Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Al.com article- notes from conference call

Some of the stuff in here we kinda already knew, but being we are deprived of ALL SPORTS we should take ANYTHING and be happy about it. Snippets below... full link here

- Kira Lewis and John Petty will go through the NBA draft process, per Oats. They’ll go through workouts, get feedback and then make a final decision on whether to turn pro. “Based on feedback that they get, they both may leave," Oats said. “We’re planning on possibly not having either of them back."

— Oats is excited about having Jahvon Quinerly next season. “A lot of you saw Quinerly in practice and, shoot, he was really good,” Oats said. “Some days, he was the best player in practice.”

Click the link and read it all...

I was planning on seeing OUR Yankees in Milwaukee in a couple months, but coronamania messed that up! MLB season probably won't start until mid June so I'll be bored silly for the next few months (as many of you are already).

Take care and be safe.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Wrapping up a season that ended with no end. 2019-2020 Recap and State of the Program Manifesto

For many of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year.  Spring is upon us, the weather is warming up in cooler locales, the days are longer, the sun is shining, baseball is ramping up, and our favorite sport is in the midst of its championship season.  We put money in tournament pools, we take off work to watch games and compare brackets, and when Alabama is involved (which sadly has not been very often in recent years) we put our whole lives on hold to at least watch, if not travel to, those games on little notice.  It's fun and exciting.

Obviously, none of that is happening this year.  There is no NCAA tournament, or sports for that matter, as the world is facing much larger issues.  Most of us are working from home if we are fortunate enough to be working at all.  Instead of watching the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, we're all following the news and watching "infection curves" and "mortality rates."  I think there's some value to trying to maintain some sense of normalcy during chaotic times, so I'm stepping away from the news this afternoon to recap the season and give my thoughts on the current state of the Alabama basketball program, as I do at the end of each season.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

COV-19 Alabama-0- SEC Tournament Cancelled

All power 5 conferences have cancelled their tournaments.  It is very likely that the season is over.  I would not be surprised at all if the NCAA tournament is cancelled, and I will be shocked if the NIT happens.

I know a lot of people have strong feelings on this, and this is an area where there is some overlap between government policy, politics, and sports, but I will remind everyone to please adhere to Bobbyjack's "no political comments" rule. 

All I will say is that I encourage everyone to stay informed, follow CDC guidelines, and I hope everybody stays healthy and safe.  I'll try to post basketball related news as things are announced, and once the season is officially over I'll get to work on my annual end of season recap and state of the program manifesto.

Until then, Roll Tide.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

SEC Tournament Preview


Due to time constraints this week as well as a lack of emotional investment, I'm not going to do a full preview for the Tennessee game or any additional games Alabama may play in Nashville. Instead, I'm going to just write a quick preview of the tournament itself. At the end, I'll include some picks.

But first, it's a fair question to ask: will there be a tournament this week that fans can attend? Nashville has reported its first case of the corona virus, and with that report comes the possibility that the event (as well as other conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament itself) could limit the number of spectators at the event, if not bar fans completely. The SEC has stated that it's monitoring the situation. This coming on the heels of the tornado in the area is less than ideal. My gut feeling is that the tournament will go off without a hitch, but never underestimate the power that panic holds over large numbers of human beings.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Tide Throws in the Towel against Tigers, Mizzou 69 Bama 50

Alabama wrapped up the regular season with a 16-15 (8-10) record thanks to an ugly loss to Missouri.

Mizzou controlled the tempo from the start, and it was an ugly, slow-paced defensive battle.  I guess if you are looking for a bright side we played pretty good defense for the first 30 minutes.  We even played a fair amount of zone, and that was effective against a poor shooting Mizzou team, but we struggled to rebound out of it.   Neither team could go on a run and it was a close game with the Tigers leading by 1 at halftime.  It remained neck and neck until about the 10 minute mark, but Mizzou ran out to a 9 point lead and we had no response, as the Tigers just gradually pulled away for the rest of the game.

All of the issues we've been complaining about off and on all year showed up in this game.  We had 18 turnovers, were out-rebounded 42-27, and gave up 48 points in the second half.  We were only 4 of 25 from 3 point range.

It's fair to question if Oats has lost this team.  They certainly didn't respond well to having their effort called out after the Vandy loss.

Kira scored 18 but also had 7 turnovers.  Shack had a solid game, relatively speaking with 13 points and 5 boards.  Galin had 10 points and 4 boards.  Outside of those 3, we didn't get much effort from anybody else.

Up next, post-season eligibility is on the line in the SEC tournament.  We are the 9 seed and will play Tennessee in Nashville at noon.  You can watch it on the SEC Network.

 

SEC tournament predictions

DJC will probably put up a post game post on the Misery game so stay tuned.

My guesses on how the SECT will go. Bracket is here

Day 1
UGA over Ole Miss
Vanderbilt over Arkansas

Day 2
Tennessee over Alabama
UGA over Florida
aTm over Mizzou
SC Lite over Vanderbilt

Day 3
Kentucky over Tennessee
Miss St over UGA
Auburn over aTm
SC Lite over LSU

Day 4
Kentucky over Miss St
Auburn over SC Lite

Day 5
Auburn over Kentucky


I think with a run to the semis, SC Lite gets the SEC a 6th bid to the NCAAT. I also can see Miss St sneaking in.
Adding to this... I think the seeds will go like this:
Kentucky- 3
Auburn- 4
LSU- 7
Florida- 9
Miss St- 11
SC Lite- 12 (probably play in game)

Friday, March 06, 2020

Game Preview: at Missouri


If you're going to torpedo your NCAA at-large chances, you may as well do it with style. Alabama (16-14, 8-9; KenPom: 53; NET: 51) did that by losing at home to a Vanderbilt team that entered with just one conference win. It was Alabama's fourth home loss in the month of February/March, something that is becoming a Crimson Tide tradition. The final game of the regular season comes (mercifully?) on the road this Saturday when the team travels to play the Missouri Tigers (14-16, 6-11; KenPom: 104; NET: 94). Game time is 1:30 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: I don't believe Nate Oats took this job lightly when he was hired, but Tuesday night may have been the first time it dawned on him what an uphill battle he's in for to change the culture of this program. His frustration and disappointment during the game and after was palpable. Comments he made about players in his press conference needing to get into the gym to improve (as well as captured audio during the telecast) was a window into the state of things. Sure, we can critique some of the coaching decisions (and I will certainly share my opinions after the season wraps up), but it appears that the staff are going through the usual first year problems that arise when some guys buy in, and others do not. You throw in the additional struggles with injuries this season - more than any team in the league - and perhaps we shouldn't be surprised how this season has progressed.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Slamming the Door on Tournament Dreams, Vandy 87 Bama 79

First of all, my condolences to the tornado victims in Nashville, and congratulations to the Vanderbilt basketball team for staying focused, playing an awesome game, and getting a great win for their city.  You all know I've never been too fond of the Vandy basketball program, but I think we can all relate to what they are going through. 

The loss drops Alabama to 16-14 (8-9) and ends all hope for an NCAA at-large tournament bid.  We are now more realistically on the NIT bubble. 

We came out flat and Vandy set the tone, scoring on their first two possessions.  Beetle got hot in the first half, and we answered to take a 6 point lead about midway through the first.  It was an up-tempo game, and we did a fairly good job of protecting the basketball, but the defense was atrocious throughout, and Vanderbilt shot the lights out.  We went nearly 6 minutes without scoring from the field, and Vandy reclaimed the lead at 42-35 going into halftime.

We trailed by as many as 10 in the second half before Shack finally started scoring to get us back in the game.  We were never able to go  up by more than a single possession, and another nearly 5 minute drought from the field combined with more terrible defense allowed Vandy to put the game away in the final 3 minutes.

The scoring droughts on offense are going to happen from time to time, especially when you rely on the 3 so much.  It seems with our lack of depth and pace of play, we lost our legs late in the game and thus the 3s stopped falling.  At some point we have to make some defensive adjustments.  I know Petty being out presents some major matchup problems for us, but Herb should have been matched up with Lee much more than he was.  Kira and Shack could not guard him. When we finally did put Herb on Lee, they ran a simple high ball screen with their 5, and we inexplicably switched on it every time.  I get that he wasn't that great of a 3 point shooter coming into the game and maybe they were more concerned with the dribble drive, but after he's made 3 or 4 in a row, you need to defend him, and neither G nor JD are capable of doing so at the perimeter.  The third or fourth time in a row that happened was with about one minute remaining and pushed their lead from 4 back to 7 and essentially put the game away.  I admit, I may have had a little bit of a meltdown at that point, so if you were sitting within earshot (which is to say within about a 5 block radius of the arena) I apologize for the profanity.

Coach Oats was as angry as I've seen him all year.  During one timeout in the first half he slapped the seat of a chair, and while I couldn't make out what he was saying, we could clearly hear his voice over the music in the PA system.  He was mic'd up, and apparently the broadcast picked up him saying "soft as $h!t, that's what it is, you don't care about anybody but yourself."  Based on the positioning, I think that was directed at Alex.

