Sunday, August 20, 2017

Recruiting Update: 2018 3-star Guard Schedules Visit

Diante Wood, a 6'4, 175 lb guard from Anniston, Alabama has scheduled an official visit to Alabama the weekend of October 13-15. That's the weekend of the football game vs Arkansas. Wood is currently rated as a 3-star guard in the class of 2018 by 247 Sports.




Wood's head coach at Sacred Heart Catholic School - Ralpheal Graves - was quoted in a recent Bama Online article that Diante is in contact with the Bama staff every day, and that he has a very close relationship with Antoine Pettway. If Bama emerges as Wood's leader, don't be surprised if he commits to Alabama after his official visit in October. Here's some recent  video of Diante.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Recruiting Update: Alabama in Final 6 for 4-star 2018 Guard

This news was announced last week, but I decided to wait until after the games in Canada to write about it. Jared Butler is a 4-star, top 100 guard in the class of 2018. Last week he announced via Twitter the final six schools he is considering. Alabama made the cut, along with Texas, USC, Virginia, Wichita State and Baylor. Butler is from Reserve, Louisiana. He was quoted in a July article posted by Evan Daniels at Scout that he was going to take an official visit to Alabama. He has previously made an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa, which I detailed here. Butler was a member of MEBO Team Hood this spring and summer. MEBO is based in Mississippi, and features another 2018 Alabama target, Robert Woodard. You can see Butler and Woodard (12) playing together in the video posted below.




Elsewhere, Alabama made the "final 9" list for 3-star Mississippi recruit, Javian Fleming. Among the other eight schools that made the cut are Georgetown, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Tennessee. My belief is Alabama is the favorite for Fleming. For what it's worth, the early predictions for Fleming at 247 Sports also list Alabama as the favorite. Still a long way to go with Javian's recruitment, but that's encouraging. Hit the break for a highlight video of Jared and Javian.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bama Grinds Out 81-71 Victory vs Ottawa

In the final game of their Canadian tour, our guys overcame another slow start and poor shooting night to knock off the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, 81-71. Several players - Dazon Ingram, Herb Jones and Collin Sexton - sat out for precautionary reasons.

Ottawa got off to a hot start, leading by as much as 7 points in the 1st quarter. Alabama put together a strong 2nd quarter, outscoring the Gee-Gees by 11, and a 6-point halftime lead. From there the game was a close affair until Alabama was able to put together a run in the 4th quarter to lead by as many as 13, which ultimately helped Alabama close the game out.

Six guys finished in double figures - Avery Jr with 15, Braxton with 12, John Petty with 11, Riley with 13, Donta with 11, and Ar'Mond with 10. After being out-rebounded by 10 in their previous game, Alabama was +11 on the boards. On the flip side, defense continues to be a work in progress, Alabama only forced nine turnovers, and Ottawa attempted 79 shots. Fortunately, the Gee-Gees only made 38% of their field goals. On offense, Alabama only had 11 assists vs 14 turnovers. Once again, the free throw line was a struggle as the team finished at just 60%.

While John Petty and Collin Sexton have received a lot of attention so far this season, I was encouraged by the play of the veterans tonight. The young guys are great, but how far this team will go will be determined by the veterans. Braxton, Donta, Riley, Avery Jr. and Ar'Mond all had good games tonight. Of note: Braxton is in noticeably better shape as a sophomore, and Ar'Mond looks much more comfortable on the floor than he did last season. Regarding the young guys: John Petty and Collin look the part so far. Petty in particular raised his profile with the casual fans by his performance in Canada. Yeah, he can shoot the heck out of the ball, but he impressed me tonight with his passing ability (4 assists tonight).

Alabama finishes the Canadian tour at 2-1. Though they will come home with some bumps and bruises, they appear to be relatively healthy as we look forward to November. These teams in Canada were quality competition, and I think this was a good experience for this Alabama team. 13 weeks until Memphis. Stay buckled. 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Carleton Cruises over Crimson, 84-71.

I watched this on the live facebook stream, and was on a conference call through much of the first half, so wasn't able to pay as close attention as I would like.  We got off to another slow start, but Carleton was a much more talented and athletic team than McGill.  Coming off a loss to Towson, they were motivated, and I wonder if they overlooked their first opponent a bit in anticipation for playing us.  Likewise, I think the 40 point win in the first game gave our guys a false sense of confidence.

Bottom line, if we don't take care of the basketball and play better defense, this team will not live up to its expectations.  With about 3 minutes to go Sexton went down with an injury and the feed would not show him.  My thoughts immediately went to "this would be the most Alabama basketball thing ever for this to be a serious injury."  A friend of mine who was at the game said it look like he got the wind knocked out of him and banged up his knee a bit.  He said they checked him out in the locker room and he came back out on the bench and looked fine, and he thought he could have returned if it was close.  I hope that's right.

Hopefully someone who was able to watch this one more closely throughout can give a more detailed recap.  I've got to run but thought I would throw something up quickly.

Up next, the University of Ottawa Gee Gees tomorrow night at 5:30 Central.  I probably won't be able watch this one.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Bama Thrills Against McGill, 96-57


The Tide rolled to an easy victory in the first exhibition game of the 2017-18 season over the Redmen of McGill University in Montreal Canada.  The starting lineup was 1. Sexton 2. Petty, 3. Key, 4. Riley, 5. Hall.  Dazon Ingram did not play as expected.

Before I get into the meat of the game, I would like to discuss the rule differences in this league.  I know many of you probably don't care about this topic, but being an official I tend to focus on these things.  You will notice from the pics that the lane is wider.  I could not tell if the 3-point line was longer or the court is slightly narrower, but there was less room in the corners between the arc and the sideline.  This caused a handful of turnovers for our guys.  You'll note the 24 second clock, which reset to 14 on offensive rebounds.  They play 4 ten minute quarters, with a team entering the bonus on either the 3rd or 4th foul (it was confusing to figure out because the scoreboard was consistently wrong, and often-times the officials would be about to put the ball in play before being alerted that we were in the bonus).  Overall, I really like these rules.  You don't spend 13 minutes of a half shooting free throws if one team hacks away early.  The shorter shot clock and wider lane really opens up the court and increases the pace of play.  It's an exciting brand of basketball, and I hope the NCAA continues to trend in that direction.  The officials also used a couple of different signals.  The official closest to the table makes an X to signal substitutions to his partners; I also like this, as the standard hand raised could be for a number of issues.  Anything that increases communications with your partners will make the game go more smoothly, in my opinion.  Likewise, they use their fingers to form a "T" to indicate a timeout, rather than just the raised hand and pointing at a bench.  I don't like this one as much, as it can be easily confused with the "technical foul" sign.  They do not require the defensive team to occupy the low blocks on the first of two free throws, and the lead official signals such by raising both hands.  I suppose this prevents some bone-headed lane violations.  In any event, I thought the officials called a fair game and did not give McGill any "home cooking," but perhaps did throw some mercy calls their way in the second half.  They generally let the teams play and did a nice job of managing the game.

Now, onto the game itself.  It was obvious in pre-game warmups that McGill just wasn't going to be big enough or athletic enough to hang with us.  They are a scrappy, well coached team who won their division last year, but from talking to some locals it's my understanding they lost their two best players from that team.  Nevertheless, both teams opened in a man to man defense and the Redman ran some nice plays, set a couple of good screens to make open shots, and forced some early turnovers to take an 11-2 lead.  Alabama then proceeded to go on a 31-2 run that completely demoralized the McGill team and effectively ended the game in the second quarter.

Petty was bombing 3s from all over the court.  Sexton was also lighting it up and slashing to the basket.  Daniel Giddens had a fantastic game with several awesome dunks.  Of the two big men, I think Hall looked better in the scrimmage but Giddens definitely had the better game.  I think the up-tempo flow of the game favored Giddens as Hall still has issues with his footwork in transition at times.  The score stuck for a bit on 19-11 as we seemed to temporarily lose our momentum before resuming the onslaught.  While McGill did miss a few decent looks, the defense played very well from middle of the first quarter till almost halftime.  The Redmen went several minutes without a basket.

Meanwhile the offense showed its explosiveness.  McGill finally switched to a zone to try to slow us down, and Giddens immediately went back door for an oop.

Collin mainly ran the point but Petty got some time there too, along with Key in a point forward role, before AJ ran it much of the second half.

