than I expected.  The student turnout was solid, but not packed.  We were taken out of the game early, but every time the team showed any signs of life the crowd really got behind them.  The players seemed to feed off that energy, and I'm not sure we complete that third comeback run if this game were played on the road.  It  seemed to have Tennessee rattled a bit offensively as well.

Up next, we travel to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks at 5 pm CST Saturday evening.  It will be a very difficult task as Frank Martin's team will be out for revenge since we handed them their first loss of the season.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.




Monday, January 25, 2016

Game Preview - Tennessee

1-5. It's not an attractive record, but that is the reality for Alabama following another tough loss on Saturday to the LSU Tigers. This opening stretch in conference play has been brutal. The team has competed well, but it's the little things (unforced turnovers, free throw issues, a lack of consistency in the post, random breakdowns on defense) that have been instrumental in this 1-5 start. The important thing now is that the team and coaches don't get down on themselves. There are 12 games remaining in the regular season. There is time to improve some things and turn this season around.

A good starting point for that turnaround is Tuesday when the Tennessee Volunteers and first year head coach Rick Barnes come to Coleman Coliseum for an 8 PM game. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. In my opinion, this is the most important game of the season for Alabama up to this point. This team needs a win, and dropping a home game to a Tennessee team currently middle-of-the-pack in conference play could seriously dampen hopes that the 1-5 start was merely a byproduct of tough scheduling. The fans have turned out and provided good energy for the last two home games. The hope is that trend continues on Tuesday night because this team needs that kind of support right now.

Stats

Alabama
Tennessee



67.1 PPG 79.3
67.0 OPP 76.6
.432 FG% .433
.404 OPP .422
.343 3PT% .345
.346 OPP .345
.644 FT% .739
.678 OPP .691
34.3 RPG 38.7
37.3 OPP 40.5
13.8 TOPG 11.4
13.0 OPP 13.1

I've had the opportunity to watch Tennessee on several occasions this season. Despite their 10-9 (3-4) record, this team has played very hard for Rick Barnes and the new staff. They're not very big (no regular rotation player exceeds 6'7) and they lack depth, but they have played a tough schedule, and have been competitive throughout. They will present a physical challenge for an Alabama team that has been, in my opinion, soft inside at times this season.

Kevin Punter (6'2, 190) is the leader of this team. One of the most improved players in the country, Punter has gone from averaging 10.3 ppg as a junior to 23.3 ppg as a senior. He's currently second in the league in scoring and can do it a variety of ways, from the 3, off the bounce, in transition. Alabama must limit his production in this game or they will be hard-pressed to win this game. In lieu of a true point guard, Punter has accepted the responsibility. He's solid on the boards (3.8) and is a willing passer (3.7 apg). It all goes through him. It should be a great match-up between he and Retin.

While this UT team is not very deep, they have been balanced on offense. As a team, they're averaging just under 80 points per game. Robert Hubbs III (6'4, 207) is a former 5 star recruit who struggled his first two seasons in Knoxville, but has been a steady contributor (12.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg) this season. Senior Armani Moore (6'4, 217) does a little bit of everything for this team (12.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.7 bpg, 1.2 spg) and can play all five spots on the floor if Barnes needs him to. Moore brings energy to the floor, and he will challenge Bama around the basket despite only being 6'4. Other guys to watch: Devon Baulkman (9.8 ppg, 83% FT), Detrick Mostella (8.5 ppg), and Admiral Schofield (6.8 ppg).

The biggest key to this game for Alabama is to play with a sense of urgency. There is no excuse for a 1-5 team to come out flat; they must be ready to play. From there, they must limit Punter's production, win the rebounding battle (UT enters with a -1.8 margin, Alabama enters with -3.0 margin) against a smaller team,  and limit transition opportunities for a Tennessee team that wants to get up and down the floor. It will be interesting to see if Alabama employs a full court press against this UT team. The press was effective at times against LSU on Saturday, and this UT team lacks the depth that the Tigers enjoy.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Talented Tigers Tackle Tide, LSU 72 Alabama 70

In retrospect, there were quite a few positives from this game, but it's still incredibly disappointing to let a crucial, winnable game slip away at home.  

Shannon Hale was back in the starting lineup, and despite his stats not being pretty I actually thought he played a pretty good game.  He was aggressive offensively and was able to draw some fouls on the LSU bigs. He did about as good as could be expected in the man to man defensively when matched up against Simmons.  

While all the focus was on Simmons, LSU has a lot of good players around him.  I thought the key to winning this game would be to limit the contributions from his supporting cast, and make Simmons beat us by himself.  Instead, they ended up with 4 other players in double-digits to go along Simmons' 23. 

I really believe that if you flipped coaches, LSU would win by 20+.  Alabama looked like the much more motivated team.  We beat them to most all of the 50/50 balls, and there were several possessions when LSU retreated to defense as soon as they put up a shot.  Given our rebounding problems; I don't understand why they wouldn't at least go after the boards.  Also, I would have Simmons touch the ball on every possession if I were coaching the Tigers. 

We maintained a 5 point lead for much of the game, but give credit to LSU for answering to keep it close every time we made a big play to build some momentum.  I thought the key to the game was LSU switching to a 2-3 zone with around 5 minutes remaining, due mostly to their foul trouble. Long, athletic zones seem to be the kryptonite for our offense.  We had a lot of empty possessions going after Simmons trying to get his 5th foul.  Obviously, getting him out of the game would have been huge, but we were 10 of 25 from 3 point range and probably should have tried taking a few more shots over the top rather than going after their bigs late in the game. 

There's been a lot of criticism about the last play, but I didn't have a huge problem with it.  It was not much different than what we ran in our last possession against Notre Dame, and Retin has proven he can finish those types of shots. There were a lot of possibilities, he could have drew the foul, we had time for a possible rebound and put back, but the ball just didn't bounce our way.  

Once again, poor free throw shooting bit us in the ass.  We were only 12 of 19.  We also had too many unforced turnovers, particularly in the first half.  I think we were called for travelling 5 times, and they were all good calls.  