Outside of Kira, Beetle, and Herb, we did not get the best effort from everybody while Vanderbilt played inspired basketball.  Alex is scheduled to have surgery on his hip after the surgery and I think the injury is bothering him more, as he has been noticeably slower over the last couple of weeks.  I was really disappointed in JD being a non-factor against much less competition after putting up a double-double in the last game.

On the positive side, Kira had 30 points, 8 assists, and only one turnover.  Beetle had 24 points on his senior night but had 5 turnovers.  Shack bounced back from a bad first half to end with 18 points.  Alex and Herb both had 8 rebounds. 

The crowd was disappointing considering it was an ideal tip-off time with a lot on the line.  I would guess there was no more than 6,000 there and they were mostly taken out of the game for much of the night.

If either Ole Miss beats Mizzou or LSU beats Arkansas tonight, we will avoid having to play on Wednesday of the SEC tournament.  If that's the case, I would rest Herb, Alex, and JP against Mizzou and focus on getting everyone rested and healthy for Nashville.  Assuming either Ole Miss or LSU wins tonight, it's probably in our best interest to lose Saturday and get the 10 seed in the SEC tournament.  An 8 or 9 seed will put us on the Kentucky side of the bracket.

Up next, we wrap up the regular season at Mizzou, game time is 1:30 pm Saturday on the SEC Network.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Game Preview: Vanderbilt


If I may cite a famous line from a not-so-popular film: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" Alabama (16-13, 8-8; KenPom: 48; NET: 40) refused to close the book on this season by gutting out a 90-86 victory this past Saturday. With two games remaining in the regular season, can this team create some momentum for itself heading into Nashville? The first step to answering that question is defending home court on senior night when the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-20, 1-15; KenPom: 187; NET: 170) visit. Game time on Tuesday night is 7:30 P.M. CT, but get there early for the senior night festivities. Only one senior - James "Beetle" Bolden - will be honored on Tuesday night, but it could also be your final chance to see any players that may pursue professional opportunities after this season concludes. SEC Network will televise the game.

My Two Cents: As basketball fans, we've all had our share of frustrations with this program over the years. But one thing I've always felt proud of as a fan are the number of high-character players that have come through the program. That kind of character was on full display again on Saturday night. Per Bryan Passink (in case anyone doesn't know, a radio analyst for Crimson Tide Sports), Alabama starters/key reserves have missed a total of 94 games. The SEC Network showed a graphic of 73 on Saturday, but I don't recall if that was number of conference games missed. Whatever the number, Alabama leads the league by a wide margin in the number of players that have missed games this season due to injury or illness. And yet, the team still has a puncher's chance at making the NCAA Tournament because they have refused to wilt despite the adversity. That takes character, and character is easy to cheer for.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Bama Beats Cocks, Alabama 90 South Carolina 86

Next Man Up!  Alabama once again overcame numerous injuries to grind out a tough win at home against a very physical USCe squad.  The win puts the Tide at 16-13 (8-8) overall. Those slim NCAA tournament hopes are still alive.

It was another slow start as Carolina ran out to an early 12-1 lead.  Over five minutes ran off the clock before we made a basket.  Coach Oats argued relentlessly with the officials after Beetle was called for a block on a play where everyone in the gym saw it as a charge.  After several warnings, Oats was nailed with a "T." I think this was another instance of Coach actually wanting the technical foul.  The team looked flat to that point, and his technical certainly seemed to inject some energy both into the team and the fans in the arena.  Bama answered with a 7-0 run to get back into the game, and only trailed by 2 at halftime.

Davis hit a 3 to start the second half (I'm still not crazy about him shooting them), but South Carolina answered with a run to push the lead to 6.  Shack got  us back into the game with a 3, then a defensive stop and a Kira layup cut it to one, and from there the game pretty much went back and forth with neither team able to take over control.  Both teams were attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, and our guys were doing a phenomenal job of holding their own on the glass.  Defensively, we struggled to get stops at times and even mixed in a zone for a couple of possessions.  We led by as many as 8, but when Carolina switched to a press late in the game, we struggled to inbound the basketball.  The Cocks cut the lead to two with just under two minutes when they committed a flagrant foul on Herb.

Herb proceeded to make both shots one handed, then drive down the lane and get a one-handed layup to push the lead back to 6.  We made just enough free throws to hang on from there, including Davis with the final dagger to make it a two possession game in the final seconds.

I'm really proud of the way this team pulls together and picks each other up.  With no John Petty against a bigger, more physical team, and us having a short bench, this looked like a bad matchup.  However, JD proved to be a huge asset with his first double-double.  A lot has been made of our weakness at the 5 spot, but if we can get anywhere near that kind of production from JD this is a totally different team.  People often forget that big men generally develop slower than wings/guards, and it's obvious Davis has improved over the course of the year.  Davis ended up with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Kira was the leading scorer with 25 points, 6 assists, and only two turnovers.  He had a couple of big 3s to get us going, and was excellent driving to the basket and maintaining control.  Shack had an "off" night and still scored 18 points despite having 3 turnovers and only going 3 of 7 from the line.  Coach was in his ear all game.  I've noticed Coach seems to ride Shack a bit harder than the others, for example Beetle makes a lot of the same mistakes, getting out of control, dribbling into traffic, etc, but he doesn't seem to catch as much grief for it as Shack does.

Herb had 10 points, 9 rebounds, and went 4 of 6 from the line while playing his usual lock-down defense.  Of course he won the hard hat again.  The man is an absolute warrior, and it's just amazing what he is doing right now despite playing with a cast. It's not just his physical play either, he's a leader and a coach on the floor.  On one possession, he recognized that USCe was about to switch to a zone, he signaled for Kira to hold up a second, called a different set, and the result was a slash for a layup.

Alex continued to struggle offensively, going only 2 for 7 from the field with a couple of turnovers.  I thought he did a good job with their bigs on the defensive end though, grabbing 10 rebounds.

It's encouraging that we've shown we can win multiple ways, despite our "live and die by the 3" reputation.  We were a respectable 9 of 24 from three point range, but we also attacked the basket and got to the line where we made 33 of 47.  That's about 70%, and while not great, it's respectable.  Carolina was only 17 of 26.  We actually out-rebounded them 44 to 39, and limited the turnovers to 11.

The crowd was actually much better than the last game.  I would estimate around 10,000 were there, and with the exception of the slow start and during the flurry of turnovers late, the fans were loud and into the game.  Signee Keon Ambrose-Hylton was there.

Up next, Vandy comes in for a 7:30 tip-off Tuesday night.  The Dores beat LSU and have been playing much better lately, so we will need another good crowd to cheer our guys on in another "must win" game.  If you can't make it to Coleman, you can catch it on SEC Network.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Game Preview: South Carolina


Before I start writing about this game, I want to take the time to congratulate Kristy Curry and the women's team for back-to-back wins against top 15 teams (at Mississippi State and at Texas A&M). That's the first time in program history they've done that. Those wins for the ladies suddenly put them on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament so I implore all of you that can make it to Coleman on Sunday for the ladies senior day vs Missouri to get out there and be loud.

Okay, let's turn to the other basketball bubble team in Tuscaloosa. After a loss in Starkville, Alabama (15-13, 7-8; KenPom: 46; NET: 39) is running out of opportunities to make a compelling case to the selection committee. I wouldn't say they're at the "win the conference tournament or else" stage, but they're getting close. Next up is a home game vs the South Carolina Gamecocks (17-11, 9-6; KenPom: 71; NET: 64). Game time on Saturday is 7:30 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bullies Bust Bama's Bubble, Miss $tate 80 Alabama 73

Bama dropped a hard fought game in Starkville to fall to 15-13 (7-8).  The Tide will need to win their last three games now to have any chance at getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The big story from this game is John Petty's injury.  He left the game with a wrist injury late in the first half and did not return.  We should be hearing X-Ray and/or MRI results at some point today.

Prior to JP's injury it was a back and forth game, with an up-tempo pace to Alabama's liking.  We had a nice inside-out game going in the first and shot the ball well from the perimeter.  Unfortunately, we had no answer for $tate's bigs all night.  JD and Galin did little to slow them down, Alex struggled on both ends, and when JP went down we were severely out-manned defensively.

We only trailed by 2 at the half, but after shooting 8 of 17 from 3 point range in the first half, we missed our first 12 threes in the second.  That, combined with our inability to slow down the Bulldogs post game, allowed $tate to build a modest lead.  We had a couple of chances to get back in the game late, but we couldn't make a free throw and $tate finally put it away.

Nobody can question the effort of this team.  We were even in rebounding despite being terribly undersized and left with a short bench.  We limited the turnovers to 11, but the woeful 8 of 15 free throw shooting and lack of defense was too much to overcome. 

Kira was the leading scorer with 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists to 3 turnovers.  Shack scored 17 points despite only making 2 of 7 threes, and was the leading rebounder with 9.  Beetle had 11 points including a couple of big 3s in the first half.  I feel like he wore himself out and was maybe a bit tired in the second half and his shots stopped falling.  He played 34 minutes due to JP's injury, and that is a lot for a super-high energy guy like Beetle.  Herb fouled out in 23 minutes but was the only bright spot on defense when he was in the game. 