Ar'Mond Davis had a nice game off the bench and looked more comfortable than he did at any point last year.

I was hoping to score 100, but the team backed off a bit and played mostly the bench guys in the second half.  AJ, Law Dog, Alex Reese, Herb Jones, and Galin Smith all got some valuable work in while still moderately extending the lead.

The only negative in this game from my perspective was too many turnovers, but again, at least 4 of those I think were a result of the dimensions of the court.  We had a few unforced travels, but most of the turnovers were the result of guys trying to do too much, particular Collin driving in and trying to make the highlight pass.  I can live with that in this game, it's an exhibition and guys are trying to put on a show, but I hope we make better decisions when the chips are down.

The official box score only credits us with 5 assists and one block, but I'm pretty certain that isn't right.  I thought we moved the ball well offensively, and I recall at least 4 or 5 blocked shots.  It appeared McGill was using students at the scorer's table, so take the final stat sheet with a grain of salt.   Generally speaking, we moved the ball well on offense when we wanted to, and passes were more on-time and on-target than most of our games last season.  It's a shame we didn't send more staff, including Chris and Bryan on this trip, but by all accounts the McGill crew did a great job on the live stream.

Collin Sexton is an extremely gifted basketball player.  He's also more than a little eccentric.  In the pic at the top, you can see him warming up shooting by himself while all of his other teammates were on the other end.  He joined them for sprints just moments after that was taken.  At one point when we were on our run in the first half, he made a nice play on a put back "and one" and immediately stared down and clapped aggressively in the direction of the McGill student section.  I was sitting near these students, and a few moments later during a dead ball he comes walking toward us bowed up yelling, "who's talkin shit?  who wants to talk shit!?  Who got something to say now!?"  Keep in mind the score is 44-22 at this point.  When he was shooting free throws, the students started the "o-ver-ra-ted" chant, and after making the shots, Collin gave it right back to them, complete with the hand claps.  I love the fire and competitiveness, but to the extent there was beef between Collin and the students, frankly, it appeared to me that Collin started it.  Most of the McGill fans there admitted they were mainly there to see him play.  In fact, he was very animated in complaining about his fifth foul call (in fairness, I think the last 2 on him were mercy calls), despite the fact that McGill's coach was kind enough to tell the officials to allow him to stay in the game, since that's what everyone came to see.  Coach Johnson ended up taking him out a few minutes later.  For what it's worth, the team seems to respond well to him and respect him.  He's a vocal leader on both ends while the ball is in play, and it was good to see him joking around with Dazon on the bench at the end of the game.


This concludes the basketball portion of this post, but I'm going to spend a little more time than usual talking about the game experience here because it was such an unusual situation.  There are much more knowledgeable basketball writers on this blog, but I'm fortunate  my real life obligations provide with the flexibility to be able to attend more games than most.  So, I hope I can give a sense of the first hand experience to our readers, but for those of you who just want to read about the game itself, you can skip the rest.

Montreal is a wonderful city, and the people at McGill were very nice and hospitable, but the facility would be average at best for a 4A high school here.  Pictured above is the entrance.    They refer to the arena as the "Love Competition arena," but you'll note there are no outdoor signs indicating such.  A search of "Love Competition arena" in my GPS app was fruitless.  Thankfully, they print the address on the ticket in English.  Unfortunately, putting that address into the GPS also proves fruitless.  Finally, thanks to google translate, I translated the address from English (as it was printed on the ticket) to French and was able to locate it for my Uber driver.

Upon walking through that door, you do not enter a gymnasium.  There is a turnstile, a desk, and a guard sitting at the desk.  I showed him my ticket and said, "umm, I'm here for the basketball game?"  He replies as he motions me through, "okay, just show them your ticket upstairs."  I look around, and I see no stairs.  He explains, "go down the hall, pass the weight room and the pool, turn  left, go up stairs, turn right, and the arena is on your left."  Basically, they play in their student rec center.

Upon walking in, the first thing I notice is there is no air conditioning.  In fairness, it's a luxury probably not often needed during basketball season in Canada, but even though it was only 68F outside, it was brutally hot in there.  I was sweating like an Ole Miss athletic administrator at an NCAA infractions committee hearing within 5 minutes of taking my seat.  There is only seating on one side of the gym.  If you look closely at the pic at the very top, yes, those are those foam AC insulation tubes (kind of ironic actually) placed over the rails in the front row and secured with duct tape to provide padding.  They have one concession stand, with limited options, but the people working it were very friendly and the food was much higher quality and much more reasonably priced than what we serve at Coleman (which admittedly isn't saying much.)  I had a hot dog that was very good as far as stadium hot dogs go and a Molson Canadian for 9 Canadian dollars, which comes out to about 7 bucks.  You can barely get a water for that at our games.

The seats are temporary risers, the place was about 90% full but only the lower level was open, they had another section of risers folded up.  There were probably only about 400 or so there, with several dozen Alabama fans including a few prominent booster and former trustee types.

I spent some time sight seeing during the day since it was my first trip to Montreal.  I hope it's not my last; I really can't say enough good things about the city.  Even though the only French I speak is the type that Bobby doesn't allow on this blog, it wasn't a hindrance.  Almost everyone is bilingual and most of the signs are in both French and English.  The few places that aren't, google translate can help fill in the gaps.  The people were very helpful and friendly and nice.

I went for a run in the morning and kept stopping to take pictures...the architecture, particularly some of the older churches, was very impressive.  I toured the Notre-Dame Basilica which I highly recommend, it's well worth the $6 price of admission.  The city is also very clean.  I noticed numerous workers out very early meticulously making sure there was no trash, cigarette butts, etc on the streets.   Being a baseball fan, I couldn't pass on the free "history of baseball in Montreal" exhibit that's currently on display at city hall.  It was neat to see one of my childhood favorites, Andre Dawson's gold glove award.  In the afternoon I hiked up nearby Mt. Royal which is an easy hike and offers breathtaking views of the city and skyline.  Oh, and the food was phenomenal.


Up next, we go to Ottawa to play the Carleton University Ravens tomorrow night at 6 p.m. central.  This will be a much tougher test, as they are the dominant team in the league and have knocked off several NCAA teams over the years, including a 20 point win over Wichita last year.  Unfortunately, there is no television or streaming for this game, and day job obligations forced me back into the States today.  I do have a friend who will be attending, and I'm going to try to convince him to broadcast on periscope.  If he agrees to do so, I will post the details here.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Alabama Rolls McGill, 96-57


In the first game of their Canadian tour, Alabama overcame a sluggish start to beat McGill by a final of 96-57. Freshman John Petty had an explosive first game in an Alabama uniform, scoring 22 points on 8-10 (6-8 from 3) shooting. Petty also added 5 rebounds. Ar'Mond Davis added 14 points (4-6 from the field, 2-4 from 3, 4-5 from the free throw line), while Collin Sexton and Daniel Giddens scored 13 points in their debuts. Dazon Ingram sat out the game due to a minor foot injury. He will likely not suit up for the remaining games in Canada, but is expected at full strength by the time we reach November.

Criticisms: 1] Too many turnovers. The final box score showed 28 turnovers for Alabama. Sloppiness is to be expected in a game played in August, but the 2nd half in particular, the team was really sloppy with the ball. 2] Braxton Key and John Petty led the team in rebounding with 5 each. I would like to see our big guys (Donta, Daniel and Galin) more active on the glass, particularly against this level of competition. 3] Free throw shooting was up and down. The team finished with a 60% rate (14-23).  Turnovers and free throw shooting were two of the biggest weaknesses for Avery's first two teams. That needs to improve in year three.

DJC was in Montreal. Expect a much more in-depth recap from him in the coming days.

Alabama will now travel to Ottawa for their final two games. Our guys play Carleton University on Wednesday night. Game time is 6 PM C.T. There is no stream currently available for that game.  

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Links

The official site has links to the games in Canada this week at the schedule page here. If you don't want to connect via that page, here are those links for the McGill game, and the Ottawa game. The Carleton game - the second of the three games - currently does not have a stream planned. This is unfortunate as Carleton is likely the toughest of the three teams that Alabama will play this week.

There is also a blog documenting the Canada trip here. Our own DJC is also in Montreal to watch the McGill game so expect a recap of that game in the near future. Enjoy the games this week, folks. Buckle up!  

