Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Offseason Post # 5: The Trendon Watford Has Left The State Edition

As most of you reading this likely know by now, Trendon Watford, a 5-star forward and the top player in the state of Alabama in the 2019 class, made his college decision on Monday, choosing to take his talents to Baton Rouge and play for the LSU Tigers. For any Alabama fans angry at this development, let me just remind you that Trendon wasn't likely to come to Alabama if Avery Johnson was still the coach. What once seemed like a sure commitment got away over the last two years as the leadership of the program began to be openly questioned by fans, media and, it would seem, recruits and their families. If Nate Oats had more time to build a relationship with Trendon and his family, I think Alabama would have remained a strong leader for his commitment, but there just wasn't time.

I wish Trendon was suiting up for Alabama next season, but I'm guessing Will Wade made a strong a** offer. It is what it is. In all seriousness, I wish Trendon the best at LSU. He's a great player that is doing what he feels is best for his basketball future, and any sane, rational fan has to accept his decision process. That said, I hope Alabama sweeps LSU next season. Will Wade has quickly become, for me anyways, one of the more loathsome characters in college basketball. The fact he still has a job after the revelations that have surfaced the last few months is further testament to the now open embrace of the rot and corruption at the heart of college basketball, and, if I may be so bold, our society as a whole. One thing is for certain: the game between the two programs in Coleman Coliseum next season should be quite interesting. I suspect the Alabama students will not be kind.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Offseason Post #4: The Andrew Steele Returns Home Edition

It's not official yet, but it's being reported that former Alabama basketball player Andrew Steele will be returning to Tuscaloosa for a position with Coach Oats staff. The reports say that he's likely to be hired as the director of player personnel. Previously, Andrew was the director of basketball operations at Troy University. Prior to Troy, Andrew was also the director of basketball operations at South Alabama and spent two years as the head basketball coach at John Carroll High School. Andrew always struck me as a standup guy when he was a player, and I think I speak for many when I say I'm excited to have him back in Tuscaloosa.

In Other News: 

1] Former Alabama assistant coach Yasir Rosemond was named in federal court on Thursday as part of testimony given by Marty Blazer. Rosemond was one of several college basketball assistant coaches named by Blazer, who is cooperating with the government's investigation into bribery and corruption in college athletics. Blazer has pleaded guilty to a number of crimes, including wire fraud and lying to the SEC (the Securities and Exchange Commission). He's facing 67 years in prison, which would be my guess as to why he's cooperating with the investigation.

According to journalists covering the trial, Rosemond was videotaped at a meeting in Las Vegas with Blazer, agent runner Christian Dawkins and undercover FBI agents in July 2017. At this meeting, he allegedly told those in attendance that "whatever you need me to do, I'll do it." in an effort to gain resources to aid in recruiting. However, it's also being reported that Rosemond did not receive any money at that meeting. Furthermore, Blazer testified that Rosemond and the other assistants named didn't receive money because they didn't have enough pull yet with prospects. I recommend clicking the link above for more information. As if the basketball revelations weren't enough, Blazer also testified to paying college football players, including players at the University of Alabama.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Coaches in the SEC and their previous experience (WEST)

Continuing with the West (which doesn't really exist in SEC Basketball) as I was waiting for Arkansas to blund... hire their next coach.

Alabama-  Nate Oats... 4 seasons at Buffalo and 3 NCAATs to show for it. Seems like it was his team the last 2 years and not Bobby Hurley's so that makes me feel a bit better (when we hired Grant he has 3 years at VCU). Obviously going to give him a chance, but the older I get the more cynical I become about Alabama becoming a force in hoops again... especially with the coaches listed below and the ones in the EAST making noise.
Unrelated, isn't it sad that Buffalo has as many NCAAT appearances in the last 4 years as we have in the previous 13?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Offseason Post #3: The Beetle Bolden Edition

Big news today as West Virginia grad transfer, James "Beetle" Bolden, announced on Twitter that he will be transferring to Alabama. Bolden was in Tuscaloosa this weekend for the A-Day festivities.


This is more great news for the new coaching staff. They desperately needed more ball-handlers at the guard position, and Bolden will fill that role nicely. But like Kira, he's also a more than capable scorer (12.2 ppg in an injury-shortened 2018-19 season). Assuming he's been able to overcome the injuries that limited him this past season, Bolden should be a fun player to watch next season.

In Other News:

1] Tevin Mack announced that he will test the NBA Draft waters. He has submitted the paperwork for the draft, but will not hire an agent. It's possible he returns to Alabama, but it's also worth keeping in mind that he will turn 22 years old next month and is expected to graduate in May. My guess is he's likely moving on.

2] Freshman guard Diante Wood has decided to enter the transfer portal and will likely join Dazon Ingram and Daniel Giddens as expected departures. Wood redshirt this past season due to a leg injury, and it was likely a numbers game that led him to decide that a transfer was in his best interests. Best of luck to Diante as he moves on.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Offseason Post #2: The Kira Lewis Edition

After Avery Johnson and Alabama parted ways, Kira Lewis chose to enter the NCAA transfer portal. He did not rule out the possibility of returning to Tuscaloosa once a new coach was hired. Fortunately, it appears that Nate Oats and the new staff have made an impression on Kira and his family as Kira announced today on Twitter that he will withdraw from the transfer portal and return to Alabama.



This is big news for Nate Oats as he prepares for his first season. In my opinion, Kira, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, was the top returning player on the roster. Based on his skill set, Kira should thrive in Oats' system. John Petty, who also entered the transfer portal and elected to return, is no worse than the second-best returning player. To get both of these guys back is huge. A successful first season for Oats in Tuscaloosa is now very possible.

In other news:

1] Nate Oats finished fourth place in AP Coach of the Year voting after he led Buffalo to the best season in school history with a 32-4 record and a top 25 KenPom finish.

2] The coaching staff is also taking shape. Nate Oats has brought assistant Bryan Hodgson from Buffalo to join the staff. Hodgson has a reputation as being an elite recruiter and many Buffalo fans were lobbying for him to get the head job after Oats left.

Monday, April 08, 2019

UCLA job invades the SEC- first Kentucky, now Tennessee

UPDATE- Crisis averted... UCLA hires Mickey Cronin from Cincy.

As UCLA continues to whiff on a replacement for Steve Alford, they have set their sights on Rick Barnes. While I secretly hope he leaves, he'd be a fool to do so.

UCLA is a program built around a coach and some shady recruiting practices. Outside of the Wooden run what exactly has UCLA done to be considered a blue blood school? A natty with Harrick and 3 Finals Fours with Howland... in the course of 40 years that's not exactly setting the basketball universe on fire.

Granted, the above would make all of our fans swoon forever, but if you look at their program, the fan base, and the money they will invest, it is just not a job someone with a Power 5 gig should leave for unless UCLA opens the pocketbook AND they are unhappy where they are.

I suspect the next coach they try is Bruce Pearl.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

2020-21 Schedule News

For those of you with the resources to travel, it appears that your Thanksgiving plans are set for the next two years. It was announced today that Alabama will be part of the 2020 Maui Invitational Field in the 2020-21 season. That will be a year removed from the program playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas in the upcoming 2019-20 season. Not a bad way to spend the next two Thanksgiving weeks.



The other teams in Maui will be Davidson, North Carolina (also in the Battle 4 Atlantis in 19-20), Indiana, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV. As always, the lineup in Maui is top-notch.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Coaches in the SEC and their previous experience (EAST)

I know there is technically no East and West, but to make this easier to read I went ahead and broke it down that way. Today is SEC EAST.

The SEC went from a conference with little coaching star power to one where the big names play. Here's who's here and what they did before getting here:

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Offseason Post #1

You always remember your first. This is the first of what will likely be many offseason posts this spring and summer as the Alabama program welcomes a new coaching staff. To start, for those of you that haven't seen the press conference to introduce Nate Oats as the new head coach, here is some embedded video:





Here's the latest with the current roster. Kira Lewis, John Petty, Daniel Giddens and Dazon Ingram all entered the transfer portal. Daniel and Dazon are likely not coming back, but the good news is JP has already withdrawn from the portal and will return to the team. Assuming John doesn't change his mind, this is a big development. In my opinion, John did improve from year one to year two, but he hasn't come close to reaching his ceiling. The hope is that the new coaching staff will bring the best out of him. As far as Kira goes, Coach Oats has talked with him and his family about returning, but, for now at least, he remains in the portal.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Nate Oats Named New Head Coach



Alabama officially named Nate Oats as the new head coach today.  It's no secret that I had him at number 9 on my list, but there's a lot to like about him.  There's no doubt it's a gamble, as is the case with any mid-major, but it could pay off big.

After a long, successful high school career, he served for 2 years as an assistant at Buffalo before taking over as head coach.  In 4 years as a head coach for the Bulls, he's made the tournament 3 times with an upset win over Arizona last year and a first round win over Arizona State this year.  He is a former math teacher and embraces the analytics of the modern game.  Buffalo ranked 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency, 31st in adjusted defensive efficiency, and 12th in adjusted tempo. 

