Thursday, May 24, 2018

SEC vs Big 12 Challenge Matchups Announced

The Tide will travel to Waco, TX to take on the Baylor Bears on Saturday, January 26.  They were a sweet 16 team in 2017, and lost to Mississippi $tate in the second round of the NIT this past season.  It should be a chance to pick up a decent quality win on the road.

Here are the rest of the matchups: 

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Offseason Post #4

Continuing my creatively named offseason posts.

The men's basketball team had their postseason banquet last week. You can click the link for more details.

1] The biggest news coming out of the banquet was that Riley Norris will return for a fifth season after he was granted a medical hardship waiver. Obviously great news for Riley and his family. His senior season was never able to get off the ground due to a hip injury. Riley's experience and his overall play will be an important factor for next seasons' team. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I'm happy to have Riley back next season.

2] Braxton Key will not be back, of course, but he has found a landing spot. He will sit a year, and then suit up for Tony Bennett and Virginia. I think this is a good spot for Braxton. Say what you want to about Virginia's struggles in March, but Bennett is an outstanding coach that has turned Virginia into a real national power. And Virginia ain't a bad place to get an education. Best of luck to Braxton in the future.

3] Offers for the 2019 and 2020 classes continue. In the last week the Bama coaching staff has offered Diante Smith, a 6'6, 190 lb forward from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Smith is currently rated a 4-star prospect by 247 in the 2019 class. Also offered in the 2019 class is Greg Gantt, a 6'7, 195 lb forward from Fayetteville, NC. Gantt is currently rated a 4-star prospect by 247. The staff also offered Austin Harvell, a 6'6, 215 lb guard from Athens, Alabama. Harvell is in the 2020 class. I like all of these guys, but Harvell might be my favorite. It's tough to believe watching his highlights that he's got two more years of high school left. Keep an eye on this guy.




4] There's some schedule news. It appears that the return trip to Rhode Island has been pushed back to the 19-20 season, according to a tweet by everyone's favorite automaton, Jon Rothstein. No idea which school pushed the decision to move the game back a year. At this point, who knows if the game ever takes place.

The return game with UCF will take place next season, and we have a date. Alabama will travel to Orlando to face the Golden Knights on November 29th. No game time yet, but for those of you looking for a post-Thanksgiving trip, there you go. Perhaps UCF will award themselves another national championship if they win the game......

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Offseason Post #3

The offseason rolls on with all the speed of a glacier, but the news never really stops in college basketball. The Alabama coaching staff are currently attending certified events evaluating players, extending offers, etc. Let's review what's happened in recruiting over the past week.

1] Before we turn to the future, let's focus on the past. Former Alabama guard Justin Coleman transferred from Alabama two seasons ago, landing at Samford. Now a graduate, Justin decided to spend his final year outside his home state of Alabama. His landing spot: Arizona. That's right, when Arizona visits Alabama later this year on December 9th, Coleman will have the opportunity to face his former school. To my knowledge there were no hard feelings when Justin left, but I would guess that will be a special game for him, be it in Tuscaloosa or Birmingham.




2] Ar'Mond Davis has found a landing spot after transferring from Alabama. He will spend his final year of eligibility at UC Santa Barbara. I think this is a good move for Ar'Mond. Santa Barbara is a good basketball program, and my understanding is the campus is gorgeous. I hope Ar'Mond's college career ends on a high note.

3] In the last post I mentioned Alabama had offered Dmitry Ryuny, a 6'7, 190 lb forward currently enrolled at Birmingham's Central Park Christian. In that post I was unsure if he was a 2018 or 2019 recruit. I can now confirm that he is a 2018 recruit. This is interesting to me because the roster is currently full from a scholarship standpoint. The fact that the staff would offer Ryuny suggests they anticipate another departure. There's also the possibility that Avery Jr. will not be on scholarship this season, which would open up a spot for Ryuny. There are no favorites to land Ryuny's signature at this time, but he did take an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa this past week.




4] While Ryuny would be a late pickup for the 2018 class, the staff is focusing most of their attention on what is shaping up to be an all-important 2019 class. In-state prospects Trendon Watford, Kira Lewis and Jaykwon Walton are the top targets in the class, but the staff have started expanding their offers outside the state. Let's take a look at the players that were offered this past week.

Jaylin Williams is a 6'6, 190 lb forward from Nahunta, Georgia. 247 ranks him as a top 100 recruit (83). Other notable schools recruiting him are Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Xavier. Georgia is the early favorite.

Drew Timme is a 6'9, 210 lb forward from Richardson, Texas. 247 has him ranked just outside the top 100 (108). Other notable schools recruiting him are Gonzaga, Baylor, Georgia Tech, and Creighton.

Ismael Massoud is a 6'8, 190 lb forward from Bronx, New York. He's ranked in the top 125 at 247 (124). The other notable schools recruiting him are Georgia Tech, Florida State, Rutgers, and Xavier.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Offseason Post #2

I will admit, I'm enjoying the offseason a little bit. I miss college basketball, but it's nice not to feel responsible to write new content every few days like it is during the season. The grind is real, folks. Anyway, let's focus on a few offseason developments.

1] Obviously, the big news this week was Braxton Key's decision to transfer.







I can't say this comes as a surprise. Transfers have become normal in college sports, and Braxton was at the top of my own list of Bama guys that I thought may transfer. It was a tough season for Braxton. He suffered a knee injury, missed ten games, was rushed back into action (my opinion), and never seemed to find a comfort zone. I think he struggled with his health, his role on the team, and his confidence in dealing with both. I can only speculate but my guess is he looked at the roster for next season and there remained a concern for him about where he would fit in. I do hate to see him go. At full health, Braxton is a very good player, versatile on both ends. The school that lands him will be very fortunate, assuming he can get back to full health. I hope nothing but the best for him.

2] Prior to Braxton's announcement, the team was one over the scholarship limit. The question now is will there be another guy(s) leaving? If recruiting is any indication, the coaching staff may be expecting further changes. Earlier this week the name Dmitry Rivny started popping up on social media.




I'll be honest: I had never heard of Rivny prior to this week. He's Russian. He's only been in the United States for six months. There's also some confusion what class he's in, 2018 or 2019. The tweet I included lists him as 2018, but what little I could find online about him via articles at Bama Mix Tape and HoopSeen suggests he's part of the 2019 class. He's listed as a 6'8 small forward, athletic, with the ability to shoot the deep ball. My guess is the tweet was wrong, and Rivny is part of the 2019 class, which is the next big class for the Bama coaching staff.

3] Recruiting never stops, and the Alabama coaching staff are already looking well into the future. This past week, they offered Keshawn Murphy, a 6'7 forward from Birmingham in the 2021 class. Yes, 2021. In that HoopSeen article I linked above, the author writes "Murphy used this event as a coming out party. Many are not aware of his talent and potential right now, but that will change in a matter of time. There will be plenty of high-major programs involved when it’s all said and done. In fact, excluding the 2019 big three of Trendon Watford, Kira Lewis, and Jaykwon Walton, Murphy may be the best long-term prospect in the state of Alabama. He’s that good and he’s only going to get better.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Braxton Key is transferring

He had a good freshman year, but I don't think he ever fully recovered from his knee injury last season.  I wish him the best of luck wherever he lands. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Grading the season and NBA draft boards

I've been meaning to write a summary of the season in my eyes, but the day job has gotten in the way. I'll reflect now and divide the season into 4 quadrants

Quadrant 1- OoC play
Grade C+

Biggest win was over Rhode Island in what was a very ugly game. The OU win was great at the time... then we saw what OU was and it no longer had the power it did. The worst loss was an inexplicable loss at the hands of U C(an't) F(inish). The beatdown Texas gave to us in Birmingham should be mentioned, but I mostly wiped that memory out. In between was a good showing at Zona and 3 on 5 show vs Minnesota (which turned out to be not such a good loss). Overall I was a bit disappointed in this part of the season

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Annual Season Wrap and State of the Program Manifesto

First, a couple of recent news items.

1) Collin Sexton held a press conference and declared for the NBA Draft.
2) Greg Byrne confirmed that we have hired a firm to evaluate options of renovating Coleman Coliseum or building a new facility.  While nothing has been decided yet, he indicates they are leaning toward a large scale renovation. (I'll have much more on this later)
3) Riley Norris announced he will take advantage of his medical redshirt and return for another season.