Friday, August 04, 2017

Avery Johnson gets 2 year extension

I'm normally not fond of these extensions before results, but in this case I'm fine with it as it does a couple things:

1) Shows a commitment to Avery Johnson and his vision
2) Shows the fans the athletic department is committed to being competitive

I know this goes on a lot... heck it happened with our last coach, but I think even Stevie Wonder can see why in this case an extension is a good idea. We have potentially a top 25 team on our hands in year 3 and it only looks like even better things for hoops is on the horizon.

I'm going to go ahead and reserve a hotel for the Final Four.. or crash on MS's couch and make the 60 minute drive back and forth!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Practice!? We're talkin about PRACTICE!


Credit to Allen Iverson, it never gets old.

My apologies for the delay in posting this report, but the day job obligations make it difficult to contribute here in a timely manner.

The freshmen not only lived up to the hype, but far exceeded my expectation.  John Petty in his current form would have been the best player on last year's team.  Collin Sexton is even better.  We have shooters, we have depth, and we will have the best post game we've had since JaMychal Green graduated.

The event opened with Coach Johnson thanking the fans and bringing out the team.  He explained they had already been practicing for about an hour and a half in the back gym, and reminded everybody that what we were about to see was far from a finished product.  He said this was the 7th of 10 practices allowed for the Canada trip, and the team will leave this Friday.

  I think it was telling that Sexton walked out first.  He's clearly establishing himself as the leader of this team, and his body language and demeanor exudes a certain arrogance and swag that is difficult to define.  He is obviously super-competitive and will no doubt rub some people the wrong way in the heat of the battle, but he's exactly what this team and program have needed.

They began by splitting into crimson and white teams and running skeleton half court "bail out" plays off the pick and roll, with different players initiating the play at the point.   Coach Johnson seems to have confidence in Sexton, Petty, Key, and AJ all handling the ball.  These sets usually involved 3 or 4 passes and ended with an open 3 or an entry pass to the low post for a dunk.

At one point Sexton drove in and attempted a behind the back pass to a big that was intercepted by Giddens (I think, can't remember for sure).  Anyway, Coach didn't get onto Collin for the unnecessary turnover.  Instead, he said, "in that situation, know where your defender is, and here's what you do" as he faked the same pass that Sexton made for the turnover and layed it in.

They ran a number of full court, fast break drills with either 3 or 4 players and 3-4 passes per trip.  Coach mentioned after the practice that he thinks we will be much improved with our decision making and passing ability, and you could see those skills verified in these drills.  They also worked on using the rim to finish on the opposite side in transition.

They also worked on the full court press and press-break, running what coach termed a "45 into a 42" which was an initial showing of a full court man to man, switching into a 2-2-1 full court trap.  Coach said we have more speed and depth (which is a huge understatement) and we will press more.  I suspect with the lack of a true point guard, we will also see more presses from our opposition.  AJ got a steal from Riley, but otherwise we generally did a good job of breaking the press.

They ran some half court plays simulating coming out of a timeout against a 2-3 zone with varying degrees of success.

There was a brief scrimmage that was incredibly fun to watch.  Petty and Sexton took turns making about 5 threes in a row.  They both had some amazing passes.  Davis, Riley, and Herb all shot well from the perimeter.

While I mostly tried to focus on the new guys, the one player who stood out to me other than Petty and Sexton was Donta Hall.  He seems to have really improved his offensive game. He's developed a bit of a baby hook shot and used an up and under move on a couple of occasions as well.  I think he's benefited from having Giddens there to push him.  Giddens is at least as good now as Hall was last year.  Both were effective in defending the rim.  Newcomer Galin Smith is a little undersized at the 4, but he plays physical around the basket and can finish with authority.

This practice did not have the emphasis on rebounding that I saw at the open practice I went to last year, and that is one area that concerns me a bit.  I do think we will miss Bola on the boards.  I'd like to see Galin beef up a bit and grow into that type of role.

Alex Reese has talent but seems to be adjusting to the speed of the college game.  I can see him growing into a stretch 4 type, but right now he's just a bit slow and not physical.  He did generally make good decisions and passes though.

Herb Jones can be a solid all around player for us.  He's not overly flashy, but has a nice shot, can handle the ball, and plays solid defense.  He probably needs to add a bit of muscle if he's going to play the 3 or the 4.

I hate to keep harping on Sexton and Petty, but wow, those guys are good.  Petty has such a pretty shot, great handles, and seems to have a really high basketball IQ.  There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe Sexton.  He wins the sprints by 30 feet.  He's lightning quick.  He gets great elevation on his jump shot and has a super-quick trigger.  It's like he goes from being closely guarded in the dribble to releasing a perfect shot over the top of his defender in less than half a second.  He makes everything look easy.

Dazon Ingram did not practice due to an injury, and will likely not play much, if at all, in Canada.

The only negative I saw was free throw shooting.  It's not that we don't practice it, Coach would randomly select someone to shoot at various points during the practice, and towards the end he had everyone line up along the baseline and take turns shooting one each.  The goal was to make 7 in a row within 2 minutes else they would run sprints.  After 3 or 4 attempts at this, and never reaching more than 4 in a row, he gave up and moved on to something else.  Even Sexton, who was a 92% free throw shooter in high school, missed 3 in a row at one point.  On the bright side, Hall and Giddens combined to go 7 of 8.

There was a great turnout of close to 3,000 people there.  The night concluded with Coach Johnson taking some questions, but nobody really asked anything particularly interesting.  Coach did note that we beat Vandy last year who made the tournament with a worse record, and we've got one of the most difficult schedules in the country in hopes of building a resume that will get us in.

I know we have an extremely challenging schedule, and I know it was just one practice, but frankly, I'll be very disappointed if we are anywhere near the bubble this year.  If these guys play to their potential and develop chemistry, we will be at least a 5 seed.

Up next, it's off to Montreal to take on the McGill University Redmen.  My understanding is that all 3 of these Canadian teams are very good, with the Carleton team in Ottawa that we play second being the best.  I'll be making the trip north for the McGill game and will post a report when I can.  For those of you remaining in the states, it will be streamed live on rolltide.com.  Buckle Up!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Updated roster- Number changes

Hall took over the 0 jersey and Schaffer gives up 2 for 24.. to give to Sexton for his assumed 1 year here).

Linky to roster.

I believe we might have some Bamahoops representation in Canada.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Open Practice to the Public Scheduled for Aug. 2

The men's basketball team will host a free open practice for fans on August 2nd from 6-7 p.m. CT. Avery will be mic'd up during the practice, and will take questions from the fans afterward. Fans are allowed to sit anywhere in the arena. According to the official site, "further details and promotions surrounding the event will be announced at a later time."

My hope is DJC will attend this event and provide an eye-witness account; however, any readers who do attend the practice, please share your thoughts here.

Regarding the games in Canada: The University of Ottawa confirmed via their twitter account that the game vs Alabama on August 10th will be live streamed via OUA.tv at 6:30 ET.




No idea about the other two games vs McGill University and Carleton University. I will update this post if they are being streamed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Non-conference schedule released!

Merry Christmas everybody! The non-conference schedule has been released!




As I've previously said, I think this is one of the tougher non-conference schedules we've seen in many years. It covers the bases that you want for a non-conference schedule: a good mix of home, road and neutral site games vs quality opposition. My only criticism is that I would have pursued a different opponent for the Huntsville game. You and I know how good Bob Hofmann and Mercer can be, but I'm not sure it's a great draw for the casual fan. I was hoping we might see a mid-major with a little more name recognition, such as a Murray State, Middle Tennessee, etc. Then again, the Huntsville crowd for the game against Arkansas State last season was one of the better crowds we saw all season so it's possible the good folks of Huntsville will turn out regardless of the opponent.

The December slate is absolutely insane. Our guys kick off the month against a quality mid-major in Louisiana Tech, back-to-back home games vs UCF and Rhode Island (both potential NCAA tournament teams), a road trip to Arizona, the Huntsville game against an always tough and well-coached Mercer team, and the game in Birmingham vs Texas (and potential #1 pick Mo Bamba). That schedule will put hair on your chest.

I will write up a preview of each opponent as we get closer to the start of the season. Buckle Up!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Summer SEC Predictions

It's early July. Not exactly the most exciting time for fall sports fans. Football is 8 weeks away, basketball recruiting gets back into full swing this week, and the Alabama team will be taking its Canadian trip next month. But for the hardcore college basketball fan, November seems very far away. To cope, we fans compile way-too-early predictions for the coming season. In an effort to combat an uneventful Sunday evening, I thought I'd post my early SEC predictions for next season. I'm hoping to start a dialogue with this post so I encourage all readers to share your predictions in the comments below.

