Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bulldogs Tuck Tail and Fail, Alabama 71 $tate 62

Alabama closes the month of January by wrapping up a regular season sweep of our biggest rivals to improve to 6-2 while holding onto 4th place in the SEC standings.

We missed several layups in the first half and fell behind early, but the guys continued to grind it out defensively and keep the game close before closing the first half on a nice run that proved to be one of the turning points in the game.  Coach Johnson had a great defensive gameplan, trapping their guards out of the zone and forcing them to work for everything they got offensively.  We held Peters to 13 and Weatherspoon to 11.

The $tate bigs gave us some problems.  Give Howland credit for running sets to pull Jimmie and Donta away from the basket.  They actually out-rebounded us by a slight margin, and we weren't quite as effective defending the rim as we have been in recent games.

Nevertheless, this team found another way to win.  They actually made free throws!  We were 31 of 36 from the line for 86.1%.   Who would have thought that was even possible? I've been calling for Dazon and Braxton to be more aggressive in driving to the basket against the zone in recent weeks, and that's exactly what they did in this game, particularly early in the second half.  The result was an endless parade to the charity stripe, where Dazon was a perfect 12 for 12 and Key went 10 for 14.

We built a double digit lead, but couldn't quite put it away.  We uncharacteristically gave up a number of second chance opportunities, and $tate managed to hang around.  I felt like we got away from attacking the basket and settled for early shot-clock 3 point attempts too much after building the lead.  Meanwhile $tate's play in the paint opened up their perimeter game and they chipped away before finally re-taking the lead.

Our guys showed great poise and immediately answered with a run of their own.  In the crucial final 4 minutes of the game, $tate turned the ball over on 4 possessions in a row.  Part of that was our guys stepping up and playing great defense at crunch time, and part of it was a young $tate team choking under pressure on the road.  More importantly, we cashed in on every mistake and put the game out of reach.

Key is clearly taking to the role of being the "go to" guy on this team.  He led the scoring with 19 points and also had 9 rebounds.  Dazon scored 15 thanks to his perfect free throw shooting despite only scoring one basket from the field.  Riley played awesome defense and made up for his missed layups by knocking down three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points.  Bola was a beast on the boards again with 11 rebounds.

There were a lot of fouls called in the game, but it was a very physical game and I thought the officials generally did a good job, despite the one terrible block/charge call that went against us.  It seemed like these officials may not have worked together much before, as there were some obvious communication issues.  $tate got called for a technical foul for having 6 players on the floor.  That should never happen, as the officials should not put the ball in play if one team has too many players on the floor.  I didn't realize that was only a one shot technical and a resume play at the point of interruption in college.  Also, they took the ball back from a $tate free throw shooter on a one and one because they missed the subs at the table.  The only other time I've seen that at the college level was also in a Bama-$tate game, when Earnest Shelton was the victim in 2004.

It was a late arriving crowd, but a very nice turnout.  The game was close to a sell out, and I would estimate there was close to 13,000 there.  Surprisingly, the $tate contingent was limited to 300 or so way up in one of the corners, much less than they normally bring.  It was a great atmosphere throughout, my only complaints are 1) empty seats near the floor when the upper levels appeared to be packed, the season ticket holders didn't turn out like the general public did, and 2) the mass exodus with 2 minutes remaining when we only had an 8 point lead.

Up next, a very tough matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville Wednesday night.  Tip-off is set for 6pm on the SEC Network.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Game Preview - Mississippi State

I bet you thought I was going to miss this preview, but here I am, 1:15 AM the day of the game, writing for you. That's customer service, baby. More satisfying would be an Alabama win later today. For the second time, our beloved Crimson Tide will square off with Starkville's finest. Game time is 5 PM CT. Television duties will be handled by the SEC Network. Hopefully they will actually send analysts to the game. Reading that the analysts for the Georgia game were not even on site for a game they were calling is astonishing to me. When the analysts can't even be bothered to attend the game, how hard can we truly be on the fans for not attending? While it's awesome that we can watch every single Alabama basketball game on TV (or Youtube), maybe it's not a great thing for the game itself.  Or maybe ESPN - a billion dollar company - shouldn't be so cheap.





Alabama
Mississippi State









68.9 PPG 75.5



63.3 OPP 69.6



42.9 FG% 46.5



40.6 OPP 43.3



49.1 EFG% 53.7



46.9 OPP 48.7



32.8 3PT% 37.3



35.6 OPP 31.8



62.8 FT% 69.6



68 OPP 68.2



40.2 FTRATE 38.1



38.3 OPP 30.7



38.9 RPG 34.5



32.5 OPP 36.3



34.3 OREB% 26.6



24.8 OPP 30.8



13.7 TOPG 12.3



14.8 OPP 14.3



20.2 TO% 17.5



21.7 OPP 20.4



59 KenPom Ranking 82

 
My Two Cents: This rivalry is getting back on track. The two games last season were very hotly contested with both teams winning on the other team's home court, and the game in Starkville to open conference play this season was a very competitive affair. Avery and Ben Howland are recruiting well so the games between the two programs are only going to continue to grow in importance. For now, both teams are trying to play their way into the postseason. The NCAA Tournament appears to be a long shot for both due to missed opportunities in the non-conference for Bama, and a weak non-conference schedule for State, but both coaches in their second seasons would be happy with any postseason bid at this point in the program's development. I expect another competitive game tomorrow. Our guys need the fans to show up in force, be loud, and help this team get to 6-2 in league play.