Alex only had 5 points in 24 minutes and had four turnovers.  He was making some really head-scratching decisions.  If the defender does not fall for his head fake, he needs to pass it off or try to shoot over him, anything but put it on the floor, he's not going to beat any properly positioned defender on the dribble.  Several times he seemed to have his mind made up instead of reading the defense and dribbled into traffic.

I did not attend this game, (I'm getting too old to do 2+ hr drives for weeknight games that start at 8 pm), but I talked to a friend who went and said we had a good crowd there including about 100 students.  The place looked empty on TV, which I thought was a little surprising given this game was hyped as a battle of two bubble teams. 

Up next, a very good South Carolina team will come to Tuscaloosa for a 7:30 pm tipoff Saturday evening.  The true "must win" games start now, and we'll need a big crowd to help the guys get back on track.  It will be televised on SEC Network. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Game Preview: at Mississippi State


Alabama (15-12, 7-7; KenPom: 46; NET: 40) picked a good time to have one of their better efforts of the season, walking out of Oxford with a 25-point win. The victory keeps their NCAA Tournament hopes alive as we look ahead to the final two weeks of the regular season. Next up is a second meeting with the Mississippi State Bulldogs (17-10, 8-6; KenPom: 53; NET: 56). Game time Tuesday night in Starkville is 8:00 P.M. CT, and will be televised on SEC Network. Alabama won the previous meeting by a score of 90-69.

My Two Cents: Both teams enter this game in need of a win for their postseason resumes. State has won 17 games, but, aside from a road win at Florida, there isn't much meat on the resume. It may be the last opportunity Alabama gets for a quad one win so they need to take advantage.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bama Blasts Black Bear-Baby Shark-Rebels. Alabama 103 Ole Miss 78

Bama got a blow out victory on the road to improve to 15-12 (7-7).  As a preliminary disclaimer, I watched this game at a bar with no sound.  I have to admit, my enthusiasm for this win is a bit dampened by: a)the Deontay Wilder loss and b) let's be real, is there any doubt that even if we beat $tate we're going to lose to South Carolina and/or Vandy at home?

It started ugly.  We had about 4 turnovers in the first 2 minutes, and Ole Miss jumped out to a 9-2 lead.  Herb made an open layup under the goal, and for some reason the Rebels decided to start double-teaming the guy with one arm.  He was able to find a wide open Kira Lewis who hit a couple of 3's to give us the lead for good.

I thought the defense was very good in the first half, and we even played a fair amount of zone.  We were able to get into the passing lanes and disrupt Ole Miss's half court offense, which allowed us to speed up the pace of the game.  Bama led 45-31 at the half.

I fully expected Ole Miss to make a game of it, as we've struggled to hold big leads all season.  The Tide kept their foot on the gas this time though and ran the Rebels out of their own gym.  It was a chippy game with a lot of technical fouls including their coach getting ran.  I was concerned that would give them a spark, but instead our guys cashed in on the opportunity and stretched the lead to an insurmountable margin.

The defense was not as good in the second half, but we mixed things up well on offense.  The dribble drive and inside-out game led to some open 3s, and we were at least serviceable in the paint.  After the bad start, we did a good job of valuing the basketball, with 25 assists and only 12 turnovers.

Kira had a double-double with 17 points, 11 assists, and notably zero turnovers!  JP went 4 of 6 from downtown and ended up with 21 points.  Shack had a good game with 18 points and 3 assists.  Alex had 12 points and was our leading rebounder with 6, but his 5 turnovers were bad.  Herb played 22 minutes and had 3 blocks and 2 steals, it's amazing what he continues to contribute with one arm.  Davis was also in double-digits thanks to a late 3, which was entertaining and fun in that situation, but I would still rather him not jack those up in an actual close game like he did against Texas A&M.

Give credit to this team for continuing to fight when everyone assumed the season was over with the recent home losses.  This was a solid bounce-back win and hopefully they can build on it and finish strong.

Up next, we stay in the only state in the union that is even more miserable than our own, as we go to Starkville to take on the Mi$$ $tate Bulldogs Tuesday night at 8pm.  It will be broadcast on the SEC Network.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Game Preview: at Ole Miss


The familiar sound of bubbles popping in February could be heard loud and clear in Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night. The idea that the team's bubble is burst may be premature given there are a few weeks left in the season, but Alabama (14-12, 6-7; KenPom: 55; NET: 44) did itself no favors in losing at home to a Texas A&M team with a triple digit NET ranking. The result was a second (for now) quad three loss for the team. With road trips looming to both Mississippi schools, our guys have put their backs, once again, against the wall. If they don't pull out of this tailspin (losers of five of their last seven) soon, even the NIT won't be an option come March. Next up: a trip to Oxford to face the Ole Miss Rebels (13-13, 4-9; KenPom: 85; NET: 86). Game time on Saturday is 7:30 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: I've used the analogy before that being an Alabama basketball fan is like being in a bad relationship. You have feelings for the person, and you hope that the relationship will turn a corner. But it never does, becoming more harmful the longer it continues. I'm not going to break up with Alabama basketball, but situations like the one we saw on Wednesday night are comically absurd at this point. I've been critical in the past of fan support for basketball, but how can anyone honestly expect fans to keep supporting a program that consistently rips their heart out?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Die by the 3- Texas A&M 74 Alabama 68

Alabama lost a crucial home game to the Aggies to drop to 14-12 (6-7).  I considered not even doing a recap for this one.  You can go back and read just about any home February game's recap from the last ten years or so and it's basically the same thing.  Every year, we get some big wins that get us to the bubble, and then have a seemingly manageable schedule, and proceed to crap the bed in home games where we are heavily favored.

Buzz Williams is a good coach and he's going to have a lot of success in this league.  He had an outstanding game plan for us.  They opened up in a half-court 1-2-2 zone trap, and we looked totally unprepared for it.  I haven't had a chance to watch them previously this year, so I don't know if they've ran that a lot, but I'm guessing not because our guys looked like they had never even seen it on film. 

On the other end, it was obvious they wanted to get the ball to Nebo in the post against Alex, and they ran several plays to pull the help side defense away.  Alex was simply out-matched down the low, so we had to play Galin and Davis probably more than we would have liked.  Davis only played 5 minutes and inexplicable decided to jack up a couple of 3s from the corner.

The Aggies scored the first 8 points of the game, and nearly 4 minutes were off the clock before we finally scored.  We settled down and started making some 3s, and the defense was able to come up with 15 turnovers in the first half, and we took a 6 point lead into the locker room.  Even though the pace wasn't to our liking, you had to feel good about the lead and the fact that the game seemed to be developing into a 3 point shooting contest.  We were doing a decent job in the soft man and going under screens of keeping the ball out of the post, but unfortunately the 351st ranked shooting team went off for 11 of 24. 

They would cut the lead to one or two, but we would answer and stretch it back to 5 or 6, usually on a Shack 3.  I felt like if we could ever get it to 10 we would be in good shape, as their style of play isn't conducive to coming from behind.  At the same time, I knew if we ever coughed up the lead, we would probably be in big trouble. We had several opportunities with the ball and a 6 point lead, but turned it over or took a bad shot almost every time.  We had a 6 point lead with a little over 4 minutes remaining, then gave up a 12-0 run.  I'll note we had 3 timeouts remaining, and did not use one until we were down 6 with a minute remaining.  We should have used one when they cut it to one, or at the latest when they first took the lead with 2:30 remaining.  I like Coach Oats' philosophy in general, but his timeout management makes about as much sense as Avery Johnson's substitution patterns.

Simply put, this team choked down the stretch with the game on the line, again.  Kira, Alex, and JP all had bad turnovers down the stretch.  Yes, both teams had 19 turnovers, but the Ags only had 4 in the second half.  They took care of the ball down the stretch, and we didn't.  Shack had a great game with 24 points and only one turnover, but he missed some wide open 3s late that could have tied or given us the lead.  Then, the Aggies inexplicably fouled him on a 3 point shot when they had a 4 point lead with only 3 seconds remaining, giving us a glimmer of hope that he could made the first 2 and give us a shot at a put-back for the tie.  Instead, he proceeds to brick all three of them.  We were a pathetic 4 of 9 from the line.

A lot has been made about the free throw attempts disparity, but when one team has a post presence and the other is jacking 3s, that is the result.  I thought the officials did a pretty good job, most of the charges were good calls.  Whenever we tried to drive, it usually resulted in a charge or a turnover.  I know the mid-range game isn't really a thing anymore, but I would have liked to have seen Kira with a few more short to mid-range pull ups.  I'm not saying shoot 15 of them or anything, but just 5 or 6 to pull their bigs out in the zone a little bit would have helped.

There was one bad call that sticks out in my mind, I think it was Petty who got bumped on the sideline and lost the ball out of bounds and there was no foul called.  Coach Oats was very lucky he didn't get called for a technical, but I commend the officials for refraining from calling one in that situation.

I know I've said this before, but this loss pretty much ends our at-large tournament bid hopes.  Sure, we could go on a run and win 5 of 6 and be back in the conversation, but it's hard to see that happening.  In fact, I would rest Herb and try to get him back to 100% for the SEC tournament.  With a healthy and rested Herb, we would have at least a puncher's chance against anybody in Nashville with the possible exception of Kentucky, who we'll inevitably draw in the second round as always.