We knew this schedule was brutal, and unfortunately we have not handled it very well.  At 1-5 in the conference, it's difficult to find a realistic path to the NCAA tournament.  Nevertheless, it was an accomplishment for this team to stay in that conversation for as long as they have, and there is still a lot that can be accomplished this season.  We are building for the future, and it's important that we stay positive in our support of these players and coaching staff.  

The game was sold out, but there were quite a few empty seats in the season ticket holder sections.  I would estimate a solid crowd of 13,500.  The student section was overflowing, and I understand hundreds of students were turned away. I wish there were some way to allow those students to use the seats of the no-shows.  There were hardly any LSU fans there, and the crowd was loud and supportive throughout, and most everybody stayed till the end.  It's a shame we couldn't find a way to pull it out.  

Up next, the Tennessee Vols come to Tuscaloosa for an 8 pm tipoff Tuesday night.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bayou Bengals Better Bama By a Bucket

Alabama played well enough in spurts to beat LSU, but they had no answer for freshman phenom Simmons and continued to struggle at the free throw line. Hot shooting gave the Tide an early lead that turned into an eight point deficit. Coach Avery played a press the final three minutes of the first half that created a modest margin going into the locker room. The teams swapped leading position in the second half. LSU implemented a zone after Victor went to the bench with four fouls. Bama never seemed to learn to pass the ball around the zone, instead employing it's frustrating "dribble in place for 15 seconds" offense of yesteryear. Bama still had a chance to win the game, calling time out with 17 seconds on the clock. Rather than pass the ball around the zone for an open three, they tried to drive to the basket and earned only a blocked shot.  It was a good effort with a disappointing result.

I would estimate the crowd to have been at least 13,000. Maybe someday our fans will learn how to play a bigger part in the game. I counted no more than 30 empty seats in the student section. As a 40 plus year fan of the program, that warmed my heart. 

Better days lie ahead. Perhaps not this season, but not that far off.  Keep the faith. Buckle Up! Roll Tide!

DJC should be along with a truly informative report on the game soon, so please check back often.

Game Preview - LSU



This preview is being posted late. My apologies for that. In 13 hours, Alabama will host the LSU Tigers in a very important game for both teams. For Alabama, postseason hopes are quickly approaching life support. If our guys can't string together some wins soon, the promising wins in November and December will be remembered as highlights, not springboards. For LSU, a season of high expectations took an early nose dive in November and December, putting Johnny Jones and company in the position of having to win a lot of basketball games in the next six weeks to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Game time is 1:00 PM. The game is being announced as a sellout. For those of you without tickets, the game will be televised on ESPNU.

Stats


Alabama
LSU



66.9 PPG 81.4
66.7 OPP 75.4
.433 FG% 470
.398 OPP .435
.339 3PT% .323
.345 OPP .348
.645 FT% .667
.676 OPP .665
34.4 RPG 39.5
37.2 OPP 37.8
13.9 TOPG 12.3
13.1 OPP 14.6

There's been plenty said and written about Ben Simmons. If you're not aware of who Ben Simmons is, you clearly haven't been watching college basketball this season. Quick capsule review: he was one of the top high school prospects in the 2015 class, he's considered a shoe-in for the number 1 pick for the NBA Draft, and the college basketball media has been flush with Simmons fever since he stepped on the LSU campus. On top of all that, he's a very good basketball player who will be a nightmare for Alabama to deal with in this game.

Believe it or not, there are other players on this team. Good players too. Let's start with Craig Victor, a 6'9, 235 lb transfer from Arizona. He was not eligible to play with the team earlier in the season, but has given the team a boost since stepping into the line-up. He's averaging 13.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1,1 bpg, 1.4 spg. Simmons is getting a lot of the press, but Victor could be a serious problem for the inconsistent Bama big men. Keith Hornsby (6'4, 210) is the 3-point threat for LSU, knocking down 42% of his attempts. The other outside threat is Tim Quarterman (6'6, 190), averaging 11.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg. and 34% from 3 point range. Quarterman is up and down, but capable of being a difference maker. One other guy to watch is Antonio Blakeney. The 5 star recruit got off to a shaky start in his freshman campaign, but seems to be putting it together. LSU also has depth on its bench with guys like Josh Gray (7.5 ppg, 2.4 apg), Brandon Sampson (5.7 ppg), Aaron Epps (5.1 ppg), and Jalyn Patterson (5.1 ppg).

Honestly, it's difficult to look at this roster and figure how LSU struggled in their non-conference schedule, even with the injury to Hornsby and awaiting clearance for Victor. Is it coaching, chemistry, a little of both? The team has looked better since Hornsby and Victor have been inserted into the line-up, but the early struggles have put a lot of pressure on this team to string wins together. Missing the NCAA Tournament would have to be considered a huge missed opportunity. If LSU shows up with a sense of urgency, and is unfazed by the expected sell-out crowd, Alabama will have its hands full. To win this game, Alabama will need to knock down some 3 point shots, force LSU into some sloppy play, and feed off what is hopefully a loud, energetic crowd.   

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Barn Buries Bama, 83-77

Life on the road in the SEC is not easy.  The Tigers jumped out to an early 10-2 lead thanks to turnovers, a technical foul, and a couple of 3s from Bowers of all people.  Bama showed a lot of poise in overcoming the bad start in the hostile environment to battle back and take a 10 point lead.  Unfortunately, auburn marched to the free throw line for 10 straight shots to get back into the game.  Then, Canty started making shots from half-court, and auburn would regain the lead for good.

Auburn was 28 of 40 from the free throw line, while Alabama was just 19 of 28.  I don't think the officiating cost us the game, but it certainly didn't help.  They overturned travel call near the end of the game is one of the most ridiculous calls I've ever seen.

Mike, Jimmie, and Art all fouled out.  I would have played Donta Hall more, he was decent in his five minutes and surprisingly was the one player on the floor who managed not to pick up any fouls. I also thought Brandon Austin should have played more, he was 1 for 2, making a three in limited minutes.

Retin had another great game, dropping 27 points and keeping us close for most of the second half.  Shannon Hale also played well, scoring 13 points.  Overall, I thought we played a decent game.  After the rough start, we limited our turnovers, but we just couldn't keep Bowers off the glass or stop Canty's 40 foot shots.

