Friday, December 30, 2016

Hating on Hatters, Bama 83 Stetson 60

Alabama took care of business in the final non-conference game against an over-matched Stetson team to take a 7-5 record into a conference play.

The first half wasn't pretty.  We struggled with turnovers and poor shooting, and only managed to take a 7 point lead into the locker room.  The second half looked much like the Arkansas State game, we played lock down defense and methodically put the game out of reach.

Stetson had no size and for once we took advantage of that and dominated the boards.  Bola had 13 rebounds in 22 minutes.  Dazon had a double double with 10 rebounds and 16 points.  Riley led all scorers with 18 points and Key added 10.  AJ also played well, with 10 points and 6 assists to just one turnover.  The law firm brought the crowd to their feet with a 3 pointer in garbage time.  Davis continues to shoot from all over the court despite rarely coming close to making anything.  He had another 1 for 8 night.

The crowd was about what you would expect for a 7-6 team playing a weak opponent on a Thursday night during Christmas break.  I would say there was maybe 4,500 or so there.  There were a lot of kids in attendance thanks to it being dollar admission for youth night.  This is a good promotion that allows families to see a game at an affordable price, and it's good market to kids as that is the next generation of our fan base.  That being said, given the incessant chatter and constant walking up and down the aisles during game play that comes along with it; I'm glad it's only a once per year promotion.

Up next, we travel to Starkville next Tuesday night for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff against Mississippi State to kick off the SEC schedule.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.  Happy New Year and Roll Tide!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Game Preview - Stetson

Alabama will wrap up their non-conference schedule when they host Stetson on Thursday night. Tip time is 7:00 PM CT. The game will be televised on SEC Network+ via the WatchESPN app.

                                                                            Stats

                                               Alabama                                                 Stetson





67.3 PPG 77.5





62 OPP 81.6





42.9 FG% 42.6





40.5 OPP 44.4





49.1 EFG% 48.3





47 OPP 51.5





31.6 3PT% 33.2





35.5 OPP 33.4





64.8 FT% 66.3





65 OPP 68.7





37.6 FTRATE 30.8





35.3 OPP 32.2





36.5 RPG 36.7





33.6 OPP 44.5





30.4 OREB% 20.4





26.7 OPP 31.1





13.1 TOPG 11.8





15.3 OPP 12.3





19.4 TO% 15.3





22.6 OPP 15.2





80 KenPom Ranking 301



My Two Cents: It's been a frustrating season at times for this Alabama basketball team. One thing in their favor is they have not suffered a "bad loss", i.e. a loss to a sub-150 team. Alabama should extend that streak against Stetson, but I would like to see a strong performance. The Arkansas State game was arguably the best 40 minutes of basketball this Bama team has played. Can our guys avoid a post-Christmas letdown, and build some momentum heading into conference play?

Players to Watch: Donta Hall and Jimmie Taylor haven't exactly been offensive dynamos during their Alabama careers. Donta's offensive game is still developing, while Jimmie, being a senior, is what he is at this point. That was pretty good in the last outing, when he posted a season high in points (12), while adding 3 boards, a block and an assist. Stetson opponents are averaging 44.5 rebounds per game, leaving the Hatters with a rough rebounding margin of -7.8. Alabama has made improvements in the rebounding stat, which leads me to hope that the Bama big men can have a big night.

Stetson has a pair of guys in Derrick Newton (16.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 43% from 3) and Divine Myles (16.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 47% from 3) that could create some headaches. Both guys can really shoot the ball. Myles, who hails from Mobile, will likely be excited to play this game. Watch out for him to have a big game.

Prediction: Our guys finally exhibited some chemistry and toughness in the Arkansas State game after a slow start. I hope that wasn't a mirage. Newton and Myles are capable scorers, but Bama's defense controls the game. Alabama - 79 - Stetson - 58.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The State of the SEC

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone's holiday weekend is off to a good start.

With SEC conference play beginning on Thursday, I wanted to give my thoughts on the state of the conference, power rankings, etc.

Based on non-conference play, the league is, once again, going to struggle to put more than four teams in the tournament field. Non-conference scheduling has been better, but SEC teams still have to win some of those games. Alabama is a great example of this. Avery Johnson put together a solid non-conference schedule, but Alabama has been unable to win the higher profile games. As a result, their NCAA Tournament hopes are practically on life support before January.

Here are my rankings for the SEC as we look ahead to conference play.

1. Kentucky - Not quite the defensive juggernaut we've come to expect under Calipari, but this team can still overwhelm opponents with their talent. De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk have been a dynamic backcourt, "Bam" Adebayo is a physical presence in the post, and the experience of Isaiah Briscoe, Isaac Humphries rounds the team into shape. I'll be shocked if this Kentucky team loses more than twice in conference play.

2. Florida - Not a team that really jumps out at you, but the Gators have played good, solid basketball. They could be the only team in the league with a realistic shot at denying Kentucky the league title. At the very least, this should be a tournament team.

3. South Carolina - The suspension of Sindarious Thornwell has complicated matters for this South Carolina team. In the stretch that Thornwell has been out, the Gamecocks have lost close games to Seton Hall and Clemson, two games that could loom large for this team on Selection Sunday. I expect Thornwell will return for the conference opener, but the margin for error is thinner for the Gamecocks due to the time he missed.

4. Arkansas - The Razorbacks have some solid wins (UT Arlington has been a great mid-major team so far, Houston and a neutral floor win vs Texas), but will probably need to win at least 11 games in conference to feel good about their tournament chances. That means winning some on the road. The one true road game they played this season, at Minnesota, they lost by 20. 

