Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Suppose It's Time To Abandon My Alliteration Schtick

now that BobbyJack has joined DJC in plagiarizing it because they both can get to computers before I can get back to Mobile. It's probably all for the best. The other three posters are the ones' whose work should be read because I don't know that much about basketball. I'm really just a fan and supporter of the team.

The little I can add to what already has been posted is that Torrance did not seem to be himself. DJC constantly wondered about about the previous coach's substitution "patterns." Last night it looked like Coach Grant sat Torrance form much of the first half so he could have legs to run the team late in the game. Torrance still looked tired but rose to the occasion when he was needed.
Coach Grant also sat Hillman for a substantial stretch in the middle of the second half, apparently knowing that his defensive intensity would be crucial down the stretch. There may have been much more to the bench's thinking than my untrained I could notice, but at least that much of it makes sense to me and that seldom was the case during the previous three or four years.

Two other points that merit notice are Hillman's play after TSU cut the Tide lead to two in the sceond half. His defensive pressure, along with Brock's, generated three or four turnovers that led to quick Bama baskets. Hillman's feeds to Green under the basket were the finishing touches that made all of those points possible. It also looked like Bama finally hit two three point shots, again one of them by Hillman, that opened things up underneath the basket for the post players down the stretch.

One of the officials looked like a smaller version of Tim Tebow and his blocking calls against the home team baffled me on two separate plays. How the ball handler can be fading away from the basket while tossing the ball into the basket while the defender falls away in the opposite direction could constitute a contact foul makes no sense to me. If that guy becomes a regular at SEC games I'm sure crowds everywhere will chide him as "Tebow" every time he makes an unpopular call. Other than those two and a couple of others, I thought the guy did a pretty decent job, but that did not stop me from voicing my displeasure.

Like DJC says, a win is a win. Alabama rose to the occasion when it needed to, thanks to focused effort and very good direction from the bench. For those of you who have not yet done so, you should take a look at what the schedule and results have done to Alabama's RPI over the last four weeks. Kudos to Coach Grant, the staff and the team.

Tide topples TSU Tigers

A win is a win, but this one wasn't pretty. We've played a number of subpar non-conference teams at this point, and I think everybody is looking ahead a bit to SEC play. Combine that with the fact that Tony Mitchell and Greg Cage were out with the flu reducing our number of scholarship players available to 8, and all the recipes for disaster were present against a bad but scrappy TSU team.

As I mentioned, Tony Mitchell was out with the flu, but I'm not convinced he's the only one on this team who was feeling a little under the weather last night. Torrance did not look like his usual self, and overall the energy level just was not there. We gave up way too many wide open 3's, and the Tigers were knocking them down. When we switched to a 2-3 zone later in the game, we did a better job of closing out and actually defended the perimeter a little better.

In the first half our offense looked horrible. We had several turnovers trying to get the ball into the post. TSU did not have the size down low, but they were more physical than Green, Knox, and Hines in the early going. The refs were letting them play, and TSU was taking advantage by holding and pushing to keep the ball out of there. We were slow to adjust, and that cost us in the first half. Green's frustration showed when he got a technical foul, apparently for saying something to one of the TSU players. In the second half, they started calling it a little bit tighter and we also made the necessary adjustments to allow Green to have another huge day, as he finished with 19 points. He also had an amazing one handed alley-oop that should have been on Sportscenter's top plays.

Senario Hillman was the key to the game. He played consistent and under control, with 15 points and 6 assists to only 1 turnover. As usual, he was a force on defense and got some steals that led to quick, easy baskets.

TSU was able to make enough shots to keep the game close, and it was a 2 point game with only 7 minutes left. Thankfully, Torrance and Brock stepped up with a pair of threes to stretch the lead back out to a comfortable margin. Free throw shooting continues to be an issue, as we went 20 of 29. Honestly, I am surprised we made that many, at one point we missed 4 in a row. Green and Torrance are typically 2 of our better FT shooters, but Green was only 3 for 7 and Torrance was 7 for 10.

Under normal circumstances this is a team that we should have blown out. However, dealing with sickness and injuries, the uptempo style of both teams is certainly not conducive to playing with 8 players, particularly when only 7 of which are legitimate scoring options. Despite another poor start, we still got away with a double-digit win.

The crowd was surprisingly strong, I would say about 7,000 or so. A lot of people came out for the double-header, as the women beat USM before the start of the men's game. Up next, our last non-conference game of the year and first true road game, Monday, Jan. 4, at Toledo. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. Central time. Originally, I had considered making this trip, but since I'm going to Pasadena later in the week to watch football, I'm going to have to sit this one out. Happy New Year to all, and may this next decade be a prosperous one for Bama Hoops!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Torrance tames Tigers 77-65

Actually he had a unusually crappy game, but the title sounded nice so I went with it.

Box score

Hillman and Green had solid games...

The good:
- held TSU to 33.3% FG
- blocked 10 shots (how that happened is a mystery)
- Hillman stepped up his play. 6 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.

The bad:
- Torrance didn't have his best game (turf toe reported in comments)
- outrebounded (by 1)
- TSU got too many open looks beyond the arc.
- FT shooting (20-29)

Overall it's what to be expected of a game against a foe like this. We were sloppy, but turned it on and pulled away in the last 5 minutes of the game.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tennessee St stats pack


They're 3-9 which sounds awful, but they've been competitive against most of their competition.

I'll give you the basic stats as I haven't seen them play

- 40.2% FG
- 35.1% 3pt FG
- 72.3% FT
- 66.8 PPG
- 17.3 turnovers per game

Prediction: They'll stick around like they have in most games, but in the end it's too much Green, too much Torrance, and too many turnovers as Bama wins by 16.

Tipoff is 7:30PM CST.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas To Bama Basketball Fans Everywhere

I hope you all enjoy a safe and happy holiday season. I know Alabama fans everywhere are hoping to get the biggest Christmas present of all January 7th. Please remember there are two more hoops contest before then, including a home game on December 30th, and the SEC opener in Baton Rouge on January 9th. If anyone knows how to get tickets I think I would like to ride over for that one. Please let me know.

Finally, please remember the reason for the season and spend as much time as you can with those you love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bama bashes Bears 90-71

A ho-hum game which we dominated. I was impressed with the crowd... more than I thought would be there for a game 2 days before Christmas.

Box score

JaMychal Green led the team with 27 points. He was unstoppable inside. 3 others hit double digit points.

Good to see the team rebound from a tail kicking.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mercer stats pack

Here you go

Long story short, Mercer is horrific. They're perfect on the road (0-3) and have lost 4 of their last 5 with their most recent loss to Vanderbilt by 40. James Florence (seems like he's been there 10 years) is the guy to stop offensively with Daniel Emerson doing the dirty work on the boards.

- 41.7% FG
- 31.5% 3pt FG
- 68.2% FT
- +5 rebound margin
- 14 turnovers a game

Prediction: I expect a bounce back game from the mauling by Kansas State (the best team we've played all season). All wrongs will be righted tomorrow as the far end of the bench should get some junk minutes. Bama by 18.