Up next, the brutal January schedule continues as we return home to face LSU and arguably the best player in the country in Ben Simmons.  If the Tigers bring their A-game; we will be very hard pressed to avoid a 1-5 SEC start.  I'm happy to report that tickets for this game are sold out!  We should have a good crowd to give our guys a boost, in what is shaping up as an early "must win."  Tip off is set for 1 pm on ESPNU.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Game Preview - at Auburn

Alabama will look to bounce back from a rough performance in Nashville when they head to Auburn for a Tuesday night game against the Auburn Tigers. Tip time is 8:00. For those of you not venturing into West Georgia, the game will be televised on the SEC Network. Auburn will enter this game on a high after beating Kentucky on Saturday, their first win over the Cats in 18 attempts. Alabama has owned Auburn in recent years, having won 9 of the last 11 games.

This is a big game, and not just because of the rivalry. Alabama sits at 1-3 in conference play. For a team hoping to scratch its way into postseason contention, they can't afford to fall too far behind the 8 ball. The schedule doesn't get any easier with LSU, a better-than-their-record Tennessee team, and a trip to South Carolina in the next three games. Not to mention, with both coaches having success on the recruiting trail, wins in this series take on a greater significance.

Stats


Alabama
Auburn



66.2 PPG 76.1
65.7 OPP 77.2
.434 FG% .432
.399 OPP .438
.346 3PT% .375
.343 OPP .344
.642 FT% .631
.674 OPP .715
34.1 RPG 36.2
36.9 OPP 39.8
14.1 TOPG 14.2
13.3 OPP 14.4

Two transfers have emerged as the go to guys for this Auburn team. Kareem Canty, a transfer from Marshall, leads the team in scoring (19.0), assists (5.5) and turnovers (2.8). I include that last stat to illustrate the high risk/rewards that Canty brings to the table. Yes, he will turn it over. Yes, he will take some questionable shots. But he will make just as many if not more plays with the ball in his hands, and will knock down a fair share of those questionable shots. Alabama must limits the rewards in this game. Tyler Harris, a graduate transfer from Providence, averages 15.3 ppg and 8.6 rpg. At 6'10, Harris is also a really good shooter, knocking down 41% of his 3 point shots. Alabama may have a scouting advantage in assistant coach Bob Simon, who recruited and coached Harris at Providence. Cinmeon Bowers, who really endeared himself to Alabama fans last season in the two games played, also returns, averaging 11.0 ppg and 8.9 rpg.

Defending the 3 point line will be key for Alabama. At least five Auburn players average 36% or better from the 3 point line. Alabama has been a solid defensive unit, but they allowed too many open looks for the Vanderbilt shooters on Saturday night. If they allow the Auburn shooters too many open looks, it could be another long evening. And, as always, our guys need to compete on the boards. On offense, Alabama must be more aggressive; they were tentative at times on Saturday. Auburn is allowing their opponents almost 80 points per game on average. If Alabama runs their offense efficiently (for starters, limit unforced turnovers), they should be able to score some points. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Commodores Conquer Crimson, Vandy 71 Bama 63


We won in this gym 3 years ago, so we aren't due for another victory up there until approximately 2043.  I don't think anybody was surprised by this.

Riley Norris put us up 3-0 early, and I was hoping he would continue his hot shooting from the Carolina game.  Instead, he only took one more 3 for the rest of the game. To Vandy's credit, they did a good job on him defensively.  We were not getting the open looks we got against Carolina.  Still, I thought Riley passed up 3 or 4 shots.

We started the game in a zone, and predictably Vandy made us pay by promptly making their first 3 point attempts from downtown.  With a pair of talented 7 footers in the post, it was a case of pick your poison for the Bama defense.  Overall we played fairly well in the first half.  We fought back to take the lead by limiting the Dores to one shot and attacking the basket on offense.  We only trailed by 2 going into halftime.

The second half was pretty much a disaster.  We couldn't stop them without fouling and we couldn't score.  Vandy gradually stretched their lead out to 16 before we finally made some 3's in garbage time to make the score respectable and get the backdoor cover.


I've seen 7th grade teams that shoot free throws better than us.  We were 7 of 20.  Vanderbilt made 9 of 16 three pointers.  When your opponent makes more 3s on fewer attempts  than you convert from the charity stripe, that's a problem.  It didn't cost us this game, but we would have been more competitive.  I don't know what the answer is, but this is embarrassing and unacceptable.  I would have to go double-check, but I don't believe we made 2 in a row all night.  

There were some positives from this game.  I thought our post players performed better than they have in recent past.  Jimmie had a good first half and ended up with 8 points and 9 rebounds. Retin scored 10 and I thought he got hammered on the drive a few times and should have gone to the line more.  Of course, as discussed above, it's debatable if that would have netted us any more points.  Donta Hall played well in his 8 minutes but he's going to have to learn not to foul if he wants to get more playing time.  We got the decent version of Shannon Hale.  His shot was off, but I thought he played solid defense and was aggressive on offense, scoring 13 points before fouling out.  

Vandy is one of the most talented teams in the SEC, but they have under-achieved to this point.  I thought they cleaned up a lot of the problems they've had.  We needed to force turnovers to have a chance in this one, but they took good care of the basketball only coughing it up 7 times.  

Memorial Gym holds about 15,000, but due to its goofy configuration where you can't see large sections of the arena no matter where you sit, it's impossible to give a good crowd estimate.  It wasn't packed, but there was a solid crowd.  I'm going to guess about 10,000.  It was one of the better crowds I can remember for an away game, with probably close to 1,500 Alabama fans there.  There was a significant amount of crimson in each section that was visible from my seat, with the exception of the Vandy student section.  Speaking of which, their students were very late arriving and still did not fill their section.  Both sets of fans were loud and into the game, although we didn't have much to cheer about after halftime. The Vandy fans that I interacted with were pleasant for the most part.  Several people congratulated us on the football national championship.    The constant complaining about the officiating from the Vandy fans was tiresome, particularly from the guy sitting behind me who didn't have the slightest grasp of the rules.  He also constantly accused our guys of "playing dirty," and had no idea who Coach Avery Johnson is.  I was somewhat surprised that a few of their fans expressed displeasure towards Coach Kevin Stallings, he may be starting to feel a little bit of heat up there.  

