Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Justin Coleman is transferring.

I wish him the best of luck.  This isn't a huge surprise.  A big part of why he signed with us in the first place is because Coach Grant promised him the starting PG job.  Obviously with Dazon coming back he would not be the starter, and I'm hearing Avery Jr. was expected to take some minutes from him as well.

I said in my last post there would be attrition, and I'll be surprised if there isn't more to come.  This is just a part of the college game these days.

UPDATE:  Mike Kessens, too.  He's already graduated, and I think most everyone expected this.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Welcome Ronald Steele!

I am happy and excited to announce that Alabama basketball legend Ronald Steele has graciously agreed to join our staff here at the blog as a writer.  The two time Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama and first team ALL SEC point guard needs no introduction to Bama hoops fans.  Obviously, he brings a great knowledge of the game and a first-hand perspective that none of our current authors can provide.  I think I can speak for all of our readers by saying that we are looking forward to his contributions.

Grading the SEC Coaches- Part 1

Agree or disagree I AM RIGHT!

Johnny Jones: F-
If he simply rolled the ball on the court LSU could have been better. It did look like some of the chemistry issues that plagued them before conference play were worked out, but in the end that team was a hot mess. The talent they have should have won the SEC by a couple games. I dare say it was one of the worst coaching performances in recent SEC memory.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Saying Goodbye to the 2015-16 season.

Coach Avery Johnson's first year was a roller-coaster ride with amazing upsets and bad losses.  In the end, this team exceeded expectations, and left us with a lot of hope and excitement for the future despite a very disappointing finish.

The experts picked Bama to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC after losing three top players from the 2014-15 campaign.  That result would have surprised nobody who watched the team get dismantled by Xavier and Dayton.  Expectations changed drastically after Bama beat the Shockers, then shocked Notre Dame!  We survived down-to-the-wire games against woeful Southern Miss and Jax State, but picked up a nice road win at Clemson before nearly upsetting eventual one seed Oregon.

A brutal January schedule left the Tide at 1-5 in the SEC, but they got back over .500 in conference play thanks to a 5 game win streak that included our first win in Gainesville in 20 years!  As the calendar turned to March, we were all giddy with bubble talk, and it was fun seeing "Alabama" in projected brackets late in the season.  Unfortunately, the team did not handle the extra pressure well at all, and home losses to Mississippi $tate and Arkansas sealed our fate.

The first year with a new coach is always exciting.  There were a lot of questions about Coach Johnson's ability to adapt to the college game.  While many of those questions are still unresolved, there is plenty of reason for optimism.

Coach Johnson spoke at length in the preseason about his preference for a more uptempo style of play.  After a couple of early season lopsided losses, he slowed it way down.  I think it's clear that we didn't have the players to run the system that he wants, but he showed an ability to adapt to his roster and give his guys their best chance to win.  More importantly, in knocking off a number of ranked teams; the guys should now have confidence they can win big, close games.

My greatest memory of this season will be the play of Retin Obasohan.  He went from being a role player last season to first team All SEC in his senior campaign, while providing great leadership and carrying the squad on his back at times.  There is no doubt we are going to miss him.  It's impossible to replace a player like that.

Fortunately, we do have some depth returning next year.  Several players made significant progress over the course of the season.  Riley Norris became our leading rebounder and showed the ability to be a decent shooter earlier in the season.  Donta Hall improved on his propensity to get into foul trouble and was as good of a post defender and rebounder as you will find by the year's end.  I also love the way he runs the floor and plays aggressively; if he can develop any sort of scoring move other than a dunk he would be all-conference.  Justin Coleman showed the ability to score and run the team from the point position, and he will only improve with playing time.  All we need from him is consistency.

To compliment the returning players, we will get an infusion of young talent with next year's team.  Many say Nick King was one of the better players in practice this year, and he will be eligible next season.  He can play the 3 or 2, or possibly 4 in a pinch.  We saw a bit of Dazon Ingram before he got hurt, and if he comes back healthy that will give us a lot more length and athleticism in the back court.  If he can develop a jump shot, he could be an eventual NBA prospect, in my opinion.  Armond Davis is a 6'6 guard who put up great numbers at JUCO this year and had plenty of good offers on the table.  Braxton Key is a 4 star, 6'8" small forward who will be able to help us, and Avery Johnson Jr. figures to compete for playing time at PG as well.  I think we will have a lot more depth and scoring options.