Game time is 8PM EST 12/23 and viewable on Tide TV

If you are in Bham or Tuscaloosa make your way down there... tickets start at $5.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Auburn attendance vs Sam Houston St

I get on to our local Tuscaloosa inhabitants from time to time (especially the students) for not going out to see Bama basketball, but after seeing this I guess I have no reason to criticize them anymore. Say what you will about this... make fun of it if you like, but this apathy regarding basketball in the state is sad. I can't imagine how disheartening it must be for Auburn basketball players to see a gathering at their game.

I'll say it... I like Jeff Lebo the basketball coach. I hate he's coaching Auburn, but suspect he'll be gone at seasons end. He's a decent coach stuck in a dreadful job. I suspect he'll be an assistant at a major school next year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wildcats impose will on Bama, 87-74

We were simply overmatched tonight. Much like Purdue, although maybe not quite to the same extent, K-State was as big and quicker than us at nearly every position. Unlike Purdue, they didn't play like crap for a half and let us hang around. Once again, we got off to a horrible start, and K-State had us doubled up in the first half at 40-20. Torrance seemed to be pressing a bit in front of his hometown crowd. K-State was more physical than us and simply outworked us. They pretty much shut down our inside game, but we were able to get open looks from the perimeter.

Unfortunately, our 3 point shooting was very poor, and that was the difference in the game. Our press was actually pretty effective, causing 22 turnovers, but we couldn't run it as much as we would like due to our offensive difficulties. Torrance rebounded from a slow start to have a pretty solid game, despite playing with 4 fouls. Green fouling out really hurt us down the stretch. The positive from this game is that we never gave up, despite the fact that the game appeared to be a woefully lost cause at times. There were a couple of possessions where I felt we didn't give the best effort after getting beat on defense, but for the most, our guys kept fighting. We cut the lead to 8 with about 7 minutes left after a rare 5 point play, and got a stop at the other end but turned the ball over immediately when we overthrew the outlet pass. K-State capitalized and went on a 8-0 run to stretch the lead back to 16 and put the game away.

I was disappointed with the crowd. K-State brought a lot of fans and probably had close to 25%. Plus, USA's band for some reason felt the need to support to Kansas State and taunt our players throughout the game. It made me proud that my boy Mike Davis and his squad from the 'ham was able to stick it to them in the first game. Also of note, Gene Bartow sat right beside me between the games. He was surprisingly very nice, and while I was polite and courteous, I also made sure he knows that I did not appreciate his antics with regards to Wimp Sanderson and the NCAA.

Up next, we got our chance for revenge on Mercer Wednesday night at 7pm in Tuscaloosa. Tickets are only 5 bucks, so no reason not to come out.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Quick Kansas St stats pack

I've been sleep deprived for about 4 days so forgive me.

#17 in the country with a VERY impressive win at UNLV and wins against Washington State and Xavier... this is one of the surprise teams in the country. I thought they'd drop quickly when Huggins left them for West Virginia, but Frank Martin has done a nice job there.

From the KSU website if you want to read their preview.

- 81.6 PPG
- 47.2% FG
- 37% 3pt FG
- +4.3 rebound margin
- 14.8 turnovers per game

Prediction: neutral site game that should be mostly Alabama fans... but I don't think we have an answer for Jacob Pullen. We match up size wise with them nicely (they have a 7 footer, but he sees limited action), but something about this game doesn't sit right with me. Kansas State by 8 in Mobile.

Game time is around 8PM CST on CSS. 7:30PM is the official tipoff, but I suspect it'll be closer to 8. I'll probably follow it on the net.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ain't That A Kick In The Teeth?

Most other bloggers would substitute a harsher word beginning with the letter "b" for the last four letters in the title line, but we're trying to run a clean shop here.

For every other game I have to drive seven hours round trip to sit in Coleman Coliseum for 2 1/2 hours to watch Alabama play basketball. They are playing Kansas State not ten minutes from my house Saturday and I have to be in Montgomery to fulfill a family obligation. I've already given away my tickets and won't even be able to listen to the game on the radio.

If you are an Alabama Basketball fan, please drive to Mobile Saturday to support your team. Ticket information, such as it is, is available at this site. The Coors Classic supports a worthy cause and the games promise to be exciting. Coach Grant told the Mobile Tip Off Club that he and KSU Coach Frank Martin have been friends since they played against one another in high school and that he was excited about playing this game in Mobile. The Wildcats are 9-1 on the season with wins over Washington State, UNLV and Xavier. Hopefully I can post a link to their stats page.

I hope to read all about the game Sunday afternoon. (DJC, do you need to use my computer at my house to post your plagiarism?)

Roll Tide!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bama Blasts Bulldogs from Birmingham, 60-45

Alabama used it's depth, athleticism, and size to gradually pull away from an overmatched Samford team tonight. The first 10 minutes or so of the game were not pretty. Samford controlled the tempo, running a 2-3 zone on defense to go with their methodical Princeton offense. Green got off to a slow start as he seemed to be annoyed by Samford's success in denying him the ball. He was getting outworked on the boards, and Torrance made several bad decisions leading to turnovers. On the other end, we played a tight man to man defense to take away the perimeter but gave up some easy baskets on back door cuts. We gave up a couple of easy baskets against our 2-2-1 press because the man at the back (Green and Knox) was slow to getting down to the lane.

Fortunately, Torrance and Brock were able to knock down some perimeter shots, which opened up some lanes to work the ball to Green in the post. Despite the slow start, Green finished with 14 points. Torrance also turned around his slow start to finish with 15 points, but he also had 8 turnovers which is way too many. Once the offense started making some shots, the defense was able to take over the game. Samford was not able to get into their offense against our press, and we forced 20 turnovers.

Chris Hines had a very good game defensively. When I saw him matched up against a smaller player in Samford's 4 guard lineup, I was afraid they would run him through screens and get open 3's. Hines showed a lot of quickness and actually did a great job of playing defense away from the basket. He even ended up with 3 steals. Hillman and Tony Mitchell also had nice games defensively and on the boards.

We had an 11 point lead at the halftime, but we weren't able to build upon it until we went on another run around the 9 minute mark. We had a 20 point lead with 4 minutes to go, at which point Greg Cage came into the game and we pretty much called off the dogs. It was a very quick game, in part because the refs only called one foul against Samford in the second half.

With the students gone for Christmas break, it was a very small crowd, probably around 5,000 or so. The cheap admission brought out all kinds. My girlfriend had to explain to a grown man behind us (who apparently is a youth basketball coach, nonetheless) who Coach Anthony Grant is. I missed a few plays during the game because of kids and inconsiderate adults walking down the row while the ball was in play. Of course, the more people we have at the games the better, so I guess I shouldn't complain about those who actually come out, but it would be nice if they would actually watch the game; or at the very least try not to disturb those of us who are watching the game. Anyway, it was a solid win against an inferior opponent, as expected. We will need to play better this weekend, and I think we will.