On the bright side, many other games went our way Saturday.  Clemson upset Miami, and Notre Dame walked into Cameron Indoor Stadium and upset Duke.  According to RealTimeRPI, we are still in pretty good shape at number 42.

Up next, we go to the ugliest village on the plains in Lee County Tuesday night for an 8 p.m. tipoff against the auburn tigers.  The tigers are coming off a big upset of Kentucky, and it will be another hostile environment.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.  

Commoders Flush Tide

Yes, I know I spelled it wrong, but one of my favorite Vandy buddies refers to his team by that name when they play badly.

Bama lost in Nashville again, where they have not won since Lee surrendered his sword to Grant, by a score of 71-63 to a team Kevin Stallings has referred to as his "best shooting team ever."  Here (hopefully) is your box score.

The Tide played well enough in spurts to win this game but lost it again at the free throw line.  That should be among the most "fixable" problems in basketball and I remain confident Coach Johnson will overcome this and most of our other problems with time.

DJC almost certainly traveled to the game and will give a full report later.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Game Preview - at Vanderbilt

Alabama heads to the house of horrors known as Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday to play the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Dores were a preseason AP team, but a season's worth of ups-and-downs through the first 16 games has left Vandy with a record of 9-7 (1-3 in conference play), and in real danger of falling out of postseason contention. For those of you not making the trip to Nashville, you can see it on the SEC Network. Tip time is 5:00 PM.

Stats


Alabama
Vanderbilt



66.5 PPG 78.9
65.3 OPP 65.5
.431 FG% .471
.398 OPP .371
.347 3PT% .402
.331 OPP .272
.660 FT% .712
.681 OPP .687
33.8 RPG 38.8
37.5 OPP 37.0
14.3 TOPG 12.4
13.7 OPP 11.7

As usual, Vanderbilt will have multiple great shooters on the perimeter. Wade Baldwin IV (.458%), Riley LaChance (.412%), Matthew Fisher-Davis (.485%) and Jeff Roberson (.462%) are all capable of burying Alabama from the 3-point line. Alabama's perimeter defense must be up to the task in limiting dribble penetration and challenging the Vandy shooters to make tough, contested shots.

Damian Jones (13.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg) came into the season as an SEC Player of the Year candidate and a projected 1st round draft pick. His numbers have been good, but he's struggled to stay on the floor due to foul trouble. Nevertheless, he may be, pound for pound, the best player on the floor. Luke Kornet (9.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg) was slowed by a knee injury that forced him to miss five games, but appears to be rounding into shape after posting a triple double in their last game against Auburn. While his 3 point shooting numbers are down (only making 24% of his attempts), he is capable of making that shot. He will be a tough match-up for our guys at the 4.

Vandy has been a solid defensive team so points may be hard to come by for Alabama; however, they have struggled on the glass so Alabama will have a fair chance to win the rebounding battle for the second straight game. In a game between two good defensive teams, second chance opportunities will be huge. Alabama has been prone to settling for 3 point shots, but I think they need to take the ball to the rim early in this one in an effort to exploit Jones' tendency to get into foul trouble. Four of the next six games for Alabama will be on the road. To keep themselves in the SEC and postseason conversation, Alabama will have to find a way to win conference road games. Alabama has played well away from Coleman this season so I believe all four games are winnable.

Sleeping with the enemy, Vanderbilt Commodores

I reached out to Tom Stephenson from Anchor of Gold to give us his thoughts on the Commodores and tomorrow's game.  His response is below.  If you visit Anchor of Gold, please follow their site's rules and be a positive representative of the University of Alabama.

Strengths: Vanderbilt has a bunch of guys who can shoot the lights out, though perhaps the best one (Matthew Fisher-Davis) is out with a foot injury, but opposing teams still have to deal with Wade Baldwin, and even in a shooting slump Riley LaChance is still shooting 41 percent from three on the season.  And with two seven-footers (Damian Jones and Luke Kornet) in the middle, opposing offenses haven't been able to get much going at the basket; Vanderbilt ranks second in the country in defensive effective FG%.

Weaknesses: The Commodores have a tendency to beat themselves with turnovers, and in spite of the size they aren't an exceptional rebounding team. 

Keys to the game: For Alabama, luckily Vanderbilt's carelessness with the ball plays into their hands.  Since the Tide don't have the personnel to match up with Vandy in the paint, forcing the Commodores into empty possessions is probably the one way they have to limit Vanderbilt's offense.  But even that's fraught with peril; earlier this week Auburn forced Vandy into committing 17 turnovers but Vandy still buried the Tigers under a barrage of threes.

On the other end, Alabama's best bet is to hope that the jumpers are falling and, if not that, attack the offensive glass.  The latter hasn't been a strong point for the Tide, but Vanderbilt's defense has struggled the most when opponents have been able to generate extra possessions for themselves.

Players to watch: Of late, Damian Jones has begun to resemble the lottery pick people thought he would be going into the season... when he's been able to stay on the floor, that is.  Jones had 24 and 15 against Arkansas, 12 and 6 (in 16 minutes!) at South Carolina... but also fouled out of both games.  He didn't foul out against Auburn, but foul trouble limited him to just 13 minutes.  If Jones picks up a couple of early fouls, the trajectory of the game could change entirely -- though Luke Kornet is now back at 100 percent after missing a month with an MCL sprain.

Sounds like a typical Vandy team, a guy shooting 41% from the 3-point range is considered to be in a "slump."  We need to get Jones in foul trouble and have another shooting night like we did against South Carolina to stay competitive in this one.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Crimson Cracker Crushes Cocks, Alabama 73 South Carolina 50


I owe Riley Norris an apology.  I've been critical of his play the last two games, but to say he proved me wrong in this one would be an epic understatement.  He got the start over Justin Coleman as Coach Johnson wanted a bigger lineup to match up with Carolina's size.  He scored 15 points in the first 5 minutes of the game, setting the tone early and helping the Tide build a lead that would only grow throughout the game.  He finished with 27 points going 8 of 11 from 3 point range, and was also our leading rebounder with 7.