I expect there to be some attrition, simply because that's the nature of the college game these days.  I hope it's minimized, as I think everyone returning can have a role on this team next year.  Hopefully if any of the guys are thinking about transferring, they will look at Retin, and see that sticking it out to the 5th year can pay off.  The keys to next season are signing another big man, perhaps bringing in a PF as a graduate transfer, and someone stepping up with Retin's mindset of wanting the ball and having the ability to create with the game on the line.

Coach Johnson's recruiting efforts have been solid, but losing Terrance Ferguson was a big blow, both to our prospects for next season and the program's image nationally.  The next steps for the program, and for Coach Johnson, is to land one of those national elite prospects, and prove as a team that we can handle the success and pressure of being in the limelight.  The fans need to stay positive and show up!  I'm still hopeful that we can convince the powers that be to build a new arena, but that's probably a subject better left for another post on another day.  Cultures don't change over night, but we are moving in the right direction.

Speaking of changes, there a few things in the works here at the blog that we hope to roll out during the off season which I hope you all will enjoy.  I've enjoyed watching and blogging about this team, but obviously posts will be more sporadic since there will be no more games for the next 7 months.  No games for 7 months... that makes me sad.  At least I have baseball (Go Cubs!).  Enjoy your summer.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Creighton Crushes Bama, 72-54

McDermott is a good coach, and he proved it again last night.  His defensive game plan totally shut down our offense, holding us to only 19 points in the first half.

We got off to a decent start, forcing 4 turnovers and jumping out to a 7-3 lead, but then Creighton decided to start taking care of the basketball and we couldn't stop them.  Our help side defense was non-existent.  It appeared that we did not communicate well at all on off the ball screens.  We gave up more uncontested layups than I've seen all year.

Offensively, we made an effort to get the ball to our bigs, presumably to exploit our size advantage.  Unfortunately, none of our bigs seem capable of scoring from any more than 2 feet away from the rim.  I lost track of how many bricks we threw up on decent looks near the goal.  Overall, we just weren't very aggressive on offense.  Our post players shot a total of 2 free throws combined.  Donta Hall at least did a good job of defending the rim and rebounding, with 8 boards and 5 blocks.  He has a lot of potential if he can develop any type of scoring ability at all, and I think that he can.

After falling behind by 18 points, we had to play the game at their pace to try to claw back.  Justin Coleman did everything he could, and we were able to get back to within 10, but we were never able to string a few stops together.  The only positives from this game were Justin Coleman's 18 points, Donta Hall's defense and rebounding, and free throw shooting, we were 12 of 15 at the line.

It was a disappointing end to a roller-coaster season.  I'll post my annual end of the season recap within the next few days.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sleeping with the Enemy, Creighton Blue Jays

I reached out to the guys over at White and Blue Review to get their thoughts on the game.  Unfortunately, the quick turnaround between selection Sunday and the Tuesday night tip-off did not leave us adequate time to do a traditional write-up, but they have invited us to check out their extensive game preview.  I thought it was interesting that there is some talk they might rest some guys who have been banged up in order to get  their younger guys some playing time.  If that happens, their inexperience could be a boost for us, but it will also make it even more difficult to scout and prepare for them.  Anyway, if you visit the White and Blue Review, please follow their site's rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama.


Game Preview - at Creighton

Alabama will return to the court as part of the postseason NIT when they travel to Omaha, Nebraska to play the Creighton Bluejays of the Big East Conference. Game time is 8:00. ESPN will handle the television duties. Some may be bummed to see Alabama in another NIT, but not all NIT teams are equal. I think this is a nice consolation prize for a team that wasn't expected to sniff the postseason. I do think Alabama deserved a home game, but when you're matched up with a team that averages 16-17,000 fans for a game and one key component is putting asses in seats, it's not hard to figure how Creighton won that coin flip. It will be a challenge marching into a hostile atmosphere, but I do like Alabama's chances from a match-up standpoint.

Stats


Alabama
Creighton



66.8 PPG 79.6
67.8 OPP 73.0
.427 FG% .468
.407 OPP .439
50.1 EFG% 53.7
46.4 OPP 49.7
.343 3PT% .352
.328 OPP .352
.640 FT% .702
.669 OPP .690
41.2 FTRATE 37.4
39.8 OPP 33.3
34.7 RPG 36.6
37.9 OPP 35.3
28.2 OREB% 26.6
34.3 OPP 26.2
13.3 TOPG 11.5
12.1 OPP 12.7
20.0 TO% 15.9
18.1 OPP 17.5

Creighton wants to play at a fast tempo (currently 78th in KenPom's adjusted tempo rankings), averaging just under 80 points per game and are ranked in KenPom's top 50 in possession length (top 75 in offensive efficiency) and defensive efficiency. Alabama by comparison is ranked in the 300s at KenPom in both tempo and possession length. So, yeah, the team that controls the tempo is going to have the best chance to win this game.

