Monday, October 31, 2016

Preseason top 25 is OUT!

And we're nowhere to be seen. Not shocking really.... or the fact that only Kentucky represents the SEC in the top 25.

Preseason top 25

Saying that... I suspect we'll see 2 more SEC teams join Kentucky in the final top 25 poll in April 2017.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016-17 Schedule Preview: January

January brings a new year and conference play. Once again, Kentucky is projected to be king. Who follows them is anyone's guess; the league is expected to be wide open. There will be opportunities for each program to move up or down the standings.

Tuesday, January 3rd - at Mississippi State - Ben Howland has done a great job so far recruiting talent to Starkville. His 2016 class is ranked in the top 10 according to 247 Sports. Tyson Carter, Lamar Peters, Eli Wright, Mario Kegler, Schnider Herard and Abdul Ado (it's unknown if he will play as the NCAA is reviewing his eligibility status) are all 4 star recruits. Notable returning players are Quinndary Weatherspoon (12.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.3 spg), who is expected to be one of the best players in the league as a sophomore, I.J. Ready (the lone senior on this team), Aric Holman (former 4 star recruit, expected to play bigger role as a sophomore) and Xavian Stapleton (Louisiana Tech transfer who is expected back by the end of December as he rehabs a knee injury). This will be one of the youngest teams in the conference, but also one of the most talented.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016-17 Schedule Preview: December

Friday, December 2nd - at Texas - Alabama will enter December on the road with two of the toughest back-to-back non-conference games I can remember, beginning with this trip to Austin. The Longhorns lost their share of players from last season to graduation and the NBA Draft, but this roster is still loaded with talent. The Longhorns do return five players who averaged double figure minutes (Kerwin Roach Jr., Eric Davis Jr., Tevin Mack, Shaq Cleare and Kendal Yancey) and add a graduate transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock (Mareik Isom). Shaka Smart also signed a top five recruiting class headlined by 5 star center, Jarrett Allen, and 4 star guard, Andrew Jones. This Texas team will rely heavily on freshmen and sophomores, but their depth and talent is impressive on paper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Alabama Picked 7th in SEC Preseason Basketball Poll

SEC media days was held in Nashville today. The media released the preseason basketball poll along with the preseason All-SEC teams and the Player of the Year.

Alabama has been picked to finish 7th in the league. No surprise, Kentucky is the favorite. Alabama did not have a player named for the All-SEC teams. Arkansas' Moses Kingsley is the preseason Player of the Year.

Preseason Media Poll 

1. Kentucky
2. Florida
3. Texas A&M
4. Georgia
5. Arkansas
6. Vanderbilt
7. Alabama
8. South Carolina
9. Ole Miss
10. Mississippi State
11. Auburn
12. LSU
13. Tennessee
14. Missouri

1st Team All-SEC

Moses Kingsley - Arkansas [SEC Preseason Player of the Year]
J.J. Frazier - Georgia
Edrice "Bam" Adebayo - Kentucky
De'Aaron Fox - Kentucky
Tyler Davis - Texas A&M

2nd Team All-SEC

KeVaughn Allen - Florida
Yante Maten - Georgia
Isaiah Briscoe - Kentucky
Malik Monk - Kentucky
Antonio Blakeney - LSU
Quinndary Weatherspoon - Mississippi State
Luke Kornet - Vanderbilt

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016-17 Schedule Preview: November

Thursday, November 3rd - Faulkner - The season tips off with an exhibition game vs the Faulkner University Eagles from Montgomery. This should be a fun night for the Wimp Sanderson family. The former coach at Faulkner was Jim Sanderson, son of Wimp. Jim led the Faulkner program to an NAIA national title. After 24 seasons he retired, and his brother, Scott, was hired after previous coaching stops at the University of Mobile and Lipscomb University. In two seasons, Scott has compiled a 41-24 record and has led the program to a Southern States Athletic Conference tournament title and an appearance in the NAIA tournament. Five of the top nine scorers from last season return, including the top scorer from a season ago, Di'mar Hill (20.5 ppg).

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bama Basketball BBQ

Tuesday afternoon I attended the annual open practice and BBQ for Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa Tip Off Club members.  It's hard to tell a lot from a few minutes of scrimmaging and one limited practice, but here are a few observations.  As usual, I tried to focus a bit more on the new guys.

-Dazon Ingram did not practice as he was sick with a stomach virus.

-Coach Pelphrey had his arm in a sling.

-Donta Hall seems to be continuing his late season development from last year.  He ran the floor well and his rebounding instincts appeared improved.  In fact, the team as a whole spent a lot of time working on rebounding, with Coach Avery intentionally missing some shots while everyone crashed the boards.

-They had an 18 second shot clock during scrimmage drills.