I feared this was a bad match up for us.  South Carolina was the league's leading rebounding team coming into the game, we were the worst.  They are very strong in the post, obviously that's one of our biggest weaknesses.  I said before the game, "we'll have to shoot 40-50% from 3 point range to have a chance."  We went 13 for 28, which was obviously good enough for more than just a chance, thanks to awesome defense.

While Riley Norris was the story of the night, it was the team's effort on defense that ultimately won this game.  We forced turnovers in 7 of USC's first 11 possessions.  That, coupled with Riley's hot shooting, put Carolina behind the 8 ball early.  We took away their strength in denying the entry passes to their guards, and they were forced to take bad jump shots playing from behind all night.  They finished the game with 18 turnovers and shot only 3 of 18 from three point range.  It was by far the best we have played in the zone all year, but Coach Johnson also did a great job of switching defenses at the right times to keep Frank Martin's squad out of sync.  We also ran a lot of soft man, but everyone did a good job of closing out on their shooters.  The press was also effective following the rare made free throws.
Interesting halftime show, this guy stacked chairs and climbed on top of them.  I would hate to play against him in Jenga.


With a 13 point halftime lead; I did not think it was very likely the hot shooting and great defense would continue.  I said we needed to stretch the lead to 18 or so before Carolina made their run.  Instead, we stretched it to 27 and the Gamecocks never seriously threatened.

Justin Coleman also deserves a ton of credit for this win.  He did a fantastic job of coming off the bench to run the point, and many of Riley's 3's were the direct result of Justin's drives getting him open.  He ended up with 14 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes.

These types of games are what makes basketball so awesome.  Who would have thought a player averaging 6 points per game would go off for 27 against a great defense?  Who would ever think the worst rebounding team would win the battle on the boards against the best rebounding team, 38-33?

We now have three wins over top 25 opponents.  With the big win over the Cocks along with Clemson's inexplicable upset of Duke, our RPI improved 20 spots in one day, now up to 43.  The only negatives from this game were our continued poor free throw shooting, just 12 of 21, and 17 turnovers.

There was a solid crowd of about 9,500 on hand.  I would have hoped for more against a top 20 undefeated team, but coming off the Kentucky loss and it being a couple of days after the football championship, plus it being a late 8 pm tip-off on Wednesday which is "church night" for a lot of people in Tuscaloosa, it wasn't a bad turnout.  The students were awesome, the entire student section was packed out 30 minutes before tip-off.  The atmosphere was great.  The crowd was loud and into the game throughout.  The students were given promotional foam "3 fingers," which proved to be rather appropriate.  The place erupted when Lawson Schaffer came into the game and made a long 3 off the dribble in the final minutes.  Derrick Henry, Reggie Ragland, and Kenyan Drake made an appearance.  They sat right in front of us for a portion of the first half before being introduced during a timeout.  They each shook hands with Coach Johnson and several of the players before leaving the court.  Several people came down to get autographs from Derrick, and he was extremely courteous and accommodating.  It was great to see the entire team run over to the student section at the end of the game.

Up next, we travel to the house of horrors known as Memorial Gym in Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores.  Coach Johnson said in his post-game interview, "We would love to have our fans support us in Nashville and travel all over the country with us like we do in football." The 5pm Saturday afternoon tip is perfect for those of us in Birmingham and points north (I'm looking at you, Huntsville folks), to make a day trip.  What better way to show our appreciation for these guys after this huge upset win by supporting them on the road?  There are still plenty of tickets available here.  I will be in Section 2F.  For those who can't make it, the game is on SEC Network.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Game Preview - South Carolina

Alabama will look to avoid an 0-3 start to league play when they host South Carolina on Wednesday night. Tip time is 8:00. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. Avoiding an 0-3 start will be difficult for Alabama. South Carolina enters this game with a record of 15-0 (one of only two remaining undefeated teams) and ranked 19th in the current AP poll.

Stats


Alabama
South Carolina



66.0 PPG 80.2
66.4 OPP 65.8
.428 FG% 448
.401 OPP .374
.337 3PT% .375
.341 OPP .334
.667 FT% .682
.690 OPP .669
33.5 RPG 42.5
37.8 OPP 32.4
14.1 TOPG 14.0
13.4 OPP 15.9

One thing that stands out about this Gamecock team from Martin's previous seasons is the offensive numbers are way up. His teams have always been good on the defensive end, but this season the team is averaging 80 points per game with five players currently averaging double figure scoring. Those five players are all Seniors and Juniors, a rarity in the game in this day and age. Their non-conference schedule wasn't exactly stiff, but Carolina didn't play down to their competition either; however, because of their schedule, there are some (me) who still question how good this Carolina team truly is.

Sindarius Thornwell (Sr., 12.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.6 spg), Duane Notice (Jr., 11.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 43% from 3-pt), Michael Carrera (Sr., 11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 spg, 51% from 3-pt), Mindaugas Kacinas (Sr., 11.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 56% FG) and Laimonas Chatkevicius (Sr., 10.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg) are the veteran leaders for this team, but the team has also received valuable production from young players, PJ Dozier (7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.4 spg), and Chris Silva (5.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg).

This is a very difficult match-up for a team such as Alabama that has struggled to rebound. South Carolina's rebound margin is +10 coming into this game, while Alabama is -4. For Alabama to win this game, they must compete on the boards. Otherwise, this one could get ugly. On defense, our guys will be spread thin. Carolina has guys inside/outside who can all score. This is a balanced, steady team with veterans that don't get rattled. They could be the top team in the league when all is said and done. Alabama will have to play their A game to deliver Avery Johnson his first SEC win.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bama Unlucky Against Kentucky, Cats 77 Tide 61



Kentucky won rather easily despite not playing anywhere near their capability.  They are just too long and fast, and they completely shut down our offense.  Frankly, their second string is more talented than our starters, and we probably don't have more than one or two players who would even make their team.  They took away our first pass to the wing, and from there our offense came to a grinding halt.  Coach Johnson could not be pleased with the pace of this game.

Retin and Art did their part to keep us in the game.  I thought Retin played well on both ends of the court, and he made enough plays by himself to keep the score respectable for most of the game. Unfortunately, we had no inside presence whatsoever.