The crowd was very disappointing.  It's like my friend behind me said, "you would think we lost our last game by 40 looking at the crowd."  I know a 6 p.m. Wednesday night start is difficult for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.  It's impossible to get there from Birmingham leaving at 5, lots of people in Tuscaloosa go to church, students have classes, etc, but it has to be disappointing for a team to work so hard to beat LSU and auburn and then come out to a half-full at best crowd.  I would estimate about 7,000 people were there.

Up next, we travel to Oxford, MS to take on the Ole Miss Rebels at 7:30 on the SEC Network.  Personally, I'm looking forward more to the Wilder fight after.  Roll Deontay Roll.




Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Game Preview: Texas A&M


The win vs LSU this past Saturday was a big one for Alabama (14-11, 6-6; KenPom: 46; NET: 35), which included one of the best individual performances from a college basketball player that I've ever seen. Unfortunately, that game Saturday was just one of several important games for the team as the regular season enters its final three weeks. Let's be real: they're all important at this point. Next up: the Texas A&M Aggies (12-12, 6-6; KenPom: 170; NET: 132) come to town on Wednesday night. Game time is 6:00 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: Herb's performance on Saturday was so inspiring (for a lack of a better word) that it overshadowed great games by a number of other players such as Kira, Galin and Shack. If Alabama reaches the NCAA Tournament, Herb's one-handed free throws late in the game will join Collin Sexton's buzzer beater in the SEC Tournament and Trevor Releford's half-court buzzer beater vs Georgia as notable moments of the program in the last decade. Even if the team doesn't make the tournament, I won't ever forget the toughness, mentally and physically, that Herb showed in that game. It leads me to believe that if Herb had been healthier this season the team would be well on the right side of the bubble right now.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Tide Tames Tigers, Alabama 88 LSU 82




Confession:  I have a bit of a man-crush on Herb Jones.  He is quickly becoming one of my favorite players, ever.  This dude is out there two weeks after surgery for a broken wrist, on one arm, helping his teammates and having a huge impact in big games.  He doesn't have to be playing, and probably shouldn't be playing if we're being honest, but he WANTS to play, and it's obviously inspiring his teammates as well.  You might even say it was a "strong-ass" performance.  (Okay, I promise I'm done making fun of L$U's shenanigans, unless we play them again in the tournament of course).

Alabama held on for an exciting 88-82 win over a top 25 ranked LSU team to improve to 14-11 (6-6).  The win improves our NET ranking to 35 and revives our NCAA tournament hopes.   We are now the highest ranked NET team NOT being mentioned in the prominent bracket projections.  All we need is more wins, and we should be favored in most of the games remaining on our schedule.

LSU controlled the tempo early and the game got off to a slow start.  The teams were even through most of the first half.  We've struggled to finish the first half and start the second at times this year, but it was actually a strength in this game.  We made some 3s down the stretch to take an 11 point lead into the locker room, and then picked up right where we left off in the second half.

Galin provided us with a spark early in the second half as LSU struggled to defend the pick and roll and gave up some easy dunks.  LSU was not very good defensively in general.  We made 4 or 5 threes from the corner because they left it wide open helping on the drive from the opposite side baseline. 

I was also surprised by their decision to get back on defense rather than crash the boards on offense for most of the second half, after dominating us on the boards in Baton Rouge.  They seemed more concerned with limiting our pace than playing to their strength on the glass.

We built a 15 point lead and more or less answered their runs until Kira headed to the bench with his 4th foul with about 7 minutes remaining.  I thought we should have slowed things down at that point and tried to limit the number of possessions until we could get him back in at the under 4 timeout.  Meanwhile LSU started to press and crash the offensive boards, and we had some bad turnovers to allow them to make a run. 

It was a two possession game by the time Kira returned, and LSU had all of the momentum.  It felt like if we ever relinquished the lead, it would be bad news.  LSU's success in close games, and our lack thereof, to this point in the season is well documented.  Shack made a huge 3 to stretch a 1 point lead back to 4 in the final minutes.  And, of course, there was Herb Jones, shooting free throws using only his right hand and somehow making them both to maintain a two possession lead.  He's apparently even been practicing that, and it paid off.  If you've ever tried to shoot with your off hand just fooling around, you understand how amazing that feat was, particularly under those pressure circumstances.  As I told my gf at the game, if I try to shoot a free throw using only my left hand, it's probably not getting within 5 feet of the rim. 

Herb started and played 29 minutes, scored 6 points, had 2 blocks, a steal, and 17(!!!) rebounds against one of the best rebounding teams in the SEC.  Again, literally with one arm, and not even his good arm.  It was one of the most impressive performances I've ever seen, not just watching Alabama basketball, but in my entire life of watching sports.  It's not Michael Jordan playing with the flu in the NBA finals, but it's pretty close.

Kira had 27 points, 4 assists, and only one turnover for the second game in a row.  As noted above, I think his fourth foul was the main reason LSU was able to get back into the game.  He seemed to always come up with a big basket or assist when the Tigers would try to make a run.  As a team we only had 9 turnovers, though Beetle had 3 late in the game, and JP had a bad one in the back court that really hurt us down the stretch.  

Shack scored 26 and went 5 of 13 from 3-point range.  He's shooting with confidence, and I'd like to see him get more chances in high pressure situations.  He came through big time when given the opportunity in this game.  I also want to give some props to Galin Smith.  The perception from most was that Davis has passed him at the 5 spot, but Galin scored 10 points in 17 mnutes, was great in the pick and roll, and somehow made 6 out of 7 free throws.  He also added 6 rebounds.  

We were only out-rebounded 44-42, which given their size advantage we can live with that.  A lot of that was due to Herb's 17, and some of it was due to them opting not to crash the offensive boards for a significant portion of the game.  

As most of you know, Wendell Hudson's jersey was retired at halftime.  He is the first and only Alabama athlete, in any sport, to have his number retired, and this was long overdue in my opinion.  I've had the honor of briefly meeting Wendell on a couple of occasions, and you won't find a more classy and likable person. His love for the game and for our University is evident.  I was happy to see a great, near sell-out crowd on hand to show their appreciation.  It included several former players, including Mikhail Torrance, Donta Hall, and Lawson Schaeffer who were also recognized during the game.  Also, Coach Nick Saban and Miss Terry were present and sitting behind the basket to honor Wendell.  It was good to see them there, but also notable that they were not part of the official ceremonies, they clearly didn't want to do anything to take the spotlight away from Wendell and the basketball game.  Miss Terry was very much into the game, cheering on the team throughout and seemed to be having a good time.  Perhaps she will drag Coach out to some more basketball games in the future?  The whole crowd was in it from start to finish, the student section was awesome with several clever (but not crossing the line) chants directed toward Trendon "traitor" Watford and Will "Paid" Wade and the rest of his over-compensated roster.  It was one of the most fun games I've been to at Coleman in the last decade.

Up next, Buzz Williams brings his Texas A&M Aggies into Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Wednesday night.  This is a huge game,and a place where we've struggled in recent years, coming off a huge wins that bolsters our NCAA hopes.  There won't be the excitement of a top 25 team, Wendell's jersey retirement, and unfortunately probably not the level of crowd support due to the start time.  This team still has a lot of holes, and we'll need to bring our A-game to beat a very well coached team.  It's on SEC Network if you can't get to Coleman.  Roll Tide!



 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Game Preview: LSU


Alabama (13-11, 5-6; KenPom: 48; NET: 39) has battled valiantly this season, but are running out of chances for quality wins for their postseason resume. Another opportunity presents itself on Saturday when the LSU Tigers (18-6, 9-2; KenPom: 34; NET: 28; AP: 25) come to town for the second meeting of the season. LSU won the first game 90-76. Game time is 3:00 P.M. CT, and will be televised on ESPN2. As of Thursday, the university announced that there were less than 1,000 tickets remaining for the game. If not a sellout, it's going to be close to it for the biggest game of the year so far.

My Two Cents: I hate to say that any game is must-win, but this game feels like that. Alabama is 1-6 so far this season in quad one games. LSU will be a quad one opponent. In quad one/two games, our guys are just 5-10. Strong metric numbers and a strong schedule have kept Alabama in the bubble picture, but, having lost four of their last five, they have to start winning some games.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Barners Barely Beat Bama, auburn 95 Alabama 91 (OT)

The short-handed Tide gave it a great effort, but dropped to 13-11 (5-6) with an overtime loss on the road at auburn.  There are no moral victories, but there are a lot of positives to take from this game.

We didn't score in the first four minutes of the game while auburn jumped out to a 16-0 lead.  We probably should have called a timeout when it got to 8-0 or 10-0, but the team responded with a 7-0 run after the first media timeout to get back into the game and quiet the crowd.  I thought our guys showed a lot of poise in a very difficult environment all night.  Every time it looked like auburn might run away with the game, we would knock down a few 3s and claw back into it. 

We shot an SEC record 59 threes, and made a respectable 22 of them.  The barn's interior defense was very good, but I'm surprised Pearl stayed in the zone as much as he did allowing us wide open looks from the perimeter.  We even ran some ourselves this game, which I thought was the right call, but we just couldn't protect the rim or do anything with Austin Wiley in the paint defensively.