Alias makes many trips per year to Central Alabama for basketball, but Saturday it will be my turn to travel south as we go to Mobile to play another top 25 team in Kansas State. The Wildcats are ranked #17 and have beaten UNLV on the road, Xavier, and Washington State all by 15 points or more. I watched them against Xavier, and they are very good. This will be a very tough game, so hopefully we can get a lot of Mobile area Bama fans to come out and help cheer on the Tide to another upset win. Tip off is tentatively scheduled for 8 p.m. It will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the South Alabama/UAB game, which starts at 5:30 pm CST at the Mitchell Center on the campus of South Alabama.

Samford game tonight

The Samford Bulldogs will make a short trip down I59 for a 7pm tipoff tonight. They come in with a record of 3-6, but they've played a fairly difficult schedule. The were competitive in the first half of games against Texas Tech and Texas A&M before losing by 20 or so. It will be interesting to see how their Princeton offense matches up with our aggressive defense. Their system is very similar to what Cornell runs, but thankfully they aren't nearly as good as Cornell, and we have improved since then. Still, this could be a dangerous game for us, in that it is the "sandwich" game against a fired up in-state opponent scheduled between 2 top 25 games. I suspect it will be a close game at halftime, but we should pull away and win easily in the 2nd half.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bama Bungles Boilermaker Blowout!

Edit (bobbyjack)- added Box score

I'm not kidding myself. The better, deeper team won tonight. The home team wilted down the stretch. Purdue is the number 5 team in the nation and their performance tonight demonstrated why.

Alabama's pressure defense and hot shooting helped them build a 16 point lead while the Boilermaker's second leading scorer and rebounder sat on the bench after picking up his third foul with more than ten minutes to go in the first half. Purdue used its depth and constant pressure on Alabama's point men to keep Bama from scoring a single bucket in the last 8 1/2 minutes of the game. When the Tide defense did force missed shots in the second half, the Boilermakers always seemed to be in position to grab the rebound and make a put-back shot.

Two crucial calls took some wind out of Alabama's sails while Purdue was making its run. Green picked up a blocking foul on what looked like a clear charge. Perhaps Green was set up too close to the basket under the new rule, but he clearly was set for more than the required length of time. The second was a "no call" when defensive specialist Chris Kramer fouled Torrance on a steal. Instead of Torrance shooting free throws, Kramer's layup padded Purdue's then slim lead.

The officials did not make the difference in this game. Several other close calls went Alabama's way earlier in the game, and the Tide probably could not have scored toward the end if LeBron James had been on the court with them. Purdue's experience and depth were the difference and Alabama did well to have stayed in front of them for as long as they did. Still, the loss must be a bitter pill for the team to have to swallow.

I'd estimate the crowd to have been well in excess of 12,000, including perhaps 1,000 Purdue fans. The visitors, a mixture of both traveling students and adults, encouraged their team enthusiastically throughout the game. I applaud them for that and enjoyed chatting with several of them before the game started, including Chris Kramer's parents.

It was really good to see so large a crowd show up for this important game on a cold rainy night when when most of the students already had headed home to enjoy their Christmas break. I hope this means Coach Grant will continue to schedule big name teams and that the fans will continue to support his efforts.

I'd say Alabama's performance tonight was similar to what we saw api do on the football field late last month. They showed up strong, spirited and well prepared. They gave a valiant effort against a better team and came very close to winning the game. Superior depth and talent won out in the end. I'm sure Coach Grant will use this to help the team continue to improve, as they have done throughout the season.

Congratulations, Purdue. You earned it. I hope your team enjoys tremendous success this season and plays it's way to the Final Four.

Roll Tide!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Purdue pressure D, rebounding, and bad Bama 2nd half shooting,

Allows Purdue to come back from 16 down to beat Bama. Disappointing loss considering how well we played the first 30 minutes or so. I'll break down stats tomorrow...
3 point shooting and free throws killed us. The team will be better down the road... Hard lesson to learn, but probably a good one for the long term health of the program.

Final score 73-65 Purdue. Damn.

Purdue stats pack


They have nice wins over Tennessee and Wake Forest, but this is easily their toughest road game to date. They have 3 legitimate scoring threats in E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Humel... all averaging double digits scoring. Collectively, they're not a good 3 pt FG shooting team so lets somehow clog the middle and take our chance with them outside. On paper we match up well with them... if Green can contain Johnson.

- 45% FG
- 33% 3PT FG
- +2.5 rebound margin
- 75.6% FT
- 80.1 PPG

Prediction: UPSET ALERT! Yes I realize they're #5 in the country, but I saw we find a way to win. Maybe I'm still in euphoria about playing for the national championship next month in Pasadena. Who knows. Anyways, Bama by 3. Green has a monster day.

Game is on ESPN2 at 9PM EST.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bama drills LA-Monroe 74-46

Box score

I didn't watch much of it to be honest, but what I did see was one team clearly on another level than its opponent. I'm guessing the crowd of about 1000 were treated to a glorified scrimmage. Let me be honest... there is no reason to schedule this game on the same day as the SECCG. Even an avid hoops fans like me can't get into this the day of probably the biggest football game in SEC history.

Anyways, I'll do better going forward.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Coach Grant Should Make The Team Watch The FSS SEC Hoops Preview

I watched it last night and it seemed like two-thirds of the other teams' offensive hi-lites clips were played against Alabama. We could not keep big men from forcing their way underneath the hoop and left way too many good shooters wide open behind the three point stripe. Bama is playing much better already this year, but he could hold that clip to show them later if they ever start to get over confident.

I guess there's no tv or radio coverage of today's game. If anyone has a link to an Internet audio I'd like to listen in.

Roll Tide. Let's win the basketball game and then take care of business this afternoon against the Gators.

Friday, December 04, 2009

LA-Monroe stats pack

Here you go.

They lost by 20 at LSU and 11 at Oklahoma... two teams that aren't supposed to be any good. Take that for what it's worth.

Anyways, Tony Hooper is the guy to watch on their team. He's led them in scoring 4 of 7 games. Lawrence Gilbert is their only other scorer putting up double digits.

They have one seven footer, but he doesn't see the court much.

- 44.7% FG
- 40% 3pt FG
- 72% FT
- rebound margin of -1.3
- 18.7 turnover per game

Prediction: We should force them into 20+ turnovers and coast along. Another scrimmage game of sorts with about 1000 or so at the game. Bama by 19.

Like last Saturday, there is another huge sporting event so it'll be hard to pay attention. Game is on tide TV... same link as other games. Noon tip off.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bama beats awful Ospreys, 73-51

First of all, Andrew Steele did not play as he was on crutches and wearing a boot. I did not even know he was injured, and I am still unaware of the nature of the injury or how long he will be out. If anybody has any information, please post it or let me know. I did not see the trainers looking at him during the Michigan game, so I assume it happened during practice.

Once again, we had a poor first half. Things started out good as our press forced a number of UNF turnovers and we were able to knock down some open outside shots to build a 16-8 lead. Unfortunately, we looked very lethargic and unmotivated the last 10 minutes of the first half. Eblen, Torrance, and Hillman all made some poor passes that resulted in turnovers. Justin Knox got into foul trouble once again. While we did a decent job of getting the ball into the post in the first half, Knox, Green, and Hines all missed a ridiculous number of close shots in the paint. With Andrew Steele out, we were forced to play Eblen a little more in the first half, and Greg Cage even got into the game. UNF was able to take advantage of our mistakes and a take a 1 point lead into the halftime. They had a 4 point lead until Tony Mitchell banked in a 3 at the buzzer.