5. Texas A&M - The Aggies have one of the better front lines in college basketball with Tyler Davis, Tonny Trocha-Morelos and star freshman Robert Williams, but it's the production of their guards that will determine their season. A&M needs to stockpile some wins for their resume after near misses against UCLA, Arizona and USC in the non-conference.

6. Auburn - It pains me to write this, but the Auburn Tigers have been one of the better SEC teams in non-conference play with quality wins vs Texas Tech, at UAB, at Uconn and a neutral floor win vs Oklahoma. None of those teams are locked into the NCAA tournament, but it's hard to find four other teams in the league that have similar wins over a 12 game stretch. Pearl also added the talents of 5 star big man Austin Wiley for the second semester. I'm still not convinced this is a tournament team, but they're better than I thought they would be at this point. Have to give credit where credit is due. 

7. Georgia - The Bulldogs as a whole have been a bit disappointing (their best win so far is on a neutral floor vs George Washington), but they do have Yante Maten, arguably the best player in the league up to this point. JJ Frazier is also a very capable player. For Georgia, they need a third guy to emerge as a playmaker if they're going to make a run for a tournament bid. Even without a third option, Maten and Frazier should be enough to keep this Georgia afloat in the middle of the SEC pack.

8. Ole Miss - The Rebels have a nice home win over Memphis, close losses to Creighton and Virginia Tech, and were crushed at home by Middle Tennessee, a good mid-major program. Hard to get a read on Ole Miss. They look the part when you watch them, but the results don't suggest this team is anything more than a solid mid-pack team.

9. Tennessee - The Vols are 7-5, but they've been extremely competitive in their losses against power programs (Wisconsin, Oregon, North Carolina and Gonzaga). The assumption is that will carry over well in an SEC conference that once again is struggling to assert a power structure. Some thought Tennessee was a basement dweller in the preseason (guilty as charged), but they don't look the part so far.

10. LSU - A 34-point loss at Wake Forest this past week isn't likely the last beatdown the Tigers will take this year on the road. Once again, mental toughness and chemistry appear to be lacking in a Johnny Jones team. The biggest question moving forward is will Jones survive another mediocre campaign?

11. Alabama - You could make an argument for Alabama being a spot higher on this list (they don't have any 34-point losses on the ol' resume), but I'll stick with this ranking. Offense continues to be lacking, and even the strength of the team (defense) is inconsistent. I underappreciated the impact of Retin and Arthur to last year's team, and expected too much from the returning upperclassmen.

12. Vanderbilt - The Dores haven't looked good in Bryce Drew's first season, despite some holdover talent from the Stallings tenure. Similar to Alabama, they have been competitive against quality opponents, but have no wins to show for it. The two teams will face off in the conference home opener for Bama.

13. Mississippi State - Despite the presence of Quinndary Weatherspoon, this is a very young team. Howland put together a manageable schedule for this squad, but I think conference play will lay bare just how young this team is. The program is moving in the right direction, but it could be another year before State fans will really have something to cheer about. The game vs Alabama in the conference opener will be big for both teams.

14. Missouri - Remember when Missouri's addition to the league was supposed to raise the basketball profile? The Tigers already have home losses to sub-200 KenPom North Carolina Central and Eastern Illinois. Once again, this looks like the last-place team in the league. You have to think if that is the case, Missouri will be making a coaching change.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Crimson Tide drowns Red Wolves, Alabama 67 Arkansas State 52

Alabama bounced back from arguably its worst performance of the season in a loss to Clemson, and had perhaps its best performance of the season in beating Arkansas State in the Rocket City Classic.

With Corban Collins out with a groin injury, we went with a starting lineup of 1. Avery Jr. 2. Dazon Ingram, 3. Key 4. Riley 5. Hall.  I really like the starting back court and moving Dazon to SG.  Corban brings great leadership and energy but he has struggled a bit in recent weeks.  I still prefer Riley coming off the bench as he is still a bit of a defensive liability, but I'm not sure there is really a better option.  Perhaps Hale would give us more of his good games if he is consistently in the starting lineup?  To his credit, I thought he played well coming off the bench and had good energy.

In fact, the whole team played hard with a lot of enthusiasm.  Arkansas State had long scoring droughts in both halves which allowed us to take control of the game.  We got off to a slow start and fell behind early, but the game really turned around after the Wolves were called for a flagrant foul on Ingram.  I thought we may have caught a break on that call, it was a hard foul but on replay I didn't think it looked as bad as it did in real time.  ASU was playing very physical and they already had a couple of hard fouls by that point, and in that context the officials probably thought it best to try to maintain control of the game.  In any event, the hard foul seemed to motivate our guys, as we shut them down for the next several minutes and out-hustled them for a number of loose balls to regain the lead.  We only took a 5 point lead into the half after having a poor final minute, taking an ill advised shot way too early in the shot clock and committing a dumb foul on the other end.

We finally played up to our potential defensively and put the game away fairly early in the second half,  Braxton Key had another great performance with 11 points and 7 rebounds.  Hall got into foul trouble and only had 5 points, but he did block 4 shots and had 4 rebounds in only 17 minutes of play.  He had some monster blocks early and I think that led to him being a bit too aggressive.  Most of his fouls were for jumping into air-born shooters going for the big blocks.  Thankfully, Jimmie Taylor really stepped up his game.  He was our leading scorer with 12 points.  Ingram was also in double digits with 10, and I think moving him off ball helps him be a bit more aggressive.  AJ Jr has some limitations at point, but he seems more comfortable pushing the ball up the court and isn't afraid to take some chances.  Hale had a nice game with 9 points but more importantly I thought he had his best defensive effort so far on the season.  My only real complaint is Davis.  He made a 3 in the first half and I told Hville, "great, now he's going to be jacking it up all night."  He went 0 for 5 after that, including a couple of air balls.  He needs to stop throwing up wild, contested shots from all over the court.