Donta Hall made a few good plays while he was in the game, but Jimmie didn't bring anything to the table.  Once again, we were dominated on the glass, and you can't beat a team like Kentucky by getting out-rebounded 43-25.  Our inability to get rebounds off of missed free throws is starting to become a major concern.  At one point in the second half we had cut the lead to 6 and seemed to have a bit of momentum, then gave up a 4 point trip when we didn't box out after the and one free throw.  That stretched the lead to 10 and we never threatened again.

I was a bit surprised we did not play more zone defense, but we managed respectfully well in the man to man, and given our rebounding woes perhaps Coach Johnson didn't want to put us at even more of a disadvantage on the glass than we already were.

We got nothing from 3/4 position again.  Riley Norris managed to score 10 points, but he was a huge liability on defense.  Shannon was 1 for 9, including 0 for 6 from three point range. With the exception of the aforementioned play from Retin and to a lesser degree Donta and Art, the one highlight was Lawson Schaffer making a 3 from the corner in garbage time.


The most talented team in the league wasn't likely to start 0-2 after getting drubbed by LSU, so this game should not have been a major surprise to anybody.  I thought our guys played hard, if not always smart, but they were just over matched.  

It was a packed house, and credit to the students for coming back early and filling up the student section.  Classes do not begin until Wednesday, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a full student section.  Of the 15,000, Big Blue Nation probably had about 1,500-2,000, mostly up above the portals and in the corners, with a few sprinkled throughout the lower part of the arena.  Despite the full house, I thought the atmosphere was lacking.  Kentucky got an early lead and it seemed to take our crowd out of the game.  

Up next, it doesn't get any easier.  Undefeated South Carolina comes to town for an 8pm tipoff Wednesday, and with their imposing post play, they present a nightmare of a matchup for us.  The game will be televised on the SEC Network.  


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Game Preview - Kentucky

After a tough loss at Ole Miss to open conference play, Alabama will return home for their conference opener against the Kentucky Wildcats. The Cats are currently ranked 9th in the AP Top 25, but are expected to drop in the poll after receiving an 18 point beatdown at the hands of LSU in Baton Rouge on Tuesday night. The game will be televised on the SEC Network at 5:00 PM. Kentucky is a 6.5 point favorite, but Alabama is a trendy upset pick. I will be unable to watch this game live as I will be performing the role of "Husband" in a stage production of "Married Man Pleases Wife By Attending Social Function." My hope is to come home and watch a DVR replay of Avery Johnson's first SEC win. Also hoping Tide fans turn out in force in Coleman, the Monday night game be damned. This team and coaching staff are competing like hell. Tide fans have got to start showing more enthusiasm for what these guys are doing.  

Stats


Alabama
Kentucky



66.4 PPG 77.6
65.6 OPP 67.2
.435 FG% .469
.391 OPP .408
.340 3PT% .316
.345 OPP .305
.667 FT% .651
.696 OPP .705
34.2 RPG 39.3
37.4 OPP 33.2
14.6 TOPG 13.0
13.5 OPP 13.9

Tyler Ulis is the leader of this team, and one of the best point guards in the league. If he plays well this Kentucky team typically follows. Ulis has been asked to score more for this team, and he has responded with a 14.2 average. He's also averaging 3.2 rpg, 5.5 apg and 1.4 spg. Jamal Murray leads the team in scoring at 17.1 ppg. He's also the best 3-point shooter on the team at 38%. In order for Alabama to upset Kentucky, they must limit the effectiveness of Ulis and Murray. Isaiah Briscoe is the other double digit scorer for this team at 10.5 ppg. He's an athletic guy who likes to get to the rim, primarily because he has really struggled to shoot the ball this season (19% from the 3-pt line, a staggering 35% from the free throw line).

I think the major key to this game will be which team gets the most production from their big guys. This Kentucky team has not been as imposing up front as they have been in recent seasons. For a team like Alabama that has struggled to rebound the ball, that offers hope. In the loss at LSU, UK's trio of big men, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere combined for a total of 7 pts, 8 rebs and 0 blks. LSU has arguably more talent up front than Alabama does, but those numbers reflect the inconsistencies that have troubled the UK big men all year. Alabama has had their own share of problems up front, which was in clear view on Thursday when Saiz for Ole Miss bullied our guys inside, racking up 16 rebounds and 21 points. Jimmie must avoid foul trouble and be a defensive presence, Mike must play with the passion he showed on Thursday (his best game of the season by far), Donta must produce in limited minutes, and Riley and Shannon must also provide help on the boards at the 4 (or 3, depending on the line-up). The paint is where this game will be won or lost.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Dissed at Ole Miss: Rebels 74 Tide 66

This was a lot like the Oregon game, it was a tough matchup, we played well and actually built a nice lead before halftime, but just didn't have the horses to get the job done.  I thought Coach Johnson and staff had an excellent game plan defensively.  We trapped Moody every time he crossed half court.  He's an incredible athlete, but not a pure point guard, and we made their offensive go through other options.  This seemed to frustrate him, especially in the first half when we held him to 7 points.  

For the most part, I thought our communication and structure on defense was excellent.  We contained Moody as well as could be expected and we had active hands forcing steals, blocking shots, and getting turnovers.  Unfortunately, the shots weren't falling early, and our problems controlling the basketball continued.  Ole Miss had a 25-15 lead and the new Pavilion was rocking.

Despite the loss, one huge positive I took from this game was that we showed incredible poise when things looked bleak.  I was afraid this could turn into another Dayton or Xavier type fiasco when they had the early double digit lead.  Instead, we came out of a timeout and continued what was working on defense, showed a little more patience on offense, started moving the ball around and making shots. We went on a crazy run and took a 40-32 lead into the half.  

Give Ole Miss credit for making some halftime adjustments and moving Moody off ball from time to time to get him more favorable matchups.  He ended up with 21 points after getting away from the double teams.  It was fun to watch him and Retin go after each other, and Retin more than held his own.  They also made more of an effort to attack the basket, and often caught us out of position.  As a result, we played most of the second half with all of our big men in foul trouble. This led to even more rebounding difficulties, and it was just too much to overcome.  

We lost this game primarily due to two reasons, rebounding and turnovers.  For all the talk about Moody, you have to give Saiz a lot of credit. He scored 21 points, in part because we were forced to pay extra attention to Moody, but he was a beast on the boards.  