Here's a great SI Article from last month about him.  You really should take the time to read it, but some of the highlights that I found compelling were that he believes in practicing hard and giving the players a lot of freedom in the games, and being upset about only beating a team by 18 that he felt they should have beat by 35 or 40. Having a team that won't take the foot off the gas with a comfortable lead will be a refreshing change.

The main question is can he recruit at a level necessary to do that in a power 5 conference?  Time will tell, and a good place to start would be getting Kira and Petty back from the transfer portal.  I suspect he will be meeting with the Watfords in the very near future as well. 

I know we all wanted a "bigger name," but this guy deserves a chance and I hope everyone will give him their full support. 

We'll have more after the press conference and I'll post some additional thoughts on the hiring whenever I get around to drafting my annual end-of-season manifesto. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Let's Talk About Transfers

Transfers have become the new normal in college athletics. If a coaching staff isn't preparing for it each season, they're not doing their jobs. It's even more likely when there's been a coaching change. Greg Byrne mentioned in his press conference that they have asked the current players, recruits and their families to be patient as they search for the next coach. Unfortunately, a couple of players have began exploring other options immediately.

Dazon Ingram has made it official that he will play his graduate year at another school. This has actually been rumored for a week or so. Dazon has received a fair share of crap from fans over the years, but he made a commitment to Alabama, played through a litany of injuries, and was, by all accounts, a solid citizen. He was also a solid basketball player when he was at his best. A guy that could give you double figure points, grab rebounds, assists, and was a solid defender. I got no beef with Dazon, and I wish him nothing but the best. Rumors are he will stay close to home (South Alabama, UAB, etc), but he's also had some top flight programs like Nevada and Gonzaga reach out to him, per reports.

The bigger news on the transfer front is that Kira Lewis has entered the "transfer portal" and is weighing his options ahead of the Alabama coaching search. This doesn't mean Kira is for sure gone - entering the portal just means he can be contacted by other coaches - but I do think it puts more pressure on Greg Byrne to try and wrap this coaching hire up sooner rather than later. In my opinion, Kira would be the best returning player for next season so the next coach needs to make retaining him a priority. I would assume more transfers are possible, if not likely. The hope here is the remaining players will wait to see what happens with this coaching search.  

Monday, March 25, 2019

Greg Bryne holds press conference to discuss coaching search.



The key points:

- He wants someone with college experience and ability to develop players and recruit.
-Is not concerned with "geographical footprint."
- The reputation of the University will be at the forefront of everything we do, and it will be a person with a history of academic and NCAA compliance.  (Welp, there went my first two choices)
-Everybody needs to be patient.
-Coaches and agents start rumors for leverage, don't believe anything or anyone.
-No search committee or outside headhunters, he got this.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Official- Avery Johnson out as head coach at Alabama

Here's the link.

First off, like DJC said below... I want to thank Avery Johnson for his efforts here. While it didn't turn out the way either side wanted it to, there is no doubt his first 3 years here he was doing everything he could to get the program off and running. He left his program in much better position than the previous 3 coaches before him.

To put the blame on Avery Johnson for the recent failures of the program is short sighted. Sure there were things he could've done better, but in the end it came down to execution on the court and I'm going to point the finger at the players on the team. With the exception of a couple... most of them played with little heart or desire. You could see Avery's frustration on the bench when someone would jack up ANOTHER ill-advised 3 that a mason would've been proud of to further bury the team in a deficit. There were no leaders on this team. ZERO. For anyone that thinks Kira should've taken that role... yeah, no one is going to follow a 17 YO's lead. He should be that person next year though.

We all complained about Avery's weird rotation of players. My understanding of this was out of pure frustration as communication on the team wasn't very good and he kept trying to find ANY 5 that could play in sync. Rarely did we have more that 3 players have a really good game within the same game. You can blame that on team chemistry.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Head Coaching Wish List

I previously said I would not discuss this topic until and if we have an opening.  While it's not official, with the news breaking that we are negotiating Coach Johnson's buyout, I think it's obvious he's not coming back and it's now an appropriate time to have this conversation.

First of all, I am saddened that things didn't work out with Coach Johnson.  I appreciate his relentless recruiting and marketing efforts, and he seems like a genuinely good guy.  Our program is in much better shape, and it should be a much more attractive job than when he found it 4 years ago.   To Coach Avery Johnson, I say Thank you for your service to this program and our University, and I wish nothing but the best for you and your family in the future.

Before I get to my list of names, let's take a quick, honest look at the pros and cons of our job opening. 

Pros:  1) We can and will pay top dollar.  We are loaded.  Thanks largely to Nick Saban and football, we have one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country.

2) We return a talented roster.  At least on paper, we are only losing Riley and Donta from a team that missed the NCAA tournament by one spot, and we have a top 20 recruiting class signed.  The new candidate will have a lot to work with and should be able to hit the ground running.

3) Facilities- We can sell a potential coach on the commitment to the program by pointing to the planned renovations and facility upgrades.

4) We have an AD who loves basketball and has a strong background with good hoops programs.

Cons: 1)  It's fair to question our Board's commitment to the program by pointing out that we are only renovating rather than re-building, and even that is being pushed back to phase 2 and contingent upon fundraising success.  Before reaching out to the top names on my list below, I would announce that we are moving the renovations into phase 1.  I would love it if we also announced we are building a new arena, but I know that's not realistic at this point. 

2) Football- it's a double-edged sword.  A lot of coaches have big egos, and no matter what you do here, you won't be the big dog on campus at least for the foreseeable future. 

3) Expectations- We have a small but passionate and knowledgeable fan base that expects to be in the NCAA tournament more often than not.  The reality is we play in a very competitive conference with many already established program, and we haven't been a consistent NCAA tournament team in over two decades. 

Other schools with a current opening include UCLA, Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt.  LSU may soon have one.  I think we are as attractive as any of them with the exception of UCLA.  Texas A&M can likely outbid us with their oil money if they choose to do so.

Now, I'm going to list these in order of my personal preference, with some comments on their resume and the likelihood of us being able to land them.  Hit the break for more...


Alabama Negotiating Buyout With Avery Johnson

It appears the Avery Johnson era at the University of Alabama is coming to an end. Multiple outlets are reporting that the university and Johnson are negotiating the terms of his buyout. This seemed inevitable following yet another late-season collapse, plus a dispiriting loss in the first game of the NIT. Steve Prohm, an Alabama alum and current head coach at Iowa State, is expected to be the favorite for the job. Feel free to share your coaching wishlist in the comment section.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Norfolk it all, NSU Spartans 80 Alabama 79

This roller coaster season mercifully came to an end with an overtime loss in the first round of the NIT tournament.  Alabama wraps up the campaign with an 18-16 record. 

I didn't go to this game.  Work obligations, the general admission seating situation, my inability to get reserved floor seats, and an unprecedented level of personal apathy all added up to make it not worth my while.  I haven't seen a box score yet so this recap is going to be quick and short on stats.  I doubt many of you care much about this game anyway. 

We started slow and fell down early, so CAJ called a timeout and did a line-change substitution that proved to be effective for a time.  We evened up the score and the game went back and forth through much of the first half, despite our usual sloppy play leading to at least 9 turnovers. 

Alex Reese went off for 14 straight points on a run that gave us a double-digit lead.  We maintained a 7 point advantage at the half.  After stretching the lead to 10 again, we stayed in the zone too long and allowed the Spartans to bomb their way back in it from 3.  With the game tied in the final seconds, Donta went for a block and allowed a wide open put back opportunity that they missed to send it to overtime. 

We continued to have issues rebounding the ball, dribbling or passing the ball, and defending the 3 point line as NSU was able to take a 5 point lead late in the overtime period.  Herb and JP made some great plays down the stretch to keep it close, and NSU even gave us the ball on a turnover in the final 10 seconds with a chance to win the game, but Riley's shot came up just short and that was that. 

Donta was mostly a non-factor till the overtime period despite them not having anybody over 6'8."  We stunk it up from the free throw line again. 

Kudos and thanks to the fans who showed up to support this team in their final game tonight.  Up next, the off-season, and with rumors abound, it promises to be an exciting one.  We'll try to post any breaking news as we hear it, and I'll have my annual end-of-the-season/state of the program manifesto up at some point in the coming weeks.  Otherwise, enjoy the off-season. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Game Preview: Norfolk State [NIT]


The NIT it is. Unfortunately, the Alabama men's basketball team (18-15, KenPom: 59, NET: 59) did not receive a bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but will have the opportunity to continue playing. The Tide are a 1 seed in the NIT, and will host the Norfolk State Spartans (21-13, KenPom: 264, NET: 260) in Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night. Game time is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Something to keep in mind: The NIT will once again have experimental rules in place. These include an extended 3-point line (the FIBA distance of 22 ft, 1.75 inches), the free throw lane will be widened from 12 ft to 16 ft, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of 30 seconds, team fouls will reset at the 10-minute mark of each half and one-and-one free throws will be eliminated (teams will shoot two free throws after the fifth team foul in each 10-minute segment). If a game should go into overtime, team fouls will reset, and the teams will shoot two free throws at the fourth team foul or the second team foul that is committed with under two minutes remaining if the foul comes before the fourth team foul of the overtime period. While I love all of the rules being implemented for the NIT because I think all of them improve pace of play, this overtime rule is a bit much. Anyway, on with the preview.