-They spent time doing skeleton drills on offense, working on both transition and half court sets, and of course the scrimmages.

-Everyone on this team has the ability to be a great defender.  I think we will be improved as a defensive team.

-We have a lot more depth in the front court than we did a year ago.  I've already mentioned Hall and we know what we are getting with Jimmy, but Nick King can also play a small 4, and he has a pretty short to mid range shot.  Bola has great instincts and is very active and likes to play down low.  It's not surprising he led SIU in rebounds, but it will be interesting to see if it translates to this level, as he is a bit undersized.   Daniel Giddens will have to sit out this year, but he can also play in the post.

-Ar'mond Davis will take over the Art Edwards perimeter specialist role, but I believe he may be a bit more athletic and versatile than Art was, if not quite as consistently accurate.

-Braxton Key is athletic and can play several spots.  He will be a good defender and has the athleticism to score, but he had a few more turnovers than I would have liked, needs to work on his hands.  He was also wearing a face mask, so I don't know if that's his thing or he's had some kind of injury.

-Avery Jr appears to have added some muscle and I think he can give us some minutes at PG.  Corban Collins also looks like a solid team leader who can give us some minutes.

-We seemed to run a lot of plays designed to get open looks from the corner.

-Coach said with more depth he hopes to run more, and he stressed the importance of improving rebounding.  He said we were 320th or something in rebounding last year and missed the tournament by 2 games, he viewed that as being the difference.  He also talked about the importance of the crowds in recruiting and building the program, and begged everyone to come out to the Tide Tipoff event next Friday.  He also talked about how great the atmosphere was for the mid-day game at Dayton last year and hopes we can match it when they come down for the ESPN game.

- My overall take away is we could potentially go 12 deep, which means foul trouble won't be as crippling as it was last year, but we are going to really miss Retin.  We need someone to step up and be that go-to scorer who can create his own shot.

The event was well attended considering what it is, I would guess around 800 or so people were there.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

2016-17 Roster Preview: Forwards/Centers

Wrapping up the 16-17 roster preview with the forwards and centers.

Riley Norris - 6'7 - 203 lbs - Junior - Riley took a step forward in his sophomore season. He led the team in rebounding, and finished with the second best shooting percentage from 3. He also continued to make the hustle plays that have become standard for him, and I thought he really showed improvement on the defensive end. He enters his junior season as a veteran that Avery and the coaching staff can depend on. The next step for Riley is becoming more confident on the offensive end (his FG% must improve from last season - 37% - as well as his FT% - 65%), while also becoming more of a vocal leader for this team.

 Daniel Giddens - 6'11 - 235 lbs - Sophomore - Daniel played one season at Ohio State before transferring to Alabama where he will sit out the 16-17 season per transfer rules. Daniel was a top 50 high school player at Oak Hill Academy. In 18 minutes a game at Ohio State, he averaged 3.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 1.5 rpg. I think the year off will benefit Daniel as he continues to develop as a player.

Jimmie Taylor - 6'10 - 248 lbs - Senior - As a reminder of the cruel nature of time, it's hard to believe that Jimmie Taylor is preparing for his senior season. It's been an inconsistent three seasons for Jimmie at Alabama, but he's played in 99 games, starting 73 during his career. He's also been named a team captain so he's someone the coaches and players respect. The next step for Jimmie is to become a more consistent basketball player. There have been games during his career (for example: the game vs Florida last season) where Jimmie has played at a high level, but he's prone to disappear in the next game. Needless to say, this team needs more consistency from Jimmie, be it on offense, rebounding the ball better (his career average is only 4.3 rpg), shooting free throws, or just avoiding foul trouble.

Shannon Hale - 6'8 - 233 lbs - Senior - Like Jimmie, it's hard to believe Shannon is preparing for his final season in Tuscaloosa. I loved Shannon's game coming out of high school, believing he could be an All-SEC caliber player; and he got off to a great start, being named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Unfortunately, it's been up and down for Shannon since that freshman season. Part of the issue has been injuries; Shannon has had three foot surgeries in three seasons. Another part of the issues may have been mental. At times, Shannon's body language has suggested that he didn't have confidence in himself, his teammates or his coaches. All of those factors may have contributed to Shannon's struggles. Last season, Shannon got off to a great start before missing five games for an unspecified "medical condition". He never quite got back to the level of play he had before missing those five games. Surprisingly, he only started in 12 of the 28 games he played. Despite that, I thought Shannon showed improvement as a defender (his steal and dunk to seal the win at Clemson was a particular highlight), and I thought his body language was better as the season progressed (the chemistry between the players and coaches played a big part in that team winning 18 games). This being his final season, I believe that, if healthy, Shannon will play with a sense of urgency and will finish his Alabama career on a high note.