Art Edwards had a great game, his 5 for 6 shooting from 3 point range kept us in it early and helped us build the halftime lead.  Retin seemed to put the team on his back, scoring 23 points and refusing to let Ole Miss put it away.  Kessens had a great game with 10 points and leading us with 7 rebounds; he really stepped up with everybody limited by foul trouble.  Donta Hall was awesome defensively, blocking 5 shots while Jimmie was on the bench, but unfortunately he fouled out himself.  He's got to be smarter about fouling far away from the basket.  

Justin did not have one of his better games.  He was only 2 of 7 from 3 point range and had 2 assists to 5 turnovers.  I like his game, but he's a streaky scorer and while he's added some strength from last year, he's still going to be prone to turnovers.  We really missed Dazon tonight. 

In my opinion, the biggest weakness on this team right now is the small forward position.  Shannon Hale did not start, but came off the bench as he is still recovering from his "medical condition."  He continues to look bad and disinterested.  He had a horrible turnover seconds after entering the game that resulted in Moody's first 3 and sparked Ole Miss's first half run to a 10 point lead.  He did make one 3 in the second half, but otherwise was a non-factor.  With few exceptions, he's looked nothing like the Shannon Hale that showed tons of potential as a freshman, and frankly it's disappointing that his effort and body language has not improved under Coach Johnson.  I really believe he has NBA potential if he would commit himself, but right now he's a waste of talent.  

Riley Norris doesn't have near Hale's physical ability, and he appears to be in over his head at times.  He is a liability on defense, and he has no confidence in his shot right now.  With around 40 seconds left, trailing by 5, Riley failed to box out on a free throw after the Rebels graciously missed 2 in a row to open the door for us.  They got the rebound, made the next 2, and that was all she wrote.  With the influx of talent coming in next year, both of these guys better start taking advantage of their playing time this season, or else they may find themselves riding the pine next year or looking for other opportunities in the off season.

The big story of the night was Ole Miss opening their new arena.  I was offered free tickets to the game, but I did not go.  I had a bad experience there at the 2003 football game and I will never again grace that overrated, backwards-ass town or campus with my presence.  Nevertheless, I must admit it looked really nice on TV.  It's inexcusable that Ole Freakin' Miss has a nicer basketball arena than us.  Good for them, and hopefully it will start a trend in the SEC that will work its way to Tuscaloosa sooner rather than later.  

Up next, it doesn't get any easier.  The Kentucky Wildcats come to Tuscaloosa for a 5pm tipoff Saturday evening.  On one hand, we are getting them at home early in the season, which is clearly the best opportunity to knock them off.  On the other hand, they will be highly motivated coming off a rare blowout loss to LSU, our students aren't back yet, and a significant part of our fanbase will already be in Arizona for Monday's football game; so in a way it's bad timing despite being good timing.  If you want to go, you'll have to fight the Big Blue Nation on the secondary ticket market, as this game is already sold out.  Speaking of which, I expect a large contingent of Kentucky fans to invade Coleman Saturday.  Please be nice to these people, and make them feel welcome.  As many of you know, I travel to away games as much as possible, and we've been treated like royalty every time we've been to Lexington, win or lose.  It is by far the most pleasant and fun road trip in the SEC, and it would be nice if our fans can return the favor.  At the same time, stay positive and stay behind our guys, we need to put this one behind us and keep fighting.  We have a chance to pull off a huge a win Saturday, but the team will need all the help they can get.   I sincerely hope the Cats fans enjoy Tuscaloosa, with the exception of the outcome of the game Saturday night.  




Thursday, January 07, 2016

As requested- Follow Bamahoops by feed

Non-mobile users, there is an option to subscribe by email on the right side just below the schedule.
Let me know if this works as advertised.

UPDATE- verified it is working now... had to break out some old skills I haven't used since the turn of the century.

Checking to see how the mobile side shows this...

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Game Preview - at Ole Miss

It's time for conference play. This is where a season is made, or broken into tiny shards and swept up into the dust bin of history. Okay, maybe not that serious. But conference play does require a step up in attitude for a team. The games get tougher, the grind is real, the environments nasty. It is where the college basketball season really begins to take flight. I'm ready. Are you?

Alabama will open conference play at Ole Miss at that low hanging fruit of a facility know as the "Tad....." Wait. No, that's right, the "Tad Pad" has been retired. The "Pavilion at Ole Miss" is the new home of Rebel Black Motorcycle Club Bear Cub basketball. I for one will not miss the "Tad Pad" for the simple fact that the place was typically a nightmare for Bama teams in the past. I feel about the Tad Pad the way Johnny Cash felt about San Quentin ("May you rot and burn in hell...").

The flip side of that coin is that Alabama will likely walk into a tough atmosphere tomorrow night as the Ole Miss faithful celebrate the opening of the new facility. The word is the game is sold out, and I'm going to make a wild assumption that Bama fans were not greedily buying those tickets. Not the ideal situation for Avery Johnson and this team to open conference play, but it's just one of many tests awaiting this team in the coming weeks.

Stats


Alabama
Ole Miss



66.4 PPG 75.8
64.9 OPP 70.3
.434 FG% .432
.388 OPP .416
.338 3PT% .306
.350 OPP .340
.663 FT% .721
.692 OPP .663
34.5 RPG 39.3
37.4 OPP 35.2
14.3 TOPG 12.2
13.6 OPP 13.7

Stefan Moody currently leads the SEC in scoring at 23.7. He's the type of guy who you think is contained, and suddenly he breaks out for 10-15 quick points. Last year in Coleman, he exploded in the 2nd half en route to a 25 point game, half of which he gained at the free throw line. That tells you that, despite being listed at 5'11, he's not limited to just playing on the perimeter. It will be a full time job for Alabama on defense to try and limit his production. He also averages a little over one steal per game so he can be a nuisance on the defensive end as well. After a slow start, Kennedy put Moody at the point and the team has been much better since. While there are other guys that Bama will have to account for, the key to winning this game is limiting Moody.   