My Two Cents: Alabama lost three one-possession games this season. If they win just one of those games (Georgia State, Texas A&M, at Tennessee), they're likely preparing for an NCAA Tournament game this week. Sometimes a season comes down to one game or one possession, and it's the inattention to small details that this team struggled with all season that ultimately cost it a shot at a second consecutive NCAA bid.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

You're Out! Bama Misses The Cut

Alabama came close, but fell short of making it back to the NCAA Tournament. Our guys were the second team out of the field (UNCG, Bama, TCU and Indiana are the first four out). This insures Alabama a 1 seed in the NIT, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed. The goal every year is to make the NCAA Tournament, and to fall short, particularly when this team had so many opportunities to lock up a bid down the stretch, is very disappointing.

Once again, some of the committee decisions didn't make much sense on the surface. Alabama had a top 20 strength of schedule (SOS: 17), but St. John's (SOS: 69) and Arizona State (SOS: 70), with the same number of Q1/2 wins, and a lower NET ranking, get in ahead of Alabama. Arizona State had two quad 4 losses and get into the field. Doesn't make much sense to me. I will give the committee props for giving Belmont, a strong mid-major that lost in their conference tournament, a chance to play in the tournament. That has been an area where they have failed in recent years. Happy for Rick Byrd and the Belmont Bruins.

The NIT selection show will air at 7:30 P.M. CT. I'll update this post with the NIT first round opponent and bracket breakdown. I'm disappointed, but will hope our guys can pull together and go out on a high note.

Update: The NIT bracket has been released. Alabama will host Norfolk State from the MEAC on Wednesday (March 20). The NIT selection committee obviously has a sense of humor because Alabama could play Dayton, coached by former Alabama coach Anthony Grant, in the second round. Dayton will travel to Colorado in their first round game. The teams on the bottom of the bracket are Xavier/Toledo and Texas/South Dakota State so there will be challenges awaiting Alabama in this tournament. I'll start working on a game preview for the Norfolk State game tonight. I hope you guys will continue to read despite the team falling short of the NCAA Tournament.

Click for the complete NIT bracket.  


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Feeling Blue? Kentucky 73 Alabama 55

Predictably, Alabama was eliminated from the SEC tournament in a 73-55 loss that drops them to 18-15 (8-10) on the season. 

We stuck with the same starting lineup that scored about 6 points in the first 8 minutes against Ole Miss.  They fared a little better in at least ugly-ing up the game and keeping it close through the first media timeout.  The turning point came when we forced a turnover and should have had a transition opportunity.  Instead Herb derped it up and turned it over, creating a fast break chance for the Cats.  To his credit, he recovered with great effort to foul and prevent a layup, but unfortunately he caught the guy in the head and was called for a flagrant.  That seemed to wake the sleeping giant. 

For some reason we tried to run with them, even with 2 centers on the court.  The faster pace predictably led to a flurry of turnovers.  Kentucky went on a 17-4 run and the game was never really in doubt.

Alex came in off the bench and hit a couple of 3s as we made a run in the first half to cut the deficit to 6.  Kentucky answered and took a double digit lead into the half. 

I want to talk a bit about the clock management at the end of the first half.  We had the ball with a minute to play down 9.  Alex misses a 3 with 50 seconds left, I'm thinking, "okay, good, at least we went 2 for 1."  UK scores with 25 seconds left to go up 11.  We should be holding the ball for the final shot at that point, but for some reason T-Mack jacks up a 3 with 25 seconds still left in the half.  We're lucky enough to get the rebound, then Kira jacks up another one 5 seconds later.  I mean, what in the hell?  Do we not have one coach competent enough on the bench to get someone's attention and yell "ONE SHOT!?"  We then pick up an unnecessary foul and give them another point at the line.  Next, Dazon drives in and draws a foul, again leaving 3 seconds on the clock.  Thankfully UK's shot at the buzzer came up just short, or that terribly mis-managed situation could have ended up a lot worse than it was. 

We generally did a better job handling the ball in the second half, but the defense couldn't get stops and Kentucky just methodically pulled away and the game was never in doubt. 

We kept trying to attack the basket and their bigs were dominant in defending the rim.  They ended up with 11 blocks.  Alex was our leading scorer with 15 points, making 3 of 6 from 3 point range.  Donta had 14 points but only 6 rebounds.  He was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line.  One positive in this game was we actually shot 15 of 19 from the charity stripe. 

We went back to the 10 man rotation and nobody played more than 30 minutes.  At one point in the first half we had AJ, Galin, and Herb all in the game at the same time. 

Regardless, I don't think it mattered much what we tried to do in this game.  At the end of the day, we don't have a single player that could start for them, and I'm not even sure we have more than one or two that would break into their playing rotation.  They are a talented, national championship contender who was motivated to avenge a previous loss in front of their home fans. 

Up next, selection Sunday.  The bubble is so weak this year I think we have an outside shot at playing in Dayton next week.  The NCAA selection show will be on CBS at 5:30 pm CST.  The NIT selection show will follow at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.  If our name doesn't appear on the former, someone text me and let me know who we are playing and when in the latter, as I'll be watching the Birmingham Iron game instead at that point.



Friday, March 15, 2019

Staying Alive, Alabama 62 Ole Miss 57

Alabama overcame a 16 point deficit to defeat Ole Miss and keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, for now.

It was a tale of two halves.  We went with a starting lineup of Kira, Herb, Riley, Donta, and Galin.  It didn't work. We scored 8 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.  Thankfully Ole Miss was cold and had their own issues with turnovers so they weren't able to run out to a huge lead.  We closed the half in our traditional sloppy fashion and the Rebels led by 14 going into the break.

After Ole Miss took a 16 point lead early in the second half, a couple of things changed to get us back into the game.  I liked the switch on defense to a 2-3 zone to limit their dribble drive, and we generally did a good job of closing out on their 3-point shooters.  Perhaps even more importantly, Galin Smith got into an altercation with one of the Rebels resulting in a double-technical foul.  The team seemed to play with a lot more intensity and effort following that skirmish.  From that moment we dominated the boards and went on a 15-0 run.  The solid defense combined with the rebounding allowed us to get into transition where Kira was terrific.  It was a close game down the stretch but we actually made the plays we needed, got some key stops, and made just enough free throws. 

We still had some of the same issues that's plagued this team all season.  The 16 turnovers was way too many, and we only made 9 of 18 from the free throw line.  Still, this team deserves a lot of credit for fighting back at a time when almost everyone was ready to write off the season.

T-Mack led the way with 21 points including 4 of 6 from 3 point range.  Kira had 13 points and 4 steals, and as I said he was great in transition and off the dribble.  Galin had 11 points in 29 minutes.  You all know how I feel about playing 2 bigs at the same time, but I thought Galin did an excellent job even if it meant having Donta playing out of position a bit offensively.  Speaking of Donta, though he only scored 7 points he pulled down 15 rebounds.  Riley had 9 rebounds but it felt like a lot more as he tipped several balls to his teammates.  JP only had 2 points in 13 minutes, and I felt like he was not aggressive enough and passed on too many open shots. 

Up next, a battle with Big Blue Nation as we play Kentucky tonight at 6 pm on the SEC Network.  A win likely secures an NCAA bid, but unfortunately that's about as likely to happen as me banging Emily Ratajkowski.  Even with a respectable loss, if things break the right way I think we have a decent shot at playing in Dayton next week.


Game Preview: Kentucky [SEC Tournament]


The dream is alive for the Alabama (18-14, KenPom: 60, NET: 59) men's basketball team following a, dare I say it, gutty comeback win vs Ole Miss on Thursday. The win, plus some other bubble teams losing on Thursday, put Alabama squarely back into the bracket discussion. A golden opportunity awaits in the form of the Kentucky Wildcats (26-5, AP: 4, KenPom: 8, NET: 5). Win this one and Alabama, despite the inconsistency of this season, will likely be in the NCAA field. Lose it and it'll be a nervous couple of days. Game time is 6:00 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: I'm going to try and keep it short due to the quick turnaround. I'll be honest, I didn't have high expectations going into the game Thursday, and I even contemplated not watching. But it was an Alabama basketball game, and I couldn't help myself. And then the first half happened, and I quit on multiple occasions. Fortunately, the team hung in there, and while it wasn't a pristine second half of basketball, they competed in the second half and pulled through. In what felt like the first game in forever, Alabama dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Rebels by twenty. The final minutes were high drama similar to last season at this time, and just as satisfying when the clock hit 0:00. It doesn't erase the continued issues that the program has and must address on and off the floor, but I was happy for the players that they were able to gut one out after struggling with adversity for much of the season. 