Bola Olaniyan - 6'7 - 220 lbs - Graduate Transfer - Bola transferred to Alabama from Southern Illinois where he averaged 7.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg. He was second in the Missouri Valley Conference in rebounding, and led his team in FG% (56.6). Avery Johnson has called Bola a "rebounding machine". That's a good thing, because one of the biggest reasons for Alabama's struggles in recent seasons has been their inability to rebound well. If Bola is able to rebound effectively, he's going to get his fair share of minutes. The concern is, at 6'7, will he be too undersized at the 4 or 5 to effectively rebound the ball against improved competition?

Braxton Key - 6'8 - 220 lbs - Freshman - Braxton was a four star recruit from Oak Hill Academy. A consensus top 100 recruit, he was an important recruit early in the Avery Johnson tenure. I'm excited to see Braxton play this season, and develop in the years ahead. The exciting thing about Braxton is his versatility; you can play him at four spots on the floor. Avery even said recently that Braxton is capable of playing the point, if necessary. I believe, at his best, he's the type of guy who can fill a stat sheet. Like most freshmen, he'll probably need to work on his jump shot, and adjust to the speed and power of the game, but at 6'8, 220 lbs, he seems physically ready to step in and play important minutes. His best years may be in the future, but it won't surprise me if he's an important part of the rotation as this season progresses.

Donta Hall - 6'9 - 224 lbs - Sophomore - Donta was playing his best basketball at the end of last season. He was blocking shots, he was dunking, he was rebounding well. His offensive game was raw and will likely continue to need work, but if he continues to defend the rim, finish at the rim, improve as a rebounder and play with the same motor that he did at the tail end of last season, that's going to go a long way towards seeing his role with this team increase. Donta's athleticism and high motor has already seen his name pop up in some future NBA draft pick conversations. Donta has a long way to go in his development, but at times last season he reminded me of a more athletic Roy Rogers, and Roy was a 1st round draft pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Galin Smith Commits to Alabama

Galin Smith, a 6'9, 225 lb Center from Clinton, Mississippi became the third commitment of the 2017 class on Friday. He was also the third commitment of the week after the Thursday commitments of Alex Reese and Herb Jones. Smith, a 3 star recruit, is rated the number 2 prospect in the state of Mississippi. Smith averaged 21.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 5.1 bpg and 1.5 apg last season. Smith, who has only been playing basketball since the age of 14, is considered a late bloomer who could prove to be a steal in the years ahead.

The current class for Alabama is ranked in 247 Sports top 25, but the hope is that at least two more commitments will be forthcoming. The top targets remaining are Collin Sexton (5 star, PG, 6'2, 175 lbs), Troy Brown (5 star, SF, 6'7, 210 lbs), John Petty (4 star, SG, 6'5, 180 lbs) and Rayshaun Hammonds (4 star, PF, 6'7, 190 lbs). If Alabama can secure at least two commitments from that group, Bama is looking at signing a top 10 class for 2017.  

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Herb Jones and Alex Reese commit to Alabama

Herb Jones, a 6'7, 185 lb wing player from Hale County HS in Moundville has committed.  He's rated a 3 or 4 star depending on what recruiting service you believe.  Herb appears to be the type that can play the 2 or the 3, and maybe even stretch to a small 4.  He chose the Tide over auburn, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.

Rumor has it that Alex Reese and Galin Smith, Centers from Pelham and Clinton, MS respectively, will also be committing either later today or by the end of the week.

This would be a great start to the class, but obviously we will need to get them signed, and it's imperative that we add Collin Sexton and/or John Petty to the group.

UPDATE: Alex Reese, the 6'10"225 lb, 4 star PF from Pelham has indeed committed as speculated. I've seen him play a few times.  He has good quickness and mobility for his size and can make the mid-range jump shot creating matchup problems.  He has tons of raw talent but will require some coaching.  I did not think he was used effectively in the games I saw.  For example, in one game he went an entire quarter without touching the ball in the paint, despite having 6 inches on anybody on the court.   If the staff can add a bit of muscle to him and teach him to be more aggressive and physical defensively and on the boards, he has the potential to be an NBA quality front man.

Monday, October 03, 2016

2016-17 Roster Preview: Guards

With practice officially beginning on Friday, the 16-17 season will be here soon. In the offseason, Avery Johnson and his staff put in major work in order to add more talent and depth to the program. The result: there is a full compliment (13) of scholarship players on hand. I honestly don't remember the last time the program had a full roster. The increased depth, talent and versatility of this roster, along with a successful first season under Coach Johnson, has brought the usual increase in expectations among the fanbase. How quickly a roster with an influx of new players can gel will go a long way towards determining if the increased expectations can be justified. I'm cautiously optimistic that this Alabama team can be a sleeper in the SEC this season. Let's take a look at the roster, beginning with the guards.