Sebastian Saiz has grown into a very solid player. He's currently averaging 11.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg. For an Alabama team that has struggled on the boards, Saiz will be a thorn in their side. Another key to this game for Bama is winning the rebound battle, limiting second chance opportunities for the home team, while creating second chances for themselves on the offensive end. Saiz is going to make that difficult with the physical way he plays around the rim. Saiz and Moody are the only two double figure scorers for this team, but there is balance as six other players currently average between 5.6 and 8.9 points per game.

Give Andy Kennedy some credit. This is not an easy program to turn into a winner, but Kennedy has led this program to the NCAA Tournament two out of the last three seasons with a win in both trips after most of his first six seasons were spent in the NIT. To make it back to the NCAA Tournament, Moody will have to do most of the heavy lifting for this team. Avoiding an 0-2 start in league play is important in taking a step towards that goal. But with Alabama hosting Kentucky on Saturday, a win here would be nice to take a little pressure off that game on Saturday. That makes this a big game for both teams. The numbers are similar between the two. It's the road environment and the league's leading scorer that swing the edge to Ole Miss. Can Alabama overcome both, and spoil the grand opening of the Pavilion?

Monday, January 04, 2016

SEC Preview and Predictions

With the non-conference out of the way, now is a good time to take a stab at how the final SEC standings will look.  Here's my take:

1. Texas A&M- Sure, Kentucky is the popular pick, but $tansbury has worked his magic and brought a lot of talent to College Station, and they have played as well as anybody in the non-conference schedule.  They come in with an 11-2 record, including impressive wins over K-State and Baylor.  Their two losses were on the road at Arizona State and Syracuse on a neutral site.  They have generally beat the teams they should, and by sizable margins.

2. Kentucky- As always, by far the most talented team in the conference.  They are 11-2 with a road loss to UCLA and a neutral site loss to Ohio State in New York.  They've played a tough schedule, and have big wins over Duke, Arizona State, and Louisville.  There is little doubt they will be the best team in the conference going into March, if they aren't already, but I think this young team will slip up a couple of times on the road, especially early in the season.  I think we have as good of a chance as anybody to get them next Saturday.

3. South Carolina- Frank Martin's squad is undefeated, but they haven't really played anybody.  Their only true away game is a 6 point win in their home state against Clemson, so it's hard to judge what they have right now, but I'll give them credit for convincingly beating the teams on their schedule.

4. Vanderbilt- Sure, they are only 8-5, but their losses are to Kansas, @Baylor, Dayton, @Purdue, and their first game against LSU.  They really haven't shown anything to justify their preseason hype, but I've got a hunch Stallings will get it turned around.

5.  LSU- Easily the second most talented team in the conference behind Kentucky.  They have the best player in the nation and a couple of 4 and 5 stars around him, but unfortunately for them I'm not sure if the Dream team could have even won the bronze if Johnny Jones were coaching them. When they are on, they are unbeatable, but they rarely bring their A game.  They are 8-5 with losses to Charleston and Wake Forest, but they are off to a good start getting a road win at Vanderbilt.

6. Alabama-  We were preseason picked 13th, but expectations have changed with upset wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and a road win at Clemson.  All of our losses were to top 30 RPI teams.    I think we are all pleased with the position that we are in right now, but we have a brutal January schedule coming up.  If we can sniff .500 for the next month, we'll be in good shape to finish in the top half of the SEC which will likely put us squarely on the bubble if not on the right side of it in March.  As exciting as things are, we were one possession away from losing not only the Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Clemson games, but also Southern Miss and Jacksonville State.  The line between 9-3 with some quality wins and 4-8 with a couple of horrible losses is very thin.  I could see us finishing anywhere between 4th and 12th. The key will be to continue to win more of our fair share of close games.  I suspect there are more surprising upsets in our future as well as a few disappointing blowout losses along the way.

7. Georgia- The Dogs are 7-4, but not off to a great start with a loss at Florida.  Their other losses have all been reasonable, an overtime loss to a strong Chattanooga team, a road loss to Seton Hall, and 2 point loss to Kansas State.  They have a veteran team, and  Mark Fox seems to have that program finally ready to take the next step.

8. Ole Miss- They've got great senior leadership in Stephan Moody and opening a badly needed, brand new arena.  It seems like everything is aligned for the Rebels to make a strong showing this year.  They are 10-3, but haven't played the toughest of schedules.  Their best win is probably at Memphis.  They had a rough tournament in Charleston, losing to George Mason and Seton Hall.

9. Florida- They are 9-4, but they've played a pretty tough schedule.  They have a nice win over Oklahoma State, and were competitive at Michigan State.  The lost to Purdue by 15 and dropped both of their rivalry games, at home to Florida State and at Miami.  I'm not convinced Mike White was the best hire, but we will see.

10. Auburn- The Tigers should be slightly improved over last year, they've got 3 guys who can really play but not much depth after that.  Bruce Pearl's recruiting classes are going to have to start producing soon.  They are 7-5, but off to a good start in conference play with a win over Tennessee.

11. Arkansas- They are 6-7, but have played a reasonably tough schedule.  They've lost to every decent team they've played, although they did take Dayton to overtime on the road.  Mike Anderson is probably starting to feel the heat.  I expected him to do a lot better there than he has.

12. Tennessee- Rick Barnes will get them turned around eventually, but this will be an adjustment year.  They are 7-6, undefeated at home, but winless away from Knoxville.  They've at least been respectable in their losses including giving Butler and Gonzaga pretty good games.

13. Missouri- They are 7-6 against a tough schedule, but have not been competitive in their losses against quality competition.  I really thought the addition of Mizzou to the SEC would help us in basketball, but that hasn't been the case.  Being in the Midwest, with some of the nicest facilities in the conference, there is no reason for them to continue to be a cellar dweller.  I suspect Kim Anderson's days are numbered unless there is a drastic turn around.

14. Mississippi $tate- Ben Howland has already started to work his magic on the recruiting trail, but this is a bad team and it will take a year or two before our friends up Highway 82 start seeing some improvement.  They are 7-5 and have played a little better of late, but they were blown out against decent competition and also have embarrassing losses to Southern and UMKC on their resume.

Things are wide open, I picked aTm over Kentucky mostly to be a contrarian, but I really can't see anybody else other than the Aggies challenging UK for the crown.  There is really not much difference between 3-12.