Coach Grant was visibly upset with the lack of effort in the first half. He spent a lot of time speaking to the guys on the bench and seemed more vocal than usual. At one point I could hear him say, "Consistency every night...THAT is the difference." When the team came out of the tunnel to start the second half, Coach Grant did not look happy, and was shaking his head in disgust as he walked back to the bench.

The team responded in the second half. Tony Mitchell had a great all around performance. I had criticized him for shooting 3's earlier this season, but he went 3 for 3 tonight and scored 17 points. He also played good defense and pulled down several rebounds. Unfortunately, his night was cut short when he left the game at about the 9:30 mark with an injury. After going up for a shot near the basket he was under cut and landed hard. After remaining on the floor several minutes, he was helped to the locker room without putting any weight on his leg. He did come back out a few minutes later and appeared to be walking fine, but he did not re enter the game. Let's hope his injury is not serious, as we cannot afford to lose any more guys.

Frankly, I thought Mitchell's injury was the result of dirty play on the part of UNF. That was the 3rd or 4th time in a short span, in the midst of our run to put the game away, where they undercut us. I understand that will happen sometimes near the basket, especially when trying to get position for a rebound, but when it happens 3 or 4 times in a row, in particular when our players are already on their way back down, I have to question their intent.

Our game plan was to try to get the ball into the post, which makes sense considering the Osprey's are terribly undersized. However, they double and triple teamed Green, and got him frustrated by hacking away at him all night, and none of our other bigs could make a point blank shot. Thankfully our guards stepped up. I've already mentioned Mitchell's three point shots, but Charvez Davis and Anthony Brock also contributed from behind the arc. Torrance contributed with 15 points and was able to get to the line and knock down some free throws.

Overall, a good second half and a solid win against a team we were expected to beat. A number of factors could have contributed to the poor first half. It's dead week on campus and final exams are lurking in the near future. We had a short turnaround after a long road trip featuring 3 games in 4 days, which will take a toll on teams without a lot of depth. Finally, I think the initial 8 point lead came so easy, we relaxed thinking that merely going through the motions would be sufficient. Credit Coach Grant and the players for turning it back on and taking care of business.

The crowd was very small tonight, I would estimate around 2,000 or so and very quiet. It was a dead atmosphere, which was kind of disappointing considering the great showing we had in Orlando.

Up next, the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks will come to Tuscaloosa for a noon tipoff Saturday. They return all 5 starters and are coached by former Gottfried assistant Orlando Early. He's done a decent job with them, and they will be much tougher than UNF. Like many fans, I won't be able to make it to this game, as I will be on my way to Atlanta for the SEC Championship football game. Hopefully I will be able to listen to Chris Stewart on XM radio.

UNF (North Florida) stats pack

The Ospreys come in at an intimidating 1-4 with that only victory coming over Savannah St. I had no idea what an Osprey was until I googled it. Funny, I never saw this bird of prey in the 4+ years I lived in Orlando.

Anyways, UNF stats

Here's a quick synopsis of them:
- They don't score a lot (58.2 PPG)
- When they do score they're efficient (48.6% FG and 48.4% 3pt FG)
- They turn the ball over a bunch (almost 20 per game)
- 10 of 15 on the roster are sophomores or younger
- no one taller than 6'7"

Prediction: Pain and lots of it. We should absolutely maul them. East Tenn State did and I expect us to do the same. Alabama by 31.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bama upsets Michigan, 68-66.

This will be relatively short as I think Alias has already posted a solid recap. I don't think a lot of people realize how big this win is for us. Michigan was ranked #15 coming into this week. Obviously they won't be ranked as high after going 1-2 in Orlando, but nevertheless they are a border line top 25 type of team from a major conference, and to beat them on a neutral floor to take 3rd in the tournament is a great "resume building" win for us, not to mention the confidence it will give our young players in what Coach Grant is trying to accomplish.

The first half was not pretty. Once again, we fell down by 12 in the early goings. On the one hand, I love the poise, effort, and never give up attitude of this team. On the other hand, I would rather we not make a habit of digging ourselves a 10+ point hole in the first half. In the first half, we committed too many turnovers, gave up open shots, and generally played sloppy. Still, we were able to take advantage of some Michigan mistakes and make it a 5 point game by halftime.

I thought it was interesting that we started both halves in a 2-3 zone. In the second half it was more of a match-up zone, which was much more successful. While our 2-2-1 full court press did not force a lot of turnovers, I thought it was effective in forcing Michigan to rush things offensively and take some bad shots. After making some adjustments, I thought we did a good job on offense against their 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. Charves Davis made enough shots from the perimeter to keep them honest, and we were able to work the ball down to Green who had a huge day in the post. Green's play was especially critical considering Justin Knox's foul trouble. Torrance had a good day running point with 8 assists to 3 turnovers.

Again, this was a huge win for us. I believe John Beilein is one of the better coaches in the game, and Coach Grant out coached him today. We fell down 12 in the first half to a top 20 team, playing against a defensive system that we don't see very often, and we made the proper adjustments to come back and win. The crowd was split roughly 50/50, with a fair contingent of FSU people there who were supporting us for the most part. Our contingent of 250 or so was very vocal once myself and a couple of other guys encouraged everyone to get into it, and the team seemed to appreciate and feed off of the support. The arena was very small but also very nice, and everything was ran in a first class manner. Major Kudos to the folks at Disney for hosting a wonderful tournament.

Up next, North Florida comes to Tuscaloosa Wednesday night for a 7pm tipoff. For now, I hear Church Street calling. Roll Tide!

Bama Beats Big Blue

Alabama, coming from as many as twelve points down, scratched and clawed its way to the biggest win of the Anthony Grant era over the 15th ranked Michigan Wolverines. Michigan seemed to shoot threes almost at will for the first 25 minutes of this game while Alabama's guards could barely buy a trey. Most of Bama's early offense came underneath the basket as the guards tried to work the ball around Michigan's 1-3-1 zone. On the other end of the court, Michigan kept hitting threes and finding open looks underneath the basket.

The Tide got into early foul trouble, Hillman being the first player from either team to head to the bench with two fouls well within the first ten minutes of the first half. His presence was sorely missed on the defensive end where his quickness was helping to pressure the Big Blue ball handlers. Defensive intensity increased dramatically when he was inserted back into the lineup in the second half.

Torrance, who did not score many points in the first half, came on to hit a huge three and to make an important dish that finally gave the Tide a lead with about four minutes to go in the game. Knox had an important bucket and hit one of two free throws to maintain a one point Alabama advantage.

At the end of the game it was Green who made the last two big plays. Alabama rebounded a missed Michigan shot with about 32 seconds left on the game clock. Torrance dribbled around near mid-court killing all but about 12 seconds. Green, who eventually was voted the player of the game and scored 20 points, fielded a missed shot and slammed the rebound through the hoop. Then on the other end he swatted away Michigan's layup attempt before it could get to the hoop.