The Cats don't play at a high tempo (13th in the league), but they are top five in the league in all major offensive categories. Overall, they are the 3rd most efficient offensive team in the league behind Tennessee and LSU. Defensively, UK is tops in the league in defensive efficiency. However, one area that stands out to me and which gives me some hope for this game is that Kentucky doesn't rate high in the league in defensive turnover and steal pct (ranked 9th in both categories). Even in the win on Thursday, turnovers continued to plague Alabama (10 of their 16 turnovers came in the first half), but if Kentucky struggles to force Alabama into turnovers, that's Alabama's best chance to spring the upset.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Your rooting interest for the slim hopes of a NCAAT bid

Going to just cover the major conferences here. Root against:
- Ohio State (vs fellow bubble Indiana)
- Clemson (vs sort of bubble NC State)
- Big East tourney:
    - St John's 1st round loss (I can't root for that, but it would help a lot)
    - Creighton and Georgetown (Quarterfinals)
    - Root against any seed lower than 3
- Big 12 tourney:
    - 1st round TCU (who were dead, but got life again). Go Pokes!
    - Texas. We need KU to blow them out
- PAC-12 tourney... root against EVERYONE not named Washington or Arizona St
- SEC tournament:
    - Florida (vs Arkansas)
- AAC tourney: Temple and against all minus UCF, Houston, and Cincy
- MWC tourney: Utah State


Above all else we need to win at least 1 and more than likely 2 to get on the right side of the bubble.

Game Preview: Ole Miss [SEC Tournament]


We've reached the SEC Tournament not with a bang, but a whimper. If the Alabama (17-14, 8-10, KenPom: 60, NET: 58) men's basketball team wanted a healthy dose of drama, it's got it as it heads to Nashville. The bubble is close to bursting, the fans are frustrated, bloggers are tweeting at the Alabama AD imploring him to do something, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Alabama will be the 10 seed in the conference tournament. Their first opponent will be the 7 seed Ole Miss Rebels (20-11, 10-8, KenPom: 43, NET: 34). Game time Thursday is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: There's no shame in losing at Fayetteville, even to a rebuilding Arkansas team. The frustration in the wake of that game stemmed more from previous losses (home losses to Georgia State, Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn come to mind). On February 9th, Alabama was 15-8 (6-4) after a road win at Vanderbilt. The team lost six of its next eight by an average of 11.5 pts per game. Four of those losses were to potential NCAA Tournament teams, but half of the six were also at home. There's no way to spin yet another late season collapse. After four years, it's now become a trend. If that isn't reason enough for the UA administration to make a change, perhaps what could be a record number of empty seats next season will do the trick.

What is perhaps the most frustrating development of this season is that the team has noticeably regressed in several areas in which it showed strength earlier this season. Two areas in particular: defensive rebounding and offensive efficiency. Alabama was a top 75 team in both areas at points this season. Currently: they're ranked 82 in offensive efficiency and 150 in defensive rebounding. The team remained healthy for the most part all season so it's distressing how a team can go from doing two things really well to being average at best at both. After scoring 70 or more points in 18 of the first 23 games, Alabama finally scored at least 70 in their final game of the regular season. Even more upsetting is no one, even the head coach, appears to have any idea how to get things back on track. When your head coach is sayings things like "Hopefully we'll be able to see something to spark our team this week", you have to wonder if anyone has a winning mindset as the team prepares for Nashville.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Numbers to wet your whistle... 4 years of Avery Johnson

Record
2015: 18-15/8-10 SEC
2016: 19-15/10-8 SEC
2017: 20-16/8-10 SEC
2018: 17/14/8-10 SEC

Consistent numbers right there.
That's 74-60/34-38 SEC

PPG/PPGA
2015: 66.5/67.9
2016: 68.5/64.7
2017: 72.3/70.6
2018: 72.6/71.7

Sunday, March 10, 2019

SEC Tournament Bracket

The air has gone out of the season for many of us that pull for Bama Hoops, but there is still a conference tournament to settle. The SEC has released the bracket, which you can find here. LSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina are the top four seeds. Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama (sigh), Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia and Vanderbilt follow in that order. Alabama will play Ole Miss on Thursday evening at 6 P.M. CT. More on that game in the preview later this week. For now, check out the bracket and please share your SEC Tournament picks in the comments section. 

Razorbacks Smack Bama, Arkansas 82 Alabama 70

Alabama concluded the regular season with a 12 point loss on the road to Arkansas to finish 17-14 (8-10), good for a 10th place finish in the SEC.  At least we aren't playing Wednesday I guess.

I watched this game at a bar in Louisville while, pre-gaming for a Metallica concert while visiting a college friend that I haven't seen in years, so frankly I didn't pay that close attention to it.

What I did notice was more of the same piss poor free throw shooting, bone headed turnovers, and inability to defend the rim, and nonsensical substitution patterns.  Gafford destroyed us with 29 points and 16 rebounds. 

Can anyone explain to me why Galen Smith was on the court for 23 minutes?   It seemed like we had 2 centers on the court for most of the game. Or AJ for 13.  Alex also played 21 minutes after sitting on the bench for weeks. 

T-Mack played well with 14 points, and Kira was also in double digits with 12.  We turned it over 15 times to their 8.  They scored 19 points off of our turnovers, we got 6 from theirs.  That's pretty much the difference in the game.

Sorry for the short recap, but like I said, I didn't watch this game very intently and frankly I'm just ready for this season to be over with.

Up next, the SEC tournament in Nashville.  We will play Ole Miss Thursday night, and as mandated by law if we somehow miraculously win that game Kentucky awaits in the second round.  The game will be on the SEC network.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Game Preview: at Arkansas


We've reached the end of the regular season and, once again, the Alabama (17-13, 8-9, KenPom: 59, NET: 55) men's basketball team is fighting for their postseason lives. The team has lost two straight, both home games, and is 4-6 in their last ten games. Their backs are as close to the wall as you can get without being the wall. I'm always hesitant to label a game a must-win, but that's the deal tomorrow vs Arkansas (16-14, 7-10, KenPom: 53, NET: 65). Game time is 5 P.M. CT. SEC Network is televising the game.

My Two Cents: Avery Johnson is feeling the heat from the fanbase. To be fair, the heat was already turned up, but a second sweep by Auburn in the last three seasons certainly didn't help matters. While the game results have been disappointing, if there is a silver lining, it's that effort hasn't been an issue for this team since the letdown at Texas A&M. They did play hard vs LSU and Auburn, but they didn't play well. Nevertheless, the team's effort suggests that the coaching staff and the players are still trying to turn this thing around. If the execution can match the effort on Saturday evening, the Alabama players and coaches will feel a little bit better as they prepare for Nashville.

It's strange to say this, being that this game will be played in one of the historically toughest road environments in the league, but it may be in Alabama's favor that this game is being played on the road. Whether it's the pressure of playing in front of a success-starved fan base, the difficulty of creating an energetic environment in the current configuration of Coleman Coliseum, or some other unknown reason, Alabama has really struggled at home during the oft-discussed late season swoons.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Barners Brutalize Bama, auburn 66 Alabama 60

Alabama was swept by in-state rival auburn to drop to 17-13 (8-9).  I'm going to keep this relatively short, because it's late, and I've got too much to do tomorrow to waste time revisiting this abortion.  You want a recap?  Go back and look at either of my Texas A&M game write-ups, or my Georgia State game write up, or any of the other nearly dozen times we've blown double-digit leads this year.  This game was nothing new.  If you want a little more of a "big picture" analysis, go back and look at my recaps from any big home games late in the season with an NCAA tournament bid on the line in the last 4 years. This team is maddeningly inconsistent, yet amazingly predictable all at the same time.

We had  10 and 12 point leads at different points in the game, but couldn't take advantage of opportunities to really stretch it out.  We missed 2 or 3 dunks on one possession.  Turnovers were a problem throughout, but they went from the careless inbound violation variety to the disastrous open- court-steals-leading-to-wide-open-3 kinds in the second half. 

Bruce got a technical for something said during a timeout, and auburn responded with a run to erase our lead. 

Dazon aggravated his injury and had to leave the game after playing well for only 11 minutes.   I do think he could have helped some defensively.  When the auburn guards got to the rim and pulled Donta away, we didn't have any size to rotate over.  Dan Giddens also left the game with a wrist injury. Let's hope both are okay.  One moment of slight entertainment was Dan coming back out of the locker room and looking at the scoreboard to see our 12 point lead down to 2 and looking at his teammates in disbelief saying "Wtf?  how?"  Dan was probably the only person in the whole gym legitimately surprised by the turn of events.

Speaking of Donta, can someone explain why he routinely puts up double-doubles against elite competition, but gets owned by the likes of Chuma Okeke?  The 6'8" auburn forward had 17 points and 14 rebounds while Donta managed just 2 dunks and 8 rebounds in 34 minutes.  Once again, we played Donta and Galen together at the same time for three comical minutes.  Perhaps Riley could have helped defend the rim or protect the ball in the second half, but we'll never know as he was only allowed to play 16 minutes.

T-Mack made a 3 to tie the game late and give us some hope, but we couldn't get a stop. 