Make yourself comfortable and join me after the jump...

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Offseason Post # 1

The offseason is here for Bama hoops. We will be posting our season reviews in the days (or weeks) to come, but there has been some early offseason news to share so let's get to it.

1] Collin Sexton was named Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American this week. It's the latest honor for the Alabama freshman, who was selected Co-Freshman of the Year in the SEC, plus was voted to the Second Team All-SEC team. He is expected to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, but no official announcement has been made yet.

2] Alabama has offered Jaykwon Walton, a 6'5, 175 lb guard in the class of 2019. Walton attends Carver in Montgomery. Some notable programs that have offered Jaykwon so far are Georgia, Mississippi State, A&M, Creighton and Xavier. 247 Sports ranks Walton as the 4th best player in what is shaping up to be a stellar 2019 class in Alabama.

3] Matthew Moyer, a 6'8 freshman forward transferring from Syracuse, has Alabama listed as schools that have shown an interest in him. Moyer averaged 3.3 ppg and 3.5 rpg for the Orange this season. He started 20 games before an ankle injury limited him for the remainder of the season. The interest between the two parties isn't clear from the article I linked - Vanderbilt and Xavier seem to be the favorites based on the information contained in that article - but it's something to keep an eye on as we progress into the long spring and summer months.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hey, you! Yes, you! Support the Women's Team in the WNIT!

Hello, folks. It's that time once again where I, a Texas resident, implore you to attend a game at Coleman Coliseum in....Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

While this site is called the Alabama Basketball Blog, we typically only cover the men's team here. Speaking for myself, it's not due to a lack of interest in women's basketball. It's time. Or a lack of time that can be devoted to the women's team. I hate that because Kristy Curry has done a great job with a program that was in a smoking crater when she arrived, and her efforts deserve more recognition. In her fifth season, she has taken the program to its third straight postseason appearance, and she's got a great recruiting class coming in next season, headlined by ESPN top 100 recruit, Gabriella Crawford. 

That's right, while the men's team has ended its season, Coach Curry and her team play on in the WNIT. The ladies have won the first two games in the 64-team tournament, and will be looking to make the quarterfinals of the WNIT for the second straight season when they host Georgia Tech on Thursday. Game time is 7 P.M. CT. There is no television so anyone in the area that can get out to Coleman and cheer these ladies on, please do. If you're a UA student, you will receive free admission to the game. I hope those of you in the area can make it to Coleman and cheer on this team.




A quick note on the men's side: Ar'Mond Davis will transfer for his final year of eligibility as a grad transfer. This has been the rumor for months so it doesn't come as a big surprise. I thought Ar'Mond looked good in the games he played in Canada (8.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), but he suffered a knee injury, and either he was unable to return from that or he got lost in the numbers game as the team took shape. Best wishes to Ar'Mond as he prepares for the next step in his life.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

No Hope Against 'Nova, Villanova 81 Alabama 58

Alabama's season came to an end with a blow out loss to #1 seed Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

We hung with them for a half, but they were just way too talented and they weren't missing their shots.  We probably could have defended the perimeter better in the second half, but it would not have mattered. 

The Wildcats got off to a slow start and allowed us to hang with them in the first half.  With the exception of Divencizo, their shots weren't falling and they had some foul trouble.  We also had to deal with foul trouble as both Collin and Herb picked up a couple early.    If we could shoot free throws, we could have been tied or leading at the break.  The end of the first half and beginning of the second was the key to the game.  We were really struggling to get open looks against their long, athletic defense, and psychologically I knew if the lead got to double-digits it would be practically insurmountable. 

We managed to scrap to within 2 in the final minute of the first half, but Divencizo made his Fifth 3 of the half, with a hand in face,  at the buzzer to stretch the lead to 5.  Nova got the ball to start the second half, scored to push it to 7, then following a Braxton Key turnover, Herb picked up his 4th foul by hacking a 3 point shooter.  Bridges made all 3 free throws, the deficit was 10, and our best defender was relegated to the bench, and for all intents and purposes the season was over at that point. 

Collin Sexton played well with 17 points, but is taking some criticism in the media for ending the season on a technical foul for trash talking late in a blowout loss.  For starters, I don't think calling someone a "little bitch" should warrant a technical at the college level, especially in that situation.  Secondly, I don't have a problem with his actions here.  I appreciate the fact that he was still competing at that point and looking to get an edge anyway he could. 

We emptied the bench and Lawson got 3 assists, including an incredible behind the back, no-look pass to Dan Giddens for a dunk.  Otherwise it was all Villanova with Bridges and company bombing 3s and slamming dunks the whole second half. 

The arena was nearly packed, with about half the crowd rooting for Villanova, and the Duke and Rhode Island fans mostly watching with disinterest.  There were several local Pitt/Penn State/WVU fans sitting in our section who mostly started cheering for us.  Again, our small crowd was VERY positive and enthusiastic, especially in the first half.  All of the players and coaches waved to our section acknowledging us after the game, we gave them a standing ovation and the "Roll Tide" chant as they walked off the floor for the final time this season. 

Braxton Key's father was sitting in front of us, and after speaking with him, I'm much more optimistic about Braxton returning next year. 

Thanks to the City of Pittsburgh for being wonderful hosts.  The venue was perfect, and it's a beautiful, clean city, and the locals could not have been more welcoming.  Even the police went out of their way to speak to the visiting fans.  I hope I have a reason to go back there soon. 

Up next, the offseason.  It's certainly been an up and down year, and even with the disappointing performance, making the tournament and winning a game is good progress for our squad.  There's certainly cause for both concern and optimism at this point.  I will have my annual end of season recap and state of the program manifesto posted sometime this week before I turn my attention to baseball season for the next few months. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Know Your Enemy- Villanova Wildcats

Before I start... for those that wish we were in UVA's bracket... UMBC would've beaten everyone the way they played last night. Still... the 1st #1 seed to go out in the 1st round and it being the overall #1. WOW!

Nova has been one of the 8 teams people have been picking to win the tournament this year. They come into this game 31-4 overall with a Big East Tournament title under their belt.

Starting five are 4 juniors and a freshman... experienc, but not a deep roster. More often than not 6 get the majority of time on the court.
Common opponent- Tennessee (85-76 win in the Bahamas)
Nova likes the 3 ball... shot around 47% of their shots from beyond the arc led by Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson (43.5 and 42%). Those 2 are also the leading scorers.
Omari Spellman grabs 8 boards a game while adding 10.7 PPG.

More stats:
- 87.1 PPG
- .507 FG/.401 3pt FG
- +2.9 rebound margin
- 104. TOs/game with a +2. TO margin
- 6.7 steals
- 4.0 blocks

Prediction- My realist side says this isn't a good match up for us. A team that scores a lot, shoots the 3 well and have multiple slashers could make for a long day BUT I'M GUMPING IT!

Bama wins 84-79 with Donta Hall being the surprise tonight going for 18/11. Sexton opens the door for others and I see Avery Johnson Jr also contributing with 8 or so.

Game time is 12:10PM EST on CBS.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tide Pokes Hokies, Alabama 86 Virginia Tech 83

Alabama advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in twelve years with an 86-83 win over Virginia Tech. 


It was a slugfest of a game that neither team was able to fully take control of.  The score was within 5-6 points either way until the final minute.  Our guys relentlessly attacked the basket and finally got them in foul trouble and wore them down in the second half. 

Things did not look good in the first half.  Buzz schemed to limit Sexton's touches, and he had only 3 points at the half.  To make matters worse, Virginia Tech was shooting over 60% in the first half, including a ridiculous 7 of 9 from 3 point range.  Despite all of that, Petty made a basket at the end of the half to send us to the locker room only down 2. 

Collin was a beast in the second half and ended up with 25 points, including going 10 of 14 from the charity stripe.  Donta did not look 100% to me, but he still played 25 minutes and ended up with 10 points and 3 rebounds.  Dazon had a nice game with 9 points and 7 boards.  AJ played very well with 8 points in 10 minutes, and I thought he was crucial in keeping us in the game during the first half after Collin picked up a couple of early fouls.  JP was the MVP in my opinion with his 6 of 8 shooting for 20 points.  Key really struggled, he had one rebound, four fouls and did not score in 17 minutes of playing time.  He's got to be more aggressive on the offensive end.  He is playing tentative right now. 