We only trailed by 3 at the half, but auburn stretched the lead back to 11 about midway through the second half.  Once again, our guys battled back, and auburn missed some late free throws allowing JP to make a 3 to tie the game with 14 seconds left.  Herb came up with a big defensive stop to force the game into overtime, but our guys were out of gas by that point, and after missing the first 4 threes in OT, auburn had an 8 point lead that was too much to overcome. 

Defensively we struggled to keep them out of the paint.  They killed us on the dribble drive, getting to the free throw line, and with Wiley in the post, where he also dominated the glass.  We were out-rebounded 60-44, Wiley had 18 points and 17 rebounds. 

Herb showed a lot of heart in coming back early from wrist surgery despite still having a cast on his arm.  Obviously he was very limited offensively, but he gave us 7 minutes of great defense, including 3 rebounds and an awesome blocked shot.  Shack had a great game with 28 points and 8 rebounds.  JP had 20, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range.  Kira had the team's first triple-double since 1996(!) going for 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists with only one turnover!  We only had 8 turnovers as a team, despite auburn pressing a good bit of the game.  Beetle had 11 points and 6 rebounds, and played solid defense, but he's still making some bad decisions by dribbling into traffic.  Jaylen stepped up big time with 11 points in 15 minutes.  He's developing nicely with the increased playing time in Herb's absence and seems to be playing with more confidence.  Alex had a rough night, only scoring 9 points in 30 minutes and shooting 2 for 10 from 3-point range.  I think unsuccessfully trying to defend Wiley took a lot out of him.

Up next, we're still dealing with SEC leading Tigers as LSU will bring a strong ass team to Tuscaloosa Saturday for a 3 pm tip-off.  If we can somehow get a win, we will be very much back into the NCAA tournament discussion, so let's pack the house and give this team the support they deserve!  If you can't make it Coleman, the game will be televised on ESPN2.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Game Preview: at Auburn


With their three-game losing streak in the rearview mirror, Alabama (13-10, 5-5; KenPom: 49; NET: 42) will remain on the road when they travel to mojo land to face the Auburn Tigers (21-2, 8-2; KenPom: 30; NET: 15; AP: 11) on Wednesday night. Game time is 6:00 P.M. CT, and will be televised on ESPN2.

My Two Cents: 21-2 is 21-2, don't get me wrong. But it's worth pointing out that the computers don't love Auburn. Despite their lofty record, they're only ranked 30th at KenPom and their composite ranking when taking all of the metric sites into consideration is just 15. It should be pointed out here that Auburn does have the highest composite ranking of any team in the league, but it's rare for a power conference team with Auburn's record to be ranked outside the top 10. To their credit, Auburn has found ways to win games this season. In recent weeks, they've overcome double digit second half deficits in games at Ole Miss, Arkansas and at home this past weekend vs LSU. All three of those games went into overtime. For the season, Auburn is 4-0 in overtime games. In games decided by 1-2 possessions, the Tigers are 5-0. In the least surprising news where it concerns an Auburn athletic team, this Tigers team is ranked 1st in the country in KenPom's "Luck" metric......because of course they are. Alabama is ranked 326 in the country in that same metric.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Bama's Bleeding Stops with Bulldogs, Alabama 105 Georgia 102 OT

Alabama snapped a 3 game losing streak by going on the road and beating Georgia in overtime, 105-102. Bama improves to 13-10 overall, 5-5 in the SEC.

I missed the first few minutes of the game, because the first bar we went to only had 3 TVs and there was one group watching a race, another group watching a soccer game, and another group watching the XFL game.  Unfortunately, that's where Bama basketball ranks in the sports world around here these days.

The first half was back and forth, with neither team playing any defense.  We weren't shooting particularly well, but the dribble-drive was working.  We led 45-41 at the half.  Another slow start to the second half allowed the Bulldogs to build a 12 point lead, but our guys kept fighting and responded in a big way.  We made a few 3s in a nice run to re-take the lead just 4 minutes later.  We should have won in regulation, but once again failed to finish the game strong.  Kira and JP missed several free throws down the stretch that gave UGA the opportunity to force overtime.  The same thing happened after we had a lead late in the overtime period, but thankfully UGA missed a 3 at the buzzer that would have forced a second overtime.

It helped that Anthony Edwards was not 100%.  We played pretty good defense on him, but he still ended up with a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.  Wheeler killed us going left with 24 points, and I wish we would have tried to force him to go right at some point.  With the exception of Beetle and to some extent JP, our defense was poor.  Their guards were getting to the rim at will, but thankfully we were able to to do the same.

Kira had a great game with 37 points, 7 assists, and perhaps most importantly only 3 turnovers.  We only had 14 turnovers, which is still too high but at least manageable.  JP had 21 points and 7 rebounds and I thought played a solid game overall.  Davis had 13 points and 8 rebounds.  Getting those kinds of numbers from him in the 5 spot is huge.  Beetle had 11 points and 6 rebounds and was one of the few playing good on ball defense.  I thought he made a little bit better decisions with the basketball, not over-dribbling quite as much as he has in recent games.  Shack was also in double figures with 10 points. 

Thanks to the Atlanta United FC being in town (and shout out to my Legion for giving them a hell of a game before falling 3-2), there were as many UGA fans as Bama fans where we ended up watching it.  They seem to be losing patience with Crean, and I can't say that I blame them.

Up next, a trip to the cattle college on the other side of the state.  Tip-off is set for 6pm Wednesday night on ESPN2.  My advice is to drink heavily, as it will probably not be pretty.


Friday, February 07, 2020

Game Preview: at Georgia

Well, it's February. The month of broken dreams if you're a Crimson Tide fan. Tuscaloosa News columnist Cecil Hurt pointed out on Wednesday night that, since 2017, the program is 11-21 in conference regular season games in February/March. That record includes a 6-10 home record. Nate Oats wasn't the coach over that entire span, but an 0-2 start to the month - both losses at home - doesn't fill one with confidence that the February blues are going away any time soon. But Saturday brings a new opportunity, this time on the road, when Alabama (12-10, 4-5; KenPom: 49; NET: 44) travels to Athens for a date with the Georgia Bulldogs (12-10, 2-7; KenPom: 95; NET: 90). Game time is 5:00 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: Both of these teams have been guilty of losing games in which they have led by double digits. Both teams led the Florida Gators by 21 in the second half in Gainesville, but lost. Georgia also led by 20 at Missouri, and lost. We all know the struggles that Alabama has had holding onto to big leads. There has been no shortage of jokes about the team that falls behind early by double digits in this game will be the likely winner.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Tennessee Tackles Tide, Vols 69 Bama 68

Alabama blew another big lead at home to Tennessee to drop to 12-10 (4-5).

Things started sluggish for both teams, until we made a barrage of 3s to go on a 16-2 run which helped build a 15 point lead with around four minutes remaining in the first half.  Another poor end of the first half and an even worse start to the second allowed Tennessee to go on a 18-2 run, and soon the lead was gone. 

Monday, February 03, 2020

Game Preview: Tennessee


If one were to meet someone that believes the Alabama (12-9, 4-4; KenPom: 46; NET: 41) men's basketball program is snake-bitten, it would be difficult to argue otherwise based on the number of players that have missed game and practice time this season. With three players already on the bench due to injury or eligibility, the team was without Herb and Beetle on Saturday. The team responded with a good effort despite the limited roster, but fell short to a good Arkansas team. Now they must recover quickly because another tough game awaits on Tuesday night when the Tennessee Volunteers (12-9, 4-4; KenPom: 65; NET: 70) come to town. Game time is 6:00 P.M. CT, and will be televised on ESPNU. Coach Oats anticipates Herb being out of the lineup for three weeks, but he did mention in his postgame press conference that Beetle is "probable" for Tuesday night.

My Two Cents: Losing Herb indefinitely could not have come at a worse time for this team as they struggle to put together a postseason resume. Herb may not be the best player on the team, but he's arguably the most important. As DJC pointed out in his recap of the Arkansas game, Herb has the best plus/minus on the team. For a team that already had its fair share of issues on defense, losing arguably the best defender in the league is not ideal.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Hog Wild, Arkansas 82 Alabama 78

The short-handed Tide dropped their second home game of the year, losing to Arkansas to fall to 12-9 (4-4).

The big news of the day was that Herbert Jones had surgery on his wrist and will likely miss about three weeks.  To say that's a huge blow to this season is an understatement.  This team was already thin, and we simply don't have anybody else capable of defending and rebounding like Herb.  For all the complaints about his inability to shoot or finish on the offensive end, he's consistently had the best plus/minus rating on the team and is the most frequent winner of the coveted hard-hat award.  It's going to be very difficult to win games without him.

In addition to Herb's absence, Beetle was still out with his GI issue, and Raymond Hawkins was quarantine from the team with the flu.  So the team went to battle with only 7 players, which is not ideal for this system.