Kira was our leading scorer with 13 points and generally played a solid game, but putting the game in the 17 year old's hands in that situation at the end was probably just asking too much.  After Kira's turnover, they got another uncontested layup, and then Kira threw it away again.  If you're keeping score at home, that's 2 offensive turnovers and two uncontested layups conceded in the final minute with the game on the line. 

JP had 8 points and 9 rebounds but an atrocious 6 turnovers.  Herb did a much better job of finishing at the rim and he seemed to be playing with more confidence, but also coughed it up 4 times.  T-Mack was in double digits with 10 points, making a 3 in the early run to take the big lead and another at the end to tie the game before the obligatory implosion.

The crowd was solid and into the game, I would guess close to 11,000 with probably 1,000 or so auburn fans scattered throughout.  Trendon Watford was in attendance and frankly looked bored most of the time.  He did acknowledge the students chanting his name, and I was very impressed that he took the time to have his picture taken with several young kids.  He seems like a good guy, and I really hope he chooses to come to Alabama, but I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do.

Thanks to a God-awful bubble, our NCAA tournament hopes are still somehow very much alive.  If we can win our final game we will at least have a chance, add one in the SEC tournament and we are still probably in good shape.

Up next, that final critical game in Fayetteville, Arkansas against the Razorbacks.  Tip-off is set for 5pm Saturday on the SEC Network.

If I were a religious man, I would give up Alabama basketball for lent.  Maybe I will anyway.  Happy Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnival or whatever.


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Bama's At Large bid competition

Gonna throw a few teams we should be rooting against to make us all breathe easier come selection Sunday. You can ignore this if we win our last 2 regular season games.

NOTE- ASSUME 3-5 bids will be eaten up as conference tourneys are unpredictable. Keep an eye on the PAC-12, AAC. and MW... those 3 could add 3 teams to the mix. I'm less concerned about mid-major tourney upsets.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Game Preview: Auburn (Take 2)


It's hard to believe that we are in the final week of the regular season for college basketball. There are a handful of mid-major leagues beginning tournament play this week. For Alabama (17-12, 8-8, KenPom: 57, NET: 53), you could argue that tournament play is already underway. At least, that should be their mindset. Alabama remains firmly on the bubble as they prepare to host the Auburn Tigers (20-9, 9-7, KenPom: 16, NET: 21) on Tuesday night. Game time is 8 P.M. CT. ESPNU is handling the television duties.

My Two Cents: Alabama played hard on Saturday vs LSU, but they didn't always play well. There was one stretch in particular late in the second half in which the shot selection was extremely poor that may have led to the disappointing result. But one should also give LSU credit. That's a good basketball team that is surprisingly clutch despite the number of young players on their roster. Of course, it's also a roster with multiple NBA prospects so it's also extremely talented. They made play after play under pressure down the stretch of that game. Sometimes, it's not about what your guys do, it's that the other team is good and wants to win also.

In addition to Alabama's bubble hopes and the rivalry aspect, both Bama and Auburn still have a shot at that fourth seed in the conference tournament, which raises the stakes even more for this game. The first game at Auburn was a one-sided affair in favor of the home team, but the Tigers have had their share of ups and downs as well this season, particularly on the road. The hope is that trend continues on Tuesday night.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Tigers Tackle Tide, LSU 64 Alabama 59

Alabama came up on the short end of a hard fought game against the 13th ranked team in the nation, falling to 17-12 (8-8).

The seniors were honored before the game, including both Dazon and Dan despite the fact that they each still have a year of eligibility remaining.

The team came out flat, allowing LSU to jump out to a 7-0 lead against our man-to-man defense.  We finally got on the board when LSU was called for a flagrant foul.  Marlon Taylor should have been ejected for his cheap shot on JP, but it seemed to energize our squad.  We switched to a zone, Herb of all people knocked down a couple of 3s, and we fought back from 10 down to take the lead.  LSU was stinking it up from 3 point range, and both teams were atrocious at the free throw line.  We went into the locker room trailing 29-28.

We continued with the shorter rotations that I like.  We had 4 guys playing over 30 minutes including 38 from both JP and Kira, and Riley Norris played 32 minutes off the bench.  AJ returned to action, but only played one minute at the end of the first half to prevent Kira from picking up a 3rd foul.  Still, I have issues with some of the combinations we are using.  Again, we had Dan and Galen on the floor together for about four minutes toward the end of the first half.  When Dan shot a 3 (yes, you read that right), I lost it and screamed out "PLEASE take one of the bigs out!"  That drew some dirty looks from the staff, but we did in fact bring Riley back in at the next timeout.  Also at the end of the first half when we brought in AJ, for some reason we had him off ball with JP trying to run point, and predictably turning it over.

LSU built another 8 point lead early in the 2nd half, but we were able to chip away and stay within shouting distance. CAJ got a technical foul after LSU appeared to get away with a goaltending and then a questionable foul was called on Riley at the other end.  The fans were upset, but I think Coach intended to draw that technical, and if so, I agree with him.  The team looked frustrated by the calls and he needed to show that he had their back and give them a boost of energy.  They responded with a 13-2 run to take a 6 point lead with 10 minutes left.  LSU showed why they haven't lost a road game in the SEC.  They remained poised, and despite not playing their best game managed to get enough stops and baskets down the stretch to get the win.

There was another key BS goaltending call that went against Donta.  It looked like an obvious clean block at the game, and my UAB fan friends were even texting me saying it wasn't even close.  Instead of having a fast break opportunity it gave LSU two points, and that was a big 4 point swing.

Another fast break opportunity in the second half epitomized the kind of frustrating, unforced errors that plague this team.  We were running after a rebound, with Dazon bringing the ball up the sideline.  JP didn't have the awareness to get out of his way, running a step in front of him, and of course Dazon dribbles it off of him out of bounds.  There wasn't an LSU defender within 30 feet of them.

Riley had a great game, he finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, but his one turnover was fatal.  Trailing by 3 with about a minute remaining, he telegraphed a bad pass to JP, which was intercepted and dunked at the other end to stretch the lead to 5.  JP made some desperation 3s, but LSU did a good job of getting the ball to Skylar Mays who put the game away at the free throw line.

Riley's turnover didn't bother me so much as the team's reaction to it.  Riley immediately grabbed his head when he let go of the ball, realizing his mistake, but he made no effort to sprint back.  JP just looked at Riley.  Everyone else just stood there, Herb barely made it across half court.  Mistakes happen, but you can't just quit on a play.  It's highly unlikely we could have done anything about the dunk, but what if they lose control of the ball, or miss the dunk?  We wouldn't have anyone within 50 feet of the basket to get the rebound.  After the first couple of minutes I thought our guys played extremely hard for most of the game, but the total lack of defensive effort and just accepting defeat on that play really bothers me.

JP had a great game, leading the way with 23 points.  Donta had another double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.  I thought he did a great job in a tough matchup.  Riley had 13 points and 9 rebounds and played outstanding defense, often with a very bad size mismatch in the post.  Herb had his best game in weeks with 11 points and 5 assists.

We had some good performances and played hard, but it just wasn't enough against a very good LSU team.

The crowd was decent but disappointing given the magnitude of the game.  The student section was especially disappointing, as it was only a little over half full.  I would guess a total of close to 9,000 were in attendance, and the crowd that was there was very supportive and loud throughout.  There were quite a few LSU fans there, including many sitting near us, but they were all courteous and fun.

Up next, we'll try to do better against another set of FBI-targeted Tigers, as the state's agricultural school will be visiting Tuscaloosa for an 8 pm tipoff Tuesday night.  The game will be televised on ESPNU.



Friday, March 01, 2019

Sleeping with the enemy: LSU Tigers

I reached out to Zachary Junda from And the Valley Shook to get the Tigers' perspective on tomorrow's game.  He kindly provided the response below.  If you visit And the Valley Shook, please follow their site's rules and be a good representative of our University.

So Saturday's an important game for both teams. LSU's in that three-way tie for first in the conference, and Alabama's playing to keep their tournament hopes alive. It's the same set  circumstances as the Florida game from last week, which the Tigers dropped, and Tremont Waters had one of his worst games of the season. Add in the fact that Coleman Coliseum is a house of horrors for LSU, the Tigers are 18-69 (nice.), and Saturday makes me feel really uneasy despite the two teams' records. 

Waters should be back which is good for LSU despite winning two games without him. LSU is in desperate need for a threat at the perimeter, the Tigers shot 2-19 against A&M, and Waters provides that. But if the threes aren't falling,and it feels like lately they aren't, the Tigers have just an absurd amount of length in Naz Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Emmitt Williams and Darius Days. Will Wade will start with Reid and Bigby-Williams and he can roll with any combination of the four up front. Offensive rebounding and second chance points are a strength of LSU's and it's largely owed to having three of the SEC's top-10 offensive rebounders.   

If Waters can't go, or seems rusty, LSU has been able to survive with junior Skylar Mays and freshman Javonte Smart handling the ball. Mays is LSU's best free throw shooter at 85 percent; that's good for second in the SEC. Smart saved the day for LSU against Tennessee with 29 points and he added 17 against Texas A&M Tuesday night. Waters and Mays also have active hands on the defensive end. The duo are 1 and 2 in the league in steals.  