Dazon got the benefit of a block/charge call in the final minute when we were clinging to a 4 point lead.  Buzz lost his cool and was hit with a technical foul, which allowed us to finally stretch the lead to 7.  While we only made 18 of 27 free throws, we converted enough down the stretch, and got a few stops on defense to put the game away. 

It was a great win for the team and program, and anything we accomplish beyond this point is gravy.  If we're going to continue playing next weekend, we will have to defend the 3 better, limit the turnovers, and get another great performance from Sexton and Petty.  It's a tall task, but not totally impossible. 

PPG Paints Arena is a nice venue that holds around 19,000.  It was nearly packed for the Villanova game, but probably a third left before our game tipped off.  We were probably outnumbered 3 to 1, but I would say half of the crowd was neutral observers from fans of other teams.  Villanova clearly brought the most fans, followed by Duke.  While we were outnumbered, I don't think we were out yelled.  Our little section was very vocal, to the point I'm actually a little hoarse today, and I never lose my voice.  The team seemed appreciative and all came over and acknowledged us after the game.  It was great to see President Stuart Bell and Athletics Director Greg Byrne in attendance.  Byrne actually went through the crowd shaking hands.  He introduced himself to me, shook my hand, and said "thanks for making the trip."  I thanked him for supporting basketball and he seemed appreciative. 

Up next, we face top seeded Villanova tomorrow at 12:20 EDT.  The game will be televised on CBS.  Honestly, it's hard for me to see us pulling off the upset, but if Buffalo can beat Arizona, anything can happen.  It's that time of the year, and after today we will be one of only 32 teams still playing meaningful basketball.  Enjoy this, it's been far too long, and we deserve it.  If anybody is thinking about making the trip (or local alumni reading this) I will likely have an extra ticket to the game, so hit me up. Roll Tide.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Know Your Enemy- VA Tech Hokie (pokies)

Been a while since I've done this so I'm going to throw a bunch of stats at you:

Season schedule and results
Season stats
Game by game stats

I'll highlight some things here:
- Biggest conference win- @ UVA 61-60 in OT
- Best non-conference win- @ Ole Miss 83-80 OT
- Conference record- 10-8
- Other wins of note- UNC, Clemson

Team stats:
- .498 FG/.385 from 3
- 71% FT
- -1.5 rebound margin
- 12TOs/game
- 79.7 PPG

I have not watched much of them this year, but what I noticed is the team is balanced with 5 in double figures in scoring. Justin Robinson leads the team in scoring and has a better than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. He also leads the team in assists and is by a few percentage points their best FT shooter.

Prediction- I'll keep this short and sweet... if the Hokies can stop Sexton they win by 7, but I don't think they have the talent to contain him. Sexton goes for 25 and Bama advances... 78-68.

Tip-off... around 9:20PM EST

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mark Gottfried to Cal State Northridge

Per ESPN
Close to his old stomping grounds of UCLA so him and Alford can take shots at each other.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Official Bamahoops Blog Bracket Contest

For entertainment purposes only.  To celebrate our return to March Madness, I thought it would be fun to have a bracket contest.    The password is Buckleup  You will need a yahoo account.  Please name your bracket the same as your username here, so we'll know who you are. 

Bamahoops Bracket Contest

Good luck!

Alabama is a 9 seed vs. Va Tech in NCAA tournament

Alabama was awarded a 9 seed, and will travel to Pittsburgh to play Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday.  The winner will play #1 seed Villanova.  This is a difficult draw for us.  I think we match up reasonably well with Virginia Tech, they are an up-tempo, but physical team.  I think Buzz Williams is an excellent coach, and we have a 50/50 chance at best.  Villanova has only lost 4 games all year and are a legit final four contender.   The committee didn't do us any favors geographically, as both potential opponents are in the same region and they will likely feel like road games.  I would have much rather had the 10 seed and been playing in Nashville in Texas' spot, but hey, we're in, and it's time for madness so anything can happen.   

Dancing! Alabama a 9 seed in the East Region

Alabama will play its first NCAA Tournament in six years when Alabama plays 8 seed Virginia Tech on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Time of the game is TBD. Click here for a printable bracket.

I like this first round matchup for Alabama from a talent standpoint. My concern would be that Virginia Tech is a very physical team, and Alabama has at times this season been soft, which is reflected in their struggles on the glass. If Alabama plays as well as they did in St. Louis though, not only do I think they can win on Thursday, I think they could give Villanove some headaches in round 2.

Feel free to discuss the tournament here. Make your picks, rip the format of the selection show, continue to laugh together over Gumbel referring to the Auburn head coach as "Mike Pearl". We're dancing again, folks. Let's enjoy it.

Roll Tide.

Cat Scratched from the SEC tournament. Kentucky 86 Bama 63


Despite the lopsided score, Alabama did not play that badly.  They just ran into a more talented team who played almost perfectly. 

We were short-handed with Donta Hall out due to his head injury, and went with a starting lineup of Collin, Herb, Dazon, Alex, and Smith.  I was a little surprised that Alex started over Key. 

It was obvious our game plan was to pack the lane and try to keep the Cats off the boards and away from the rim.  We played a lot of zone and soft man, generally going under screens.   With our primary rim protector out, and UK generally known as a big but poorly shooting team, it was a reasonable approach, and I would have done the same thing.     It worked, for a while.  The first 10 minutes or so of the game were an ugly, low scoring slugfest.  Unfortunately, we really struggled to hold on to the basketball and get good looks at the basket.  Most of the credit for that goes to Kentucky, they are a very good defensive team when properly motivated.  They finally started making some shots and stretched the lead to 10 at 29-19 going into the half. 

Kentucky shot 84% from the field in the second half.  Gabriel was 7 for 7 from 3 point range.  One can argue we should have switched defenses sooner, but it would not have mattered.  That's the game of basketball, sometimes a team defies their scouting report, and when that team is more talented overall to begin with, there's just not much that can be done. 

I thought the effort was outstanding, and there were a couple of positives we can take from this game heading into next week.  UK is a great rebounding team and we actually controlled the boards, which is especially impressive given Donta's absence.  We had 13 offensive rebounds to their one, but of course, they simply didn't miss many shots.  Dan led the way with 7 rebounds, and I was very pleased with his effort and strength displayed by often securing the basketball in traffic.  Key was too tentative offensively in my opinion, but he did his work on the glass and got 5 rebounds.  Collin was playing like his hair was on fire, and ended up 5 rebounds to go along with his 21 points.  Despite being double teamed much of the night, he kept us in the game as long as he could.  He seems to be taking his game to another level in March, and that gives me a lot of excitement going into the NCAA tournament. 

The team did not quit when UK pushed the lead to 17 in the second half.  John Petty responded in a big way, and we started pressing aggressively with Collin and AJ in the back court, which forced a few turnovers.  Petty was draining 3s from NBA range with a man in his face, and that opened things up a bit for Collin.  We managed to cut the lead to 9, but UK answered with more 3s of their own, and that was that. 

JP finished 5 for 9 from 3 point range and 18 points.  If he can continue to shoot like that, and we get Donta back and healthy, and Collin continues playing as his recent level, we could be a tough out for somebody. 

At the end of the day, this was a hugely successful tournament for Alabama.  We found a way to win a close one to keep the season alive, and then did exactly what was needed in convincing fashion to secure a tournament bid.  Sure, I would have loved to see us cutting down the nets today, but if this loss keeps us on the 10 seed line instead of the 8 or 9, it will be a blessing in disguise.  Personally, I'm sort of glad I was able to drive home last night so I can rest today and watch the selection show from the comfort of my own home and make plans accordingly.

Obligatory Arch Pic.  I know it's distant, but I've seen it plenty before and had no motivation to go down there.