The win is the most important event of the night. The poise and patience necessary to work their way slowly back into a game they easily could have abandoned in the second half comes not far behind. Finally, the quality minutes earned by several of our new players against a quality opponent were extremely valuable.

I'm sure BobbyJack will post some more poignent comments and the game stats soon. DJC was at the game in Orlando. Hopefully MSmilie saw the game.

Roll Tide

Green's dunk and blocked shot helps Tide pull the upset 68-66

JaMychal Green puts in a dunk followup with under 56 seconds remaining and caps it off with a monster rejection as time expired to hold off Michigan.

Box score or this one

I missed the 1st half as I was coming back fro yet another football game. I know in the 2nd half that Green dominated while Torrance hit some big 3s and set up his teammates nicely on some easy baskets. Charvez Davis carried us in the 1st half with his outside shooting (from the commentary).

The good:
- outhustled Michigan in the 2nd half
- Green and Torrance took over
- held Michigan to 38% FG and 24% 3PT FG

The bad:
- turned the ball over a bunch on steals
- 19 turnovers (addendum to above)

Nice win by the team. Coming out of this tournament 2-1 is pretty sweet.

Side note- Fran Fraschella might be the most annoying and inept(sp?) analysis on ESPN. As annoying as Duke Vitale might be, at least he does his homework on the teams he's covering... once you get past the Duke, UNC, Derek Jeter, and NY Yankees references.

Michigan stats pack

The 3-1 Wolverines play the 3-2 Crimson Tide for 3rd place in the Old Spice Classic. Should be another good test for us.

Stats (requires adobe acrobat)

The funny thing is we've been tested more in this tournament than we were last year in Maui. Go figure. Anyways, unlike our 1st two games, we won't be seriously outsized today... they only play one big man (Zack Gibson) regularly.

I haven't gotten a chance to watch the tournament with me being in Auburn for the Alabama-Auburn game (note I did not call it the Iron Bowl) so I haven't seen Michigan play this year. They should make the NCAAs, but they're still a middle of the road Big 10.

Manny Harris is a preseason Big 10 1st teamer averaging 21 points 9.5 boards and 7.5 assists per game. It is obvious we have to somewhat contain him. Deshawn Sims is 2nd on the team in points (17) and boards (8.3). Starter for starter we match up well with them as so far they're playing a 4 guard lineup.

- 80.5 PPG
- 45% FG
- 32% 3PT FG
- Rebound margin of only +.8
- 2.5 Blocks per game

Prediction: I'm going to be a homer again... I believe we out uptempo Michigan and squeak out a victory. Bama by 3.

Gametime is 5PM EST (4PM CST) and it's on ESPNU (channel 614 on DTV). I should be able to actually watch this... maybe missing part of the 1st half as I'll be seeing your Atlanta Falcons drill my former favorite team in the Tampa Bay Yuccaneers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Playing for 3rd now. FSU 60 Bama 51

Like everybody else, I missed most of this game because I was at the football game on the ugliest village on the plains. I did make it to a local sports bar in time to catch the last 9 minutes of the game. We were down 12 when I arrived, and we cut it to 7 at one point, but couldn't really make it a game. From what little bit I saw, it appeared that we were playing very aggressive on defense, but FSU had some ball handlers and was able to knock down some open shots at key moments. Every time it looked like we might make a run, they had an answer. FSU is a good team, and this was basically a home game for them. I was trying to keep an eye on the score while at the football game, it must have been a sloppy start as it was a 4-4 tie about 5 minutes into the game. It looked to be back and forth in the first half, but we fell down by 5 around halftime and they stretched the lead out in the second half. Sorry for the lack of quality analysis on this game, but 1) As I said, I only saw the last 9 minutes and 2) After that football game, then driving from auburn to Lake City, FL, I really don't feel like looking at the box score right now and trying to guess what happened. I'll be at the game Sunday, and depending on my internet connection I'll either get a recap posted that night, or Monday night after I return home to Birmingham.

Up next, another tough matchup against a top 25 Michigan team, at 4pm Central (5 EST) for 3rd place overall. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Florida State stats pack

Super abbreviated today as there's a another sporting event on the schedule today.
FSU stats

They got kilted at Florida. FSU is supposed to be a projected NCAA team so either it was an off night or the Gators are better than advertised.

- 47% FG
- 35% 3PT FG
- 66% FT
- +10 rebound margin

Prediction: I think we're on a roll and we win this one. I don't think it's a road game as FSU basketball fans are pretty scarce... and we had a pretty good contingent there yesterday. Bama by 5.

If we win tonight I think we go ahead and win this tournament.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bama Busts Butt, Beats Baylor Bible-thumping Baptist Baylor Bears by 3, 79-76

Unfortunately, I don't think we had any members of this blog present to give a first hand account, so my perspective is having watched the game on TV like everyone else. Well, I should say watching the last 30 minutes on TV...I had to listen to the first 10 minutes on the radio thanks to ESPN's piss poor program planning.

We trailed early in the game, and it sounded like we were a bit out of sync and having difficulties with Baylor's big men. Maybe they just needed me to be able to watch, because by the time ESPN got around to broadcasting the game, the Tide was rolling. This was a big win for us. Scott Drew is one of the hot "up and coming" names in coaching (if you look back to my posts during our coaching search, you'll know that I think he is somewhat overrated, but that's neither here nor there), and after their run in the NIT last year many were picking them to be a legitimate player in the NCAA this year. There is no doubt they have more size than us, and most would agree they have more overall talent and depth than us. We simply outcoached and out hustled them tonight, and that is why we are advancing in the winner's bracket of this tournament.

Again, we did not press them as much as I thought we might, but we were very effective when we did. We were able to get them in foul trouble in the second half which hurt their offensive game plan. Our undersized post players did a great job of containing their big men. Justin Knox got into some foul trouble, although his 4th foul which was called a block, should have been a charge.

Speaking of bad calls, overall I thought the refs called a pretty good game, but the ones they missed were REALLY bad. I've already mentioned Knox's 4th foul, but Tony Mitchell nearly got his nose broke on an over the back that was not called. That was probably my biggest gripe with the officials was the lack of over the back calls tonight.

Offensively, I liked the way we attacked the zone. Our bigs were able to flash to the free throw line and get good open shots. Our drive and dish game was there most of the night, and Hillman and Brock shot well enough from the outside to keep them honest. Torrance had another great game with 20 points and 6 assists despite 4 turnovers. Green had a monster game with 22 points. Free throw shooting continues to be an issue, and we had some key misses down the stretch that allowed the Bears to keep things interesting.

We look to be a well coached team. We adjust to what our opponents are doing on both ends of the floor, and we give great effort, especially on defense. I think we have improved every game...this was our best game thus far, and you could say that for each of our previous games at the time. All of that being said, there is no excuse for what happened in the final minute. We ran an inbounds play underneath the Baylor basket which called for a pass down the baseline before inbounding the ball. Problem was a spot throw in. You can only run the baseline following a made basket. To Coach Grant's credit, he took the blame for it, and luckily we got a charge call right after so it didn't hurt us, but if Baylor scores there and makes it a game, that is an inexcusably bad mistake. That doesn't negate of all the positives, and you've got to like the way this team is playing right now.