For LSU, the goal is simple: get out of Tuscaloosa with a win. LSU controls their own destiny to claim at least a share of the SEC regular season championship. And with Tennessee playing Kentucky on Saturday, LSU has a great chance to stay atop the league standings, while the loser drops to a game back. What I worry about is does the pressure of potentially winning a league make a rather inexperienced team get tight. But the Tigers have proven to be road warriors this season, going 7-0 in league play away from Baton Rouge. I think the focus will be there, Waters will be right back where he belongs running point for the Tigers and LSU gets out of Alabama with a win. 

Game Preview: LSU (Take 2)


Happy March, everyone! I have a soft spot for Christmas as well as my birthday month, but, ya know, this is the best month of the year. It'll be even better if Alabama (17-11, 8-7, KenPom: 56, NET: 48) can make the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season. After a big road win at South Carolina, the team took another step towards that goal. Three difficult games remain, including a second date with LSU (23-5, 13-2, AP: 13, KenPom: 21, NET: 13) on Saturday. Game time is 11 A.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPN.

My Two Cents: The win in Columbia on Tuesday night was arguably the most satisfying win of the season. Alabama has played and beaten better teams this season, but it was satisfying because of how our guys won the game. They haven't been the most mentally tough bunch when adversity has hit this season, but that narrative was not in play on Tuesday as they outscored Carolina 19-8 after the Gamecocks had erased a deficit and led by five points with eight minutes left in the game. Alabama showed poise on both ends of the floor, and played with an energy and attitude over the course of 40 minutes that has, frankly, been a rarity this season. It was very satisfying to watch.

Now comes back-to-back opportunities at home for Alabama to pad its resume with top 25 NET teams in the form of LSU and Auburn. As of now, both are Quad 1 opportunities. I know the fanbase has been down on the program at times this season, but the fans in the Tuscaloosa area really owe it to this team to show up and be loud on Saturday and Tuesday night. Even if you're not happy with Avery Johnson, at least turn up to cheer on the seniors (Donta Hall, Riley Norris and Avery Johnson, Jr.) one last time. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Don't get Cocky, Alabama 68 South Carolina 62

The Tide won a hard fought slug fest on the road to improve to 17-11 (8-7) on the season and move firmly to the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble, for now.

Long time readers of the blog know that I generally prefer a man-to-man defense over a zone, but I loved the decision to start this game in a zone, and our 2-3 gave them fits the entire first half.  We still had issues with turnovers and missed free throws, but T-Mack and Kira hit a few 3s while Donta held his own with the Carolina bigs to build a 13 point lead.  Unfortunately, it looked like things would play out according to the recent script when the Cocks cut the lead to 6 at halftime and slowly chipped away for most of the second half before taking a 5 point lead with 8 minutes left.

Given the way we've finished halves and games over the last three weeks, you would be forgiven for not having much hope at that point.  It's true that an injury hurt their momentum and they made some unforced errors, but our players and coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for showing great composure and energy to come back and get a solid win.

So many guys made key plays during that stretch.  T-Mack with a 3 to get us back in the game.  Herb, of all people, with a 17 foot jumpshot to tie it.  Donta with an "And one," and finally Riley with a steal and fast break DUNK to push the Bama lead back to 6. 

We were only 14 of 22 at the line, but made the big ones we needed in crunch time. 

We stuck with the shorter rotation, only playing 9 guys including Galin Smith who only played 4 minutes.  I still don't like some of the combinations.  We played Galin and Dan together for most of those four minutes.  I get that we were trying to matchup with their bigs and keep Silva under control, but without Collin Sexton on this team we really can't afford to play 3 on 5 on offense.  Regardless, this shorter bench is a huge improvement overall and it seems to be working.  I thought Dan did an excellent job defensively in his 10 minutes of play spelling Donta.  I love his attitude and work ethic in coming back after being benched for Galin earlier in the year.  I hope AJ and Alex will take note and follow Dan's example, as I have a feeling we are going to need those guys again at some point before the season is over.

  Chris Silva has seemingly been at South Carolina longer than we've had Riley Norris, and I'm not sure he's moved out of the paint yet.  He receives his mail in the lane, and never gets called for 3 seconds. 

We had four guys in double-digits, led by Kira with 17 points.  Donta had an impressive double-double against Silva with 15 points and 10 rebounds.  T-Mack had 11 in front of his home crowd, and I just can't say enough about Riley Norris and how much he has helped this team the last 2 games.  Riley had 11 points and 3 rebounds, but is providing great intangible leadership, playing solid defense, and making some great tips and saves that don't always show up on the stat sheet.  As much as I hate to screw with the starting lineup at this point, I wish we would let him start one of the final two games at home.  I think he's earned it and he seems determined to go out a winner.

Another guy who contributed in many ways that won't be evident in the box score is John Petty.  JP is in a shooting slump right now, but he pulled down 10 rebounds, which is really remarkable for a 2 guard of his size against a big South Carolina team.  His defense has improved tremendously, and it's been fun to watch him develop other parts of the game over the last 2 years.  If he can improve his ball-handling over the off season as much as he's improved his defense and rebounding this season, he will be all conference.  He did have a bad turnover late that could have put the game in jeopardy.

Speaking of turnovers, Dazon Ingram left the game early in the second half with a quad contusion.  He is said to be day-to-day (aren't we all?).

It has been reported that CAJ consulted with Wimp Sanderson after the recent losing streak and decided to cut the practices down from 140 minutes to 70 in order to hopefully combat the late-season fatigue issues.  Apparently Wimp used to do this as a standard course of procedure.  My criticisms of Avery are well documented here, but I think he deserves a lot of credit for being open-minded enough to implement suggestions like this.  Also, in going to the shorter bench, it was necessary to bench his son.  While most would agree that was the right thing to do, it most certainly is not something that is easy for him to do.  Much respect to Coach Johnson for making these adjustments.

Up next, it's brunch with Bama Basketball as we host the visiting LSU Tigers for an 11 a.m. tipoff Saturday.  LSU is a top 15 ranked team, and a win would almost wrap up a NCAA bid for us.  Plus, it's senior day, being moved from the traditional last home game of the year due to the 8pm tipoff time for the auburn game next Tuesday.  There is no excuse for us not to have a sell-out crowd for this one.  Come show your appreciation for Riley and Donta and let's give this team a push heading into the postseason. 

March begins this weekend.  Tis the most wonderful time of the year!  Roll Tide.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Game Preview: at South Carolina


After snapping a three-game losing streak, Alabama (16-11, 7-7, KenPom: 57, NET: 55) will hope to build some momentum when they travel to play the South Carolina Gamecocks (14-13, 9-5, KenPom: 84, NET: 80). It's an early tip on Tuesday night; game time is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

My Two Cents: The important thing is that Alabama won their home game vs Vanderbilt on Saturday. Unfortunately, some of the same issues in terms of protecting a lead came up again. Unlike other games where Alabama's energy wasn't quite right, the energy was there in this game so why the late run by Vanderbilt happened is hard to figure. As DJC pointed out in his recap, Avery only played eight guys so perhaps they wore down as a result of the heavier minutes? As DJC also pointed out, our guys took the air out of the ball much earlier than they should have. And give Vanderbilt credit, they've continued to compete despite a disappointing season. All of those factors could have played a part in Bama nearly surrendering a 20+ point lead in the second half.

However, the team has had trouble holding on to leads all season. It makes me question if Avery should take a long look at the strength and conditioning program. Lou DeNeen has become a popular figure with the students and fans, and the players seem to like him. I like Coach Lou. I liked him even more when he faced down Bruce Pearl after the two had a brief skirmish at the SEC Tournament last season. But when you consider that late-season and late-game collapses have been a frequent headache for this program, it's fair to wonder if changes shouldn't be implemented in the future. That doesn't mean sacking Coach Lou, but at least reviewing the program itself to determine if the players are being put in the best physical condition to compete throughout a long season.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

All is Dandy when playing Vandy, Alabama 68 Vanderbilt 61

Alabama improved to 16-11 (7-7) with a 68-61 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.  Everything is not rainbows and unicorns because we managed to beat a horrific team, but the team did show signs of life in many areas despite concerns remaining in others. 

I will give this team and coaching staff a lot of credit for the way they handled adverse circumstances in this game.  With all of the negativity and their own fan base digging their grave it would be easy to throw in the towel, but they came out prepared and motivated, and emphatically stated, "we aren't dead yet!"  That being said, some of the recent issues that have plagued this team reared their ugly head again.  Let's get to it.

We stuck with the same starting lineup including JP, but actually let them play for an extended period of time to start this game.  We came out playing with a purpose, moving the ball, making solid cuts on offense, and playing lock-down defense.  Donta had a couple of thunderous blocks that really seemed to energize the team, and Kira, Riley, and T-Mack all made back to back 3s at some point.  We had active hands on defense and forced a ton of turnovers, and all of this led to a 22 point lead at one point in the first half.  Despite going cold the final 5 minutes in the first half, we still led by 15 at halftime.