1. Florida - An experienced team that made an Elite Eight run last season is my favorite to win the league title this season. A collection of proven veterans, up-and-comers, and potential impact transfers certainly help the Gators look the part.

2. Kentucky - Maybe Cal's most inexperienced team of his career, but, as always, ultra talented. Question marks abound, but I've got too much respect for the program that Cal has built in Lexington to pick them much lower than this.

3. Alabama - Avery has put in the work to raise the profile of the program, engage the students and alumni, and create expectations even among the most casual Alabama basketball fan. Top 10 recruiting classes will do that. In my opinion, Avery's tenure from this point forward will be graded based on this season. It's now or never for a team with Top 25 potential. 

4. Texas A&M - I will likely go back and forth with my prediction of A&M until November; Do I pick them 4th or higher? Tons of experience and talent return for the Aggies, including a guy who was a likely lottery pick in this past NBA draft if he had chose that path. The point guard issue has also been addressed for a team that won 16 games last season despite having no true point guard on the roster.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Schedule News: Alabama will Host UT-Arlington

More news regarding the non-conference schedule. The University of Texas-Arlington released their non-conference schedule today. Among the games on the schedule is a trip to Tuscaloosa on November 21st. Arlington finished last season with a 27-9 record, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT. They return one of the top players in college basketball - senior forward Kevin Hervey. Last season, Hervey averaged 17.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.1 apg and 1.2 spg. He's a legit player.

This game appears to be part of the Barclays Classic. Three days before their game at Alabama, Arlington will travel to Provo to play BYU, also in the Barclays Classic. Per the Arlington schedule, Western Carolina and Alabama A&M are also taking part in the event. I would assume one of those two teams will be the other team Alabama hosts in Tuscaloosa for this event.

The addition of Arlington stresses yet again how difficult this schedule is going to be. So far I don't see a night off for this team. If this team is ready for the challenge, it's going to be a very fun schedule of games to watch as a fan.

Several games of the non-conference schedule have dates. Here's what it looks like so far:

November 10 - vs Memphis   [Veterans Classic at Annapolis, MD]
November 21 - UT-Arlington
November 24 - BYU   [Barclays Classic]
November 25 - Minnesota   [Barclays Classic]
November 29 - Louisiana Tech
December 3 - UCF
December 9 - at Arizona
January 27 - Oklahoma

Other opponents on the schedule that are confirmed are Texas [in Birmingham], a home game with Rhode Island, and a return trip to Huntsville vs an opponent to be determined. I expect Avery and the team will hold another event to unveil the schedule as they did last year. Expect that to happen prior to the team's departure for its trip to Canada (August 4).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Schedule News: Alabama Will Host Louisiana Tech/Bama Returning to Huntsville

This is unofficial, but it appears that Avery Johnson may have added yet another formidable opponent to the non-conference schedule for the 2017-18 season. The Twitter account @TheD1Docket tweeted earlier today that Alabama will host Louisiana Tech on November 29th.

The Bulldogs from Ruston, Louisiana have been one of the better mid-major programs over the last five years. Despite the NCAA Tournament remaining an elusive goal (Tech has not been to the tournament since 1991, with only five total appearances), Louisiana Tech has averaged 25.8 wins per season over the last five seasons. Last season, the Bulldogs finished second in conference USA, with an overall record of 23-10 (14-4 in conference play), but were somehow not invited to participate in a postseason tournament. At the moment, I do not know what expectations will be for the Bulldogs in 17-18, but if recent history is any indication, it's just one more solid opponent on a very tough non-conference schedule.

ESPN 97.7 The Zone in Huntsville tweeted earlier today that Alabama will return to the Von Braun Center in Huntsville for a December 19th game. No idea on Alabama's opponent yet, but the event will be a doubleheader with the University of Alabama-Huntsville playing in the first game. My guess is Alabama's opponent will be a solid mid-major opponent, as was the case last season when they played Arkansas State from the Sun Belt. Once again, the game will take place during the Christmas break when attracting large crowds on campus can be difficult. The game last season in Huntsville was a success, and I'm happy to see Alabama returning.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Khavon Moore Visits Alabama

Khavon Moore has emerged in recent weeks as the top 2018 target for Avery Johnson and his staff. Moore, a 6'8, 187 lb forward from Macon, Georgia, is a top 30 national recruit, and the 3rd ranked recruit in the always talent-rich state of Georgia. Moore brings a skill set to the table very similar to Braxton Key, in that he can play different spots on the floor, with the ball-handling skills of a guard. New assistant coach Yasir Rosemond appears to be leading the recruitment of Moore. Other schools that have offered Moore include Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Uconn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and many others.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Arizona Game Details; More Recruiting News

My masterplan to inundate this blog with offseason updates every few days is proceeding nicely, but this news will be a few days late due to my being on vacation. I had a wonderful time by the way.

Let's start with the game date for the team's trip to Tuscon to play Arizona. The Wildcats released their non-conference schedule on Friday. The game at Arizona will take place on Saturday, December 9. No game time yet.

Recruiting is in full swing. Avery and staff hosted more recruits this past week. There may have been more, but I know of two recruits who were in Tuscaloosa earlier this week. Grant Sherfield (6'2, 180 lbs) is a 4 star shooting guard from Arlington, TX in the 2019 class. He currently holds offers from Kansas, Baylor, UCLA, Cal, LSU, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and TCU. He's currently ranked nationally in the top 30 by 247 for the 2019 class. Coaxing Sherfield to Tuscaloosa may be a stretch, but the fact that Avery was able to get him on campus for a visit is great.


One of Bama's top targets for 2018 was also in Tuscaloosa this past weekend. Javian Fleming (6'9, 230 lbs), a 3 star center from Canton, MS has seen his stock rise in recent months. Current suitors include Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State, along with some quality mid-major programs such as Middle Tennessee, Florida Gulf Coast, Louisiana Tech and UAB. I've long thought that Alabama was the favorite for Fleming because of his close relationship with Antoine Pettway, but we shall see how it plays out.




I'm doing what I can to stay up with these recruiting visits, but I'm just a working stiff at the end of the day; time is not on my side. If I leave out a recruit that has visited, please let me know in the comments so I can make sure to write a post.

152 days until the season opener.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Date of UCF Game Announced; Recruiting News

We know the date of Alabama's home game with UCF. Sunday, December 3rd. I have not seen a time listed yet, but I would imagine, being a Sunday game, it will be a late afternoon/early evening tip.

Avery and his staff also received a couple of recruiting visits this week. The first was from 2018 recruit, Jared Butler (Reserve, LA; SG, 6'2, 180 lbs). Butler is currently unranked by 247 sports (a composite rating would have him as a 3 star), but has already received offers from the likes of Wichita State, Texas, Houston and Umass.




Also visiting this week is 2019 recruit, Austin Crowley (West Point, MS; PG, 6'4, 160 lbs). Crowley is also currently unranked by 247 Sports (a composite rating would also have him as a 3 star), but holds offers from Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The 2019 class looks like it's going to be the next big class for the Alabama coaching staff.





 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

League Opponents Announced

In a surprising move this morning, the SEC released the list of league opponents for each conference member for the 17-18 season. How the games will be scheduled is unknown, but this was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Typically, we've had to wait until August before we know who plays who in league play. Hopefully, this is the standard practice going forward.

For Alabama, with an insanely tough non-conference schedule to look forward to, the league schedule isn't going to be much easier. Obviously, Alabama will play home-and-homes against Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State as they do every season. Auburn and State could be improved teams next season, even darkhorse NCAA tournament bid contenders. Alabama's other home-and-home series in league play will be vs Florida ('nuff said) and Texas A&M (expected to have a bounce-back season). Alabama will also travel to Lexington to face UK. This Bama team may be as good as all of us believe they will be, but they are going to have to earn it with this schedule. This is the toughest schedule I can remember an Alabama team preparing for in many years.

Other league games break down like this:

Home Games: Arkansas, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee
Road Games: Georgia, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt

The SEC is gearing up for what could be the best season the league has had in many years. The general consensus is that, if things break right, the SEC could send as many as seven teams to the NCAA tournament next season. While conference play is always a grind due to the familiarity between the programs, this season will be even more difficult because so many programs have made improvements in the last 2-3 seasons. "Buckle Up" is no longer just a catchphrase, it's now good advice for Bama hoops fans.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Home and home with Arizona? Almost there

UPDATE- looks like the weekend of Dec 9-10 in Tucson.