Three Players to Watch

Maurice Watson Jr. (Jr. 5'10, 170 lb) leads the team in scoring (14.2) and assists (6.5). A 2nd team All Big East player, Watson can be effective in a number of ways. His 32-point, 7 rebound, 5 assist and 2 steal performance in Creighton's upset of Xavier earlier this season is just one example of what he can do. Alabama must make him priority one on defense.

Alabama has had a tendency to play soft in the post at times this season. The result has been opposing post players having career nights, looking like 1st round draft picks. Alabama can not allow Geoffrey Groselle (Sr 7'0, 240 lb) to have that kind of night. Primarily a back-to-the-basket type of player, Groselle is third in scoring (10.7) so he's capable of having a good night offensively, but he also leads the team in rebounds (5.8) and blocks (1.2). 

Another guy to watch is Cole Huff (Jr. 6'8, 215). What I've seen of him, he plays more like a guard in a forward's body. 2nd on the team in scoring (11.5), he shoots the ball well (37% from 3, 79% from FT) and is 2nd on the team in rebounding (4.9). Huff has played very well down the stretch, averaging 17 points in the last six games, including a 35-point showing in their last game vs Seton Hall in the Big East tournament.

I never want to see an Alabama basketball season come to an end. But this team in particular has been a joy to watch, despite the ups and downs. Seeing a guy like Retin develop into a 1st team All SEC performer or Arthur Edwards finally find a system that fits his skill set and genuinely come to love appreciate the opportunity at the University of Alabama or a guy like Donta Hall, whom many of us did not expect much from this season, show flashes of perhaps becoming a dominant defensive player in the very near future. That's been fun to watch, regardless of the postseason destination. The future seems very bright with Avery Johnson in charge, but I hope we have a few more weeks left with this team.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

On to the NIT, re-match of our last NCAA tournament game

We are the 5 seed, which means we have to go to Creighton for an 8 pm start on ESPN Tuesday night.  If we win, we'll get the winner of St. Bonnie and Wagner in the second round, most likely travelling to St. Bonaventure.  Possible opponents for the quarterfinals include BYU, Va Tech, Princeton, or UAB.

I'm really disappointed we didn't get a home game, and I think we have a strong argument that we should be the 4 seed ahead of Creighton.  That being said, this isn't an awful draw for us.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cats Crush Crimson, Kentucky 85 Bama 59


Despite the lopsided score, I actually thought Alabama played better this game than we did in our first two matchups with Kentucky.   We gave it our best shot and did not look intimidated from the opening tip.  Unfortunately, UK also played better.  They are one of the best teams in the country right now, and we could have played our best game of the year and still lost by a significant margin.

Much like the Ole Miss game, Retin got into foul trouble early.  Art Edwards stepped up, and Justin did a solid job of running the point again.  We made some 3s early and actually had a lead about halfway through the first half.  We had a few questionable calls go against us which seemed to kill our momentum, then Kentucky started to get hot, and that was that.

We had no choice but to play zone against them.  It was the right plan, but when they make 13 of 22 from thee-point range, it's an exercise in futility. Murray was on fire from the corner, he scored 23 points and Poythress lit us up, once again, for 20.

After only scoring 1 point in the first half, Retin did everything he could to keep us in the game in the second.  He finished with 18 points, but other than Art's 20 we didn't get significant contributions anywhere else.  Retin also had a great block on a UK dunk attempt in the second half.

Donta had another good game defensively, and Riley did a solid job of getting some rebounds.

My only real complaint is that I felt like we mailed it in a little bit after the Cats made 3 consecutive 3-pointers to stretch the lead over 15.

It was a great atmosphere.  Bridgestone Arena holds 19,000 and it was packed.  We actually had a respectable showing of fans, I would guess just a little under 1,000 scattered throughout.  We were surrounded by Kentucky fans as we were sitting behind their bench, but they were nice and classy as always.  In some ways, they were a little too nice.  There was a guy in front of me who said, "I'm going to cheer for you guys too," and would actually clap or give us a high five whenever we would make a shot, and this was in the first half while the game was still close. I think he was genuinely just being nice and having fun, but it annoyed me a bit as it just illustrated that they didn't view us as being the slightest threat at all. Obviously, we weren't a threat, but that's not the point.  I'm looking forward to the day that we are hated by opposing fans not named auburn or $tate again.