This was only my second trip to the Von Braun center and first for basketball (I watched our Birmingham Steeldogs upset the Vipers in arena football there back in the day.)  They've done some renovations and the lobby and concourse area are very nice now.  For a hockey arena, it is not a bad place at all to watch a basketball game.  My only real complaints about the venue were they could use some more display boards to show stats, etc, and only having one main entrance/exit made it somewhat time consuming to get out after the game.  Knight Eady did a great job promoting the event, and major props to our Huntsville and North Alabama fans for showing up.  It was a legit, hard sell out of 6,500.  I think a big part of the team's improved energy can be attributed to playing in front of a packed house.  Former stars Bobby Lee Hurt and Richard Hendrix were among those in attendance.    After the game Coach Johnson and the team came out to half court and acknowledged/thanked the fans.  They announced it as the "First annual Rocket City Classic," and my understanding is that Knight Eady is already trying to work on setting something up for next year.  Basketball is actually a big deal in that part of the state, and it's no coincidence that a number of top prospects have emerged from the Huntsville area in recent years.  I hope we start playing there more often during the Christmas break.  Finally, I really enjoyed hanging out with and watching the game Hville.  Hopefully he will start posting here again soon.



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Game Preview - Arkansas State

The Alabama basketball program will play a game in Huntsville for the first time since 1999 when it hosts Arkansas State at the Von Braun Center on Wednesday night. This will be only the second time that these two programs have met. The first time was way back in 1969; Alabama won 93-79. Tip time is 8 PM CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. Corban Collins will miss this game due to a groin injury sustained in the Clemson game. I would guess we won't see him return until conference play so expect increased minutes for Ar'Mond Davis and/or Brandon Austin. We may also see quite a bit of AJ Jr and Dazon on the floor at the same time. Avery has played well this season, and moving Dazon off the ball may push him to be more aggressive on the offensive end.

Stats

Alabama                                                Arkansas State


67.3 PPG 77.9
63 OPP 68
42.8 FG% 48.9
41.2 OPP 41.9
49.3 EFG% 55.2
48.1 OPP 47.2
31.7 3PT% 40.6
36.4 OPP 26.3
65.4 FT% 64.4
67.4 OPP 72.5
37.5 FTRATE 40.7
35.7 OPP 49.1
35.9 RPG 35.5
33 OPP 32.5
29.8 OREB% 30.4
25.4 OPP 29.1
13 TOPG 14.5
15.2 OPP 15.4
19.3 TO% 20.3
22.5 OPP 21
83 KenPom Ranking 131

My Two Cents: Any Bama fans expecting this to be a bounce-back game against an over-matched mid-major should lower their expectations. This Arkansas State team has been pretty good through eleven games. They're 5-2 in road/neutral site games, including a win at Georgetown earlier this season. The 9-2 start for the Red Wolves is their best start in program history. The numbers are also impressive: Arkansas State is currently ranked in KenPom's top 30 when it comes to 3-point offensive efficiency and are ranked 2nd in 3-point defensive efficiency. They're also ranked in the top 75 in 2-point offensive efficiency (though their 2-point defensive efficiency is in the 200s so Alabama should strive to get the ball into the paint). For an Alabama team that has struggled to make and defend 3-point shots, those are scary stats. On the plus side, if Alabama can win this game, this could be a sneaky good win for their resume if Arkansas State goes on to be a factor in the Sun Belt conference race (KenPom currently projects them to finish tied for 2nd in the conference).

Players to Watch: For Alabama, who the hell knows? No one has stepped forward as a consistent offensive threat for this team. The offense-by-committee approach simply hasn't worked. Avery and his staff have to identify 2-3 guys who they can trust to be volume shooters. This team has been solid defensively, but the long-time enemy, the scoring drought, has continued to plague this team. They've gotta find a way to be more efficient on the offensive end, and improve their tempo (currently ranked 299 in adjusted tempo by KenPom).

Devin Carter has been fantastic for Arkansas State so far with averages of 17.6 ppg (46.9% FG, 44.3% from 3). He's taken 53 more shots than the next guy on his team so there is no mystery here, Alabama will have to be locked in on him.

Prediction: The season is slip-sliding away from this Bama team. If they can't put the foot on the brake soon, this season could get away from them entirely, and Wednesday night of the SEC Tournament may be the only March basketball we can realistically look forward to. First things first, they need to build some momentum with conference play a mere two weeks away (whew, this season is flying by). Arkansas State is not going to make that easy. As I've pointed out, this is a good team, and I doubt they've seen anything on film that makes them fear Alabama. They will enter this game expecting to win. Our guys will have to play well to spoil the Red Wolves trip to Huntsville. Sadly, my confidence in this team is low at the moment, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Alabama - 72 - Arkansas State - 67.   

Monday, December 19, 2016

Clemson Clobbers Crimson Tide, Clemson 67 Bama 54



We started the game on a 6-0, and ended the first half on a 5-0 run to make the halftime score a semi-respectable 31-19.  The garbage that happened in between those runs defined the game.  We had some combination of Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale, and Riley Norris on the floor for most of the half, and they stunk it up on both ends of the floor, again.  I think it's time to let the upperclassmen watch from the bench and start playing for next year.  Collins really struggled to protect the basketball in the first half as well.