Players to Watch: Dazon Ingram is going through a bit of a funk. His offensive numbers have dipped, and he's had his struggles with protecting the ball. He did end the Georgia game strong, knocking down some free throws late, and had a huge block of a J.J. Frazier shot when Georgia made a late attempt at a run. The team is finding a way to compete, and Braxton is slowly growing into a go-to player, but I still believe for this team to be a consistent winner, they need Dazon playing at a high level. 

The emergence of freshman Lamar Peters has been a big reason for State's improvement in recent weeks. In SEC play, Peters is averaging 15.8 ppg, 3.7 apg and 1.4 spg. Peters is also shooting 40% from 3 in league play, including a 7-11 performance in the last game vs Missouri. Peters has been fantastic with breaking down a defense with the dribble and opening up the floor, creating opportunities for his teammates. As a result this State team has really improved on offense. Our guys have to keep Peters under wraps. If he has a strong game tomorrow, it could be the key to State leaving Tuscaloosa with a second consecutive win.

Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Both teams have improved in conference play, both are well-coached, and road teams in the conference have been very successful this season. Alabama's offensive issues make them vulnerable in every game. State can be an explosive offensive team so our guys must control the tempo, while working hard to avoid the droughts that seem to happen every game (despite the final score, Alabama had a field goal drought of nine minutes in the Georgia game). I really can't decide so I'll go with the home team in this one. Alabama - 72 - Mississippi State - 60

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bama Brutalizes Bulldogs, Tide 80 Georgia 60

Alabama bounced back from a 20 point loss on the road at auburn to get a 20 point win on the road against a (at the time) top 50 RPI team in Georgia.

We changed the starting lineup again, this time going big with 1. Dazon 2. Riley 3. Key 4. Bola and 5. Donta.  It worked early, at least on the defensive side.  In some ways it reminded me of the start of the auburn game.  We had built a 6 point lead, but it felt like it should have been more.  The great defensive effort held Georgia to just 9 points in the first 9 minutes, but due to some poor shooting and turnovers, we only led by 6.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Game Preview - at Georgia

Hoping to wash out the taste of a miserable final five minutes at Auburn, our guys will travel to Athens looking to bounce back. Tip time is 8 PM. The game will be televised on ESPNU. The Bulldogs have two of the best players in the league in Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier. Georgia is coming off a gut-wrenching 1-point loss at Texas A&M in which they let a 9-point lead slip away in the final two minutes, but were also the victim of a controversial clock stoppage issue at the end of the game that prevented them from even getting a final shot off. For a team clinging to the bubble, that loss could loom large in March.





Alabama
Georgia









68.3 PPG 73.3



63.4 OPP 67.6



42.5 FG% 44.8



40.7 OPP 39.4



48.6 EFG% 48.8



47.2 OPP 45.2



31.7 3PT% 32



36.1 OPP 31.6



62.3 FT% 74.3



67.7 OPP 67.5



38.8 FTRATE 42.1



38.5 OPP 33.6



38.8 RPG 39.2



32.8 OPP 33.9



33.9 OREB% 31.3



24.7 OPP 26.7



13.6 TOPG 13.9



15.1 OPP 12.4



19.9 TO% 19.6



22 OPP 17.3



76 KenPom Ranking 41


My Two Cents: Alabama's weaknesses on the offensive end have been managed for the most part by the team's strong defensive effort. But on Saturday, Auburn made shots and got to the free-throw line, which put pressure on our guys to keep pace on the offensive end. When it's all said and done, this team just isn't comfortable having to score 70+ on average. Despite Bama's strength on defense (still top 25 in defensive efficiency), expect difficulties in winning games against teams that can score.

Players to Watch: Braxton Key appears to be growing in confidence on the offensive end. He's averaging 15 ppg in the last four games. As DJC pointed out in his Auburn recap, Braxton at times tried to do too much on the offensive end despite finishing with 18 points (he did have 4 turnovers). I'm okay with that to an extent, because this team needs someone willing to step up and try to make plays when nothing much is working. They'll be some ups and downs, but anything beats getting stuck in a halfcourt set going nowhere.

Maten and Frazier make this team go, but they're a much better team when a third option emerges on the floor. Juwan Parker is beginning to look more and more like that consistent third guy. In the last eight games, Parker is averaging 12.7 ppg. Maten and Frazier have to be at the top of the scouting report, but it's important to keep at least one eye on Parker.