Nashville is a great setting for the tournament.  It's a fun city with lots of bars and restaurants within walking distance of the arena.  Bridgestone arena is nice and while designed for hockey, it's not a bad set up for basketball at all.  Certainly much better than the big football dome stadiums.  I do have two small complaints.  We got to the arena 30 minutes early and barely made it in before tip-off due to the fact that they don't have enough entrances and everybody must walk through a metal detector.  Also, I went to the concession stand at halftime and they were out of hotdogs, which they didn't realize until after they charged me for my hotdog, so by the time they gave me my refund I was scrambling to make it back to my seat in time for the start of the second half.

Up next, selection Sunday.  The NIT selection show is at 7:30 Sunday night on ESPNU.  I'm actually excited about watching this team in the NIT tournament.  My prediction is that we will be a 4 seed, hosting a show down with the UAB Blazers Tuesday night.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Stayin' Alive, Alabama 81 Ole Miss 73

Raise your hand if you thought Alabama could score 40 points in a half, with 0 coming from Retin Obasohan.

Retin got in foul trouble early and had to head to the bench.  Justin stepped up and did a fantastic job of running the point and getting the ball to open shooters.  Those open shooters scorched the nets.  We ended up 12 of 24 from downtown, making 8 in the first half.  Retin came back in the second half and scored 17 points to hold of the Ole Miss comeback.

This was the best we have played in weeks.  Coach Johnson coached circles around Andy Kennedy.  We had 4 guys in double figures, Riley with 16, Art and Justin had 15 each to go along with Retin's 17.  Riley also added 11 rebounds, and while we did get out re-bounded, we at least kept it respectable on the boards.  Donta Hall was a beast with  5 blocked shots.  Brandon Austin even stepped up and played a great game, scoring 5 points and grabbing a couple of rebounds along with a steal in 15 minutes of playing time.  Shannon Hale didn't have a great game on paper, but I thought he did a solid job defensively and he had a huge block on an Ole Miss break away that really killed their momentum.

We played good defense as a team, but there is no shame in not being able to stop Stefan Moody.  He's an incredible player who single-handedly kept them in the game.  Dude was pulling up from 35 feet with a hand in his face like it was nothing.  He scored 39 of their points before fouling out.  I was glad to see Coach Johnson and Retin give him props after he fouled out.

The only negatives from this game were the same things that have plagued us all season.  We gave up 15 offensive rebounds and shot less than 50% from the free throw line.  We won't beat Kentucky doing that, but honestly, I'm not sure we can beat Kentucky no matter what we do.

With the win, we likely solidify our NIT bid.  There was some concern with a lot of the 1 seeds losing their conference tournament that we might get squeezed out, but I will be surprised if we aren't hosting a game next Tuesday.  With UAB losing to Western Kentucky, there's a pretty good chance we'll be matched up with the Blazers.

Up next, Kentucky.  It will be a de-facto road game with Big Blue Nation currently occupying Nashville.  A win would put us back into the NCAA tournament discussion, although I still think we would have work to do.  The game tips off at 6pm on the SEC Network.  I'm heading to Nashville after lunch, so I'll post a first-hand recap as soon as I get a chance, likely at some point tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Retin Receives Recognition

Congratulations to First Team ALL-SEC, Academic All-American, and the 2016 SEC Men's Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year, Retin Obasohan!

I know we all appreciate everything he has done for the University of Alabama, both on and off the court.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Bulldogs Bruise Bama, Georgia 70 Alabama 63

UGA had more offensive rebounds than we had defensive.  This team is not going anywhere until we get some bigs who are capable of blocking somebody out.

The game followed the script of most of our games over the last month or so.  Great start, as we built an early 10-4 lead, that should have been 12-4 but Donta had a great put back dunk waved off due to a BS foul call.  That early lead was short lived, as the offense then went into a funk, going 6+ minutes without a field goal, allowing Georgia to take a lead into the half.  We came back in the second half and took a 4 point lead, but could not hold onto it and seemed to run out of gas in the end.