We stretched the lead to 23 early in the second half, but with about 10 minutes left, we took the air out of the ball and Vanderbilt made a run.  Instead of putting the game away, we allowed them to get it back to within 7 in the final 2 minutes, but we made just enough stops and free throws down the stretch to hold on. 
I
While building the lead we forced an uptempo game that Vandy couldn't handle.  They made a lot of mistakes, which led to easy baskets for us.  While blowing the lead, we stood around on offense, and failed to defend the rim or get a rebound on defense.  They cut our 23 point lead to 7, but we managed to make enough plays down the stretch to keep it from getting too intense. 

We've spent a lot of time discussing the substitution patterns here, and notably we went to an 8 man rotation this game.  AJ did not play at all, for whatever reason.  Kira played 37 minutes, while Donta and Dazon played 35 each.  At one point in the first half, Herb came into the game and Dazon headed to the bench, but CAJ stopped him and called Kira to the bench instead.  At the very next dead ball, about 30 seconds later, Kira came in for Dazon.  It's fair to wonder if part of the last 10 minute meltdown was due to guys playing more minutes than they are used to, but I attribute it more to our change in strategy and essentially slowing the game down to "play not to lose."  I hope we stick with the "less is more" philosophy in the rotation and believe guys will quickly get used to playing 30+ minutes per game. 

I do wonder if AJ's absence had anything to do with these recent Instagram posts...it's not a good look, regardless.


Anyway, I feel like Dazon takes a lot of undue criticism while not getting credit for his contributions.  He was my MVP in this game.  He ended up with a double-double, 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists to only one turnover, but also played great defense and seemed to win every 50/50 ball he was involved in.  Donta also had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.  T-Mack only had 8 points but I thought his hot start set the tone, and we sort of went away from him as the game went on.  Riley scored 9 and also got his share of 50/50 balls. 

I question why we left T-Mack and Riley in the game late in the first half with a huge lead and them with 2 fouls, but thankfully it worked out.  I didn't like the way we managed our timeouts.  We burned 2 with 20+ point leads when the next dead ball would result in a media timeout anyway, and then we allowed a 13-0 run before calling a timeout.  As a result, we had to play the last 3 minutes or so without a timeout remaining.  I realize this is nitpicking a bit, but if they somehow managed to make it a one possession game, that could have been an issue.  Another nitpick, the NET metric that the NCAA selection committee is supposedly going to rely heavily upon, factors in margin of victory up to 10 points.  We shouldn't just dribble out the clock when up by less than 10.  We've also thrown in the towel when down by near that 10 point margin as well.  I don't like that part of the metric, but being what it is and given that we are squarely on the bubble, we should be doing everything we can to maximize out standing.

Coming off a 3 game losing streak and with bad weather in the area, this game was played under a tornado watch, it wasn't surprising that the crowd was sparse.  I would estimate only 6,000 or so were there.  With the exception of a few scattered boos at the half and during Vandy's run, those that were there were generally positive and supportive, and I thought it was as good of an atmosphere as could be reasonably expected under the circumstances. 

Up next, we travel to Colombia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks Tuesday night at 6pm.  The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

This week's bracketology links

ESPN
CBS
SBNation

2 have us First 4 out. One still has us Last 4 in.
For us to make it in we will have to win all remaining home games. I have a hard time believing in that, even in a weaker than normal bubble...

Game Preview: Vanderbilt


Well, that escalated quickly. Alabama (15-11, 6-7, KenPom: 60, NET: 52) was two games over .500 in league play just two weeks ago, and was in decent postseason shape. Since then, the team has lost three straight games and suddenly finds itself in a familiar position on the postseason bubble. The team will attempt to get back on the winning track against the last team they beat, the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-17, 0-13, KenPom: 125, NET: 131). Game time Saturday at Coleman Coliseum is 5 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU. I hope the fans will turn out to support the team, but if reaction on social media is any indication, that's not likely to happen.

My Two Cents: When I wrote my preview for the A&M game, I truly believed that the team had a couple of bumps in the road against two good teams in Mississippi State and Florida, but would have a great chance to bounce back this week. For thirty minutes on Tuesday night, they didn't play a great game, but they were playing well enough to win. That the game turned the way that it did in the final twelve minutes was shocking to me. It's a good thing I'm not responsible for the recap because my brain has fogged out the last twelve minutes of that game and I couldn't tell you much of what happened other than the final score. A&M outscored Bama 33-12 in those final twelve minutes. It's difficult, as someone who does watch a lot of college basketball and has seen my share of meltdowns, to comprehend how you get run off the floor in a twelve minute span by a team that, no disrespect intended, is not that good. And that blowing double digit leads has been a trend for Alabama this season is incredibly troubling for those of us who care deeply for this program and the players that have chosen to represent it. Several people have asked me what I think is going to happen in the next five games, and all I can do is shrug. I have no idea. I will continue to hope for things to turn around, but I'd be lying if I told you I was confident in this team doing that in these final weeks of the season.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Aggies Abruptly Assault Avery's Alabama, Again. Texas A&M 65 Alabama 56

Alabama blew two double-digit leads to a 11-14 (4-9) Aggies squad in an ugly, boring game that set the sport back at least 20 years to fall to 15-11 (6-7) and likely out of the NCAA tournament picture for now.

We finally replaced Herb with JP in the starting lineup as I posted we should have done at least two weeks ago.  Of course, we didn't even stick with that lineup till the first media timeout, promptly pulling Donta Hall for Giddens (who apparently has re-earned his spot as Donta's backup over Galen for now) as soon as he picked up his first foul.

The game started slow, but I actually thought we had decent ball movement early on offense against their zone.  The defensive effort was much better than we've seen over the last week or so, at least in the first half.  Riley came off the bench and gave us a spark with three 3s to build an 11 point lead while playing solid defense.

The end of the first half was symbolic of everything wrong with this team.  Up by 9 with 42 seconds, for some reason our NBA coach doesn't do what every single NBA team would do in a similar situation and go 2 for 1.  Instead, Dazon commits an unforced turnover by traveling at the top of the key, and aTm nails a 3 to cut the lead to 6 at halftime.

We promptly pissed away the rest of the lead to start the second half, but we made some adjustments.  Tevin Mack got hot in the high-post game with Donta that's been successful against the zone, and JP scored a few baskets posting up their guards. Herb got a steal and a fast break dunk and the lead was 12 with about 12 minutes left.

What happened next is utterly inexcusable.  The Aggies are not a good team.  They aren't going anywhere postseason barring a miracle run in Nashville, but you have to give them credit for playing hard and never giving up.  That's something we don't do, and we clearly don't learn from our mistakes.  In a must win game, against a team that already erased a 20 point deficit against us in less time, we get lazy on defense, sloppy with the ball, and allow them to not only come back but win going away.  For some reason we waited until the entire lead was gone in a 13-1 run before calling a timeout to try to re-group.

The end of the game was almost as maddening as the end of the first half.  Donta cut their lead to 4 with a little over a minute remaining with an "and one" on a dunk. Of course, he missed the free throw, like we always do.  Now, I can understand not putting them on the free throw line down 4 with over a minute remaining.  Assuming we could get a stop, we get the ball back with around 40 seconds left, we could score and make it a one possession game, but then we would have to foul on their next possession.  The problem is, for once, somehow we weren't in the penalty yet.  Therefore, we should have fouled immediately so that our next foul would put them on the line.  Instead, we did the absolute worst thing, and fouled with about 5 seconds left on the shot-clock, giving them a fresh 30.  So now, one would think we HAVE to foul immediately, but we didn't even do that.  Instead we let them hit a wide open 3 with about 5 seconds left on the shot clock, and with only 30 seconds left in the game, it was over at that point.  It's like we weren't even trying to win the game.

T-Mack was our leading scorer with 14 points and the only one in double figures.  Kira only scored 5 points and did not shoot well, but he had 4 assists and remarkably zero turnovers.  Riley had 9 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes.  JP had 7 points and 6 boards.  Donta had 6 points and 5 boards but was getting pushed around a lot defensively in the second half.  We were out-rebounded again, what was a strength earlier in the season has become a glaring weakness over the last couple of weeks.

The good news is we have plenty of opportunities in our next 5 games to right the ship and play our way back to the NCAA tournament.  The bad news is I have zero confidence that we will do so.  In fact, I would not be shocked if Vandy gets their only SEC win in our building Saturday.  I hope they prove me wrong. 

Now, let's address the elephant in the room, and I will try to do so in factual based manner.  I normally prefer to wait until the end of the season to discuss the head coach's job status.  One of my biggest gripes about our fanbase is that we tend to overreact to a single game or even a stretch of games.  Every season has its highs and lows, and I still hope, even if I don't truly believe, that there are more good times ahead this season. However, it is clear that Coach Johnson has lost the fanbase, and it's to the point that it will have a negative impact on recruiting.