Alabama started out on fire, building an early 12-0 lead, but they just didn't play well enough defensively to maintain it.  Arkansas chipped away and took the lead in the first half, but Alabama managed to lead by 3 going into the break.  It was a back and forth game, with the Tide leading as late as 4 minutes to play, but they simply made too many turnovers and couldn't get enough stops.  Arkansas made their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

We ended up with 17 turnovers that Arkansas converted into 27 points.  Conversely, we only scored 13 points off of the Hogs 10 turnovers.  Credit to Jones and Whitt from Arkansas who killed us on the dribble drive and ended up with 30 and 26 points respectively.  Shack played great defense on Isiah Joe, but everyone else struggled defensively.  Alex fouled out, and we had 3 other guys playing a number of minutes with 4 fouls. 

Shack had a great game with 28 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and only one turnover.  Alex had 14 points and 7 rebounds.  Kira played the whole game and ended up with 12 points, but only 3 assists to 7 turnovers.  JP was back in the starting lineup and scored 8 points with 9 rebounds, but also coughed it up 4 times.  We really need Kira and JP to step it up on both ends of the floor with Herb out, but it wasn't the best performance from either of them.  Jaylen played 18 minutes and had 9 rebounds. 

It was another good crowd of about 12,000, and the fans were loud and supportive till the end.  I thought it was a good atmosphere and the team played hard, they just didn't have the depth necessary to beat a solid team. 

Up next, a quick turnaround as the Tennessee Vols will come to Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Tuesday night.  The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Game Preview: Arkansas


With their four-game winning streak snapped at LSU on Wednesday, Alabama (12-8, 4-3; KenPom: 45; NET: 40) will need to recover quickly because a good Arkansas Razorback team (15-5, 3-4; KenPom: 35; NET: 38) will be in Tuscaloosa on Saturday evening. Game time is 5 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network. Arkansas has won six of the last seven games in the series.

My Two Cents: This is an important game for both teams. Alabama needs quality wins asap for its postseason resume, and the Razorbacks need a win to avoid falling two games below. 500 in league play. In recent seasons, Alabama teams have struggled to close out the season. I don't think this team or staff will face the same issues, but it's obvious that the team has not played its best in the last four games. To the team's credit, they went 3-1 in that stretch, but the chickens came home to roost in Baton Rouge. One of several reasons Arkansas has somewhat overachieved to this point in the season is they really play high-energy basketball every night out. If our guys come out sluggish, Arkansas will make them pay for it. Both teams are ranked in the top four in the league in tempo so expect a high-possession, likely high-scoring affair.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tigers Trample Tide, LSU 90 Alabama 76

A strong a$$ L$U team handed Alabama a blowout loss in Baton Rouge last night.  The Tide drops to 12-8 (4-3)

Beetle did not play due to illness, and Petty was benched for a poor practice performance. Reese and Shack stepped up and made some 3s early in the game to keep us in it, but the wheels fell off about halfway through the first half.  The shots stopped falling, and LSU continued getting 3 or 4 chances per trip.  They went on a 20-4 run that pushed the lead to 20, and led 51-33 at the half. 

We played better in the second half, and slowly chipped away at the lead to get within single digits, but a quick 6-0 run for LSU put the game away for good.  We only had 9 turnovers, but they were mostly unforced and came at the worst possible times.  We had two turnovers in that 6-0 LSU run, including a lazy inbounds pass under our own basket that was intercepted and layed up for an easy 2 points.  LSU scored 13 points off of our 9 turnovers, whereas we only scored 8 points from their 13 turnovers.

The game was primarily lost on the boards, where LSU dominated 49-31.  We couldn't stop the dribble drive, and had to play tentative defense much of the game due to foul trouble.  Shack had a great game with 21 points, and Alex played well with 17.  Kira scored 13 and had 8 assists with only 2 turnovers.  JP played 33 minutes off the bench but struggled with only 4 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 turnovers. 

This team has not played well since the auburn game.  I fear the lack of the depth and style of play may be catching up to them at this point in the season.  Coach's words about "leaders needing to lead" and "not practicing hard enough," are worrisome in light of JP's benching.  JP's benching was disappointing, as his effort in the games to this point has been outstanding, and his development and improvement this season has been a lot of fun to watch.  I suppose it's possible that he got a bit "big-headed" following all the positive press he's received over the last couple of weeks.  I agree with holding everyone accountable to the same standards, but I'm not sure I agree with Coach Oats publicly disclosing the reason for the benching.

This game was likely to go in the "L" column anyway, it was a bad matchup for us on the road and we were even more short-handed than normal.  This upcoming stretch of games is crucial to our season, in my opinion we need to go at least 3-2.

Up next, the Arkansas Razorbacks come to Tuscaloosa for a 5 pm tipoff Saturday night.  Arkansas is a very good team and we will have to play better than we have in our last 4 games to win it.  The weather is supposed to be great, and 5pm is a perfect tip-off time on a Saturday, so come to Coleman and support the squad.  They can use an energy boost from the crowd right now.  If you can't make it, the game will be televised on SEC Network.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Game Preview: at LSU


Having won eight of their last ten games, Alabama (12-7, 4-2;KenPom: 42; NET: 41) has started to pop up in the bracketology discussions that become fodder on the networks. In my opinion, it's a little early to start having that discussion, but that this team has a chance to be in tournament consideration after a 2-4 start is encouraging. Wednesday will provide a massive quad one opportunity for our guys when they travel to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers (15-4, 6-0; KenPom: 34; NET: 25). Game time is 6 P.M. CT, and will be televised on ESPN2.

My Two Cents: There's plenty to be critical of Will Wade about, particularly where it concerns the allegations that surfaced during the FBI trials regarding his recruiting methods. But you have to hand it to him and this group of players: no matter how the team may have been put together, they know how to win. The Tigers are on an eight-game winning streak; six of those eight wins have been by a margin of one or two possessions. Last season, en route to winning the regular season league title, the Tigers finished 9-2 in 1/2 possession or overtime games. You can be critical of the number of close games, but you have to admit these guys are clutch when it counts.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Surviving the Cat Fight, Alabama 77 K-State 74

Alabama survived a scare at home to improve to 12-7 (4-2) with a hard fought win over the Kansas State Wildcats in the SEC/Big 12 challenge.  The conferences fought to a tie this year, with each winning 5 games. 

On the positive side, we found a way to win, yet again, despite not playing a great game.  We also managed to win a close game, which is something we've struggled with to this point.  On the other hand, the sloppy ball handling continued to be an issue, and we were dominated on the boards, and we're going to have to clean up those areas against the better teams on our schedule.

It was a sluggish start, with K-State mostly controlling the tempo and the game for most of the first half.  Nevertheless, you had to feel like eventually we would go on a run to take control of the game, and we finally did, but not until the second half.  K-State led by 1 at the half, but we took the lead early in the second half and never relinquished it, although they had several chances to go back on top.  We went on a big run between the 16 and 12 minute marks in the second half to build a 16 point lead, but then we went cold and allowed the Wildcats to chip away and claw their way back into the game.  They had the ball with a one possession deficit several times late in the game, but we got the stops when needed and made just enough free throws down the stretch to hang on.

JP was called for a technical foul early in the second half, and by all accounts all he did was roll the ball to the official.  That was his fourth foul, and even though he wasn't having his best game, I thought that really contributed to the rebounding discrepancy as JP has been one of our better rebounders.  Credit to Shack and others on the bench for stepping up and going on a big run right after JP's unjust technical.

Not sure if they showed it on TV, but at one point after a K-State player fouled up, while the players were huddling with their respective coaches on the floor, one of the K-State guys tried to walk into our huddle during the 20 second delay that the coach has to designate his substitute.  The officials handled it well and got him out of there, but that's the kind of Busch league stuff that makes it no surprise they got into an embarrassing brawl with their superior in-state rival in their last game.

Kira proved his point after being benched by Bruce Weber on the national team.  He ended up with 26 points and 7 rebounds.  All of the other starters, Alex, Herb, Shack, and JP all were in double-digits with 11 or 10 points each.  Kira made his point, and then hugged Bruce Weber after the game.  For his part, Weber said all of the right things after the game as well.  They both handled the situation respectfully and with class, in my opinion.

The biggest issue with this game is how badly we were killed on the glass. We only had 3 offensive rebounds, they out-rebounded us 45-33, including a ridiculous 22-3 on the offensive end.  We were able to somewhat counteract that by driving the lane and getting to the free throw line, but rebounding has been a surprising strength of this team so far this year and we won't survive most nights giving up that many second chance opportunities.

I wasn't pleased with the way we managed the end of the game.  JP missed two free throws with a little over a minute left that would have been huge, but thankfully they returned the favor.  Overall, Herb has done much better at the line and made some huge free throws down the stretch to put it away, but at the end of the game, we had to in-bound the ball under our own basket with less than 3 seconds remaining and K-State having no timeouts.  First of all, that in-bounds pass should have been into the front court...even if you don't catch it, just get a hand on it and time runs off the clock and they aren't going to be able to get a good shot off, but instead we risk a pass in to our back court to Herb.  Now, ideally Herb would make the shot to go up 3 and then if he makes the second one wer're up 4 and it's over, but he missed the first one.  Still, even up only 2, I would have preferred he miss the second one on purpose as there were only 2 seconds left and K-State had no timeouts remaining.  It would take them one second to secure the rebound, and then all we have to do is not foul and take our chances on an 80+ foot heave to win the game.  Instead, we made the second one, which allowed them to inbound the ball without time running time off the clock and get a semi-decent look from half-court to potentially tie the game.  Thankfully it was off the mark.