Saw a blurb on the innernet from Cecil Hurt (I don't do the twitter, but I suspect it is there) about a 2 game series vs the Wildcats starting this season.

1st game in Tucson... and I suspect the return trip will be in Birmingham (which it should be until we start drawing good crowds for OOC games).

Sounds like a road trip to Tucson for me...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Matchups set for Barclay's Classic

Looks like we get Minnesota in Brooklyn. Remember when Richard Pitino was on the 'short list' of guys to replace the great Anthony Grant? Pepperidge Farm remembers!

We get BYU first, but I don't think Shawn Bradley is walking through that door.

Avery Johnson has pulled together a solid OOC schedule so far. It's not a killer schedule, but it will test the team early and prepare us for the easier SEC slate.

Doubtful I'll make this trip... I like NYC in the summer and early winter.

Linkage

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Schedule News: Bama/Central Florida Schedule Home-and Home Series

The non-conference schedule for next season continues to come together. Jon Rothstein tweeted that Alabama and Central Florida (known more commonly as UCF) will begin a home-and-home series next season, with the first game in Tuscaloosa and a return trip to Orlando in the 18-19 season. UCF is coached by former Duke player/assistant coach and Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. The Knights finished 24-12 last season, making it to the NIT semifinals before losing to eventual champion TCU.

UCF is expected to contend in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) this season. The Knights return three starters from last season's team, including leading scorer B.J. Taylor (17.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg) and 7'6 big man Tacko Fall (10.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg). The expectation in Orlando is that UCF will contend for an NCAA bid this season. This is yet another tough addition to the non-conference schedule.

To review, the non-conference schedule looks like this so far:

Canadian trip in August
vs Memphis [Veterans Classic in Annapolis, MD] - This game will likely be the season opener on November 10.
Barclays Classic [Two host games in Tuscaloosa, likely against mid-major competition; two games in Barclays vs Umass, BYU or Minnesota]
UCF [Tuscaloosa]
Rhode Island [Tuscaloosa]
vs Texas [Birmingham]
Oklahoma [Tuscaloosa]

That's a solid non-conference schedule, and could be a top 50 SOS if the teams pan out, specifically teams like Texas and Oklahoma that are looking to bounce back from disappointing 16-17 seasons. You get three very good home games in Tuscaloosa, another compelling match-up in Birmingham and some fun neutral court games. I also expect that the team will return to Huntsville this season after a successful trip there last season. I'll keep an eye out for other games being added to the schedule, but it's coming together quickly, and we could have an official release as soon as sometime in June.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

SEC/Big 12 Challenge Field Announced

The match-ups for the 5th annual 2018 SEC/Big 12 Challenge have been announced. Alabama will host the Oklahoma Sooners. The games will take place on Saturday, January 27, and will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. It will be Alabama's first appearance in the event since the 13-14 season, which was the first season the event took place. Oklahoma holds a 5-2 advantage in the series history between the two schools. The Big 12 holds an overall advantage of 25-15 in the challenge.

For Alabama, this is another good home game to add to the non-conference schedule. The Sooners finished a dismal 11-20 a year ago, but Lon Kruger is a top 20 coach and I expect the Sooners to be a much better team in 17-18. If Alabama is off to a great start, this should be an easy sellout in late January.

The other match-ups:

Texas A&M at Kansas
Kentucky at West Virginia
Baylor at Florida
TCU at Vanderbilt
Oklahoma State at Arkansas
Ole Miss at Texas
Tennessee at Iowa State
Georgia at Kansas State
Texas Tech at South Carolina

The logic used in pairing the match-ups seems dubious. West Virginia and Vanderbilt receive a home game for the second straight season, while Baylor has to travel for the second straight season. Also, there should never be a rematch in these types of events (okay, I'll forgive consecutive Kentucky/Kansas matchups), but that's what we get with Arkansas/Oklahoma State. Also conspicuous is the absence of Missouri and Mississippi State. This will be the third straight season Missouri has been left out, and the fourth for Mississippi State. In recent years that wouldn't be a bad thing for the league, but Missouri could be one of the more improved teams in the league next season thanks to a top 10 recruiting class, while Mississippi State is expected to be better in Ben Howland's third season.

That said, the match-ups look really fun on paper. Morgantown should be lit when the Cats come to town; Baylor at Florida is a really meaty game; and if A&M has the type of bounce-back season I expect, that should be a great game in Lawrence. The SEC is as deep as it's been in a decade, if not longer. If they're going to win this event outright for the first time in five tries, this is the year.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Braxton Key is coming back


This isn't a surprise, but is great news. If the freshmen live up to their potential and the coaching staff can get everyone playing well together, the potential is there for a special season in 2017-18 that could restore the program to national relevance.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

5 Star 2018 Recruit Will Visit Alabama

Here's some recruiting news that I thought was interesting. Shun Williams (@OntheRadarHoops) of On the Radar Hoops tweeted earlier this week that 5 star 2018 recruit Khavon Moore (Macon, GA) will visit Alabama in June. Moore (6'8, 187 lbs, SF) is ranked 10th nationally by 247 Sports, and ranked number one in the state of Georgia.

Moore may be listed as a small forward, but to my eyes he's a point guard. Or "point forward", a hybrid position that has become more popular in recent years. In the video below you can see that Moore has great court vision. The "on-time, on-target" passes in the video below must excite Avery Johnson. But Moore also shows scoring ability in the video below and other videos I've watched of him. Avery is building a roster of players that can be called "positionless" due to their versatility. Moore certainly checks that box, and I'm excited that he's scheduled a visit for next month.



In other news: some details have been released regarding the team's trip to Canada in August. Two games will be played in Ottawa (August 9 and 10) against Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, with a third in Montreal (August 7) against McGill University.

This trip sounds awesome. In addition to seeing the team play three games in August, a trip to Ottawa and Montreal would be pretty sweet. Alas, I am economically challenged, and have little shot of making this trip (cue sad music now). If Bobby or DJC make the journey, you can expect full recaps here. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2018 Recruit D.J. Stewart Visits Alabama

This is a few days late, but 2018 recruit D.J. Stewart (Benoit, MS) made a trip to Tuscaloosa on Monday to visit with the Alabama coaches.




The trip went well, and 247 Sports currently lists Alabama as the favorite for Stewart. Stewart is a 6'6, 190 lb SF. He's currently unranked at 247, but expect that to change heading into his senior year of high school. You can read more about Stewart in our 2018 recruiting post below.

HoopSeen have updated their Alabama rankings for the class of 2018. You can see it here. Diante Wood is ranked number one, with Trey Jemison (both have been offered by Alabama) coming in 2nd. Myreon Jones is 3rd, but he's had a great summer so far and could continue to blossom as his senior year unfolds. 247 Sports already lists him as the top prospect in the state. Alabama has yet to offer Jones, but I expect that to change if his stock continues to rise.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Texas Transfer Tevin Mack Commits To Alabama

Well, that didn't take long. Texas transfer Tevin Mack has committed to Alabama following a visit. Mack will have to sit out the 17-18 season, but could have a big impact in 18-19 after averaging 14.8 ppg last season at Texas. It's another recruiting win for Avery and this coaching staff. Mack's commitment fills the scholarship limit for the 17-18 roster, assuming Braxton Key returns. If not, Avery has already said that the staff will look to recruit a grad transfer to fill the spot. Who's ready for November?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Texas Transfer Visiting Alabama

Texas transfer Tevin Mack is currently on a visit to Alabama. Mack, a former 4-star, top 60 recruit from Columbia, South Carolina averaged 14.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg this past season at Texas, but was suspended from the team in January and did not return. If he commits to the Tide, he will sit out the 17-18 season, and have two years of eligibility remaining. For what it's worth, Mack was recruited by Georgia during Yasir Rosemond's tenure so there's an existing relationship.

TideSports.com published a great interview today between Cecil Hurt and Avery Johnson. Topics covered include Braxton Key, Bob Simon (though Avery's answer doesn't give any information as to why Simon was relieved, his comments about Rosemond suggest that recruiting had a lot to do with the decision), the trip to Canada in August (Avery confirms the tour will start on August 2nd) and the non-conference schedule. You can read the interview here.