From what I saw on TV, it appeared that we had a surprisingly decent sized and vocal crowd there tonight. I hope that continues throughout the tournament, and I will do my part for the Sunday game.

Up next, the winner of the Florida State-Iona game at 4pm Central on ESPN2. Unfortunately, we have a football game against some no-name scrub school that likely won't be over till 4:30 or so. I'll be at the football game, but I hope to at least catch the 2nd half. RTR!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brock reinstated and Baylor stats pack

Brock has been reinstated by CAG.
“Anthony Brock has met the requirements that we set for him to end his suspension effective immediately,” Grant said. “Anthony is committed to this program and understands the expectations that we hold for our basketball team.”

Full link.

Baylor stats pack...

A relatively young team... 4-0 so far, but against pretty crappy competition. They escaped the mighty Hartford Hawks with a buzzer beater.

Led by LaceDarius Dunn (25.3 PPG) and Ekpe Udoh (8.8RPG), the Bears will test us by playing uptempo basketball. I think we match up well with them... as long as our big men stay out of foul trouble. They have 2 7 footers that see the court. Overall, they're simply bigger than us.

- 51.9% FG
- 40% 3PT FG
- 57.4% FT
- 13 turnovers per game
- 81 PPG

Prediction: As long as Green and Knox stay out of foul trouble I think our guards are better than their guards (collectively). With Brock back we have another outside threat that should be the difference. Bama by 7.

Oh yeah, the game is on ESPN2 (thanks finebammer for reminding me of that). No grainy internet feed. YAY!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pugnacious Pachyderms Prevail Over Providence

BobbyJack already has given you the game essentials. What he did not take time to tell you was just how exciting this game was to watch.

I estimated the crowd to be between six and eight thousand. The announced crowd was closer to ten. Any of those numbers reflects a marked improvement over what we have seen for recent "preseason" games, even against named opponents.

The initial intent was to pound the ball inside. Green did score the games first five points before the Friars called time and established an effective defense. Bama then began trying to set up the three point shot. They earned several clean looks, the players set their feed and squared up to the basket. The shots did not fall. Enter plan C: the promised dribble-drive, half-court offense. This worked well enough to keep the Tide in the game.

Providence started out blazing from beyond the arc. They had two players with hot shooting hands and they used that to take the lead and hold it for the balance of the half.

As the second half started Bama fans saw something they've waited years to see, an effective perimeter defense. Providence hit only one of the ten threes it shot in the second half. Unfortunately guarding them so closely on the perimeter made it difficult for the Tide to defend against the Friar's dribble penetration. When that did not create open layups it freed their inside players for the unguarded dish. Providence seemed to score almost at will in the second half until Bama's guards began to harass the Friar forwards from behind.

Providence might not be the most talented team in the Big East, but Alabama is not among the SEC's premier programs this season either. This still was an important victory by a gritty, gutsy Alabama team. The game was exciting for forty full minutes. Both teams played with great energy and enthusiasm. The crowd responded too and encouraged the home team to dig deep as they approached crunch time.

Hillman's steal and dunk might have been the game's hi lite, but Torrence's offense and Knox' consistent shooting from the foul line (I believe he hit ten of his eleven free throws) while Green was on the bench, first with foul trouble and later with some sort of injury, are what kept Alabama in the game. Even with a shortage of post players this team could become a force to be reconned with if they could find one or two reliable three point shooters.

If you are a Bama Basketball fan I would encourage you to see this team play as often as you can. If they continue to perform like this, tickets might become a valuable commodity in a very short time. The new regime still is in its infancy and the players certainly could use your support. I don't regret any of the eleven hours I invested to see this game and post this meager entry. I hope to see you all in Coleman Coliseum soon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Late steal by Torrance leads Tide to victory 84-75

Box score

This is indeed a nice win for Coach Anthony Grant and the team. I love the defensive intensity... even though we were pretty miserable offensively, the defensive pressure kept us in the game. When we full court pressed we either got the turnover or took the Friars out of their offense. This full court press thing is still foreign to fans that watched last year's team. :)

The good:
- Torrance. Although he shot the ball more than I would like my PG to do, it didn't seem like anyone else wanted to.
- Knox with a double-double
- 77% from the FT line
- 8 turnovers, forced 14.

The bad:
- Green and foul trouble. Actually all of our big men were in foul trouble, but I pick on Green as we need him on the court the most.
- 40% FG. Like I said, the D kept us around, but the offense stunk it up. Give credit to Providence for some of that, but I also saw a lot of bad shots in the 1st half.

It's obvious CAG reads this blog as Mikhail Torrance is his favorite player. Why else would he log 39 minutes? :)

Interesting stat- the loss tonight for Providence was the first one this year in the Big East.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Providence stats pack

Abbreviated for now... if I have time tomorrow I'll edit it with more info.

They're 3-0 with a huge win over the always tough Mercer Bears (we know them from last year... losing at home to them). Ok, really they're a middle of the road Big East team that'll challenge us. I haven't seen them play this year so I can't give any insight, but from the stats they have no problems using their bench with 11 players averaging at least 9 minutes per game.

- 42% FG
- 28% 3PT FG
- 60% FT
- +15 rebound margin
- 8.3 turnovers per game

Those offensive stats look AUful.

Prediction: With the loss of Brock (indefinetly) we really need to shoot well from outside to win. I just don't see it happening. Friars by 6.

Game time is 7PM CST and you can watch it at the usual place. I'm too lazy to link it, but scroll down and you'll find it from another post. I hope there's a good crowd there tonight.

Remember Stan Heath? Looks like he's in trouble at USF

Most of the NCAA violations involve USF video and conditioning assistant Terrelle Woody, who was hired Aug. 26, 2008, in a non-coaching position by USF coach Stan Heath (right) as part of a package deal to guarantee the signing of highly touted Maryland transfer Gus Gilchrist.

The violations include Woody providing transportation to student-athletes, watching "open gyms," coaching players and illegally working out USF players.
Heath, who is 23-41 and in his third season at USF, denied the allegations or said he had no knowledge of them.

"You want to keep nickel and diming him," Heath said. "All this little [crap] ... I don't know what this is all about. It's stupid."

Besides the alleged violations, three current USF players -- Dominique Jones, Anthony Crater and Justin Leemow -- were the primary suspects in the April 2009 theft of nearly $8,000 worth of items stolen from former players Gaby Belardo and Jesus Verdejo, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report. The father of one of the victims said he believes that Heath never contacted the police about the burglary to protect the current players. The items have not been recovered and no charges were filed.

Read the rest here.