There were also a couple of shot-clock malfunctions that caused us to in-bound the basketball with only a few seconds remaining to shoot.  I don't know if that's attributable to subpar equipment at the BJCC or the fact that our normal clock operator was not there, or some combination of both.

We went 11 minutes without scoring a FG.  Oddly enough, we made 76% of our free throws otherwise it could have been a lot worse.  We built a pretty nice brick house going 3 for 20 from 3 point range.  I guess on the bright side that's a slight improvement from the Oregon game.

We played better in the second half and cut the lead to 10 at a couple of points.  I felt like if we could get it to single digits we would have a chance to make a run, but it seemed every time we got close there would be a defensive lapse resulting in a wide open 3 or layup.

This team has no identity.  There were several possession with absolutely no offensive movement or spacing away from the ball.  We don't have any chemistry or communication on defense.  There was no sense of urgency in the final minutes after we cut the lead to 10.

On the positive side, AJ Jr had another good game.  He scored 17 points and was our only player in double-figures.  Donta Hall only scored 2 after a couple of great games, but he did play nice defense, helping to hold Blossomgame to 9 points and also pulling down 7 rebounds.  Brandon Austin got 10 minutes of playing time, in part because Collins went down with a groin injury in the second half.  Bola started the game and I thought he played well the 6 minutes he was allowed to stay on the court.

I would estimate the crowd was around 6,000 on a cold rainy Sunday afternoon in Birmingham.  Perhaps marginally better than we would have had in Tuscaloosa.  The atmosphere was not near as loud and exciting as the Oregon game was in Birmingham last year.  The crowd did get behind the guys whenever we got close to being within single digits in the second half.

Up next, we travel up I-65 to take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL.  Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on SEC Network.  I should have an extra ticket, so if anybody reading this in North Alabama wants to go for free, hit me up.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sleeping with the enemy, Clemson Tigers

Ryan Kantor of Shakin the Southland graciously provided us with the Clemson perspective again on this matchup.  If you visit Shakin the Southland, please follow their site rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama.

A day after UK and UNC had an epic 103-100 shootout, we'll see a game with a 
slower pace and a lower score in Birmingham. 

Clemson has one of, if not the, most talented  squads of the Brownell era. The 
Tiger offense is 23rd in efficiency - unprecedented for a Brownell Clemson 
squad. Nevertheless, they still play at a relatively slow pace. Alabama plays at 
an even slower pace, 300th fastest in the nation! 

Aside from Jaron Blossomgame, the Tigers' star PF, look out for Shelton 
Mitchell. The transfer from Vanderbilt has taken over the starting PG role after 
missing the first few games with a knee injury. He has given the offense added 
efficiency as he distributed the ball carefully. The Tigers are top 10 on 
turnover rate. 

The improved play of Sidy Djitte has been the best news for the Tigers thus far. 
He has avoided constant foul trouble while continuing to be a monster on the 
boards with greatly increased minutes per game. Keeping him off the offensive 
glass will be a key for Bama. 

The Tigers may also see Texas A&M transfer Elijah Thomas take the court for the 
first time this season in Birmingham. He will give them a boost in frontcourt 
depth. 

This should be an exciting and competitive contest, but it's one Clemson needs 
to win if they plan to make the NCAA tournament as we predicted. 

I had no idea we were number 300 in pace of play, but it doesn't surprise me.  I think it will be a competitive game, but I'll be surprised if we pull it out.  Hopefully they prove me wrong.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Tide Skates Past Upstate: Bama 78 Spartans 61

My apologies for the delay in posting this recap.  Real life obligations have interfered this week.  I'll keep this one short, mostly because I know everyone is already looking ahead to the big Clemson game tomorrow.

I missed the first ten minutes or so of this one, but was listening on the radio on my way to the arena.  We jumped out to a nice 10 point lead, but as soon as I arrived the Upstate big man started giving us fits.  We couldn't get a rebound, and they cut the lead to 1.  Thankfully, he wasn't able to stay on the court due to foul trouble, and we easily ran them out of the gym.

Donta Hall had another great game.  The pace and flow of this game was a lot better than we've seen.  Bola was back in the starting lineup and had a solid game with 10 rebounds before fouling out.  Despite the better offensive showing, we still didn't shoot the ball well, only 10 of 18 from the line and 6 of 20 for 30% from 3 point land.  We'll have to do better than that if we're going to keep our winning streak over teams from South Carolina going tomorrow.

Hall, Corban, and Key all had double digit points, with Donta putting up an impressive 15 points and 8 rebounds.  Riley played better than he has been, scoring 9 points, and Davis made a couple of 3s.  The competition wasn't the best as there really wasn't much Upstate could do with their beast of a center sitting on the bench, but I feel like at least some of our individual's roles on this team are becoming clearer.