The crowd was great, much better than last weekend.  I would estimate about 12,500, a near sell out, and everybody stayed positive and supportive even when the team was struggling.  An article in the Kansas City newspaper said it was the toughest environment the wildcats have faced in the SEC/Big 12 challenge so far! 

Not Alabama related, but as a basketball fan I must recognize the untimely passing of Kobe Bryant today.  He was undoubtedly one of the best to ever play the game, and I appreciate all he did for the game and I think I can speak for all basketball fans in saying that I feel terrible for his family and loved ones.

Up next, a trip to SEC front running LSU Tigers Wednesday night.  Tip-off is set for 6pm on ESPN2.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Game Preview: Kansas State [Big 12/SEC Challenge]


On Saturday, ten SEC teams will have an opportunity to pad their non-conference resumes for the final time. Alabama (11-7; KenPom: 42; NET: 38) will be one of those teams when they host the Kansas State Wildcats (8-10; KenPom: 91; NET: 89). Game time is 5 P.M. CT, and will be televised on ESPN2. Due to a time crunch, I'm going to try and rush through this preview (oh thank god, the readers say).

My Two Cents: Alabama got the win on Wednesday night at Vanderbilt, which was obviously a good thing. But it was a poor performance. Twenty-five turnovers on the road is going to get you beat most nights. Fortunately for our guys, they were playing a Vanderbilt team that is going through a really difficult stretch for the program. The Dores simply don't have many winning options right now. At first glance, K-State's 8-10 record may lead you to believe this will be an easy game. But if Alabama turns the ball over at the rate they did on Wednesday night, the Wildcats, unlike Vanderbilt, do have enough options to make Alabama pay for those mistakes.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Close the 'Dores, Alabama 77 Vandy 62

It wasn't always pretty, but Alabama cruised to a 15 point victory over the woeful Vanderbilt Commodores to improve to 11-7 (4-2).  The win is the third straight over Vandy for the first time in over 30 years, the second largest margin of victory at Memorial gym in the series, and the first back to back wins over Vanderbilt in Nashville since the mid 1980's.  Let me preface this recap by noting that I watched this game in a bar, with no sound, while also playing team trivia, so feel free to fill in any gaps that I missed.

JP took control of the game early by helping us build a 10 point lead with a barrage of early 3s.  Unfortunately, he also had a bunch of bad turnovers that let the Dores back into the game.  We didn't finish the half strong and only led by 6 at halftime. 

The defense played well throughout and we killed them on the boards.  This led to some transition opportunities and a quick 14-0 run pushed the lead to 20 in the second half and the game was over for all intents and purposes.  We made enough free throws to close it out, but slopped around with turnovers and let the score get a lot closer than it should have been.

After recent improvements, the 25 turnovers is more than a little concerning.  Many of these were terrible passes or just dribbling into traffic.  A team with a pulse would have beat us, but Vandy only managed 23 points off the turnovers, and we out-rebounded them 51-32.  No team is going to play well every night, some nights the shots won't fall and some nights we will revert to being sloppy with the basketball.  Good teams can still find a way to win when not playing their best, and that's what this team is doing.

JP was the leading scorer with a double-double, 23 points and 10 rebounds, but had 6 turnovers.  Kira scored 16, but had 7 turnovers.  Shack had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and won the hard hat award.  Herb had another solid game with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and notably zero turnovers.  He also made 6 of 7 from the free throw line.  Alex only scored two points but I thought he did a great job defensively.

The biggest concern from this game is Javion Davis going down with a knee injury.  We await the results of an MRI, but he just tweeted "I'm Good," so hopefully he will be back soon.

Up next, a break from conference play as Kansas State will come to Tuscaloosa for the SEC/Big 12 showdown.  Tip off is set for 5 pm Saturday evening on ESPN2.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Joe Lunardi LIKES US!

Drive by post and I apologize... but I took a peek at Bracketology and was kinda shocked to see us make an appearance:
Lookie where we are!

I do think those losses to Penn and Iowa State are going to cost us... unless we end up 11-7 or better in conference.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Game Preview: at Vanderbilt


Winners of seven of their last ten games, Alabama (10-7, 3-2; KenPom: 44; NET: 42) will be looking for its first true road victory of the season when it travels to Nashville on Wednesday night to face the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-9, 0-4; KenPom: 175; NET: 143). Game time is 8 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: The Dores are going through what you might call a bad stretch in the last two seasons and change. Vandy hasn't beaten an SEC opponent, including the SEC tournament, since March 3rd, 2018. That's twenty-four straight losses vs league competition. Ouch. In addition, last season and earlier this season, the program's best player (Darius Garland in 18-19; Aaron Nesmith this season) was lost to season-ending injuries. Garland elected to enter the NBA Draft despite his injury; and Nesmith, projected as a first-round draft pick in some mock drafts, may have also played his final game in a Vanderbilt uniform. In his absence the Dores have gone 0-3, losing those games by an average of twenty points. Ouch. To add insult to injury: in their previous game vs Tennessee, Vandy's 34-year streak of at least one made three-pointer per game came to an end with an 0-25 performance. Ouch. After the program fired former coach Bryce Drew, hiring an experienced coach to at least play the role of caretaker for a few seasons may have been the best call. Instead, Vandy hired a first-time college head coach in Jerry Stackhouse. The future is not yet written for Stackhouse in Nashville, but this season certainly doesn't appear to have a happy ending.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Tide Tames Tigers, Alabama 88 Mizzou 74

Mizzou set a conference record by making 31 of 31 from the free throw line, but Alabama gutted out a hard fought game to improve to 10-7 (3-2).

It started ugly with neither team able to take control until Alex got hot and made a few threes to build a 10 point lead.  That set the tone for the game, and while Mizzou clawed back to within a possession a few times thanks to their endless parade of free throws, our guys always had the answer.

We started Kira, Shack, JP, Herb, and Alex.  All five of the starters ended up in double figures.  While Mizzou's free throw record was quite an accomplishment, we also made 25 of 30 from the stripe and that was a big part of our ability to hang on to the lead in the final minutes.  I thought the officials generally called the game too tight on both sides.  The game did not have much of a flow, and I'll say it again, this is another example of why the NCAA should go to the quarters format.  I think we can all agree nobody wants to watch 61 free throws in a game.

Unlike the last two games, we were able to get much more 3s up.  We shot an adequate 13 of 39.  Alex was particularly hot in the first half, going 4 of 8.  JP went 4 of 10 and Shack was 3 of 9.  Beetle suffered a back injury and fouled out in only 8 minutes of action.  I thought he was playing well, especially battling through the injury, and two of his foul calls were total BS.  Speaking of BS, Doug Shows called a technical foul on our bench, and I've heard a couple of different accounts as to what happened.  Nate Oats was arguing with another official during a timeout over a questionable call, and some reports say Oats was warned not to "charge" an official, and Shows called him for walking toward the official.  Other reports say it was on Hodgson.  Oats was animated and on the court, but the technical should have came from the official he was having the conversation with, if at all.

Herb and Kira both did an excellent job of playing smart with 4 fouls down the stretch.  Losing Kira with 4 minutes or so to play would have been catastrophic with Beetle also out.  Herb won the hard hat again and had another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.  Herb was also 7 of 8 from the line.  Kira had 10 points and 7 assists.  JP led the way with 20 points, and Shack and Alex each had 17.

Notice I haven't said much about defense or turnovers.  Other than the fouls, we played pretty solid defense and only had 14 turnovers.  The improvement in these areas over the last couple of months is the biggest reason why we have a winning record and are still discussing our post-season chances right now.

The crowd was decent for a cool, rainy afternoon, I would say probably around 9,500 or so.  It wasn't the loud, emotional atmosphere we had for the auburn game, but the crowd was engaged and supportive when needed.

Up next, we travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores Wednesday night.  For the first time in the history of their program they failed to make a three-pointer against Tennessee Saturday, so we should probably be prepared for them to go 20 of 24 or so against us.  It will tip off at 8 pm on the SEC Network.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Game Preview: Missouri


One of the differences between good teams and mediocre/bad teams is that the good teams handle success well. Take the Baylor Bears for example. They won at Kansas for the first time in program history, and rose to #2 in the polls. What did they do for an encore? They returned home and beat a mediocre Iowa State team by thirteen points. They handled success. How will Alabama (9-7, 2-2; KenPom: 45; NET: 44) handle success? We'll find out on Saturday afternoon when they host the Missouri Tigers (9-7, 1-3; KenPom: 73; NET: 75). Game time is 2:30 P.M. CT, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: Wednesday night's win over Auburn was great for the program. The fan and student turnout was tremendous, the energy was palpable even watching it on television in the Lone Star State, and the players effort for forty minutes was satisfying to watch. If this team can remain healthy, I'm excited to see what they can become over the next month and a half. But the question above must be answered. In the past, when Alabama has hit a high, the inevitable low was not far behind. If the culture of this program is truly changing, it will be reflected in how focused this team is on Saturday when they take the court.  Are they still celebrating a win over Auburn, or are they ready to get down to business?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Barn Burned, but it wasn't a Barn-Burner; Alabama 83 auburn 64

Alabama blew out previously undefeated and 4th ranked auburn to improve to 9-7 (2-2) on the season.  The win improves the team's NET ranking to 44th.