An interesting comment from Avery regarding the roster this summer is that, in addition to trying to land a transfer to be eligible for the 18-19 season, the staff will also look into signing a graduate transfer should Braxton Key elect not to return to Alabama. The deadline to remove his name from the draft is May 24th.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yasir Rosemond Joins Alabama Staff

Avery Johnson has hired Bob Simon's replacement. Yasir Rosemond, previously an assistant coach at Georgia, has joined the Alabama staff. Rosemond, a native of Atlanta, brings over a dozen years of coaching experience to the bench. Prior to Georgia, Rosemond was an assistant at Samford, Seattle University and Oregon, which is his alma mater.

I don't have an opinion on this hire. Honestly, this is the first time I've heard of Rosemond so it's impossible for me to have an informed opinion on this hire. He's got some experience, and I trust Avery to make the best possible hire so I support it. It's never a bad thing to have an assistant coach with Atlanta connections. I still hope that we will receive some kind of statement regarding Bob Simon's dismissal because I would like to know what happened. That said, it's good to have the staff in place before the summer workouts begin. Onwards and upwards. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Recruiting: The 2018 Class

Happy weekend, people. I promised a recruiting post. I'm writing a recruiting post. Full disclosure: I am a novice when it comes to recruiting. I don't follow it closely. Everything written here was researched in the last few days. For a deeper analysis of these players, I would recommend checking out the various recruiting websites such as 247Sport, Rivals, Scout, and there are many others.A good Twitter follow is "Alabama Roundball" (@BamaRoundball). This account does a great job of following Alabama basketball recruiting. The user also has a website (bamabasketball.wordpress.com). They did a good breakdown of some of the 2018 targets in a post from January that adds quite a bit to what I wrote here today. I encourage support of all sites that feed our Alabama basketball addiction so add that site to your favorites if you haven't already.

The 2018 class does not appear to be the powerhouse class that the 2017 class appears to be on paper, but how Avery and his staff fare in signing this class will be no less important. Assuming that the 2017 class proves to be the missing ingredient that can help push the Alabama program over the hump and back into SEC title and NCAA tournament contention, it will be the 18 class that will be significant in making sure that the program stays relevant. The staff have offers for at least 20 players in the class so far, and I'm not going to go into detail for each player because, frankly, some of those players will not seriously consider Alabama. If something changes, I'll do an update and include them in a future post. For now, I want to focus on the players that look like the best bets to schedule visits and seriously consider attending Alabama. Click the player names for links to highlight videos.

Robert Woodard - Columbus, MS - 6'6, 220 lbs - SF - I mentioned Woodard in a previous post, and he remains one of my favorite players that the staff are currently recruiting. 247 Sports currently ranks him in the national top 40, and ranks him as the top player in Mississippi. The first thing that stands out when watching Woodard is he's advanced from a physical standpoint. He could check into a college game right now and hold his own physically. Woodard will likely be an immediate contributor wherever he commits because he's very good on the defensive end. He's a solid ball handler, and a decent shooter. His length, strength and athleticism make it tough to keep him from getting to the rim. I wouldn't be surprised if his stock continues to rise through his senior season. The early favorite for his signature is Mississippi State. Other schools that have offered include Baylor, Iowa State, Florida State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Bama Hoops News and Notes - 05/01/2017

Okay, let's try this again. Mental note: the next time I get a wild hair to write a news and notes post I should probably wait a day just to make sure nothing else comes down the pipe.

Let's start with the obvious: Bob Simon, the associate head coach, has been "relieved" of his duties. And this is something that likely happened weeks ago, despite being announced today. Simon was not present at the postseason banquet, nor was he on the recruiting trail with the other coaches so this news might not be as surprising for those who have kept up with the team's activities. At this point, we can only speculate what led to the dismissal. University officials have said that a comment regarding the change will be made at a later date. Let's hope so. By all accounts Bob Simon is a good dude, and is well-respected in coaching circles; I would certainly be interested in Avery's reasons for the move in a new direction. Simon is the second assistant coach in Avery's two seasons to be dismissed. My guess is that Pelphrey will be promoted to associate head coach.

There are rumors going around that Braxton Key, despite not being invited to the NBA combine, is not likely to return to Alabama, preferring instead to pursue other professional opportunities. The rumor is that Braxton is happy at Alabama, but "personal issues" are pushing him to leave school earlier than anticipated. If any of this scuttlebutt is true, I hope the best for Braxton. I hesitated even to share this rumor, but I've seen enough people repeating it to believe there may be some smoke to it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it wouldn't be a Bama Hoops off-season without some kind of drama.

How about some good news?

The non-conference schedule continues to come together. Jon Rothstein, that robotic fount of college basketball information, reported tonight that the fourth host school in the Barclays Center Classic will be Minnesota, joining Alabama, BYU and Umass. Minnesota finished 24-10 this past season, making the NCAA Tournament, but falling in the first round to Middle Tennessee. Despite the early exit, it was a 16-game turnaround for Richard Pitino and the Gophers, after winning only 8 games in the 15-16 season. The Barclays Center Classic semifinal and final rounds will take place during the Friday and Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend.

My early prediction for the matchups: Alabama vs BYU; Minnesota vs Umass.

Recruiting is in full effect. Several offers have been made today. Time permitting, I will try and compile a recruiting post this weekend detailing who currently holds offers for the 18 and 19 classes.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bama Hoops News and Notes - 04/30/2017

The final day of April is here. Only 194 days until the 2017-18 season tips off (unless the NCAA decides to start the season earlier than November 10th - more on that later). There are a couple of noteworthy topics to mention so let's get started.

The NBA combine invitation list was revealed earlier today. The list includes more than 60 players. Noticeably absent from the list is Braxton Key. The general consensus is that if an underclassmen testing the waters does not receive an invite to the combine, it's a good idea to return to school. Hopefully, Braxton will announce his intentions to return to school in the coming days.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweeted earlier today that Alabama and Rhode Island have agreed to a home-and-home series, which will start in Tuscaloosa for the 17-18 season. The Rams finished 25-10 this past season, making the NCAA Tournament and knocking off Creighton before losing a tough 3-point game to Oregon in the round of 32. With 6 of the top 8 scorers expected to return, Rhode Island should be a preseason favorite for the A-10 title.

For those keeping track, here's what the Bama schedule looks like so far:

Memphis [Veterans Classic at Annapolis, Maryland]
Rhode Island [Game will most likely be played in Tuscaloosa]
Barclays Center Classic [Based on Umass press release from July of last year. Umass, Alabama, BYU and TBD team will be the four host schools]
Texas [Return game in home-and-home series. My guess is that Texas will be the opponent in the 2017 version of the Vulcan Classic]
SEC/Big 12 Challenge [Alabama will take part in the event this season. My prediction: Alabama will travel to Iowa State to face Bama alum Steve Prohm.]

The NCAA is discussing the possibility of a new start date for college basketball, one that will be more uniform than what we have now. What is being discussed is making the Tuesday before the second Friday in November the uniform start date for the sport. The belief is a mid-week start date might bring more attention and excitement to the sport. There is also hope that by starting the season earlier, it will create a less compressed schedule, particularly in the non-conference months. With that in mind, the NCAA has also discussed the possibility of a standardized 21-week playing season with a mandatory 3-4 day break for the student athletes during the winter vacation period.