Up next, the Vulcan classic, a 3 pm tip-off at Legacy arena in my hometown of Birmingham tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to only travelling 3 miles to see a game.  The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Game Preview - Clemson

Alabama will host Clemson in Birmingham for the 2nd annual Vulcan Classic at Legacy Arena. This will be the 10th meeting between the two programs, with Clemson holding a 5-4 advantage. Tip time is 3 PM CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Stats

Alabama                                                Clemson


68.8 PPG 80.1
62.6 OPP 64.7
43.9 FG% 44.1
40.9 OPP 42.2
50.7 EFG% 51.1
47.7 OPP 48.6
33.3 3PT% 34.7
35.8 OPP 34
63.9 FT% 75.6
67.1 OPP 75.8
36.2 FTRATE 37.9
36.9 OPP 17.2
35.8 RPG 37.1
33.1 OPP 36
30.1 OREB% 36.4
26.4 OPP 33.8
12.7 TOPG 10.1
15.7 OPP 16.6
18.8 TO% 14.8
23.2 OPP 24.2
79 KenPom Ranking 28

My Two Cents: This is an important game for both teams. Alabama desperately needs a quality win before starting conference play. Clemson has good wins over Georgia and Davidson, but a win here would count as a road win on their resume for a program hoping for its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2011. Avery Johnson continues to tinker with the rotation. The insertion of Donta Hall into the starting line-up has paid dividends, but the team remains a work in progress.

Players to Watch: As I mentioned, the insertion of Donta Hall into the starting line-up has been a positive. In two games as a starter, Donta is averaging 14.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg, while making 81% of his field goals (yes, most have been dunks). He's currently leading the team in rebounds (6.1), and has provided a post presence that Alabama hasn't had in years. If he continues to play well, the team as a whole should improve.

Clemson has six players averaging 9 or more points, but the heartbeat of this team is potential All-American, Jaron Blossomgame (18.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg). It remains to be seen if Alabama has someone who can defend Blossomgame, but limiting him is necessary if our guys want to win this game.

Prediction: I believe Alabama matches up with Clemson from a physical standpoint, but the Tigers seem to be the better team from a chemistry standpoint right now. And in addition to that chemistry, they will have by far the best player on the floor in Blossomgame. I believe in this Bama team, and expect them to improve as we move into January and February. Unfortunately, I don't think they're at a point in their development yet that they can beat a potential NCAA Tournament team. Clemson - 76 - Alabama - 59

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Game Preview - USC Upstate

Alabama will play their first home game since November 29th when they host USC Upstate on Thursday night. Tip time is 7 PM CT. If you can't make it to Coleman, the game will be televised on SEC Network+. This will be the first meeting between the two programs.

The latest news on Nick King is that he was diagnosed with a lung infection. He lost 15 lbs in a week, but is receiving treatment that will hopefully get him back in good health. Needless to say, he's out indefinitely. This latest setback for King makes one wonder if he was ever healthy this season, and perhaps that explains his struggles on the floor. If he does have to miss the remainder of the season, he should be eligible for a medical redshirt.

Stats

Alabama                                                 USC Upstate


67.6 PPG 79.7
62.8 OPP 78
42.6 FG% 46.2
41.9 OPP 42.7
49.7 EFG% 52.5
48.4 OPP 50.5
33.7 3PT% 34.9
37.1 OPP 34.6
64.8 FT% 63.6
68.2 OPP 68.8
36.9 FTRATE 32
38.5 OPP 30.4
34.8 RPG 41.8
33.1 OPP 36.8
29.5 OREB% 33.7
26 OPP 30.6
13 TOPG 13.6
16 OPP 10.3
19.3 TO% 18.5
23.7 OPP 13.5
81 KenPom Ranking 232

My Two Cents: This time of the year is always difficult in college basketball. Teams go long stretches between games due to finals so rust is always a concern; and with the holidays on tap, it's not rare for perceived favorites to find themselves distracted, leading to struggles or losing outright to underdog teams in guarantee games. The team has a list of issues that the coaching staff is trying to correct so they can't afford to overlook anyone.

Players to Watch: I believe Dazon Ingram needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end. He was scoreless in the 1st half vs Oregon, but was more aggressive in the 2nd, scoring 8 points. Dazon's jump shot has improved, and he can get to the rim, he can post up smaller guys, and he's a decent free throw shooter. I believe he can be a 15 ppg scorer if he wants to be. Donta Hall's first start was a successful one as the big man scored 14 and grabbed 7 boards. Was that game an anomaly or is Donta ready to step up his production?

For Upstate, Michael Buchanan (all 7'0, 285 lbs of him) is averaging a double-double (14.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg) so he's obviously a concern. But Upstate has five players averaging double figures in points, and a sixth player averaging just under double figures at 9.5 so this is far from a one-man team on offense.

Prediction: It goes without saying that Alabama needs to get back in the win column after back-to-back tough defeats. Upstate gave Auburn all it could handle earlier this season, and they could do the same in Tuscaloosa. The Spartans have balanced scoring on offense, and Alabama has struggled with physical big men like Buchanan in recent years. I think Upstate keeps it close, but our guys ultimately pull it out. Alabama - 77 - USC Upstate - 64.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Oregon game observations and non-basketball stuff

Well, this was another game we let slip away. Yes, I know we probably shouldn't have been in it to begin with, but Oregon pretty much played like garbage and still won. They decided to play the perimeter game and didn't take advantage of their sizable advantage in the post. I know folks are happy we were in the game, but I'm not... this is now the 3rd game this season we squandered by OUTSUCKING the opponent.

As DJC noted, the Oregon fans were great to us. Next to Hawaii (football) I don't think I've met a bigger group of non-conference opposing fans that were nicer.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ducked Up, Oregon 65 Bama 56

We did better than I expected, but it still wasn't enough.  I was discussing our chances with Bobbyjack before the game, and we agreed that our only path to victory was for Oregon to come out flat and unmotivated and for us to get hot from 3 point range with big nights from Hale and Riley.  We shot a horrific 2 for 19 from 3 point range, and got a big fat goose egg from Hale and Riley combined. You aren't going to beat ranked teams on the road doing that, and I'm shocked the game was as competitive as it was.