I'm still not a fan of having this tournament in St. Louis.  Scottrade Arena is not a bad venue, it holds about 18,500 and was 80% full for this game.  We had a decent crowd of maybe 1,000 or so scattered throughout, but it otherwise felt like a UK home game.  The sight lines are good and the large scoreboard gives a lot of information along with a good view of video replays.  We watched the first 10 minutes or so in our seats in the 300 level, but then moved down to some open seats near my friend directly below us in the 100 level.  There are only a couple of escalators connecting the two levels, so it took a while to walk around, and there are no televisions on the concourse so we watched a portion of the first half standing in a portal.  Also, the scoreboard operator made a few mistakes, only putting up 2 points on a 3 or not putting made free throws on the board, and PA guy several times announced wrong information such as "fouled on the shot" when it was on the floor or "shooting one and one" when it was a 2 shot foul.  Moreover, it just isn't a focus of the city like it is in Nashville, New Orleans, or Atlanta.  The locals really didn't seem to follow it or care, and part of that is probably due to Mizzou's early exit.  St. Louis is not a southern town, and it really isn't a college sports town.  Honestly, it's not much of a sports city in general.  They will support their Blues when they are willing, but the only thing they are really passionate about is their obnoxious, cheating baseball team.

Up next, today is the most wonderful day of the year.  It's Selection Sunday, and it's almost unanimous among the experts that for the first time in six years we are going to see "Alabama" on the screen this afternoon.  The season has had it's ups and downs and been disappointing in some ways, but I for one am proud of this team for finding a way to keep playing meaningful games when everyone counted them out.  5 pm can't get here soon enough.  Just a reminder that it will be televised on TBS this year as opposed to CBS.  


Final Bracketology posts and guess seed/opponent in comments

ESPN has us as a 9 in the deadly UVA bracket. I don't want any part of that as if we escaped Creighton we'd probably score 28 against the Wahoos.
CBS put us in a better first round matchup as a 10 seed, but looming is UNC. Again... not a pretty sight.
The Big Lead has us as the last 9 seed
NBC has what I like to think is the most "favorable" projection as a 9 seed with a matchup with Xavier if we escape VA Tech.
Bracketville also has us in the UVA bracket.

Before I make a guess on what seed we'll get and first round opponent, it is nice to finally be talking about the NCAA Tournament instead of wishing for it. While I still say the season overall has been a disappointment, getting to the Dance is a big step in the program's direction despite the lower than expected results IMO.

So... I'm going to say we are a 10 seed facing Seton Hall in Charlotte.
For giggles I'm going to predict Auburn as a 4 in San Diego facing Charleston.

If I am correct, the last time Alabama AND Auburn made the tournament in the same year was 2003... and previous to that it was 1987. That is insane!

As a side note I want both to do well for the greater good of hoops in the state.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Tide Turns on auburn, Alabama 81 auburn 63

Shall we dance?

WE ARE FINALLY GOING BACK TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT!

Collin Sexton took over the second half, finished with 31 points, and led the Tide to a comeback route of the top seeded auburn tigers.  The win moves the Tide 19-14 on the season, advances them to the semi-finals of the SEC tournament against the Kentucky-Georgia winner, and in all likelihood clinches at least an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. 

Things looked bleak early on.  We trotted out yet another starting lineup, this time going with Collin, Dazon, Herb, Hall, and Smith.  Why we keep insisting on starting 2 big men against their lineup I will never know. 

The first half looked a lot like some of our recent poor performances.  We turned the ball over, missed free throws, and gave up way too many second chance opportunities.  auburn predictably made a fair number of 3s, and they built a double digit lead.  We would make a run to cut it to 5, and they would stretch it back out to 10.  It felt like we were just hanging on by a thread, trying not to get blown out.  We went into the locker room trailing 41-31.

With our backs to the wall, the team came out played arguably their best half of basketball of the season.  It was similar to second half performance in Gainesville.  Defensively, we slowed them down, made them work, and actually dominated the boards.  Then, Collin Sexton went off!  I hope all the morons who said "we would be better off without him" will shut up now.  He did everything well.  He made SIX from 3 point range!  He got to the line and made his free throws.  He played lock down defense.  He played 35 minutes!  (Thank You Avery!  Finally!)

auburn did not score a basket for the first 10+ minutes of the second half.  We led by as many as 22, so it was a 32 point swing in the second half.  Besides Collin's contributions, Dazon Ingram also had a great game with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.  Donta had a solid performance with 11 points and 6 boards.  Galin seems to be coming on in his new starting role late in the season, he ended up with 8 points and 6 rebounds.  Braxton was still a little tenative offensively, but he managed to score 9 and get 10 boards.  Herb was a big part in slowing down their perimeter game.  We played much of the game with Herb and Key in foul trouble.  Even Collin had 2 fouls in the first half.  The officials called it tight but I thought they were consistent and did a fairly good job.

Bruce Pearl bumped into Lou Deneen and got into a heated exchange with him after the game.  Security had to escort Bruce off the court.  Bruce Pearl may be a  good coach, but he is pure trash.

Dan picked up a couple of fouls in his minute of play before having to leave the game with a knee injury.  Alex also spent some time in the locker room, and Donta left the game after taking a hard fall and hitting his head on the floor.  Let's hope we can get everyone healthy and ready to go tomorrow.

Since we beat Texas A&M yesterday, I decided to replicate my routine.  I went to the same place, and the crowd was overwhelmingly supportive of Alabama.  Of course, I was sitting next to the only 2 auburn fans in the place, but they were actually nice and reasonable.

Up next, we will play the winner of Kentucky-Georgia on ESPN tomorrow at noon.  As of this writing, it looks like it will be Kentucky, they lead 47-33 with 12 minutes remaining.  I'm hitting the road for St. Louis in the next hour or so, if any of the blog readers want to meet up and maybe go in together on tickets, email me at jcarruth@bham.rr.com.

Open post- Bama vs Barn round 3

Use the comments to vent/cheer/lament

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Staying Alive, Alabama 71 Texas A&M 70

Collin Sexton converted a buzzer-beater, teardrop runner in the lane to keep the Tide's NCAA tournament hopes alive and advance to the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament. 

This game had a little bit of everything leading up to that climatic finish.  At times it looked like we had figured some things out and turned the corner, and at other times it reminded us all why we have been so frustrated with this team over the last couple of weeks. 

I'm going to take a bit of a different approach to this recap and start at the end.  The Aggies tied the game with about 40 seconds remaining, which put us in a precarious position with a 10 second differential between the game and shot clock.  There wasn't enough time left to do a 2 for 1, but there was too much time left to hold for the final shot.  Sexton made the most of it by delivering with a nice pull up jumpshot with about 17 seconds remaining. On the next possession, we switched on a screen but did not extend and allowed  TJ Starks a wide-open but deep 3, and he nailed it, putting the Aggies ahead by 1 with 4.4 seconds remaining. 

You all know what happened next.  I've probably watched this a dozen times already, and if you haven't heard Chris Stewart's call yet, it's definitely worth a listen.



Chris Stewart call

A lot happened before we got to that point.  We started Smith, which I didn't agree with at all, but he played fairly well.  He had 6 points early in the game and helped set the tone, despite having only 3 rebounds.  Some of the recent problems persisted.  I didn't like the substitution patterns, namely starting Galin and I thought we played Petty way too much on a day he clearly didn't have it.  We were also dominated on the boards again.  At one point in the first half, the Aggies had 11 offensive rebounds to our one. 

On the other hand, we looked much better offensively.  We moved Collin to the two guard for significant stretches and that seemed to get everyone more involved.  Our guards consistently beat their man off the dribble, and we did a good job in transition in the first half when the opportunity arose.  We led by 7 at halftime despite being killed on the boards.  It helped that Texas A&M played a very sloppy game. 

The Aggies switched to a zone and we actually did a good job against it.  On one possession we had great ball movement and reversed it to Dazon who made an open 3.  In another possession, we actually ran a high post set with Donta at the elbow and Galin on the low block getting a dunk! We stretched the lead to 11 and it looked like we were in total control of the game.

Then, bad Alabama returned.  The Aggies consistently converted on their 2nd or 3rd chance per possession.  While we were still in control of the tempo, Key and Ingram decided to start passing to the invisible man again.  We had at least 3 unforced turnovers when we had numbers on the break.  The few good looks we did get would not go down, and after a couple of close calls didn't go our way, the defensive effort lagged.  In a matter of minutes, the double-digit lead was gone. 