We've been saying for weeks that Retin needs some help.  Finally, Shannon Hale stepped up while Retin was struggling throughout much of the game.  Hale missed a couple of jump shots and free throws early, but kept fighting and turned in a game high 25 point performance despite having to leave the game with an apparent arm or elbow injury in the first half.  Despite the great scoring performance, Hale was part of the problem on the boards.  He didn't have a single rebound in 25 minutes of play.  Retin played better in the second half and kept the pressure on the dogs after Hale fouled out.  Credit to Georgia for making their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Official Karl Hess does his best Ted Valentine impression, working the fans.

Considering the horrible rebounding and the scoring droughts on offense, we did well just to be in the game.  We played great defense and pretty much shut down their perimeter game, but they hurt us in the paint.  It was encouraging that we shot better from 3 point range, going 11 of 26.  It's nearly impossible to win on the road when you get our-rebounded 48 to 26, and only make 10 of 18 free throws.  


Stegeman Coliseum holds about 10,500, and I would guess there were about 7,000 or so there.  We actually had a nice following over there, I would estimate around 500 Alabama fans were in the house.  Bill Battle was there, and he seems to finally be making it to a few more away games.   We did have some obnoxious Bammers sitting behind us (just kidding!  It was good to see Bobbyjack again!).   The UGA fans seem to have a lot in common with our fan base.  There were lots of empty seats in the season ticket holder sessions, and there is a football centric mindset.  Kirby Smart's attendance was a main attraction.  The UGA fans sat on their hands for most of the game, and it didn't really get loud until they re-took the lead in the second half.  Their spring break is starting, so the student turnout was subpar.  I feel we blew a great opportunity to steal a road win against a team that we matched up reasonably well against in a less than intimidating environment.

That wraps up the regular season with a 17-13 record, 8-10 in the SEC.  The loss kills any chance we had to land an at-large NCAA tournament bid.  It's win the SEC tournament or bust now.  Unfortunately, we've got a terrible draw and I don't see any realistic path to get through Kentucky on Friday.  We will be underdogs against Ole Miss in our first game, Thursday night at 6pm.  We probably need to win that game in order to host the first round NIT game.



SEC Tournament bracket (and predictions)

Link to the SEC Tournament bracket

Round 1
Auburn vs Tennessee:
- Auburn wins because UTK pretty much doesn't care anymore. It will set basketball back 18 years.

Round 2
Florida vs Arkansas
- Both are underperforming teams IMO, but I'll go with Arkansas in the mild upset
Vandy vs Auburn
- Vandy in a mugging. By like 20.
Ole Miss vs Alabama
- We are in freefall mode and I don't think we snap out of this funk. Ole Miss comfortably
UGA vs Miss St
- I'll pick the dawgs from Starkville in the slight upset. I wasn't all that impressed with UGA yesterday.

Quarterfinals
Texas A&M vs Arkansas
- A close game where aTm wins
LSU vs Vanderbilt
- LSU should win, but Johnny Jones is their coach so they'll probably lose. I'll go with Vandy.
Kentucky vs Ole Miss
- Big Blue Nation will pull the Cats through in dominating fashion.
South Carolina vs Miss St
- I'm feeling froggy so I'll ride the Starkville dawgs again.

Semifinals
Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt
- Vandy by a 3 late.
Kentucky vs Miss St
- State's Auburnesque run ends here. Badly.

Championship
Kentucky vs Vanderbilt
- I'm going with the hometown Commodores to win the SECT

SEC Tournament teams:
Kentucky (4)
Vanderbilt (7)
Texas A&M (7)
South Carolina (10)

Saturday, March 05, 2016

SEC Tournament Field Set

The 2016 SEC Tournament field is set. Alabama will be the 10 seed. They will play Ole Miss on Thursday at 6:00 PM CT. Not a great draw for Alabama. Ole Miss is playing well right now, and are healthy after suffering some injuries earlier in conference play. Even if Alabama should win Thursday night, Kentucky will await on Friday. For postseason purposes, Alabama needs to win Thursday. Obviously a win over Kentucky on Friday would get them back into the at-large discussion for the NCAA Tournament, but this team also needs a win on Thursday to insure they don't have to sweat out the NIT selection show next Sunday.

Texas A&M will be the top seed. Kentucky, South Carolina and LSU round out the top four who will receive byes into the quarterfinals. In order, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Ole Miss, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn round out the field. Missouri will not be participating due to a postseason ban. Keep an eye on the blog as I'm sure we'll have a predictions post in the coming days.