Prediction: As far as tempo goes, this should be a more favorable match-up for Alabama; both teams rank in the bottom five of the conference in adjusted tempo. Unfortunately, Georgia will have the best two players on the floor, and I think that alone may be enough. Georgia - 72 - Alabama - 63 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

AUful, auburn 84 Bama 64

The very first possession was a microcosm of the game.  We got an "And one," wide open 3 point attempt, two offense rebounds, and 3 total free throws and came away with only 3 points.  We didn't take advantage of our opportunities when we were playing well, and then we had no answer when auburn found their groove late in the game.

Alabama actually played very well in the first half.  We controlled the tempo and played to our identity.  The defense was great; it took auburn nearly 5 minutes to score from the field, and we dominated the boards on both ends.  Unfortunately, we couldn't make open shots and the score was tied at 30 going into halftime.

The second half pace was more to auburn's liking.  They started pressing and trapping us which led to turnovers and sped the game up.  When our bigs got in foul trouble they couldn't defend Wiley.  With Wiley pushing us around in the paint, it opened up the perimeter for Heron to start raining 3s.  As a result, we gave up 54 points in the second half and got run out of the gym in the final 8 minutes.

I do not understand Coach Johnson's obsession with starting Corban at the 2.  I understand the argument that he earned another shot at it with his game in Baton Rouge, but he hasn't made a shot since.  I thought after his awful showing in the Mizzou game, we would go back to starting AJ at the point and Dazon at the 2, which is a lineup that's worked fairly well for us.  Dazon is simply too careless with the basketball right now to be running point.  AJ dribbles too much, but at least he generally doesn't turn the ball over.  Corban provides good leadership, but I prefer him coming in off the bench.

Braxton scored 18 points but he had so many turnovers and so many air balls that I don't know how much he really helped us.  I felt like he was trying to do too much at times.  Riley had a solid game with 10 points but he got burned on defense a few times late.  I thought Bola played very well.  He ended with 7 points and 11 rebounds, and he made several good hustle plays coming up with loose balls and saves.

I don't often say nice things about those folks, but kudos to Bruce Pearl and the auburn faithful for raising money and awareness for cancer research with the "AUT Live" shirts.  While it's a great idea, I do think they need to tweak their play on words.  Obviously "Out live" made more sense for Pearl at UT...Before the announcers explained the background I assumed it was some sort of charity dealing with autism.  "Aut" and "out" aren't really the same word.

Speaking of the announcers, ESPN's coverage was horrible.  On multiple occasions a foul was called and the announcers failed to mention who it was on, much less how many fouls that player committed.  I had to look up the foul numbers on my CBS Sports app.  At one point they even said, "There's a whistle from the ref, we'll be back after the break!"  No idea what the whistle was for.  Note to ESPN, if You aren't going to inform us of the official's call, at least have the reporting official within the camera frame so that we can see for ourselves.

Up next, we go to Athens, GA to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at 8pm Central time Wednesday night.   Georgia is currently number 42 in the RPI, so if the team can bounce back this game provides a great opportunity.  It will be televised on ESPNU.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Game Preview - at Auburn

Getting this preview up late. My apologies. Well, it's Alabama/Auburn, round 1. Alabama can expect a hostile environment when it rolls into Auburn Arena on Saturday for a 3 PM CT tip. The game will be televised on ESPN 2. Alabama enters this game with a 4-1 record in conference play, while Auburn has struggled to a 2-4 start, but are coming off a win on Wednesday night vs LSU. The win was Bruce Pearl's 500th win of his career. The rivalry in basketball is expected to take on more significance in the future as both programs are trying to build momentum. And, as always, the fans want each team to beat the other, no matter the sport.





Alabama
Auburn









68.6 PPG 78.8



62.2 OPP 75.9



42.6 FG% 42.5



40.2 OPP 41.8



48.7 EFG% 49.5



46.6 OPP 48.1



31.9 3PT% 34.7



35.1 OPP 32.2



62.8 FT% 68.6



67.8 OPP 69.1



39.1 FTRATE 42.6



35.9 OPP 35.9



39.1 RPG 37.3



32.7 OPP 40.7



33.7 OREB% 30



24.2 OPP 34.5



13.5 TOPG 13.4



15.2 OPP 16.2



19.7 TO% 17.6



22.2 OPP 21.4



64 KenPom Ranking 98


My Two Cents: Auburn could easily be 4-2 in league play, but struggles on defense bit them in home losses to Georgia and Ole Miss. This is a young team, but talented. They're probably still a year away from making a significant move up the standings, but certainly capable of giving a, at times, shaky Alabama team fits in front of what should be a sold-out crowd. The rebounding stat will likely play a huge part in who wins what should be a close game. Auburn has struggled on the glass, a strength for Alabama this season. And if it is a close game, Alabama needs to figure it out on the free throw line. They've been absolutely wretched, making just under 63% of their attempts.

Players to Watch: Riley Norris has been much more aggressive on offense in the last two games, averaging 16.5 ppg. This is good to see as Riley has gone through stretches this season in which he's been tentative on offense. He's received his fair share of abuse from the Auburn students the last two seasons so it would be nice to see him have another good day on offense.