Regardless, he will not be fired after this year.  I don't care if we don't win another game with an average margin of defeat of 20+ points, it simply won't happen.  The sooner you accept this fact, the better.  The Board of Trustees is not going to pony up $9 Million for a buyout, and even if they did the national spin would be "Bama fires coach just one season removed from first NCAA tournament win in 12 years."  It would make it difficult to hire the right replacement.  I'm not going to argue here whether we should or shouldn't fire Avery at the end of the year, because it's simply not going to happen.

We've been pointing to the 2019 recruiting class as being critical for some time.  We've already signed a very solid class, but it is imperative that we land Trendon Watford.  It's one thing to lose elite in-state talent like Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe to blue-bloods like Kentucky, but you absolutely cannot lose a guy like Trendon Watford to the likes of LSU or Memphis.  I was hoping Colin Sexton's success would give the Watfords confidence in Avery, but according to the scuttle-butt I hear around Birmingham, Trendon really likes Alabama but has his doubts about CAJ.

I hope the rumors that CAJ may be looking to leave at the end of the year for the NBA are true.  It would make a lot of sense for all involved.  AJ is graduating, and while I could be wrong I've always got the vibe that Cassandra isn't happy living in Tuscaloosa.  The Pelicans are going to be a dumpster fire without A.D. and most don't expect their current head coach to survive.  There's also been talk of NOLA possibly hiring Avery to a front office position as they just fired their GM.  It would make sense for the Pelicans to hire Avery in some capacity as he is very popular in NOLA and it might save them just a little bit of good will in that community.  I'm sure Avery would love to move back home with his family.  Meanwhile, our job is infinitely more attractive than when he took it.

 Before we get out the pitch-forks, let's not forget all the good things Avery has done here.  He has recruited at a high level, he got us back to the tournament and won a game there, he's worked tirelessly to promote the program, and we've pulled off quite a few exciting upset wins.  Unfortunately, we collapse at the end of every regular season, he hasn't been able to consistently motivate college players, we have a handful of inexplicable blow-out losses every year, and his substitution patterns and clock management issues make me want to bang my head against a brick wall.  A mutual parting of the ways is in the best interest of everyone involved.  I would wish him success in New Orleans (Or Cleveland if those rumors turn out to have legs) and thank him for all he accomplished here.  Meanwhile, we will have a talented returning roster along with the promised facility upgrades and a highly competitive compensation package to offer a proven successful head coach.  I have some names in mind, but now is not the time for that.

Up next, the Vanderbilt Commodores return to Tuscaloosa for a 5 pm tip-off Saturday evening looking for their first conference win.  I will be there supporting the players and the program, and I hope you will join me.  They need us now more than ever.  The game will be televised on ESPNU.




Monday, February 18, 2019

Game Preview: at Texas A&M

These four guys showing up was definitely the highlight on Saturday.

Well, the good news is Alabama (15-10, 6-6, KenPom: 55, NET: 45) doesn't play Florida in Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night. That alone increases the chances for a victory. Instead, they will travel to the wilds of College Station, Texas to play their second game of the season vs the Texas A&M Aggies (10-14, 3-9, KenPom: 98, NET: 84). You may remember that the Aggies won the first game on a buzzer beater. Game time Tuesday night is 8 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: Social media certainly has its ups and downs. Probably more downs than ups. I debate myself on an almost daily basis about getting rid of my social media accounts for my own mental health. But I will say that one of the ups since I've started using my Twitter account to promote our blog here is that I've come into contact with many Alabama fans. We've become a rather woeful community, leaning on each other through the frustrating ebbs and flows that are the Alabama basketball program.

Of course, the flip side to that coin is that you're treated to the rather maniacal fringe groups of Alabama fans that take this stuff way more seriously than most do. In the wake of the game Saturday, most Alabama fans are frustrated and at a loss for how to make things better, but we dust ourselves off, we commit to going to the next game or watching it on television, and we stay committed to pulling for the players and the coaches to figure things out. The lunatic fringe: they send angry tweets to Greg Byrne and Avery Johnson, or the players, or they send angry tweets to me because I don't go in for the mob mentality and I tell them to direct their energy in a more useful manner. I understand the frustration that is at the root of these outbursts, but it serves no good to the people having these outbursts or the people that are the focus of them. I should know because I've been those people in the past about an array of subjects, and I don't remember finding any enlightenment along the way.  I guess what I'm trying to say is chill the f out.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Gator Bait. Florida 71 Alabama 53

Welcome to the O'Coleman Center at the Capstone, where only Gators get out alive.  For the 8th straight time, Florida came to Tuscaloosa and left victorious with a commanding 71-53 victory to improve to 14-11 (6-6) while Bama fell to 15-10 (6-6). 

We were outplayed, out-hustled, and out-coached.  Give a lot of credit to Florida for playing great defense.  We aren't the only team to struggle to score against them.  For most of the game, they showed a 1-2-2 three quarters-court pressed and settled into a match-up zone while occasionally going to a half court trap out of it.  It forced us to slow the game down and play at their pace. 

It took us 8 minutes to score from the field, and frankly we were fortunate to only be down by 10 or so at that point.  In fairness, Herb had to leave the game with an injury early in the first half, but we played 9 different guys before we finally scored from the field.    Florida led by 9 at halftime, but gradually increased the lead to 17 early in the second half.  We used the revolving door substitution pattern throughout, and finally the 846th combination that we tried was marginally successful  when we went small with Kira, AJ, JP, Herb, and Donta in at the same time.  That odd combination managed to cut the lead to 8, but they couldn't take advantage of chances to get it closer, and couldn't get a rebound. UF stretched it back out to 15+ and cruised to an easy win. 

Once again, turnovers were a huge problem.  On paper, we only had 11 turnovers to their 9, but that doesn't tell the whole story.  Much like the $tate game, it was the type of turnovers that was the problem.  When you look at points off turnovers, they had 11 to our 3.  Combine that with a laughable 10 of 22 from the free throw line and it's easy to see how this one got out of hand. 

To make matters worse, our defense continued to struggle against a bad offensive team.  We stayed in a man to man defense, which I was generally fine with, but we had a hard switch on everything.  The result was the smaller gators were able to create mismatches where we had our smaller guards trying to defend post players in the lane while our bigs like Donta and Galin were chasing guys around the perimeter.  Would it kill us to fight through a screen every now and then?   They had 36 points in the paint.  Donta is not defending the rim at the level he was earlier in the year, but again, part of that is the result of our soft, switch-everything defense.

Kira had 14 points and I thought he played well, but didn't have much help.  He tried to push the ball and pick up the tempo when he could.  JP and Donta were both in double digits with 10 each.  AJ and Galin played 18 and 16 minutes respectively and both finished with 5 points.  Draw your own conclusions on whether you think that's an appropriate amount of minutes for either of those guys.  I think I've made it obvious where I stand on this issue.

Looking at the upcoming schedule and given the fact that we've been blown out the last two games, it's fair to wonder if yet another late season meltdown is on the horizon.  What's frustrating to me is that if there is any benefit to this revolving door, upward basketball, everybody plays substitution pattern that we employ, is that you would think the team would be fresh at the end of the season and poised to finish strong, but that obviously hasn't been the case. 

They said there were only 150 unsold tickets as of late Friday afternoon, but if that's the case, there were a bunch of no-shows.  The lower levels were surprisingly packed, but I would still estimate the attendance at around 12,000.  Not bad, but not anywhere close to the near sellout announced.  Coming off of a bad loss and with the baseball team and the Birmingham Iron playing at the same time, it wasn't a horrible crowd all things considered.  Speaking of the baseball game, it's ridiculous that I paid for a parking pass, leave downtown Tuscaloosa, at most a 10 minute drive, over 30 minutes before tipoff and still end up having to park on the other side of the law school.  We barely made tip-off. 

The student support was a bit disappointing.  The lower level was packed, but there was nobody in the upper corner of the student section, and they had a huge section blocked off for the football team.  They showed up about 10 minutes late, used maybe half of their reserved seats, and all left at halftime or early in the second half.  I know it's sacrilege to criticize the mighty football Gods who got blown out in the championship game, but if they  want to support the team they should show up on time and be enthusiastic throughout the game like the rest of the students if they want the privilege of having a whole section roped off for them. 

There were some scattered boos during our early struggles which I didn't like at all.  I get the frustration, I'm as frustrated as anyone, but it's impossible to differentiate if the boos are being directed at the players or the coaches, and there's absolutely no excuse or reason to boo these players.  That being said, I thought the crowd was loud and supportive when we made our half-assed runs in the second half.  It was great to see Levi Randolph, Retin Obasohan, Trevor Releford, and Collin Sexton in attendance. 

There has been a lot of negativity posted online directed at Coach Avery Johnson, even moreso than normal after this loss.  All I will say at this point is that it's in the best interest of the program to support him, the staff, and the players for the rest of the season and see how it plays out.   The time to have that discussion will come soon enough.   I will admit, I left this game with about 2 minutes left because I was feeling the urge to yell something  to the head coach that would not be beneficial to the program. 

Up next, we played our 3rd game of the season in bum-youknowhat-texas when we travel to College Station for a revenge game against the Texas A&M Aggies.  Tip-off is set for 8pm Tuesday night on SEC Network.