Everyone looking at this objectively thought we would be severely out-manned in the post.  We were not, thanks to Donta Hall.  He was obviously the bright spot in this game.  He scored 14 points and 7 rebounds, while doing a more than adequate job on defense.   I hope he's solidified himself in the starting lineup.  We started Bola at the 4, but he only played 10 minutes and didn't really do much.  I'm not sure what our best option is there at this point, but while Donta is stepping up at Center, we have a huge hole at the PF position.  Riley is too small, a defensive liability, and has appeared afraid to shoot lately, taking away the one thing he brings to that position by stretching the floor and creating defensive mismatches.  Bola doesn't appear to be the answer, and Hale is a head case, more on that later.  

There were some positives in this game.  I thought we played solid defense overall and we managed to hold Dillon Brooks to 10 points.  The team played hard, even after falling behind in the first half and trailing most of the game, they continued to fight and somehow managed to be in a tie game with less than 3 minutes to go.  

Oregon called a timeout and finished the game on a 9-0 run.  Credit where it is due, they stepped up, but this team doesn't seem to have the fortitude to make the big plays when it counts.  

Avery Johnson Jr. had another solid game, and I'm starting to really like his patented high off the glass move.  I thought we should have posted Dazon more.  I know others on this site have said they want Davis to play more, but I'm taking the opposite position.  He likes to shoot, but with the exception of the Ball State game, he doesn't appear to be very good at it. He doesn't have the best form, his release point is very low, and I certainly don't like putting him in the game cold at crunch time.  We've got to figure out who the leaders are on this team, and who needs to be on the court when the chips are on the table.  


This is going to be a bit uncharacteristically harsh, but I'm calling out Shannon Hale.  He is wasting his talents.  He should be the senior leader of this team.  He had no points, no rebounds, and 3 turnovers in 13 minutes of playing time.  This is happening way too often.  I wish him the best of luck.  I don't know what's going on in his life, but I hope he resolves whatever issues have caused him to seemingly not give a shit about his college career.  I'm glad he's a senior, and we'll just leave it at that.

I think the state of our program can best be summed up by the headline in the Oregonian sports section, "Ducks warm up for UCLA with Alabama."  I tweeted this to the team's account before the game in hopes of giving them some bulletin board material.  The reality is, elite teams view us like a directional mid-major program.  We're a glorified scrimmage for their real games.  

Oregon had a good crowd, I would estimate about 7,000 or so.  Matthew Knight arena is probably the nicest college facility I have been to.  It holds about 11,000 or so, and all of the seats are close to the action with great views.  The Oregon fans were fantastic.  The ones sitting near us were not only knowledgeable of the game but even encouraged us to "be heard" when we took the lead.  Several people wished us well in the upcoming football game, as they generally aren't too fond of Washington.  Eugene seemed like a cool town, Portland is an awesome city, and I definitely wish them best.  I would estimate there were about 100 Bama fans there, one solid group from the local alumni section with others scattered throughout, and we were loud when he had our brief lead.  The pacific northwest alumni did a great job of coming out and representing.  

 I will update this post with pics from the game, the train ride from Portland to Eugene, etc, as soon as I get home.  I'm posting this from the airport in Vegas, and you get what you pay for with the "free wifi" connection here.  

Up next, we finally get back to Tuscaloosa with a 7pm tipoff against USC Upstate Thursday night.  It should be a nice "warm up" for Clemson.



Friday, December 09, 2016

Game Preview - at Oregon

After a week off, Alabama will travel to the scenic Pacific Northwest to Eugene, Oregon to face the 24th-ranked Oregon Ducks. This is a return game from last season when the Ducks narrowly escaped Birmingham with a 72-68 victory. The game will tip at 5:00 PM CT, and will be televised on ESPNU. Bobby and DJC are making the trip to see the game in person. Have a great time guys, regardless of the final score.

DJC touched on this in the previous post, but Nick King will not travel with the team due to an undisclosed illness. According to Avery Johnson, King has lost 10 lbs in ten days, and the Alabama coaching staff is very concerned about his health. Nick is currently undergoing a series of tests to determine the cause of his illness and will be out indefinitely.

Stats

Alabama                                                Oregon


69.3 PPG 79.3
62.4 OPP 63.6
42.8 FG% 45.9
41.6 OPP 36.5
50.7 EFG% 51.5
47.9 OPP 43
36.4 3PT% 31.5
36.6 OPP 29.3
64.7 FT% 72.9
67.1 OPP 73.4
40.2 FTRATE 37.4
40.2 OPP 28.7
35 RPG 43.1
34 OPP 32.7
28.9 OREB% 37.5
26.6 OPP 28.1
12.3 TOPG 14.6
16.4 OPP 14.4
18.2 TO% 21.3
24.3 OPP 20.7
81 KenPom Ranking 21

My Two Cents: Oregon got off to a shaky start despite strong preseason expectations, but they have rebounded and appear to be back on track. They have a nice stretch of games coming up in which they won't leave the state of Oregon for the month of December. That should give them an opportunity to get healthy and improve. Our guys may be catching this Ducks team at just the wrong moment, as they begin trending upward. For Alabama to win this game, they will have to play the best 40 minutes of basketball that they have in them. With the continued roster uncertainty, that may be too much to ask. In their previous game vs Savannah State, Oregon scored 128 points (70 in one half!). Regardless of the competition, that is impressive. Alabama allowed Texas to score 51 in the 2nd half last Friday so they'd better bring their defense or this one could get really ugly.