Mustapha Heron was a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school. So far he has lived up the hype, leading the Tigers in scoring (15.7), 3-pt shooting (41%), and rebounding (6.2). Unfortunately, he also leads the team in turnovers (2.6 pg) so he can be loose with the ball. That said, he's a vital part of the team, and a threat to be a game-changer. Danjel Purifoy, the other star freshman for Auburn, has missed three games since injuring his ankle in the Ole Miss game. His status for the game is unknown, but the rumor is he's likely to give it a go.

Prediction: I'm not a fan of Bruce Pearl, but he was smart enough to know from the moment he was hired that beating Alabama is of the upmost importance to his fanbase. He will have his team ready to play. And for all of the debate that we've had here about fans showing up to Coleman, give credit where it's due to the Auburn fans and students; they have consistently turned up to games despite a 38-46 record so far in Pearl's tenure. They'll likely be out in force tomorrow, creating what should be the most hostile crowd Alabama has had to deal with. Alabama has improved since November/December, but this is still a team with issues to address, and this upcoming stretch of games is likely to expose them even more. Auburn - 81 - Alabama - 70   

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Greg Byrne announced as new Athletic Director

He was previously the athletic director at Arizona and Mississippi State, and was an associate Athletic Director at Kentucky from 2002-2005.  I think this is a great hire.  He has previous experience with the SEC, and has spent time at big time basketball schools.  I am hopeful that he will quickly recognize the opportunity for growth that our hoops program presents and take action to help build and support.  More specifically, I'm more optimistic about getting a new arena in the foreseeable future.

Tide Torments Terrible Tigers, Alabama 68 Mizzou 56

Behind more great defense and rebounding, Alabama rolled to a 4-1 start in SEC play with a relatively uneventful win over a struggling Missouri team.

Both teams primarily ran a zone defense, although Bama did a fair amount of trapping that was relatively effective.  With both teams struggling to shoot, the game did not have much of a flow.  We ended up 9 of 27 from three point range, but made only 3 of 15 in the first half.  I would still like to see more dribble drive from Dazon and Braxton when the jump shots aren't falling.

After leading only 26-19 at halftime, we had much better ball spacing and movement in the second half, which led to more open 3s, particularly in the corners, and we were able to stretch the lead to double-digits.  It never felt like the game was in danger, but we were never able to comfortably put them away either.

It was a team effort, with Riley, Dazon, Key, and AJ all scoring in double-digits.  Corban Collins got the start over AJ following his great effort in Baton Rouge, but he struggled in this game, scoring only 2 points and going 0 for 6 from downtown.

Jimmie played well off the bench with 9 rebounds and he did a fantastic job of defending the rim.  His contributions were badly needed, as Donta fouled out again in 16 minutes of play.

Dazon Ingram is going to have to take better care of the basketball if he is going to continue to run the point.  He had 4 turnovers, and they were mostly unforced.  We ended up with 12 turnovers, which isn't an egregious number, but they all seemed to either cost us an easy opportunity to score or came at bad times when we were on the verge of putting the game away.

Free Throw Shooting =

Something has to be done about this.  It's already at least cost us a chance at a top 25 RPI win against Florida, and with the schedule getting much tougher from here on, we will not get the wins we need to play in the postseason if we have more games shooting under 50% like we did last night.  I don't think the answer is to just shoot more in practice.  There are a number of problems.  For starters, a few guys don't even have the same routine.  For example,  I noticed sometimes Jimmie bounces 3 times, holds the ball and takes a deep breath, then bounces it 3 more times and shoots.  Often times on the second shot, he'll only bounce it once after picking it up after the first 3.  Sometimes he just bounces it twice instead of 3 times.  Free throws are all about muscle memory, repetition, and concentration.  It's important to get into a habit of having the same routine each time you go to the line.  Dazon seems to rush his shot a bit, I'd like to see him take a few extra seconds and catch his breath.  Riley's release isn't as fluid on his free throws as his jump shots for whatever reason.  I wish we would invest in something like this.  The cliff's notes version is it's a software program that analyzes the arc of your shot and gives you feedback so that you can try to get to the optimal 45 degree mark.  I think practicing with something like this could tremendously improve the form on our guys' free throw attempts.  Unfortunately, I don't think there is an overnight solution to this glaring problem.  



The 1987 SEC Regular Season and SEC Tournament Champions were honored at halftime.  This was the team that made me a huge Alabama basketball fan.  At 7 years old,  I was only in the 3rd grade at the time, and my Dad took me to my first basketball game, an overtime win over Georgia in what was then known as Memorial Coliseum.  I still remember counting the 3s Mark Gottfried made in a row while warming up that night, and I'll never forget the disappointment and sadness when that season ended with a loss to Providence.  I despise Billy Donovan to this day.  



I was glad that Mark Gottfried received a mostly positive reception.  While none of us like the way he ended his tenure as head coach, this particular event was about the reunion of a special group of teammates.  I appreciate his contributions as a player, and as a coach, up until about 2006.

We had a Dodger stadium type crowd thanks to a combination of a 6pm Wednesday night tipoff and horrific traffic coming from Birmingham.  I would guess there was barely 4,000 there at tip off, but it was up to around 6,500 by the 8 minute mark of the first half.  I spoke to several people around me who said it took them nearly 2 hours to drive from Birmingham.  My traffic app re-routed me to Highway 216, and we were able to make it in an hour and 10 minutes, just in time for tip-off.