Game Preview - at Georgia

Alabama has lost 3 of their last 4. In the process, they have damaged their chances at an NCAA bid. However, the hands of the bracketologists have not removed Alabama completely from the picture. Most projections that I have seen have Alabama clinging to life in the "Next Four Out" group. Alabama has a lot of ground to cover between now and Selection Sunday, but they can take a first step by traveling to Athens and knocking off the Georgia Bulldogs. Game time is 3:00. ESPN2 will be televising the game.

For Georgia, this game has importance beyond Senior Day. The Bulldogs most likely will need an SEC Tournament title to make the NCAA Tournament, but their at-large hopes got a boost when they won at South Carolina on Thursday night. Another win on Saturday vs Bama, and they have a chance to get into the discussion next week.

Stats


Alabama
Georgia



66.8 PPG 69.6
67.0 OPP 68.5
.425 FG% .420
.404 OPP .380
49.6 EFG% 47.9
45.8 OPP 44.2
.334 3PT% .370
.320 OPP .320
.650 FT% .687
.666 OPP .693
41.1 FTRATE 43.5
39.9 OPP 42.6
35.2 RPG 39.4
37.7 OPP 36.2
28.5 OREB% 31.9
33.6 OPP 29.6
13.7 TOPG 13.5
12.2 OPP 10.8
20.4 TO% 19.6
18.3 OPP 15.6

Georgia has a trio of guards in J.J. Frazier (16.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 41% 3-pt), Kenny Gaines (13.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 40% 3-pt) and Charles Mann (10.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.7 apg) that are as good as any in the conference. Bama's strength has been perimeter defense, but these three guys will stress that defense. If Alabama's offense continues to falter, it will be up to the Bama defense to contain the Georgia guards if Alabama is to have a chance to win this game. Yante Maten (6'8, 240) has blossomed in his senior year (15.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg). Alabama has struggled against the better post players in this conference, but the hope is that Maten, who, at 6'8, is undersized at the 5, will struggle with the length of Jimmie, Donta and Mike. If the guards are forced into double team situations because the post defenders can't guard Maten, that opens the floor to the Georgia guards, and it's game over. Donta has been playing well. He needs Jimmie and Mike to help him.

The last two weeks have been tough for this Bama team. It's fair to say that they wilted in the face of increased expectations. A return to the favored underdog role is expected in this game, and perhaps where this team thrives best. Both teams are very similar in their efficiency ratings on both ends of the court. That suggests a close game. Alabama has struggled in those close games in recent weeks (their losses to Mississippi State and Arkansas were by a combined 7 points). This Georgia team is a veteran, well-coached team that will not be easily defeated on their home court. For Alabama to win, others will have to step up to assist Retin on the offensive end, be it Shannon, Art, Riley, Justin or a surprise participant. At this point I don't care as long as someone is willing to come to play along with Retin.

There is much to celebrate in this first season under Avery Johnson, but most only remember how the season ends. How will Alabama choose to end the season, with a bang or a whimper? The early results have not been promising, but I don't think this team has it in them to quit. Let's hope that determination is enough to help this team close out the 15-16 season in style. There is still much to play for.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

'Backs Burst Bama's Bubble, Arkansas 62 Alabama 61

Tuesday we lost the commitment from our best recruit in years, and last night we saw our NCAA tournament bid hopes go up in smoke on senior night.  It's been a horrid week for Alabama basketball.

Overall, I thought we had a pretty good game plan.  We handled the press well, and only had 10 turnovers.  While Retin had an unbelievable game and nearly won it by himself, he had an uncharacteristic 6 turnovers.  Most of these were from bad passes in the half court early in the game.  It seemed to take him a little while to settle down and get going.  At times, I think we hurt ourselves on offense by passing up decent shots because we worried a little too much about controlling the tempo.

We had a 4 point lead with a little under 10 minutes to go in the first half, but then went into an offensive funk including a 6+ minute scoring drought from the field.  This allowed Arkansas to take a 34-27 lead into halftime.

I thought we made some good defensive adjustments at halftime.  They've been a good 3 point shooting team, and we held them to just 3 of 11.  Unfortunately, we couldn't stop Moses Kingsley.  While he hurt us some in the low post, that was set up by his mid-range jump-shot.