But none of that matters, Collin Sexton saved the day when it was crunch time, and hopefully that will give this team some momentum.  Sexton ended up with 27 points, and made 3 of 6 from behind the arc, where he has struggled in recent games.  Dazon also had 13 points and 9 rebounds.  He made some bad plays during our scoring drought, but really helped us overall.  Donta was also in double digits with 11 points.  Herb returned and made a big shot from the perimeter with a foot on the line and ended up with 6 points to go along with his usual outstanding defense.  We did a good job of attacking their bigs and getting Davis to the bench with 4 early fouls was key. 


I took a long lunch and watched this game at an establishment in downtown Birmingham.  It was cool to see the place packed with people who were doing the same, and it erupted in cheers when Sexton made the final shot. 

The win puts us squarely on the bubble.  I previously wrote that we would need 2 wins to make the tournament, but a lot of things have gone our way over the last couple of days, and even with a loss tomorrow I think there is a better-than-average chance we will be playing in Dayton next week.  Instead, let's get another win and be safely in the field. 

Up next, the rubber match in the quarterfinals against in-state rival and regular season SEC champion auburn.  The game will tip off at noon tomorrow on SEC Network.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

SEC Tournament Preview/Predictions


Instead of writing yet another Texas A&M preview, or writing a preview for each day should Alabama be fortunate enough to stick around in St. Louis for multiple days, I decided to write a preview of the conference tournament itself.The SEC tournament begins Wednesday night at 6 P.M. CT. The SEC Network will cover all games prior to the quarterfinals on Friday when ESPN will split with the SEC Network. ESPN will televise the semifinals and final.

Obviously, Alabama will be the big draw of the tournament for us. Can this Crimson Tide team end a 5-game losing streak on Thursday in the rubber match vs Texas A&M? It's survive and advance for Alabama at this point. Should they lose a sixth straight game on Thursday, their NCAA Tournament hopes will be dashed. Win on Thursday, and they remain very much in the discussion thanks to a strong strength of schedule and a number of good wins with few bad losses. Should Alabama win at least two games in the event, their resume should be strong enough to get them into the field as an at-large. Win on Thursday, but lose on Friday, the Alabama team and fanbase will likely be sweating it out through Selection Sunday.

Alabama is the only conference team on the bubble that can secure a bid without winning the tournament. Other teams on the bubble - Mississippi State, LSU and Georgia - all likely must win the conference tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Seven teams - Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas A&M - all appear to be safely in the field regardless what happens this week. Seven teams would be the most the conference has ever placed in the NCAA Tournament field. The hottest teams entering the tournament are Tennessee (four straight wins), Florida (three straight wins), Texas A&M (three straight wins) and those old underdogs, Kentucky (won four of their final five games). My guess is the winner of the tournament will likely be one of those four teams.

The SEC basketball awards were announced today. Alabama's Collin Sexton was named to the 2nd Team All-SEC and was voted Co-Freshman of the Year with Kentucky's Kevin Knox. I'm not a fan of awarding two players an individual award; I think it's just lazy. Furthermore, I don't think Knox had a comparable season to Collin. Nevertheless, congrats to Collin for both honors. He was of course also voted to the All-Freshman team. The other honor for Alabama went to Donta Hall. He was voted to the All-Defensive team.

Click here to check out the other awards and the complete All-SEC teams.

Last but not least: Here are my predictions for this weekend. My picks for this event have been abysmal in recent years so please be gentle in the coming days. This is a little long so click the link to continue.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

SEC Tournament Predictions

Here's mine, post yours in the comments. 

Georgia over Vandy
South Carolina over Ole Miss

aTm over Bama (Hope I'm wrong)
Mizzou over UGA
$tate over LSU
Arkansas over South Carolina

aTm over auburn
Mizzou over Kentucky
Tennessee over $tate
Arkansas over Florida

Mizzou over aTm
Arkansas over Tennessee

Mizzou over Arkansas for the championship.


Sunday, March 04, 2018

Agony in Aggieland, Texas A&M 68 Alabama 66

The effort was better, but the results were the same.  Alabama dropped its fifth straight game to finish 9th in the conference with a 17-14 record, 8-10 in the SEC.

It was a physical, slow-paced, and at times ugly game.  Herb did not play due to the head injury he sustained in the Florida game.  For some reason, Dan Giddens has went from starting (which was preposterous to begin with) to not playing at all.  Galin Smith played 21 minutes for some reason and appeared to be over-matched much of the game by the Aggie bigs. 

Neither team could make an outside shot or a free throw, and we grinded out a one point lead in the first half.  We played a lot of 2-3 zone to try to pack the paint against their bigs, but as usual we were not able to rebound out of it.  The Aggies built an 11 point lead mostly on second chance opportunities.  I was hoping we would switch to a soft man, but that never happened.

Our guys battled back and actually took a lead with around 5 minutes to play, but the Aggies answered with another run of their own.  With just over 30 seconds remaining and the Aggies at the free throw line with a 4 point lead, Sexton baited TJ Starks into pushing him in the head, resulting in a technical foul and an ejection.  Unfortunately, Sexton was also called for a technical foul.  There's no doubt Sexton said something to provoke Starks, but I don't know how the official can assess a technical on that replay without definitively hearing what was said.  I'm disappointed CAJ did not argue that call.

Anyway, they made 3 of four free throws, then Collin made both of his and we got the ball back.  Key was fouled shooting a 3, made 2 more free throws, and we got an offensive rebound on the third, so we had the ball down 3 with a chance to tie, but couldn't get the shot to go down and that was that. 

Sexton played well with 23 points and 7 assists.  Donta contributed with 12 points and 6 boards, but his defense has not been as good lately for some reason.  Petty somehow ended up being the leading rebounder with 8. 

Up next, the SEC tournament.   We have a rubber game with these very same Texas A&M Aggies Thursday at noon in St. Louis.  The winner will move on to play top seeded auburn on Friday at noon.  Although Joe Lunardi still inexplicably has us in his bracket as a 10 seed, I think we likely need at least 2 wins in the tournament to feel good about our chances. 

Friday, March 02, 2018

Latest bracketology predictions

Hanging on by the skin of our teeth here:
ESPN has us as one of the last 4 byes
CBS has us in the First Four in Dayton. I bet Anthony Grant will want to see that!

After Saturday I fully expect to see us on the outside looking in.. and would need 2-3 wins in the SECT to get back to the First 4.

Game Preview - at Texas A&M


One could make the argument that the two most disappointing teams in the SEC will meet in the season finale for each on Saturday when Alabama travels to College Station to face the Texas A&M Aggies. Both teams enter under .500 in the conference standings with identical 8-9 records, but while Alabama has lost four straight, the Aggies enter this game on a 2-game winning streak on the heels of road wins at Vandy and at Georgia. Game time is 1 P.M. CT. ESPN2 is televising the game. Click the links for team and KenPom stats.

My Two Cents: Perhaps it's unfair for me to label Texas A&M as a disappointing team. Even though they are under .500 in league play, their non-conference resume was so impressive that their RPI and other advanced metric numbers have remained strong. They're so strong in fact that these back-to-back road wins for the Aggies have probably put them in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens Saturday or in St. Louis (don't quote me on that, by the way). That said, this team was picked to finish in the top four of the standings in the preseason poll, and many saw them as a trendy pick to win the league so 8-9 is less than ideal from an expectations standpoint. However, despite their ups and downs, they do appear to have evened out in the nick of time.

Meanwhile, Alabama is spiraling. Not only have they lost four straight games, but they haven't been competitive in long stretches during this losing streak. From a distance it seems like, at best, this team has run out of gas; at worst, they've quit on this coaching staff. I don't know which one it is, but it's not good either way. While many bracketologists still have the team in their mock brackets, my belief is the home loss to Florida on Tuesday night knocked Alabama from the field if the selection committee met today. While both teams could use the win Saturday, I think the game is more important for Alabama for that reason alone. Lose their fifth straight, and they're probably looking at having to win two games in St. Louis to get back into the field. The team have played themselves into a corner, and I'm hard-pressed to find an Alabama fan that believes they'll play their way out of it.