Up next, more Tigers, this time of the farmville variety as we travel across the state to the ugliest village on the plains to take on Bruce Pearl's auburn squad.  As I said, to this point we've won the games we are supposed to win, but the next 6 are 50/50 propositions at best, so we'll need to take care of the basketball and make some more free throws if we want to stay in the top 4 in the SEC standings.  Tip off is set for 3 pm on ESPNU.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sleeping with the enemy, Mizzou Tigers

Chris Bocquet from Rock M Nation graciously provided us with the honest assessment of the Mizzou team below.  If you visit Rock M Nation, please respect their site's rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama.

Hello Bama fans, Chris Bocquet from Rock M Nation to provide you with some insight on the Tide's opponent tonight, the Missouri Tigers.
When DJC presented this opportunity to us, he asked for us to note the strengths and weaknesses at the top and that got me thinking, does Mizzou have any strengths? First some background on this year's team.

Much like the team from last year, Mizzou is very, very young. This youth is due to the fact that Kim Anderson's (now in his third year) first recruiting class is gone, everyone of them is gone. The best players from the preceding class, also gone whether that be to transfer (Jonathan Williams III is now balling out at Gonzaga) or dismissal/quitting (Wes Clark, no one knows what's true here). Last year's four man class is still whole and are being looked upon to provide leadership for this young team. Coming into this season, Kim Anderson had brought in a strong recruiting class though that has already lost a player to transfer, though it seems for nothing more than the need to be near a sick family member, but it's a trend and that makes things not necessarily complicated but difficult for a coaching staff that spent the past year saying that the reason was playing poorly was because the previous recruiting classes had looked in Frank Haith's direction. 

That all said, things aren't going great for Mizzou this year who have home losses to North Carolina Central, Eastern Illinois, Lipscomb and fellow SEC bottom dwellers Auburn and LSU. Mizzou has yet to win an SEC road game under Kim Anderson's watch so heading on the road to Tuscaloosa doesn't look great for them. 

Where Mizzou has improved and what could be considered a strength is their defense, though of late their defense has looked ragged, giving up over 90 points to Arkansas in a regulation game. They do rebound decently, though their bigs have all suffered some form of injury at this point and the Tigers are having to rely on their stretch fours (Puryear and Barnett) to provide more work down low than they had wanted to. Their weaknesses are numerous, but the biggest most glaring one is that this team simply cannot shoot the ball. They are awful from outside the three point line and not great from inside the arc. Outside of Terrence Phillips, there's not a person on the team that can hit from distance with any kind of regularity.

If you want to key in on any Mizzou player, focus on Jordan Barnett. Barnett was a mid year transfer from Texas and after getting his feet under him and in game flow has now become the impact player Tiger fans were expecting. He's a great shooter, big body and is active under the basket. If there's a knock on him it's that he's too nice. The coaches would like to see him get a little bit of an edge, maybe be more assertive than he's been though that's difficult when you've only been playing since mid December. 

I think that at this point you can tell from my previous paragraphs that I'm not too high on Mizzou's chances the rest of the way and I do not think tonight will be any different. For a Mizzou team that has trouble scoring against an Alabama squad that plays tremendous defense, I'd expect a low scoring ugly at times game that the Tide pull out, getting up by double digits in the second half and then hanging on. Like all Mizzou fans I'm just ready to move onto the next chapter once the season ends.

Thanks for the opportunity and good luck tonight!

Game Preview - Missouri



The team briefly returns home for a date with the Missouri Tigers. Tip time is 6:00 PM CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU. At halftime of this game, the 1986-87 team will be honored. That team is arguably the best team in Alabama history. They won 28 games, won the SEC regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. With an early tip time, a cool halftime event, and a basketball team that has won five of its last six games, there is no reason for fans not to show up tomorrow night and support this team. Alabama enters this game with their best conference start since the 12-13 season. This game has some added importance because three of the next four games are on the road. It's been yet another struggle for the Missouri program as they have only won five games overall, and are currently winless in conference play with an 0-4 record.




Alabama
Missouri










68.6 PPG 70.8



62.6 OPP 70.1



42.5 FG% 39



40.2 OPP 40.7



48.5 EFG% 43.8



46.5 OPP 46.5



31.8 3PT% 26.6



34.4 OPP 30.7



64.2 FT% 67.5



68 OPP 68



38.3 FTRATE 40.6



35 OPP 38



39.1 RPG 40.4



32.8 OPP 39.6



33.6 OREB% 30.4



24.6 OPP 27.6



13.6 TOPG 12.5



14.9 OPP 14.4



19.8 TO% 17



21.8 OPP 19.7



64 KenPom Ranking 189



My Two Cents: The final five minutes of the game on Saturday was the best basketball Alabama has played all season. It was a sign that this team has grown where it concerns closing games. All three of their wins were close games late before the team made a late surge to win. The hope is that won't be necessary Wednesday night. This Alabama team is nowhere near good enough to just show up and beat someone (Avery Johnson's reaction to the question in the video above makes this very clear) so they will need to come ready to play. That said, there is no excuse for any conference team to lose a home game to this Missouri team. A loss would be devastating to whatever postseason hopes remain for our guys. They have to take care of business.