Looks like someone's coaching career is about to end. Badly. I hope he saved up all the money he got (stole) from Arkansas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tony and Tide tame Tigers; 86-69 over Jackson State

Tony Mitchell had a coming out party tonight and showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect. He played very well within the offense and capitalized on his high percentage shots in the paint, to finish with 23 points. He also played good defense and pulled down a few rebounds. About the only flaw in his game tonight was taking a couple of ill advised 3's.

Speaking of perimeter shooting, I have stated that a lack of consistent shooting may be the biggest problem with our current team trying to run this system. We were a respectable 7 of 17 from the 3 point range tonight, but that includes 5 of 7 from Charvez Davis. Davis's ability to consistently shoot may end up being the key to the season...the rest of the team was only 2 for 10.

One of our key shooting threats, former starter Anthony Brock, is suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. I have no idea what he did, but I trust Coach Grant is handling the situation in such a way that will be beneficial to the program in the long term. Andrew Steele started in his place, and Ben Eblen saw a lot of playing time. Both took good care of the basketball, but neither is the scoring threat that Brock can be from the outside. Eblen is somewhat undersized defensively, but he makes up for it with his basketball IQ. He handles the ball very well and makes good decisions, and he is quick enough to defend despite his lack of size. Nevertheless, he's not much of a threat to light up the scoreboard.

We were not getting good shots in the first half and allowed Jackson State to keep the game within 5 points. I think our pressure defense wore them down somewhat in the second half, but our press was not as successful in terms of forcing turnovers. In fact, Jackson State broke it fairly easily for much of that night. Conversely, our half court man to man defense was very solid tonight. Jackson State did not have a lot of size inside like Cornell did, and we were able to block a few shots in the post to create some transition opportunities. We contested most all of their shots from the perimeter when we were in a half court man to man. Jackson State's lack of size also allowed Green and Mitchell to dominate in the paint. Davis kept them spread out enough by knocking down the 3's to allow our point guards to get the ball in to them. It was nice to see Green stay out of foul trouble. It was also good to see a fairly well officiated game, thanks to a lack of Ted Valentine on the court.

Overall, a solid win against an inferior opponent after a sluggish first half. For the first time this year we did not shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers. We only had 10 for the game, which is pretty good considering the pace at which we play. Green and Hillman both had to come out of the game due to bumps and bruises, but both returned and appear to be fine. With Brock's suspension and Jemison already out for the year, we can't afford to lose any more guys. With the exception of Torrance, free throw shooting continued to suck tonight.

The crowd tonight was very small, I would say about 2,000 at best. Jackson State brought a small group of 10-20, including one of the most loud obnoxious fans I have ever heard. This lady (and I use that term very loosely) literally screamed at a very high pitch throughout the entire game. At their players, at the refs, at our players, at our fans, anybody who would listen, or even if they wouldn't but had no choice due to the sheer volume. She is missing a great opportunity to be a Mississippi $tate fan, she would fit right in with that bunch of loudmouth jerks.

Also, kind of off topic, but we really need to do something about our halftime shows. Saturday we had a bunch of kids on unicycles trying to hit layups, and they shot an even lower percentage than we do from the free throw line. Also, they went over their time slot delaying the teams from coming back out to warm up. Tonight, our halftime show literally consisted of 4 people eating a Chic fil a sandwich. I love me some Chic Fil A, but watching other people eat is not exactly my idea of entertainment.

Up next, the Friars from Providence will come to Tuscaloosa Friday night for a 7 pm tip. They are undefeated and come from arguably the nation's best conference in the Big East. We have a history with Providence, as they eliminated one of Wimp Sanderson's better teams in the Sweet 16. Billy Donovan played on that team, against Mark Gottfried. This is a winnable game for us, as Mercer played them within 2, but it will not be a cake walk. There is no reason why we shouldn't have a big crowd Friday night. The football team has an early game on Saturday, so go ahead and get to Tuscaloosa the night before and support our young basketball team!

Jackson State stats pack

Are they the Southern Miss of our basketball schedule? It seems like we play them every year. Anyways, here's their season stats.

They got drilled by Memphis (82-53), but a lot of team are going to be so I wouldn't pay too much attention to that. It looks like most of their scoring/shooting comes from Gertavin Blake and Garrison Johnson (30 of 57 shots), but it looks like they play their entire bench.

- 37% FG
- 33% 3pt FG
- rebouund margin -10
- 54% FT
- .6 assist/TO ratio (horrible)

Prediction: This should be a game where we get some kinks out of the offense. I fully expect us to run them out of the gym. Alabama by 21.

Game time is 7:30PM and it's viewable on

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prosperous Preview Preempted

Please forgive the belated update. An overnight stay without Internet access and a visit to a friend who lost his mother kept me from posting anything until after Bobby Jack had delivered his comments, all of which seemed to be directly on point.

Anthony Grant said a few weeks ago that he expected to run a dribble-drive half-court offense. That is exactly where they started Saturday, without success. We must have turned the ball over at least three of the first five trips down the court. One was a mishandled pass (I believe to Knox) and the other two were reach ins by the defense. I was shielded from the defensive moves so I cannot say whether the steals were legitimate or our players were being hacked. I do know that the officials did not call a single foul underneath the Alabama basket for the first 13 minutes of the game. The defensive plays could have been clean, but I really don't think Cornell was that much quicker that the Tide.

To say our offense sputtered when the dribble drive proved ineffective would be a gross understatement. Coach Grant did eventually try some adaptations of that approach. The readers will be pleased to know that none of them involved the UCLA High Post Offense and that some of them were effective.

We had no answer for Foote, Big Red's seven foot center. We did not even have a large body to lean against him to keep him from backing into the lane once he received the entry pass. When all else failed, the officials allowed Foote to clear out his path to the hoop with his off arm. There will be games where that play will be allowed. Unless something changes, Bama will not have an answer for it.

Number 20 for Cornell was a swing type player who appeared to be about 6'5" who turned out to be their three point expert. I don't think he missed a single open shot. They set screens to get him open and the big men kicked the ball back down to him when the guards collapsed to offer help.

I had heard that Bama had two plays to inbound the ball. I don't think I saw either of them Saturday. I recall at least three occasions where we had to lob the ball to or beyond the half court line to inbound it underneath our own basket. One other time they burned a time out because no one could get open.

Bama did alternate its approach to generate some offense. When Cornell came out in a tight man defense in the second half, Bama cleared out from underneath the basket and allowed Torrence to drive in for easy layups. A switch to a zone put a stop to that. They also tried to set some screens for threes. I am not a good enough student of the game to know what is wrong, but our screens do not work. I don't know whether the problem lies in where we set them, how long our player stays set, or how closely the moving player approaches, but they seldom seemed to create an open look.

Cornell's point guards were allowed to penetrate too closely to our basket without anyone offering help to the man guarding the point. That generated open looks and open passes underneath the basket. These last three points make me tend to believe that old habits really are hard to break.