Oh, and depending on how results shake out this weekend, it's a very good possibility these two teams could meet again on Thursday in St. Louis. Best case scenario for Alabama at this point is a 7 seed. The worst case is a 10 seed. Either way, if Alabama is going to win multiple games in St. Louis, they will have to beat one of the top two seeds on Friday. If there is any silver lining to this week in Bama Hoops, it's that Alabama will avoid the indignity of having to play on Wednesday night of the tournament thanks to game results this week.

Players to Watch: How about this coaching staff instead of any player? What is their mental state coming into Saturday? Is Avery Johnson coaching for his job over the next 8-10 days? I know my fellow writers at the blog probably don't agree with me, but if this game is another blowout, and then the team goes kaput on Thursday in the SEC Tournament, I'm not convinced it's implausible that Avery Johnson's job is in jeopardy.

Consider these numbers. In his first three seasons Anthony Grant won 63 games, with an NIT runner-up finish in year two, and an NCAA appearance in year three. Avery in three seasons so far: 54 wins and no postseason wins in that span. Sure, we can break down the quality of the schedules (I don't think there would be much difference, honestly. Grant scheduled solidly during his tenure as well), and there's no debate that Avery has won more games against ranked competition, but Grant's three seasons so far eclipse Avery's from a basic wins/losses standpoint. And wins and losses matter, do they not? Consider these numbers. In the final 10 regular season games in Avery's three seasons the team has finished 6-4 in 2015-16 (lost four of their final five games), 4-6 in 2016-17, and are currently 3-6 in their last nine with a game to go. In all three seasons these poor finishes cost Alabama ground in the race for a postseason bid, maybe even an NCAA bid in 15-16. The point is this has now become a trend for Avery's teams, and there is no positive way to spin it. If this team loses out, that would be six straight losses to end the season for a team that was once solidly in the NCAA field. How does a university continue to confidently sell a coach with that kind of record to a fanbase hungry for basketball success?

I'm not going to pretend that I have any insight into what Greg Byrne and the other decision makers at the university are thinking right now in regards to Avery, but I do know that if social media is any indication, the Alabama fanbase is not happy with the current state of affairs. Factor into the mix what Auburn has done this season, and I repeat that it is not implausible to think that the next 8-10 days could weigh heavily on Avery Johnson's future in Tuscaloosa.

Texas A&M's struggles the last two seasons have had a lot to do with inconsistent point guard play or keeping guards on the floor due to injuries and suspensions. When Duane Wilson was lost for the season with a knee injury, I thought it would be trouble for the Aggies. It was. They lost three straight after he was sidelined for the season. Fortunately for A&M, freshman TJ Starks has stepped up and played well for the Aggies. In their road wins at Vandy and Georgia, Starks was great, averaging 16.5 points, 5 assists,  and 4 boards. In 30 minutes played at Vandy, he did not have one turnover. If we look up in a couple of weeks and A&M is playing in the second weekend of the tournament, I'd be willing to bet Starks is a big reason why.

Prediction: If there is a ray of hope for Bama fans heading into Saturday, it's that this A&M team has not exactly been a model of consistency either. In league home games, A&M is 5-3 this season. Not awful, but certainly not the mark you want to have if you have hopes of winning the league. If anything, there's a precedent that the Aggies have not been dominant at home in league play. The problem is this Alabama team has not offered a lot of hope over the last four games.

I really want to believe that this team hasn't cashed in all its chips yet, but Tuesday night was the lowest I've felt about this program in a long time. You will almost never see me write that a coach should be fired. I stuck it out with both Gottfried and Grant as long as I could before the results were too much to ignore. And my sincere hope is that the team finds a gear that we thought was lost and wins Saturday, and wins a game or two next week, and makes the NCAA field. I really hope that. I do not want to observe another coaching change and the rebuilding process that takes, but I'm also very tired of putting a lot of passion into following this program only to be dealt disappointment after disappointment.

And look, I live in another state; I'm lucky if I make it out to two basketball games in person a season. DJC is out there spending hard-earned dollars traveling to road games, and he's at every home game. I feel for fans like him more than myself because he's putting more of himself into this program as a fan than many do. We all love this program. Some of us are young, others are old, but I think we all have a shared hope to one day see this program play in a Final Four. That reality has never seemed so far away to me as it did on Tuesday night. I want to believe in this team again, but they have to give me a reason to believe. Texas A&M - 74 - Bama - 71

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

NCAA tournament projections? See ya later, Alligator. Florida 73 Bama 52

Alabama was run out of the gym in the last home game of the regular season, and now stands at 17-13, 8-9 in the conference.  The game was not even as close as the final score indicated.  The loss eliminates Bama from contention for one of the top 4 seeds in next week's SEC tournament, and puts them at risk of ending in the bottom 4 and having to play on Wednesday.

On the bright side, we finally dominated the boards!  Of course that's mostly because we missed about a thousand shots so we had tons of opportunities, and we pretty much sucked at every other aspect of the game.

Herb got the start over JP.  Herb has not given us any offense since the Oklahoma game, but he obviously plays much better defense than Petty.  I didn't agree with the decision, but I can see the logic behind wanting to start Herb to help shut down their perimeter game.

We actually got off to a good start.  Dazon hit a 3, we were running the floor, and got some stops.  We scored the first 6 points of the game, and led 7-2 at the first media timeout.  We then missed our next 19 shots from the field.

So why did it all fall apart?  A lot of credit has to go to Florida for picking it up on defense and controlling the pace of the game, but our team simply did not respond to adversity.  We had a couple of calls go against us, and then when some open shots did not fall, the guys stopped playing defense too.  Herb Jones had to leave the game with a concussion, and Donta picked up a couple of fouls in the first half.  I was surprised to see Galin replace Donta rather than Dan, but we can't really expect a lot out of any of the bigs at this point.  We didn't use a single timeout during the first half while Florida outscored us 35-11 over the final 16 minutes.

The second half started a little better with Key and Sexton able to find the basket, but the defense continued to be atrocious.  We finally called a timeout with 15 minutes left and trailing by 22.  Three minutes later, Coach Johnson effectively threw in the towel by subbing in Lawson Schaffer and Alex Reese for Collin Sexton and Braxton Key.

The crowd loved the move, but I hated it.  What was the point?  Yes, we were down 22 and playing uninspired basketball, but with 12 minutes remaining you still have to try to make a run to get back into the game.  It's no surprise this team quits when it sees their head coach quit.  Yes, Sexton was not playing well, but he was at least one of the few giving effort out there.  He looked totally dumbfounded and confused when he was taken out for Lawson.  I thought it was bad form to pull the best player on the court, a top 10 draft pick, in his last home game with 12 minutes to play for the walk-on at the end of the bench.  Was it a desperation move to ignite the crowd and hopefully get an unexpected spark to get back in the game?  Was he punishing the regulars for their poor effort and performance by taking away playing time and trying to send a message?  Was it a wave of the white flag to get Florida to ease up?  Was he conceding the game and resting up for the aTm matchup?  We'll probably never know his motivation for that decision, but I did not like the message that it sent.

Florida did more or less call off the dogs at that point, and both teams went through the motions of playing the last ten minutes or so as a formality.  Sexton did play somewhat better when he got back in the game.

Dan actually had a respectable showing in his 11 minutes with 7 points and 4 rebounds.

Key takes a lot of criticism, but I thought he played decent.  Of course, he had his standard two passes to the invisible man, and a few lapses on defense, but he ended up with 11 points and 8 rebounds.  I wish he had more confidence in his shot.  He passed up several open 3s that I thought he should have taken.  I heard people complaining about Key, AJ, and Collin at various times for driving into traffic with nowhere to go, but in most cases the problem was their teammates were not setting good screens or not making any effort to get open or come to the ball to help.  Our communication on defense is terrible, it seemed like every time we switched on a screen the big would stay with the guard after the original defender already switched back, leaving the screener wide open in space.


Just two weeks ago I wrote that we had five games remaining and likely needed only one win to feel good about our NCAA chances.  Now we are down to one game remaining, and we still need that one win.  It's hard to be very hopeful given the lack of effort we've seen recently.  I wonder if there is something going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of, because we simply aren't playing as a team right.  Donta has completely disappeared and routinely gets out-worked, after looking like a legit NBA prospect earlier in the month.  Dazon is good for an early 3 but then goes into a shell for the rest of the game.  Sexton, AJ, and Herb, are the only ones you can count on to bring their best intensity every game, and as I said earlier Herb is only helping on one end of the floor. This is the second time in the last three years we've had a late season, two game home-stand needing just a single win, and have failed to get it done. 