Players to Watch: Coach Avery challenged Donta Hall on Saturday after a slow start. Donta responded, finishing with 13 points (6-7 from the field). I thought he was the initial spark in the second half that led to the win. LSU was maintaining a 4-6 point lead. Donta scored six straight points, which kept the game close, setting up the late heroics of Corban and Riley. He still has a long way to go in his development, but he has made definite strides from his freshman to sophomore seasons.

Kevin Puryear was a problem in this game last season. Then a freshman, Puryear scored 22 points and added 6 rebounds. In a down season, Puryear has been a bright spot for Missouri. He's second on the team in scoring (11.4), and rebounds (6.5). He will be a challenge for our big guys. Jordan Barnett - a transfer from Texas - is the team's best player. He leads the team in scoring (12.7) and rebounds (7.1).

Prediction: There's a weird pressure in playing Missouri the last few seasons. Because the Tigers have struggled, the fan expectation has been that other conference teams, particularly when playing at home, should beat Missouri with relative ease. Alabama's struggles on offense make them vulnerable in any game, and it should be noted that Missouri is a top 75 defensive efficiency team, so expecting Alabama to do anything with relative ease right now is likely a fool's errand. But, as I wrote above, there is simply no excuse for any team in this league to lose on their home floor to this Missouri team. As long as Alabama plays well on the defensive end, and takes care of the basketball, they should emerge victorious. Alabama - 68 - Missouri - 52

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bama Buries Bayou Bengals, Tide 81 LSU 66, Plus a Blast from the past and a look to the future

I had a fun weekend of watching basketball including seeing a future Bama player and a past one, but first let's deal with the current team.  Our guys rolled into the P-Mac Center in Baton Rouge and battled for an impressive 15 point road win, to improve to 3-1 in conference play.

For the first 30 minutes or so it looked like an ugly game between two mediocre at best teams.  LSU maintained a 4 or 5 point lead throughout much of the game, but we made runs to briefly re-take the lead before giving it back.  Even when things weren't going well, I thought our guys wanted this game more.  We seemed to beat them to all of the 50/50 balls.

I was a bit concerned about this matchup.  In recent games where we've enjoyed moderate success; we've generally dominated the glass.  LSU has some bigs that look like they should be suiting up for Coach Orgeron next door at the football stadium, but credit to our guys for still narrowly winning the rebounding battle.

LSU stubbornly stuck to a zone defense, and Riley Norris and Corban Collins absolutely torched them.  Riley had a knack for finding the soft spot in their zone, in addition to going 3 of 7 from 3 point land for 20 points.  Corban was on fire, making 7 from downtown and putting up 24 points.  Donta Hall bounced back after a bad first half and playing in foul trouble to end up with 13.  His timing on the rebound/dunk put backs is impeccable right now, and a couple of those seemed to really demoralize the Tigers.  I would have preferred to see a little more dribble-drive from guys like Dazon and Braxton earlier in the game, but we got the shots to fall when we needed them to.

Braxton, Dazon, and Jimmie played much of the second half with 4 fouls before Key finally fouled out.  I was surprised LSU didn't make much more of an effort to get them out of the game.  They seemed content to settle for long jump shots on offense and we did a good job of limiting their second chance opportunities.  It was a tie game with 5 minutes to go, but Bama made some 3s and went on an 11-0 run that effectively decided the game.  This time, instead of letting them back in the game, the team took care of the basketball and put it away, cruising to an easy 15 point win.

We still only shot 65% from the free throw line, the inconsistency at the stripe makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

LSU is a hot mess right now.  That team is too talented to be playing this poorly, and I don't see any way Johnny Jones is still coaching there next year.

There wasn't much of a crowd there for a beautiful Saturday afternoon game. I guess most of the Cajuns were outdoors hunting shrimp and crawfish or something.  I estimate no more than about 5,500 or so fans were there, with a respectable showing of 300 or so Bama fans scattered throughout, including one section behind a basket that was heavily populated with Crimson Clad spectators.  We were even able to get the "Roll Tide" chant going at the end of the game.  I know LSU fans have a bit of a reputation, but I've always found them to be fun and hospitable, and it was no different this weekend. The atmosphere was remarkably quiet for most of the game, it was probably the most subdued I've heard the Tiger faithful at any game.

A Glimpse into the Future

I was in Centreville, AL last Friday night and got to watch a bit of the Hale County v. Bibb County basketball game featuring Bama signee Herb Jones.  I only stayed for the first half, and the level of competition was not great so it's hard to draw too many conclusions.  He did make his first 3 or 4 three pointers before cooling off later in the half.  He has a silky smooth shot, and is long, quick, and athletic.  At times he's almost too unselfish, he did have a couple of turnovers trying to get the ball to his teammates when he probably could have easily scored of his defender himself.  He runs the floor well and played good defense.  His demeanor appears to be a quiet "lead by example" type.  I could see him being a Braxton Key type, although I could see him getting pushed around a bit by the bigger 3s and 4 types in the post.  He has great form and I think he was something like 4 of 5 from the free throw line.  

