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.

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