Players to Watch: The roster (mis)management has been one of the biggest disappointments through seven games this season. Last season, it was a strength for Avery and the staff as they seemingly determined a rotation and the allocation of roles rather quickly. This season, it has been a real puzzle for the staff to solve. Having a full compliment of scholarship players is great, unless you're unsure of the hierarchy. Based on Avery's comments (and Nick King's absence), expect continued shuffles in the starting line-up (Donta Hall could get the start on Sunday, based on Avery's comments) and bench rotation. The only reliable guys right now from a minutes standpoint appear to be Braxton, Dazon and Corban (and Avery Jr. has certainly played well enough in recent games to deserve a continued role). After that, it's a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Dillon Brooks is one of the best players in college basketball, and he is the unquestioned leader of this team. It's not a coincidence that Oregon struggled early this season while Brooks was out, healing from offseason surgery. His return has sparked the team, and he has to be the focal point of the scouting report. There are other guys on this Oregon team that can beat you, but limit the heart and soul of this team, and Bama might have a chance at the upset.

Prediction: This Alabama team needs a quality win, but this probably isn't the game they get it. I just don't see a path for Alabama to win this game, barring a crazy-hot shooting night or a complete off night by the Ducks themselves. Avery Johnson mentioned the players had a team meeting so I hope we see a focused Alabama team in this game as they try to iron out the challenges that have faced them so far. That might result in a respectable showing, but not a victory. Oregon - 71 - Alabama - 59

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Sleeping with the Enemy- Oregon Ducks, also Nick King out with sickness

I reached out to Alex Rider of Addicted to Quack to get the Oregon perspective on Sunday's game.  He was kind enough to provide us with the insight below.  If you visit Addicted to Quack, please follow their site rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama:

Strengths: In the early going this year, Dana Altman has tinkered more with the 
rotation and lineup than perhaps he did at any point last year. I think we’re 
already starting to see some dividends of that. Last year this team with seven, 
eight deep max. Now with a healthy Dillon Brooks this team can bring any combo 
of Casey Benson, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Dylan Ennis, and Keith Smith off the 
bench. Obviously with this Oregon team the strength is the interior shot 
blocking with the combination of Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher and Bigby-Williams. 
The offense finally seems to be coming along, they’re sharing the ball better 
and starting to knock down shots that weren’t being hit in the losses to Baylor 
and Georgetown. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the rebounding numbers in 
the early going as the 43.1 points per game rank 14th in the country. 

Weaknesses: Sure, the interior defense is great but the team is still reeling on 
the exterior defense after the losses of Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin. I’ve 
seen this team play a lot more zone in the early going where it seemed like last 
year they would stick with the matchup zone often. In the losses, the team has 
been heavily isolation focused and it hasn’t worked out well at all. Overall the 
free throw shooting has been good, but in the losses and close games theres a 
serious trend of poor shooting. Turnovers have been the other sticking point in 
the early going. So far this year the team averages right around 15 turnovers 
per game with Jordan Bell leading the way with three per game. 

Matchup: After over a week off I’m going to be curious to see how the Ducks come 
out of the gate in this one. I expect a slow start but the Ducks to get it 
together, similarly to last year’s matchup. Bell and Boucher had big interior 
games last year and I think Altman will look to push that again this year. On 
another note in another sport, I don’t know if I can speak for all Duck fan’s 
but I certainly know I’ll be rooting for the ‘Tide on New Years Eve. 

Hopefully they will come out sluggish and won't have much of a crowd to get them going due to the winter break.  This is obviously a terrible matchup in the post for us.  I suppose I would mix some press in with a 2-3 zone to try to slow them down and force turnovers, and hope we have a couple of players who can get hot from 3 point range.  If they play up to their ability and we continue what we've been doing, this one could get ugly, fast.

More importantly, Nick King is sick will not be making the trip.  According to Coach Johnson, Nick has lost over 10 lbs and is still being diagnosed, so please keep him in your thoughts.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Way too early predictions on SEC and NCAAT

I don't think any of us saw South Carolina's impressive start coming. 2 wins over top 25 teams and a very favorable non-conference schedule coming up puts them in a great position to make the NCAA tournament assuming they play at least .500 ball in the conference.

Elsewhere... lots of 'meh' for the conference. Kentucky got surprised by UCLA, but we know they'll be top 5 when their players mesh. Florida will be tested this week (Duke and @ FSU) so we should know if they're contenders or pretenders. Auburn has a pre-Christmas showdown with Oklahoma and @ UConn so we will see if Bruce Pearl's magic is for real on the Plains.

Other than that... not getting a good vibe about the conference as a whole.

I predict we'll have 4 teams in the NCAA Tournament with one of them being the conference tournament champ:

Kentucky
Florida
South Carolina
Auburn

I'll be touring Eugene this weekend and hopefully bringing back a W, but not expecting it. This board might get more photos of the Oregon coastline, Corvalis, the beer pubs in Portland, and the city of Eugene from me.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Texas tackles Tide, Longhorns 77 Bama 68.

If you haven't already, please read Ron Steele's comment to Msmilie's preview below. He provides great insight and far more detail than I will be able to here.

That being said, we were outplayed, out coached, and out hustled.  The first half went about as well as we could hope, so that's the good news, the starting lineup appears to be set.

I question several of Coach Johnson decisions in the second half.  Shaka made adjustments, and we didn't.  Our bigs could not defend theirs one on one in the post, but there were no double teams and no weak side help.  Frankly, I was surprised that Shaka didn't exploit this more.