I'm for a uniform start date to the season, but there has to be high profile games to go along with it, or casual fans still won't care. The first weekend of college football has become dotted with exciting games that pull in viewers from every part of the country. College basketball will have to do something similar if it's going to make an impact in early November. And as far as the break during the winter vacation period: I'm all for it. Without students on campus, home games lack energy, and the games themselves suffer because of this. Avery has dealt with this problem by scheduling games in Birmingham and Huntsville during the winter break, but giving the players extra time during the break would be in the best interest of the student-athlete from a mental and physical standpoint, which is what all of this is supposed to be about, right?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Strictly info- first 2 year records of coaches at Alabama

Overall record/SEC record

Anthony Grant:
- 17-15/6/10
- 25-12/12-4

Mark Gottfried:
- 17-15/6-10
- 13-16/6-10

David Hobbs:
- 16-13/7-9
- 20-10/12-4

Avery Johnson:
- 18-15/8-10
- 19-15/10-8

Some notes:
- Anthony Grant's 2nd year is what I consider to be his peak. Yes, we made the NCAAT his third year, but any sane Bama basketball fan will concede his 2nd year was his best team
- Mark Gottfried picked it up his 3rd year and peaked his 4th. It was year 6 of the improbable Elite 8 run, but IMO year 4 was his best team.
- David Hobbs... well he had Antonio McDyess up to year 2 and started descending in year 4. Usually, year 4 should be close to the peak (having a full roster of the coach's players).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Key declares for NBA draft

My guess is he is just testing the waters as I have not seen him sign with an agent as of yet.
Interesting regardless... he might not be happy with his role next year?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Final Thoughts on the 16-17 Season/Looking Ahead

It's a quiet Sunday here in the Msmilie castle so I thought I'd finally put down my final thoughts on the 16-17 season, look ahead to the critically important 17-18 season, and take an early look at the recruiting for this summer as well as future classes. This will be a long post so hit the break to continue reading.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Coaching changes tally- 2017

The annual coaching moves... who's fired, who quit, and who replaced the fired and the quit.
Link

I like the moves at Illinois, NC State, and Georgetown for entirely different reasons. I dislike the Oklahoma St and LSU picks.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Ar'Mond Davis Transferring

Ar'Mond Davis is moving on. He announced today on Twitter that he is transferring. The 6'6, 193 lb Junior averaged 6 points and 13.8 minutes per game in his lone season in Tuscaloosa. Ar'Mond will have one year of eligibility remaining. I wish him the best of luck.

A top 10 JC recruit out of the College of Southern Idaho, Ar'Mond did not develop into the shooter we hoped he would be (26.7% from 3), but he did work his way into the rotation after some early struggles, and played a huge role in arguably the team's biggest win of the year in the 4-OT game at South Carolina, scoring a career high 19 points. Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, it's possible Ar'Mond wanted to move somewhere closer to home. I have not seen an official statement yet from Avery. Other Bama players on Twitter seemed surprised by the move so I don't think this was expected by the coaching staff. Nevertheless, there are now two available scholarships for next season. No idea if the coaching staff is recruiting anyone to fill those two spots, but I would guess that Avery will seek to fill those two spots, perhaps with transfers. The number of players transferring is once again very high so there is no shortage of experienced college basketball players out there who fill a variety of needs. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Another Schedule Rumor: Alabama will play in the Barclays Center Classic

Perhaps I shouldn't post this as a rumor, seeing as this information comes from the Umass athletic website (click here). The information is dated July 2016 so it's entirely possible this information is no longer relevant so I'll leave it as a rumor until we get something official. The site reports that Umass will play in the 17-18 Barclays Center Classic, along with Alabama and BYU (and I would guess an unconfirmed team as this is a 4-team event). Assuming this hasn't changed, we now know that the team will be spending Thanksgiving week in Brooklyn. It would be Avery's first game at the Barclays Center since he was fired by the Brooklyn Nets after only 28 games in the new city and arena in 2012. Umass just hired former Chattanooga head coach, Matt McCall, who won 48 games in two seasons at Chattanooga. I thought BYU underachieved, relative to the talent on their roster, but they are annually a top 75 program, and should be a tough out next season.

So far, here's what the (rumored) schedule looks like in addition to this news about the Brooklyn trip:

1. Avery mentioned a possible foreign trip this summer.
2. Avery mentioned the possibility of playing two exhibition games in 17-18 in press conferences this past season.
3. Texas is expected to play a return game in Alabama this season (I'm predicting they will be the opponent in the Vulcan Classic).
4. Alabama will open the season vs Memphis in the Veterans Classic at the Naval Academy (this comes from Tubby Smith, who mentioned it in a recent press conference).

In addition to this schedule news, incoming recruit Collin Sexton won the High School 3-Point contest. This is in addition to winning the McDonald's All-American slam dunk contest, and an impressive performance in the McDonald's game itself. I'm trying to keep my expectations in check for this incoming class, but I really wish it was November right now.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Anthony Grant rumored for the Dayton job

Actually looks like it's about to be official. It's a good hire for Dayton and IMO Grant is probably best in the mid-major role.

Grant frontrunner for Dayton job

Regardless of what he did (or didn't do) here I wish him the best if he is in fact the next Dayton HC.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Schedule rumor: Alabama will open 17-18 season vs Memphis

Speaking with local media today, Memphis head coach Tubby Smith mentioned that his team will face Alabama in a neutral site game at the Naval Academy. Tubby did not confirm, but the location of the game suggests the two teams will take part in the Veterans Classic. This event has been in place for three seasons with one team squaring off against Navy, with an additional game. This past season, Vanderbilt faced Marquette in the event. It's been a season-opening event in its three seasons so it would appear that Alabama will open the 17-18 season vs Memphis.

Tubby Smith just finished his first season in Memphis. The program is rebuilding. The Tigers finished with a 19-13 record, and no postseason. Attrition is expected so it's hard to project what Memphis will look like next season. Nevertheless, Memphis is an established program, and Tubby has won every place he's been (and he's been to many places at this point) so this would be a solid opener for our guys.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nick King and Brandon Austin to transfer

I wish them both the best of luck.  This leaves us with one open scholarship for an incoming transfer. I hope we can find another Bola out there somewhere.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 End of Season Recap and State of the Program Manifesto

This year's team over achieved in some ways, but disappointed in others.  In the end, the overall results were about where most reasonable people would expect for this squad.  Solidly in the NIT, but not a serious contender for the NCAA tournament.

There was reason for excitement heading into Coach Johnson's second year.  Most of last year's team returned and we added Braxton Key and a presumably healthy Dazon Ingram among others.  We added depth with guys like Bola, Corban, and Davis.  There were also a lot of questions marks, the biggest of which was could we replace Retin Obasohan as our leader and go-to scoring option?

Key tried to take over that role as the go-to scorer, and did well at times, but that is not really the role best suited for his skill set.  Dazon proved to be a solid point guard and improved throughout the year, and Corban provided vocal leadership and had a few great games, but we obviously missed Retin's production.  I was hoping Shannon Hale would step up and have a big senior year, but instead he regressed even further before finally getting suspended and essentially booted from the team.  Nick King was rumored to be very good in practice last year, but we still don't know what he can provide since he was out most of the season with a lung infection.

With Donta Hall's continued development, Jimmie's experience as a senior, and the addition of Bola, we had some nice depth in the post.  Coach Johnson saw the potential and emphasized rebounding early on.  This team struggled with shooting, passing, and handling the basketball, so defense and rebounding had to carry the day.  I give credit to the coaching staff for recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, and to the players for working hard to develop their identity.

It took a while for things to come together.  The pre-conference schedule was a disaster.  We seemed to try endless substitution patterns and lineups in an attempt to find some chemistry.  The tournament in Vegas was an embarrassment, and we were lucky to beat St. Louis.  After the Clemson debacle in Birmingham; I didn't think we would finish in the top half of the SEC.

We managed to finish 5th in the SEC, but admittedly part of that was due to scheduling.  We played bottom feeders Mizzou, Mississippi $tate, LSU, and auburn twice each.  Still, we had some nice wins including beating South Carolina on the road and knocking off NCAA tournament participant Vandy at home.  We even briefly got into the bubble discussion for the second year in a row, but losses to Georgia, Texas A&M, and Tennessee down the stretch did us in.

The team played it's best basketball of the season in the SEC tournament, cruising past Mississippi $tate for the 3rd time in the season and defeating sweet 16 participant South Carolina a second time before coming up short in a competitive game against Kentucky.  Unfortunately, the team did not bounce back well from that loss and looked out of sorts, going out quietly in the first round of the NIT.

In conclusion, it was an up down year with some notable high points including two wins over South Carolina, but with a disappointing end to the regular season and some bad losses, including two to auburn.

State of the Program

The Coach Johnson hire was seen as "high risk/high reward," by many, due to his inexperience at the college level.  After two seasons, the jury is still out, but at this point he still deserves the support of the fan base.  I will remain "buckled up," for now.  