A Blast From the Past

Sunday I made the drive from New Orleans up to Memphis to catch the Bulls-Grizzlies game.  I'm a Chicago Bulls fan, but it was great to see JaMychal Green starting and playing well for Memphis.  He had a great first quarter and ended up scoring 14 points. He's developed a nice jump shot and even made a couple of 3 pointers.  He had some issues with suspensions, etc, while he was here, but a friend within the Grizzlies organization tells me that he has really matured since having a child, and is one of the hardest working, most dedicated players on the team.  He's "only" making about $980,000 this year, and is in line for a huge pay raise at the end of the season.  Memphis may not be able to keep him due to salary cap issues.  In any event, I'm glad to see him doing well in the league and wish him all the best.  My Bulls won a close entertaining game despite only making 65% of their free throws (seriously, why can't any of my teams make a free throw!?)  

Speaking of the past, I ran across this earlier...We tried to tell them

Up next, we stay on a Tiger meat diet as Mizzou comes to Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Wednesday night.  Mizzou is a bad team, but they will beat somebody in the conference, and we aren't good enough to take a night off, so we'll need to bring our A-game and avoid the dreaded "bad home loss."  The game will be televised on ESPNU.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Game Preview - at LSU

Following a frustrating home loss to the Florida Gators on Tuesday night, our guys are back on the road, in Baton Rouge to play the LSU Tigers. Tip time is 2:30 PM CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. No other way to say it, our team was an absolute mess on Tuesday night, turning the ball over 18 times (which led to 27 Florida points) and missing 50% of their free throws. LSU enters this game really struggling. The Tigers are 1-3 in conference play. In their three losses, their opponents are averaging 94.3 ppg. At this point, it seems a matter of when, not if, Johnny Jones is relieved of his duties. However, if Alabama doesn't address the issues that cost them a shot at a top 25 win on Tuesday, they're likely to return to Tuscaloosa with their second conference loss.





Alabama
LSU














67.8 PPG 76.3





62.4 OPP 78.2





42.7 FG% 46.2





40 OPP 45.6





48.6 EFG% 51.4





46.5 OPP 51.9





31.4 3PT% 35.6





34.6 OPP 35.1





64 FT% 64.4





67.7 OPP 67.3





37.4 FTRATE 29.3





34.7 OPP 33.7





39 RPG 38.4





32.5 OPP 37.3





33.5 OREB% 32.7





24.5 OPP 31.1





13.8 TOPG 14.4





14.7 OPP 13.2





20.3 TO% 19.7





21.6 OPP 18





77 KenPom Ranking 135




My Two Cents: On paper, this looks like a great opportunity for Alabama to notch their second true road win of the season. LSU is a mess right now, and I would be shocked if they can pull out of this tailspin to save Johnny Jones' job. But do you trust this Alabama team right now? I want to, I really do. There have been  moments in the last five games in which this team has shown a lot of toughness, and the ability to overcome their shortcomings, but it's only moments. The Florida game was a microcosm of this season so far. The team came out flat and leaderless, collected itself and fought to get back into the game, but the lack of simple fundamentals (free throws, the inability to protect the ball, scoring droughts) conspired once again to prevent the team from a momentum win. As long as these issues remain a thorn in this team's side, they can lose to anyone, particularly on the road. The next three games (at LSU, Missouri, at Auburn) are all very winnable games, providing this team with a shot to get past the Tuesday disappointment, and build a nice early record in league play.

Players to Watch: Dazon Ingram had his worst game of the season on Tuesday, contributing 8 points and 7 turnovers vs 2 assists. He was lethargic throughout, he was very loose with the basketball, and he wasn't aggressive on the offensive end with only one field goal attempt. With Braxton Key having his best scoring night of the season, if Dazon shows up and plays with purpose, that's a very different game. Yes, he's a young player with only a total of 22 games under his belt as a college player; but Dazon has to realize his importance to this team, and play at a higher level. I expect to see a much different performance from him on Saturday.

I have to feel for Antonio Blakeney. He's a heck of a player, stuck on a really bad team. If LSU wins on Saturday, Blakeney will likely play a large part. He leads the team in scoring (17.5 ppg, 47% FG, 37% 3-pt), and is second in rebounding (5.1). He does have a tendency to turn it over (2.4 pg), but he's the type of guy that can hang 30 on you easily.  

Prediction: I have no idea. I think our guys are the better team, but it's hard to know how a team that has been as up-and-down as they have will respond on the road, or even game to game for that matter. Assuming our team brings their defense on the road, and they can continue to be physical around the rim, I would lean towards them winning this game; however, I write that with little confidence. Alabama - 68 - LSU - 67

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Freebie Failures Fatal against Florida: Gators 80, Bama 67

Missed free throws and turnovers.  That was the story of the game, and ultimately why we were not able to take advantage of the opportunity to upset a top 25 team.