The crowd was disappointing for such an important game, but that's to be expected for a 6pm Tuesday tip-off.  I would guess about 8,000 or so, with a couple hundred Florida fans scattered throughout.  The halftime show was "The Amazing Tyler," who balanced ladders and bicycles and other random objects on his face.  He was also the halftime performer at the UGA game in Athens earlier this year, so I vote we ban him from Bama basketball games going forward.

Up next, a "must win" on the road in College Station versus the Texas A&M Aggies.  The game tips off at 1pm CT and will be televised on ESPN2.




Monday, February 26, 2018

Game Preview - Florida


The Alabama men's basketball team is on high alert. Currently mired in a three-game losing streak, this young team must find a way to get back on track in their final home game of the season Tuesday night vs the Florida Gators. Alabama enters the game with an 8-8 league record, while the Gators, fresh off an impressive win at home over Auburn, enter with a 9-7 record. Game time is 6 P.M. CT. ESPN is handling television duties. Click the link for team and KenPom stats.

My Two Cents: Things can turn quickly in college basketball. Two weeks ago we all lamented over the inconsistency of this team, but felt confident they would end the program's six year tournament drought. Now in the wake of this three-game losing streak, that confidence has been eroded. This Alabama team now finds itself in a must-win situation on Tuesday night. Their resume is strong, and continues to prop them up as of today, but it's not an air-tight resume. If the bracket was selected today, I do think that Alabama would be in the field, but I also think that as of today they're probably one of the last 8-10 teams in the field. They must find a way to get back on track this week, and maybe next week in St. Louis, to avoid what would be one of the most disappointing finishes in the program's recent history.

As an Alabama basketball fan, I've tried to temper my expectations in recent years as the program has fallen on hard times. However, it was hard not to be excited entering this season. A top 10 recruiting class, a good class of returning players, and a head coach who was not shy about saying in public that the staff had been working towards year three. I didn't expect this team to win a conference title or make a deep tournament run (there's just too many variables in a college basketball season to put faith in those types of expectations), but I did expect a more consistent effort than what we've seen this season. Yes, the team is young (the fourth youngest team in D1 basketball to be exact). Yes, this team is playing in a much-improved SEC conference. Yes, they played a very difficult non-conference schedule. All the more reason to be frustrated by the lapses in effort, chemistry and leadership this season against such a difficult schedule. All the more reason to be frustrated by the appearance that Avery Johnson continues to struggle with the transition to the college game.

I think this struggle has been reflected in the head-scratching player combos he has put on the floor this season, and not leaning heavily enough on his star players to play major minutes. In the NBA you have a roster full of pros which gives you more options on your bench, but that's not the case in college. In the pro game you have an 82-game schedule, which allows you more freedom to rest players for long stretches, while developing guys on your bench. In the college game, you have a small window of time to identify your best players and assemble rotations that lean heavily on their talents to give the team the best chance to win. The best player on this team averages under 30 minutes per game. In fact, no player on this roster averages 30 minutes or more per game, but all ten available scholarship players currently average double figure minutes. That seems counter productive to me. But what do I know, really? I'm just a working stiff who writes for an obscure blog in my spare time. Avery Johnson is the coach as well as a former player. He knows more about the game than I do, I'm sure. That being the case, it's on him to figure things out and to deal with the criticism that follows when he doesn't.

Some fans are calling for a change on the bench, which I am not ready to support. It's fair to criticize Avery for some of the shortcomings we've discussed here this season, but this is also a man that has embraced the opportunity at the university, has worked tirelessly to promote the program, connect with the community, and has recruited at a high level up to this point. While I do think Avery could be a facing a hot seat situation in year four if the inconsistency continues, I'm not of the opinion that it's in the best interest of the program to fire yet another head coach and start over again for the third time in a decade.

I also don't share the opinion of some who read this blog or comment on social media that fans should abandon this team on Tuesday night. I've never been a fan of abandoning support for a team simply because the coach isn't meeting expectations. I'm definitely not a fan of doing it for the final home game of the season when the team desperately needs a win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Regardless of what some think of the coaching staff or even the players, Alabama fans should first and foremost be supportive of what is best for the program. Returning to the NCAA Tournament, regardless if they're a 1 seed or last four in, would be a positive achievement for the program after only two tournament appearances in the last twelve seasons. I don't expect fans to flock to Coleman Tuesday night (frustration with the season or the early game time will likely be the popular reasons for low attendance), but if you're not going or can't go, and you have a ticket, I implore you to offer your ticket to someone who does want to go.

Whew. I think that was more than two cents......

Players to Watch: I'm going to focus on three players instead of one for Alabama. The three are Donta Hall, Daniel Giddens and Galin Smith. Let's start with Donta, whose disappearance in the last two games has been a major part of Alabama's struggles. I think the argument could be made that Donta has developed into the second most important player on this team this season. And when he's at his best scoring, rebounding and blocking shots he has shown NBA potential. In the last three games though, he has not been a physical presence in the paint. In fact, you can say that for the Bama interior players as a unit. In the last three games the combo of Donta, Daniel and Galin have combined for 29 points (27 of those have been scored by Donta, and 16 of those were in the first game of this slide vs Kentucky), and 22 rebounds (19 of those were grabbed by Donta).

Alabama has been outrebounded in its last three games, but it's not just grabbing more rebounds that's the issue as much as it is that Alabama, on the defensive end, has been extremely soft in the paint in the last three games. This has led to Bama's last three opponents scoring in the paint (40% of the opponents points were in the paint in the last three games) and giving up double figure offensive rebounds (opponents are averaging 15.6 offensive boards per game in the three game losing streak). Simply put, opponents have been out-working Alabama in the paint. To be fair, there's no guarantee that a better physical effort in the paint in the last three games ensures that Alabama wins any of those games, but I'd be willing to bet that we're sitting here today with a better feeling about this team if they had.

While Donta is not free of criticism, he is the only one of the three big men that has at least produced something on the floor. Daniel and Galin have produced a whopping average of 0.6 points per game and 1 rebound per game in the last three losses. In Galin's defense, he did not play in the Arkansas game. Why he didn't is unknown to me. Avery hasn't been shy about giving him minutes, and if he wasn't getting the desired effort he wanted from Donta and Daniel, why not see what Galin gives you? Perhaps Galin did not practice well leading up to the game? The media guys did not ask Avery about Galin's absence to my knowledge so we're only left to speculate. For Daniel, he simply can't stay on the floor long enough to have any positive impact. According to the box score he only committed one personal foul, but still only played 12 minutes. In the minutes he did play, he had more turnovers (2) than field goal attempts (0), and never looked comfortable when he was on the floor. I'm okay with Donta getting the majority of the minutes among the big guys, but if he's going to play 29-30 minutes, he's got to be more of a factor on the floor from a physical standpoint.

I'm not even going to preview a player for Florida. Tuesday night is all about this Alabama team having a sense of urgency and challenging themselves to come out, regardless of the crowd or the opponent on the floor. Show us something, guys.

Prediction: Tuesday night is a litmus test for this Alabama team. Do they have anything left in the tank? Is anyone going to step up and be a leader for this team, or will they as a unit play with the effort and intensity that you must play with consistently to have any measure of success at this level of basketball? There's a lot of fans out there at the moment that are certain this team is going to finish 0-5 in the regular season. Will this team show up with a chip on their shoulder on Tuesday or will the bad fog continue to envelop them? Once upon a time ago as a young man, I was in a relationship that consistently went in a negative direction. It left me bitter and emotionally exhausted. And yet, I could not bring myself to end my affection for the other person because of my belief in the relationship and my belief in this person to evolve their behavior. My feelings are similar for this team. This has been a frustrating and emotionally draining season for me as an Alabama basketball fan, but I still have a deep affection for this basketball program and believe it can be something greater than it currently is. I believe this team will come out ready to play Tuesday night, and will get a much needed win. Alabama - 74 - Florida - 69

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bama in a Fog against Hogs, Arkansas 76 Alabama 73

Poor rebounding, free throw shooting, and turnovers were too much to overcome as the Tide dropped its third in a row to fall to 17-12 overall, 8-8 in the conference.  We are running out of time to get that one more win we need to feel good about selection Sunday. 