The biggest concern was whether or not he would be able to recruit.  Dazon and Key have already proven to be more than capable SEC players, but Collin Sexton and John Petty highlight the most anticipated and highly rated incoming recruiting class in decades.  With a full roster of capable guys and presumably more scoring options, it will be interesting to see if the team's identity changes a bit next year to the more up-tempo style Coach Johnson has talked about implementing since his arrival.  
Next season is a pivotal year for Coach Johnson.  He's done an outstanding job of promoting the program on a national level and trying to generate more fan interest.  To the extent any of that has paid off; I don't think it's sustainable if we miss the NCAA tournament again after three years.  Next year's team is no lock to make the tournament at this point; we will be relying heavily on freshman and a lot will depend on how quickly they can adapt to the speed of the college game.  It's imperative that this staff finds a way to get everyone on the same page sooner rather than later so we aren't playing behind the 8 ball when conference season starts.  

My only somewhat major concerns are that we haven't dealt well with pressure situations the last two years.  In both of the last two seasons, we immediately had some bad games after hearing our name in the tournament conversation.  We need to win some meaningful big games at home and play better under pressure to keep the program's momentum moving in the right direction.  

I'm hopeful the addition of Collin Sexton will be a game changer.  If you've watched any of his clips; he appears to be an aggressive, explosive scorer from anywhere on the court.  He's also not the least bit shy about talking trash, to anyone, including opposing coaches and fans.  This may rub people the wrong way, and obviously he'll have to contain some of that, but I think a little bit of a cocky attitude can be a good thing.  I love our team, but we always seem to have a bunch of nice guys, and I think you need an alpha dog or two who can get under your opponent's skin when the chips are down.  

I'm excited about the future.  If anybody has any ideas for things you would like to see here on the blog in the future, please let me know.  I enjoyed seeing Bobbyjack in Vegas and Oregon this year, and catching a couple of games with MSmilie in Texas, even if our combined records were not that great.  Thanks to everyone for reading and contributing in the comments, and I look forward to seeing you all again next season.  


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Arachnids Abolish Alabama, Richmond 71 Bama 64

The roller coaster season came to an end in the first round of the NIT as Bama had no answer for the Spiders' offense.



Donta, Jimmie, and Key all did a fairly good job on Cline for most of the first half.  He only had 2 points and 2 fouls in the first half.  Unfortunately, he is a great passer, and  was able to get his shooters some open looks in their hybrid Princeton offense.  Jones and Buckingham really made us pay from the 3 point line.

When we went smaller, playing Bola at the center trying to match their quickness, we went on a 12-0 at the end of the first half and start of the second half to briefly take the lead.  Give credit to Richmond for making the counter-adjustment, and using Cline more in the post.  Personally, I think staying with the smaller lineup as long as we did was a mistake.  We were trying to play their style of game and could not match their quickness or chemistry.  Cline ended up with 15 points and at least half of those were with Corban or Riley trying to guard him one on one in the post in the low block.  To go small against a skilled big man like that you either need to play zone defense or front him to prevent him from getting the ball, and/or double-team him when he gets the ball in the post.   We did neither.  In fairness, given the way they were shooting the ball, I understand being reluctant to play zone, but I think a matchup zone would have been worth trying, at least.

Offensively, we failed to take advantage of our size advantage.  We passed up too many shots and made too many bad passes, resulting in 16 turnovers.  Richmond's help side defense was great, and they really hindered our ability to score in the paint.  I thought we should have posted up Key and Ingram more as they had a nice size advantage on their defender, even though neither is particularly comfortable playing with their backs to the basket.

Corban gave it all he had and ended up with 19 points.  He was inconsistent over the course of the year, but nobody could question his effort and leadership.  He was the last one to walk off the floor and looked totally devasted; I felt awful for him.  Dazon had a solid game with 11 points and I thought Donta had a nice overall game with 9 points.  Key had one of his worst games of the year.  His shot selection was terrible, he had 5 turnovers, many of them unforced, and looked unfocused at times.  AJ, Riley, and Bola all played with great effort despite not putting up the best numbers.

I liked the experimental rules and hope they adapt something similar full time.  The game had a better flow, even if the tempo did not work to our advantage.  There were much fewer free throws shot as a result, and of course this would be the one game we somehow go 7 of 7 at the line.  

The official attendance was 4,041, about a thousand less than I would have guessed.  The general admission gets everyone closer to the floor and creates a louder environment, though I felt the crowd was more subdued than in some past NIT games we've hosted.  I was fortunate to get great floor seats, and it's amazing how much faster the game moves from that perspective.  I could sense Coach Johnson was frustrated throughout the game, he spent almost the entire time trying direct the guys on where to go offensively, and it just seemed like he was never able to get everyone on the same page.

Up next, the off season, and I will turn my sports attention primarily to baseball over the next few months.  At some point next week, after I return from watching the WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS in Arizona this weekend, I will post my annual "End of the season recap and state of the progam manifesto" before disappearing for a while.  Until then, enjoy the tournament and good luck on your brackets!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Game Preview - Richmond [NIT 1st Round]

Alabama has been selected to participate in the NIT for the third straight season. This also marks the sixth time in ten seasons that the Alabama program has participated in a national postseason tournament. The Tide are a 3 seed in the "Iowa Quadrant". You can find the full bracket here. Their first round opponent on Tuesday are the Richmond Spiders from the Atlantic 10 conference. Richmond finished the season with a 20-12 overall record, and a 13-5 conference record. Game time is 8:15 PM CT. The game will be televised on ESPN2, but I encourage all those in the Tuscaloosa area to attend the game. Tickets are only 10 bucks, and it's general admission seating. If you're a student, the first 500 students will be admitted for free (it should be all students get in free, but whatever).





Alabama
Richmond









68.7 PPG 74.1



64.5 OPP 71.5



42.4 FG% 46.6



40.1 OPP 44



48.3 EFG% 53.5



45.7 OPP 49.6



31.8 3PT% 34.2



33.2 OPP 31.6



65 FT% 71.2



67 OPP 72.3



39.9 FTRATE 32.1



40.5 OPP 36



39.2 RPG 31.2



33.6 OPP 36.7



34.1 OREB% 20.9



26.8 OPP 30.3



13.9 TOPG 11.7



13.6 OPP 14.2



20.3 TO% 16.5



19.8 OPP 20.2



54 KenPom Ranking 90



My Two Cents: After a season of ups and downs, this Alabama team finally seemed to turn a corner in Nashville last week. Can they maintain that level of play in the NIT? If so, this team can win multiple games in this tournament. Richmond should be a good first test. I haven't had an opportunity to watch this Richmond team, but the Spiders have typically been a well-coached team from an underrated conference in the A-10. Head Coach Chris Mooney played for Pete Carril at Princeton, incorporating aspects of the famed "Princeton offense"  (a disciplined style of play that emphasizes constant motion and passing, picks, and back-door cuts) at Air Force and now at Richmond. Unlike those great Princeton teams under Carril, Mooney's teams play at a much faster tempo (this team is ranked just outside the top 100 of adjusted tempo at KenPom; Alabama by comparison is ranked 301). High tempo teams have been an issue for this Alabama team. With such a short turnaround, it will be a tough match-up to prepare for. Avery Johnson has mentioned in his press conferences that his team is ready to play more basketball. That's good. The mental hurdle of the disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament is always the first step to competing in this tournament. It will take a focused effort for Alabama to win this game and advance.

Players to Watch: Dazon Ingram had a great SEC Tournament, finishing with averages of 13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, and only 1.3 turnovers per game (he did not turn the ball over in Alabama's two wins in the tournament). I think we all agree that Dazon has the potential to be a special player if he ever puts it all together. There were sustained glimpses of that last week. Let's hope there is more to come. I also want to give props to Riley Norris who also had a nice week in Nashville, averaging 9.6 ppg and 6 rpg. We know that Riley does a lot of little things to help this team win, but when he's making shots, this Alabama team becomes a very capable offensive unit.

T.J. Cline is going to be a problem. The 6'9, 230 lb senior has an impressive stat line: 18 ppg (51% FG), 7.8 rpg, and leads the team with 5.6 apg. And if Cline isn't intimidating enough on paper, ShawnDre' Jones adds 16.8 ppg, 3.9 apg and makes just under 40% of his 3-point attempts. Limiting those two guys is a priority to say the least.

Prediction: I always like teams that enter the postseason playing at a high level, and Alabama certainly appears to be playing their best basketball of the season coming into this tournament. That said, I like what Richmond has on paper, and the Spiders did have a 5-game win streak before losing an OT game to VCU in the A-10 semifinals. While Richmond's tempo could be a problem, I think our defense and rebounding could be the difference. Alabama could have a battle on their hands here, but I'm going to stick with the good guys to continue their improved play. Alabama - 69 - Richmond - 61