Free throw shooting continues to be a problem.  We were 15 of 23, making 4 more than Arkansas despite shooting 8 more.  Speaking of missed free throws, we've got to do something about the scoreboard/clock operation.  They had to stop the game twice to correct the score, but more importantly, Shannon Hale noticed the clock continued to run after being handed the ball to shoot a free throw.  This resulted in him having to give the ball back to the official, and stand on the line while they went to the table and sorted it out.  Predictably, he missed it.  That simply cannot happen on our home court at this level.

Retin did all he could, carrying the team and scoring 32 of our 61 points.  The problem, as has been the case over the past couple of weeks, is he got little to no help from his supporting cast.  While Arkansas is prone to giving up good looks from the perimeter, it seemed nobody else was willing to shoot the ball.  Riley seems to have reverted back into the timid player that struggled early in the season.  We really needed a big game from Justin Coleman, but he was 0 for 2 from 3 point range in 29 minutes, including missing the potential game winner when he was wide open from the top of the key.  I think he was a little surprised the ball bounced his way, and he forced the shot a little too quickly.  Hale had a decent game and was our only other player in double-digits, but I thought he lacked aggressiveness at times.  Donta Hall is our best post player right now, and the fact he was able to play 21 minutes without fouling out is encouraging.  He had 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  The problem is he can't finish around the basket unless it's a dunk.  If he can develop any kind of shot, he could be all conference.  We have little to no scoring options in the post right now between Hall, Taylor, and Kessens.

We had 3 possessions late in the game where Coach had an opportunity to draw up a potential tying or take-the-lead play in a timeout, and we failed to get a good look in any of them.  It seemed like we had a good plan to get the ball in-bounds, but then the plan was just to get the ball to Retin and hope for the best.

More important than the basketball game, please keep Art's family in your thoughts and prayers.  His family was not able to make it for senior day because his mother was undergoing stomach surgery.  Hopefully she has a successful outcome and a speedy recovery.  It was great to see Cassandra Johnson and the team stand in with him as his family.    Mrs. Johnson introduced me to Art's father in Orlando after the Notre Dame game, and he couldn't have been nicer.  She truly does consider him to be family.

With the loss, our RPI is down to 69.  Jerry Palm still has us 3rd in his "first four out."  That being said, with 3 bad losses and the plummeting RPI, I just do not see a realistic path to an at-large bid.  It would likely take beating Georgia plus some combination of 2 out of Texas A&M/South Carolina/Kentucky in Nashville.  I'm going to discontinue the daily "Bubble watch" feature here, unless others feel strongly about wanting me to keep it up.  It just feels like an exercise in futility at this point.

Up next, we travel to Athens, GA for UGA's senior night, Saturday at 4:00 pm EST.  The game will have some significance for seeding in the SEC tournament.  There are a bunch of teams with 8 or 9 wins, and without taking the time to really break down all the tie-breakers, it looks like we could finish anywhere between 8th and 10th.  The game will be televised on ESPN2.






Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Bama Bubble Watch, RPI 57

Note:  The 57 RPI is based on CBS's projections, as the NCAA has not updated their site yet today.  Let's take a look at what happened last night.

Game Preview - Arkansas

The bittersweet march towards the end of the season continues as Alabama will play (hopefully) its final home game of the season when they host the Arkansas Razorbacks for Senior Night. Game time is 8:00. SEC Network will televise the game. I urge any of you reading this that can make it out to Coleman Coliseum to get out there and cheer for what has been, to use Avery Johnson's words, an inspiration to a lot of people. Arkansas enters this game with a 3-game winning streak. The expectation was a rebuilding season was in store once Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls entered the NBA draft. That has been the result, but Arkansas has been a little better than expected due in no small part to being top five in the league in offensive efficiency (#1 in 3-pt efficiency).

Living out of state is tough during basketball season. It's particularly difficult during games like these when the seniors are being honored. And folks, we've got two great seniors to honor tomorrow night. Retin Obasohan has been a fantastic representative for the University of Alabama and a great example of how hard work and perseverance can still pay off. Five years ago John Brannen recruits him to Alabama from Belgium, he sits out as a redshirt, had to overcome the culture shock that comes with moving to a new country, progressively improves as a player, and, barring some miscarriage of justice, will be a 1st team All-SEC selection in his fifth and final season. It's a great story. As is Arthur Edwards, whose value to this team and its success this season is substantial. Art's road to Tuscaloosa has been a winding one. A native of Washington D.C., Art played junior college in Florida, made his way to New Mexico for a few seasons before landing in Tuscaloosa. He's been a natural fit with this team, and his shooting touch from the perimeter was something this team sorely needed. Their leadership, character and importance to this team will not be forgotten.