Texas had a huge question mark at pg, and we didn't even try to take advantage of that. Outside of the rare made free throw, we never pressed. When their shots were not falling they went to the dribble drive, and we could not stop them.   Against a team that has struggled to shoot and rebound, we never bothered to even try a zone defense.

Texas did what we should have, and pressed . I thought we were timid against the press, and it took us out of our comfort zone on offense.

Despite all of that, after blowing the 12 point halftime lead, we were still in a tie game with 4 minutes to play, but we showed no poise down the stretch. It was like every offensive possession was pre scripted and we wouldn't adjust come hell or high water. Most of the time it involved jacking up a contested, off balance 3, but there were also a few ill conceived drives to the basket resulting in blocked shots mixed in.  What's maddening is we had open, better options on many of these plays, and the longhorns kept missing free throws or turning it over to give us opportunities that we failed to take advantage of.

Watching this team shoot free throws makes me want to bang my head against a wall.  I am thinking of petitioning the NCAA to add a rule allowing teams to "decline" awarded free throws and take the ball out of bounds instead.

As for individual performances, I thought Collins and AJ played well.  Dazon had a solid game but needs to finish around the basket. Jimmie had an awesome dunk but didn't do much else.  Riley knocked down a 3 that was huge at the time and played well offensively, but was a liability on the other end.  Hale was at least more aggressive but fouled out in about 12 minutes.  With Key and Ingram both on the bench, we predictably endured a scoring drought that allowed Texas back in the game.

To be brutally honest,  at a high level I saw two mediocre at best basketball teams that will be lucky to sniff the NIT barring vast improvements.

The Erwin center is nice enough, and would probably rate in the top 5 of SEC arenas,  but that's more of an indictment the conference's facilities than anything else. It's a bit cavernous and the seats aren't close to the floor, so it's not a very intimidating environment.  I would guess there was only about 5,000 at most people there, with a couple hundred Bama fans scattered throughout.  The few Texas fans I talked to were pleasant hosts and passed along well wishes to our football team.  To their credit, the small crowd got behind them during their comeback run and down the stretch and I thought their players fed off the energy.

Despite the poor basketball, it was a real pleasure to finally meet Msmilie and his wife. I enjoyed watching the game and hanging out with them.  He's a good guy and knows the game, but he should probably consider letting his better half handle the driving duties :)

Up next, we go to Oregon for a 5pm cst, 3 pacific tipoff in Eugene next Sunday.  The ducks were picked to be a top 5 team, but have been up and down. It's a bad match up on paper, but of course would be a huge win if we can somehow pull it off.  Bobby jack and I are making the trip to give you a first hand account.







Friday, December 02, 2016

Game Preview - at Texas

Alabama will play their first true road game of the season tonight in Austin vs the Texas Longhorns. The game will tip off at 8:30 PM. The game will be televised on ESPNU. This will be the 12th meeting between the schools. Texas holds a 7-4 edge. I'm looking forward to taking in the game with DJC. Hopefully we will see our guys pull out a win.

Stats

Alabama                                                Texas


69.5 PPG 69.3
60 OPP 66.8
42.4 FG% 42.7
40.6 OPP 39.6
50 EFG% 47.6
47.2 OPP 44.9
36 3PT% 26.2
36.7 OPP 28.2
65.9 FT% 63.2
65.5 OPP 74.4
41.2 FTRATE 38.1
37.3 OPP 21.6
36.3 RPG 37.5
33.8 OPP 39.2
29.6 OREB% 28
24.9 OPP 32.2
12.3 TOPG 12
17.2 OPP 12.7
18.3 TO% 17.2
25.4 OPP 18.1
71 KenPom Ranking 70

My Two Cents: If the stats are any indication, this will be a close game. And close games on the road can be tricky affairs, especially when you factor in a home crowd and the way the game is typically officiated. Texas enters this game having lost three straight by a combined 44 points (that's not good, in case you're wondering). They don't have a true point guard, which has likely contributed to an average of 10.5 assists vs 12 turnovers per game. They're struggling shooting the ball, particularly from the three point line. Both teams are solid on the defensive end, but could be better based on the talent on paper. Both teams need a quality win so I expect both teams to come out ready to play.

Players to Watch: Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram have emerged early as the top two players for this team so they need to play well. But the key for this team, based on what we've seen so far, is what random guy for Bama will step up to make a difference in the game? The depth and balance of this team is nice, but I believe that the allocation of roles must emerge sooner rather than later if this Bama team is going to hit its ceiling. This game could go a long way towards identifying that 3rd or 4th guy for this team.

Like Avery Johnson, Shaka Smart is also searching for the right combination of players that gives them the best chance to win. It remains unclear who the leader of this Texas team is. Tevin Mack and Kerwin Roach, Jr. are leading the Longhorns in scoring, but I believe Texas' best path to victory will be their size in the post. Jarrett Allen is 6'11, 235. He leads the team in rebounding (7.8) and is third in scoring (10.5). Shaq Cleare is 6'8, 275. He's more of a role player for this team, but his size and power in the post will be a problem for an Alabama frontline that hasn't reacted well in recent years when faced with a physical opponent.

Prediction: I really think Alabama has a chance to come into Austin and leave with the victory. Shaka Smart is really good, and I believe this Texas team will improve as the season unfolds. By March, this could be a really nice resume win if Alabama can take care of business. Unfortunately, I'm just not sold on this Alabama team as it currently stands to predict a road victory against a team with comparable (or better) talent and coaching. It won't surprise me if our guys win, but I think they fall short. Texas - 70 - Alabama - 65.