It's encouraging that this team is finding new ways to win games.  The 3 point shot wasn't there last night, but the Tide made up for it with defense,, rebounding, driving the lane, and free throws.

JP hit an early 3 to give Bama a 5-0 lead and set the tone.  The Tigers struggled mightily from the field and from the free throw line in the first half, while Alabama's offense was only marginally better.  We methodically built a 14 point lead, but allowed auburn to score the last 5 points of the half so we only led 36-27 going into the locker room.

The end of the first half and beginning of the second half gave me flashbacks to the Florida game.  The war eagles cut the lead to 3 by the 15 minute mark, but we almost immediately pushed it back to 8.  We only shot 6 of 21 from 3-point range, but those six makes all seemed to come at crucial moments when auburn was trying to make a run.  The final one by Kira to stretch the lead from 11 to 14 essentially put the game away.

Once again, the bigs played well in mitigating an apparent mis-match.  Austin Wiley had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds but was limited to only 20 minutes of playing time.  We put Alex in at the 5, and Wiley didn't have the quickness to defend him.  We drove the ball at him and got him in foul trouble.  At one point we ran 3 or 4 high ball screens with Alex in a row, and that put Wiley in the difficult position of having to stay near the perimeter or switch on a guard.  Bruce pulled him out of the game after Beetle burned him on a couple of switches. 

They were killing us early on the boards, but thankfully weren't able to cash in, as they had several possessions where they missed 3 or 4 shots.  The rebounding improved as the game went on, and we were only out-rebounded by 2.  Rebounding is a team effort with this squad.  Often the guards crash and may not be able to secure the ball, but they at least are able to tip it away from the opposing center to give another teammate a chance. 

The Plainsmen tried the Kentucky game-plan of running us off the 3-point line, but they don't have the size on the wings that UK does, and without Wiley to protect the rim, Kira was able to destroy them on the dribble drive.  When we didn't score we got to the line and made 29 of 37 free throws compared to auburn's 17 of 30.

Kira ended up with 25 points including 8 of 9 from the line.  Herb had an outstanding all-around game.  He finished with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds and was a lock-down defender, drawing several charges.  Alex was 3 of 6 from the three point range and finished with 13 points.  Beetle had 11 points and was a force defensively.  JP only scored 7, but he had 7 rebounds and also played solid defense.

The crowd was a big factor in the game.  It was a packed house, and the atmosphere was as loud throughout as I can ever remember.  auburn had not played in that type of hostile environment yet this year, and I think our guys fed off the energy.  I think we actually got a little bit of "home cooking" from the officials for a change as well.  Any time a questionable call would go against us, we would almost immediately get the "make-up" call.  Barners will whine about it, but that's life on the road in the SEC and I fully expect to be on the other end of it when we go to their cow pasture next month.  the officials are never the difference in a 19 point game. 

 There were about 1,000 auburn fans at the game, mostly up in the corners but also scattered throughout the better seats, including a group near us.  They were loud and could be heard chanting "Let's Go auburn" during their second half run, but they were quickly drowned out.  The ones near us weren't bad, except for complaining about our student section being "classless."  Yes, they were chanting "F$%! you, auburn!" but that was in response to Daniel "who took my ACT?" Purifoy taunting them and flipping them off (after a freaking free throw, no less).  I hope McLemore got a good look at our faces as we serenaded him with Rammer Jammer.  The only thing that could have made this game better would have been a late game rendition of Dixieland Delight.

Up next, let's see how this team handles success.  Mizzou comes to town Saturday for a 2:30 pm tipoff, and we need the same type of home court advantage.  I can't imagine anybody going to the auburn game and not wanting to come back, so hopefully we will have another packed house.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Game Preview: Auburn


The beginning of conference play for Alabama (8-7, 1-2; KenPom: 53; NET: 60) hasn't been without struggle, but the team is clearly improving. The next step is achieving a signature win. The Auburn Tigers (16-0, 3-0; KenPom: 16; NET: 6; AP: 5) would definitely fit the bill. A season after making its first Final Four in program history, the Tigers are currently one of two unbeaten teams remaining in college basketball. Game time on Wednesday night is 8 P.M. CT, and will be televised on ESPN2.

My Two Cents: This is a big game for Alabama for several reasons: 1) a win would count as a quad one win for Alabama 2) a win would even up the conference record 3) it would provide a boost to a fanbase that is excited by the improvement on the floor, but not always in the win/loss record, and 4) Alabama needs to reassert itself in this rivalry as Auburn has swept them in two of the last three seasons.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Shooting in Kentucky was Sucky. UK 76 Alabama 67



Alabama died by the 3 in Lexington to fall to 8-7 (1-2).  Give Kentucky and Coach Cal a lot of credit for limiting our production from behind the 3 point line.  Alabama did nearly everything else they had to do to win this game, but could not overcome a woeful 4 for 21 performance from downtown.

I actually thought we played pretty good defense, but Kentucky did a good job of taking what we gave them.  You sort of have to pick your poison against a team with so many weapons, and we generally allowed them to take jump shots.  I was encouraged by the number of mid-range jumpers they were taking, as that's generally the worst shot in basketball, except for the fact that they made nearly every one of them.  They aren't known as a great 3 point shooting team, so of course they made 9 of 15 against us.

A big part of our poor shooting was due to Kentucky's game plan to run us off the 3 point line.  Still, when we did have open chances in transition, we didn't take advantage.  We got enough stops and rebounds to hang in the game, but still trailed by 10 at halftime.  They stretched the lead to 15, but our guys never quit and scrapped their way back into the game.  JP heated up a bit in the second half, and we were able to pick up the tempo and take advantage of some nice backdoor cuts as we clawed back into the game.  With around 4 minutes left in the game Herb missed an open 3 from the corner that went in and out that would have cut the lead to one.  We still only trailed by 4 in the final minute, but Kentucky ran a great play out of a timeout to make a corner 3 to go up by 7 and that more or less put the game away.

The stats are a bit misleading in this one.  Herb was our leading scorer with 18 points, 4 assists, and one turnover with seven rebounds, and while he did a great job on the boards, played awesome defense including taking a couple of charges, and played with great effort, he was a liability on offense for stretches of the game.  He was 8 of 20 from the field, and most of those 12 misses were in the paint.  In fairness, they were contested for the most part, but he's just not good at finishing near the basket, and we can't have him taking 20 shots right now.  With a few glaring exceptions, UK's help side defense was good, and Kira and JP just don't have the size or strength to finish over Kentucky's bigs, and with the 3's not falling and UK not collapsing their defense, that meant Herb taking and missing a lot of layups in traffic.  Beetle struggled going 0 for 6 and Shack only took one 3 in 18 minutes of play.  Again, this goes back to Kentucky's game plan of over-playing the perimeter.  I thought Jaylen Forbes played well in his 3 minutes and he made his only 3 point attempt of the game.  With his size, perhaps he should have taken some of Beetle or Shack's minutes in this one.  I know his first step isn't the quickest, but I would have at least given him a chance to show what he could do on the dribble drive.

JP had 16 points and 7 rebounds.  One of those rebounds was probably my favorite play of the game.  JP took a long 3 from the wing, missed it but followed his shot and got an easy rebound and put back.  It was obvious UK didn't want to run with us, and that allowed him to crash the boards.  I love that our system allows the guards to crash the boards and I would like to see our wings following their shot more.  Anybody who has played the 2 guard knows that you normally know where your misses are going before anyone else.  In general, I thought our effort was fantastic.  We were even on rebounds despite them being the larger and more athletic team, and we out-hustled them for several loose balls.

Kira was also in double digits with 10 points and led us in rebounds with 8.  We only had 8 turnovers, so the trend of improvement in that area is a positive sign.

The place was packed as usual, and they have replaced the upper level sideline bench seating with individual chair-back seats, but we still had the dreaded benches behind the basket and in the corner.  The UK fans we talked to are NOT happy with the renovations as that lowered the capacity by 3,000 or so.  I will say that our corner, bench seats did not seem as cramped as the higher level seats we've had there in years past.  The capacity there is now around 22,000, and it was mostly full except for a few empty seats in the very upper rows.  As usual, the UK fans could not have been more welcoming and classy.  They were knowledgeable and generally curious about our team, asking a lot of questions, and complimentary of our team and effort in general.  I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I really respect their program and their fanbase and wish them nothing but the best.

Normally I am checking stats and other scores on my phone during timeouts, but both my girlfriend's and my home were either in or near tornado warnings during the game, so we were both checking our radar apps and twitter for damage reports throughout the game.  Thankfully everything ended up being fine but it certainly added another layer of stress and distraction.  I hope all of our readers made it through the storms okay.  The drive and up back was miserable, with heavy downpours and rains adding at least an hour each way.

Up next, 5th ranked and undefeated auburn comes to Tuscaloosa to suffer their first loss of the season.  Yeah, I'm calling it.  It will go down Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.