On the bright side, we finally used a starting lineup that makes sense with Key replacing Dan.  Unfortunately, they got off to a slow start and much like the auburn game we were playing from behind most of the day.  Dan still played 12 minutes, and had 2 turnovers, a foul, and no points or rebounds.  He's basically Carl Engstrom in Lebron James' body right now.

Our zone offense is terrible.  I get that we were trying to somewhat control the tempo, but I felt like I was watching an Anthony Grant team at times given the number of shot clock violations, and desperate attempts at the end of the shot clock. 

Other than Collin and AJ, nobody is displaying any real sense of urgency on this team right now.  For the third straight game, we were dominated on the glass.  Arkansas' second, third, and fourth opportunity points in the second half ultimately proved to be the difference in the game. 

On a positive note, JP actually shot the ball well, but was still a defensive liability.  Braxton played decent with 16 points and 5 rebounds, but continues to make too many bone-headed turnovers.  We ended up with 18 turnovers as a team, many of them unforced.  We weren't strong with the ball in the post and we continue to make bad passes. 

We made 11 of 27 3s against the zone, which is pretty good, but we had no inside game to go along with it.  Donta finished with just 4 points and 1 rebound.  As I mentioned above, I think Bruce Pearl exposed us a little bit with his zone defense last game.  The elbow and short corner seem to be foreign concepts to this team.  There is no high post game whatsoever.  We either try to spread the floor and rotate the ball to an open shooter (and that's another issue, the ball is sticking, Collin got visibly upset at times with both Key and Ingram for holding the ball too long) or we drive in looking for a foul or dish at the rim.  Our spacing was not good, and there was no inside-out game. 

After looking like a legit NBA prospect for several games, Donta Hall has gone completely MIA.  He ended up with 8 rebounds but only 4 points.  What's really frustrating is that he was not running the floor like I know he is capable of.  We really needed him to get back on defense and protect the rim against the up-tempo hogs, but he was beat to the basket many times.    At one point, CAJ took him out of the game after a poor defensive effort, and of course Dan immediately picked up a foul, and coach looked over at Donta and screamed "GET READY TO PLAY!"

Coach Johnson seemed a little more vocal and animated than normal, and I understand he was "mic'ed up" on ESPN.  I suspect a little bit of that was his increased animation for this game was put on for the cameras. 

Herb is still playing solid defense, but we need at least some offensive production from him.  He really hasn't given us anything on that end since the Oklahoma game. 

Despite all the other issues, if we could make a decent percentage of free-throws the outcome may have been different.  We were 18 of 27 as a team, and Collin was only 9 of 13. 

Our guys tried to rally late after falling behind by 8 with just under 2 minutes to go.  Sexton made a couple of free throws to cut the lead to 3 with 44 seconds left.  There was a loose ball situation, and it went out-of-bounds off of Alabama with 34 seconds remaining.  From my vantage point, it did not appear that we ever had possession, but it was ruled a steal and subsequent turnover by Donta.  That was a huge call because it re-set the shot clock and instead of being able to play straight up defense, we had to start fouling. 

Nevertheless, they missed a free throw and we had the ball down 3 with 20 seconds or so remaining.  We had a timeout, but opted not to use it.  In fairness, there were several "free" timeouts due to officials reviews in the final moments, so I suspect Coach had already discussed what to do in that situation.  Given that we were shooting the ball fairly well, I would have tried to set something up for JP there, and crash the boards on a miss.  Instead, Collin passed up an open 3 at the top of the key just under the 15 second mark to drive in, when he inexplicably passed to Donta, who was fouled on the shot but of course missed both free throws.  Nevertheless, Collin had one more chance to tie it at the buzzer with a half-court shot that came up short. 

I know we are all frustrated with the team's play right now, but let's let the season play out before we start all the "should we replace Avery" talk.  I suspect we aren't as good as we looked when we were routing Tennessee and Florida, and we aren't as bad as we looked against auburn and at times against Arkansas. 

The crowd was disappointing.  It was listed as a sellout, but there was almost nobody sitting in the corners and lots of empty seats throughout.  I would guess probably 11,000 or so, which isn't terrible, but that's a lot of unused seats for a sell out, and other than the student section it wasn't very loud.  Also, there were several rows in the student section that were blocked off as "reserved," but maybe half of them were used and only in the second half.  I heard those were for the football team, but I'm not sure.  In any event, we shouldn't be reserving large blocks of seats for people who aren't going to use them. 

Up next, the Florida Gators game to Tuscaloosa Tuesday night after a big win over auburn.  It's our last home game of the season (hopefully), and let's not forget we've had some good moments this year.  I hope everyone will come out and help our guys get a badly needed win.  Tip off is set for 6pm on ESPN.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Game Preview - Arkansas


Let the past be the past. The Alabama men's basketball team must adopt that mantra as they seek to end a two-game losing streak on Saturday when they host the Arkansas Razorbacks. Both teams enter with 8-7 conference records. In fact there are six teams in the league currently sitting at 8-7 so this game suddenly looms large for both programs as they seek to land a top four seed in the conference tournament. The university has announced that the game is a sellout. Game time is 5 P.M. CT. SEC Network is handling the television duties. Click the links for team and KenPom stats.

My Two Cents: When I post my season review in the next month or so, I probably won't point to this game as the biggest game of the season for Alabama. However, right now, this is the biggest game of the season for Alabama. Yes, I can understand the frustration for Alabama fans after a 19-point blowout loss at Auburn. It's been one of several frustrating nights we've spent with this team. I would ask though that fans pause a moment and realize that this team still has a chance to finish in the top four of the standings (they were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll), and play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons. For a program that is under construction that would have to be considered progress. Also something to remember is that Alabama has probably not yet locked up a bid. They likely need another one to two wins to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. It would be ideal if our guys could lock those wins up in the final two home games of the season before finishing the season on the road in College Station. What adds to the tension of this next week and a half is that all of Alabama's remaining opponents are also trying to lock up bids (or avoid a slide onto the dreaded bubble) so our guys have to expect the best effort from the opponent, while also giving their best effort. Needless to say, I'm happy that the team finishes with two of the three remaining games at home (6-1 at home in conference play so far).

The university has announced that Saturday is a sellout, and I hope that everyone with a ticket is in Coleman and ready to get and stay loud. If you can't make the game, please give your ticket to someone else, or offer it on social media (I'm already seeing fans on social media asking if any tickets are available). These next two games in Coleman are crucial games, not just for this team, but the program. The program desperately needs to break the tournament drought as it seeks to reestablish national relevancy. Forget your sour feelings after the game on Wednesday night; get out to Coleman and cheer this team to a victory. Arkansas is a really good team and our guys can use the support.

Players to Watch: I thought John Petty might be breaking the road curse after he had a respectable outing in Lexington, but the road woes returned at Auburn. He made a late three to avoid his second goose egg in scoring this season (did not score at Florida). He did have four assists, but also three turnovers. He also seemed rattled by the environment. Needless to say, it wasn't a great night for John. For all of his struggles on the road, John has been great most nights in Coleman, therefore I expect John to bounce back on Saturday.

Anyone who watches SEC basketball knows how good Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon are for Arkansas, but it's been the emergence of freshman Daniel Gafford that has helped this Razorback team become a more balanced team on both ends, helping to offset the loss of Moses Kingsley. Gafford is similar to Donta Hall in that he is a long, athletic forward that can be a disruptive force on the defensive end, and an exciting finisher on the offensive end. It's quite possible that Donta and Gafford are the two best dunkers in the league this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if both guys put someone on a poster Saturday night.

Prediction: Alabama has been one of the top, if not the top, team in the league when it comes to defensive play. Which is what made the poor defensive efforts the last two games so disappointing. The hope is that the team figures things out on that end because, frankly, they're not beating Arkansas on Saturday if they don't play better defense. Say what you want about this Alabama team, but they've been able to bounce back strong each time they've gone through a rough stretch this season. I expect a better effort from our guys on Saturday, spurred on by a loud Saturday night Coleman crowd. Alabama - 82 - Arkansas - 69