We seemed unprepared for Florida's quickness.  They were very good defensively, and our guards struggled to handle the basketball.  Credit to the team for coming back after Florida ran out to an 18 point lead in the first half.  If nothing else, maybe taking a 6 point lead after trailing by 18 to a good team will give us a confidence boost down the road.  I think most expected us to get run out of the gym at that point, but we continued fighting and made a good game of it.

Bama played particularly well during a stretch early in the second half.  Much like we saw during our recent winning streak, the defense was phenomenal, holding the Gators without a basket for about 6 minutes.  Unfortunately, once we got a 6 point lead we had a defensive lapse which led to a wide open 3, and we missed some free throws and couldn't extend the lead any further.  Florida then switched to a half court trap, and our offense looked totally overwhelmed.  A number of turnovers and fast breaks allowed the Gators to re-take the lead and put the game away relatively easily.

Dazon really struggled with the pressure in particular.  After several double-doubles in recent weeks, he had 8 points and a ridiculous 7 turnovers.  Donta Hall played very well offensively when he was in the game, getting some huge rebounds and dunks.  He had 12 points and 8 rebounds in only 15 minutes.  The problem is, he fouled out in 15 minutes.  If we could have kept him on the floor another 10 minutes or so, this game might have turned out differently.  Davis had another good game scoring 10 points, and Braxton Key had another terrific game with 24 points and 5 rebounds.

We were 3 of 11 from the free throw line in the first half, and ended up at 50%, 16 of 32.  That's...not good.  We aren't going to beat any NCAA tournament caliber teams missing 16 free throws and turning the ball over 18 times.

The student turnout was great, as the student section was nearly full.  The rest of the crowd was pathetic.  I would guess no more than about 5,500 were there, including about 400 or so Gator fans who took advantage of the opportunity to move closer to the court during the first media timeout.  I don't understand our fan base.  With half of the state dealing with ice issues we get a reasonable turnout Saturday against a pretty bad Vanderbilt team, but we can't be bothered to show up to support a team on a modest winning streak against a top 25 ranked opponent?  You can see the contrast in the pic above from the student section and Tide Pride sections.

Up next, we travel to Baton Rouge Saturday to take on a talented but woefully under-performing LSU Tigers squad.  Tip-off is at 2:30 pm on the SEC Network.  I am going to the game, but likely will not post a recap until some time Monday afternoon, as I'm also going to Memphis Sunday to watch JaMychal Green and the Grizzlies beat down my Bulls.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Game Preview - Florida

It's not easy writing a preview with one eye and watching the football national championship with the other, but tomorrow is a huge game for our basketball team so duty calls. The program will be looking for its first 3-0 start in conference play since the 1986-87 season. Florida will enter this game as the 23rd ranked team in the current AP Top 25 poll. Tip time is 8 PM CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU. I encourage all of you in the area to head out to Coleman and support this team in what should be a very challenging game.

                                             Alabama                                                   Florida





67.9 PPG 78.9





61.1 OPP 66.5





42.5 FG% 45.8





39.5 OPP 42.8





48.4 EFG% 51.7





46 OPP 48.1





31.1 3PT% 35.5





34.5 OPP 33.2





65.6 FT% 71.8





66.8 OPP 70.3





35.7 FTRATE 41.6





32.9 OPP 30.1





39.1 RPG 35.8





32.7 OPP 34.1





33.7 OREB% 35.3





25 OPP 32.2





13.5 TOPG 11.2





14.9 OPP 16.5





19.9 TO% 16





22.1 OPP 23.7





71 KenPom Ranking 14



My Two Cents: It's a steep hill to climb for this Alabama team to put themselves in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid following a non-conference schedule that produced no "quality" wins, but a win over a top 25 (and top 3 RPI) team would certainly be a step in the right direction. The Gators aren't a flashy team, but they are efficient (top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency at KenPom). Alabama's recent success has been sparked by a surge in their play on the defensive end, but they'll need to be good in all phases to beat this Florida team.

Players to Watch: This team is getting it done by committee. Maybe the most important key to Alabama's four-game winning streak has been their work on the glass. Multiple guys (Braxton, Dazon, Bola, Jimmie, Riley and Donta) have all contributed to the rebounding improvement. That will need to continue if Alabama has any shot at winning this game. It also wouldn't hurt if this team could have a rare good shooting night from 3.

KeVaughn Allen is shining in his second season in Gainesville. He leads the Gators in scoring (14.7), 3-pt pct. (42.7%) and FT pct (84.8%). In Alabama's first two conference game, they have limited the leading scorer for each team well below their average. The Gators can hurt you in a variety of ways so limiting Allen alone won't be enough, but it would be a good start.

Prediction: I'm drinking the post-football loss kool-aid (yes, I've been trying to write this damn post for five hours), but I'm going to pick our guys to get the big win. If Bama brings their defense they will have a chance to win most nights. Here's hoping Bama fans overcome the football hangover, and show up to cheer this team on. Alabama - 67 - Florida - 62.