Stats


Alabama
Arkansas



67.0 PPG 79.9
67.1 OPP 75.3
.425 FG% .449
.404 OPP .434
49.6 EFG% 50.5
45.9 OPP 49.7
.334 3PT% .407
.321 OPP .356
.650 FT% .702
.664 OPP .704
40.8 FTRATE 37.8
40.4 OPP 42.6
35.4 RPG 37.2
37.7 OPP 37.1
28.6 OREB% 31.0
33.4 OPP 30.4
13.8 TOPG 11.2
12.4 OPP 14.6
20.5 TO% 15.3
18.4 OPP 19.8

Any gameplan for defending Arkansas has to begin on the 3-point line. The Hawgs are the most efficient 3-pt shooting team in the conference, per KenPom. A big reason for this is they have two great shooters in Dusty Hannahs (16.2 ppg, 45% from 3) and Anthlon Bell (15.9 ppg, 45% from 3). If those two guys get cooking, it's going to be a long night for Alabama. But here's an interesting fact. While Arkansas may be the most efficient offensive team from 3 in the league, it is Alabama that is the most efficient defensive team from the 3-point line. And while Arkansas is efficient from 3, they only rank 11th in conference (again, per KenPom) in 2-point offensive efficiency. I can't stress it enough, Alabama's perimeter defense must be strong.

It surprised me to read that Arkansas wasn't more efficient in 2-point scoring as they have one of the most improved big men in the conference in Moses Kingsley (6'10, 230 lbs). In the 14-15 season, Kingsley averaged 3.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg and 1.1 bpg. This season, Kingsley is averaging 16.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 2.4 bpg. Along with Retin, I think Moses has been the most improved player in this conference. For an Alabama team that has struggled at times with athletic, physical big men, Kingsley represents a real challenge. Avery and the staff in preparing for this game will have to pick their poison. In focusing on the 3-point shooters for Arkansas, they will have to count on Jimmy, Mike and Donta to hold their own 1-on-1 vs Kingsley. Rebounding will be key for Alabama in this game. With a team like Arkansas who can be explosive offensively, Alabama must limit possessions and shot attempts. Arkansas has had their issues at times rebounding the ball. Kingsley has been a beast with 270 rebounds so far this season, but the next guy behind him has only 113 for the season (or 3.8 rpg). That would currently rank 6th on Alabama's roster. As with everything else this season, Alabama doesn't have one guy to go get rebounds; it must be a group of guys getting it done on the glass.

It goes without saying that this is yet another must-win situation for an Alabama team on the NCAA Tournament bubble (and if you're on the bubble at this point of the season, every game is a must-win). It's always an emotional evening when teams celebrate Senior Night, but Alabama must play poised and get off to a good start against an Arkansas team that has struggled on the road this season (only 2-8 this season in true road games). It's going to be a tense couple of weeks for us as we watch this Alabama team try to achieve something no one believed possible when the season tipped off. After a series of shaky performances, the team finished strong in their previous game vs Auburn. Hopefully, that's the sign of a team with one more surge left in them.  

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Terrance Ferguson has de-committed.

Scout reports that he is "very much still interested," but this is a huge blow.  Kansas and Baylor have both showed interest, and obviously Kansas has a lot of advantages that we simply can't offer.  Baylor has geographical, and possibly other advantages as well.

When he did not sign in the early signing period, it was rumored that he wanted to see our product on the floor before signing.  Early in the season, you will recall we attempted to run a much more up-tempo system.  After being blown out in Dayton; I think Coach Johnson quickly realized he didn't have the horses needed to run his system, and not wanting to badly lose 20+ games, he made some adjustments.  Obviously, it worked, as we are still discussing the NCAA tournament as a realistic possibility in March.  However, according to Ken Pom, we currently rank 315th in possession per 40 minutes.  The faster style of play was a major selling point, and I wonder if this de-commitment is a result of him seeing our more methodical grind-it-out style in person on his visit over the weekend.

Speaking of his weekend visit, this is all the more reason to dump the stupid Iron Bowl football trophy presentation at halftime.  It may not have had anything to do with this, but blatantly showing off how much of a "football school" we are while hosting recruits that are also being courted by the likes of Kansas simply cannot be a good thing.

Bama Bubble Watch, RPI 58

Here's last night's results:

Good News:

UNC 75
Syracuse 70

Norfolk State 84
Howard 66

Bad News:

Chattanooga 67
VMI 65