On the positive side, Green did have some nice moves against the seven footer underneath the basket. Hillman showed spots of his upside when Bama turned on the pressure. The pressure generated at least two steals for turnover goals. Mitchell had a good game. I think he had one steal (I don't see on in the box score), he had a nice offensive rebound for a put back, and scored effectively from the field. Alabama wins this game but for the two missed dunks and three missed layups in the second half. The effort was good. Unfortunately the team does not yet appear to grasp what Coach Grant is trying to do offensively (gee, no surprises there!) and looks like it has not worked together for very long. The upside potential might be better than any of our regular contributors predicted. Then again, it might not. So long as they continue to demonstrate the type of effort I saw yesterday, I will be happy to make the round trip from Mobile to Coleman Coliseum as often as work and family obligations will allow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cornell spoils Grant's debut 71-67

It's hard to give analysis on a grainy feed, but I'll try my best.

Cornell I believe has 6 3s to start the 2nd half. I like the way we kept on fighting, but it seemed like everytime we got under double digits, Cornell hit a big 3. Some things haven't changed though... white guy draining 3s.

When we got it within one score give Cornell credit as they'd either hit a shot to make it a 2 possession game or hit their FTs.

I saw a lackluster first half, but was impressed with our 2nd half performance. When we really made a run at Cornell the ball went through Torrance and for the most part he made good decisions.

Box score

I thought Green and Hillman rushed their shots... although in Green's case he had to contend with a 7 footer. Brock was a sharpshooter from 3. He's easily our most reliable option out there.

Anyways, most of us know this season is one that will see some growing pains. As long as I see the hustle I saw today I'll remain optimistic. Last year's team would've quit when Cornell took the lead to double digits.

We are what we are now... let's see how much this team gels going forward.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cornell stats pack

I'll give you stats from last season. How about that?
Also here's a blog about Cornell. A pretty good one at that. The poll on the main page comes up with 50% saying Cornell wins a close one.

They're the 2 time defending Ivy League champs and preseason favorite to win it again, returning most of the roster from last year.

Ryan Wittman led them in scoring (18.5) and 3pt FGs (97 made) while Jeff Foote (a 7 footer) cleaned the glass (7.2). Louis Dale averaged 13 PPG.

Prediction- A close game throughout with Green being just too much inside for Cornell. Alabama by 2 in a squeaker.

Gametime is 1PM CST (2PM EST for me). You can watch it online here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alabama Squirms Past Augusta State, 61-55

An uninspired Alabama basketball team playing in front of an equally uninspired crowd needed six straight free throws late to hold off Division II, Augusta State. JaMychal Green, limited to nineteen minutes due to 1st half foul trouble, led Alabama with 12 points and 5 rebounds. He was the only player to score in double figures. Alabama trailed in the 1st half by eight points before rallying to take a one point lead into halftime.

I missed the first 5-6 minutes of this game so I can’t comment on that portion of it. However, what I did see was not very encouraging. Augusta State is a Division II power, they deserve respect, but Alabama did not play well at all. Turnovers were once again an issue (23), though the Tide did shoot extremely well from the free-throw line (90.9%), which was the difference in the game. JaMychal only played three minutes in the 1st half before picking up two fouls. With its best post player off the floor, and facing a zone defense, Bama relied on the three-point shot, which wasn’t there for most of the evening (29.4%).

There isn’t much good to report. However, the defensive pressure did force Augusta into eighteen turnovers and 38.9% shooting from the floor.

Bottom line: The team won the game. It’s better to play poorly and win than to lose games of this nature. With an extremely tough Cornell team coming in Saturday for the season opener, Alabama has a lot to work on if it wants to emerge a victor on Saturday. The best place to start is what has been most consistent the last two games - their defense. This team is going to have to bring it on the defensive end every single night in order to have a chance to win; they simply don’t have much offensive firepower based on the first two games to outscore anyone.

Oh well. It could be worse. We could be Arkansas fans.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Alonzo Gee is an Austin Toro

In case you didn't know it, the NBA Development League had its draft this past week. Former Alabama player, Alonzo Gee, was selected by the Austin Toros with the sixth pick of the first round.

From Draft Express: Alonzo Gee goes 6th to the Austin Toros. Gee barely played for the Spurs Summer League team this year, but I guess they liked what they saw. He has some skills, but hasn’t really ever brought them together. His biggest weakness is three point shooting. And free throw shooting. Well, just shooting in general really. Usually a pre-requisite for a shooting guard/small forward, but in the D-League anything goes.

Congratulations to Alonzo. Hopefully he can parlay this into a possible NBA shot at some point. This gives me even more of a reason to enjoy Toros games this season. With salaries that range from $12,000-$24,000/season in most cases, these guys aren't living the high life by any means. They are hanging onto their basketball dreams by their fingernails. Most of them won't make it. The attendance at these games is sparse (despite the level of basketball being frequently quite high) and media attention is minimal. It also doesn't help in a town like Austin where you have a college basketball program that is a consistent top 25 team. Particularly this season, which could end with a national championship (Texas is my pick to cut down the nets in April). I think of the D-League players as underdogs, and I love a good underdog. As
Captain Renault would suspect, I'm a rank sentimentalist.

In case you are interested in the other D-League draft choices, click here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Anthony Answers Alias . . .

or Alias' questions at least. Okay, so they were your questions, but I did ask them for you.

Coach Grant gave a detailed history of each of his assistant coaches, but he did not break down their duties along the lines that DJC asked. He did talk a good bit about the Strength and Conditioning Coach and about the Video Something-or-other Coach. He said that at this level someone has to record the practices to give the floor coaches the information they need to instruct the players. That might be old news to some of you, but I did not know they did that in basketball.

Coach Grant said that all the players were excited about the prospects of running an up tempo game but that they were really surprised by the September workouts that were necessary to prepare them for that style. They were surprised but they all evidently did accept the responsibility.

In response to the half-court defense question, he said they would be primarily a man-to-man team but that the one thing no team could afford to do at this level is to become predictable. As a result, he said they would change defenses and change fairly frequently to keep opponents off balance.

Coach Grant was very diplomatic when trying not to be too specific in addressing the talent level of our team. He did describe with particularity the individual strengths of each member of the roster. The comment the assembly enjoyed most was when he described Justin Knox as being "very laid back off the court." He said he'd told Justin "that needs to change when you go on the court."

This was my first visit to a Tip Off Club meeting. I was not the only rookie there tonight. The local leadership evidently had expended considerable effort to try to produce a good crowd for Coach Grant's first visit. Most of the other attendees spent their cocktail time talking about football. One Bama Basketball stalwart from my class back in the seventies asked a number of pointed questions. I promised Coach Grant I would put that friend in the car and drive him up to Coleman Coliseum before the season ended. I also promised to be in my seat next Saturday.

I was very encouraged by everything Coach Grant said. He knows the facilities must be improved and he explained that Coach Moore and President Witt are doing everything they can to help him. He also said that he had only one chance to do this right so he was more than happy to be patient to achieve that goal.

Elephants Excel in Exhibition, 81-53 over Montevallo

A couple of years ago Montevallo came in here to play an exhibition game against us and led at halftime. We were fortunate to pull it out in the second half. That was not the case last night. The Falcons only lead came at 3-2, and the game was never in doubt as Coach Anthony Grant emptied the bench and tried a variety of different lineups.

The starting lineup consisted of Mikhail Torrance, Senario Hillman, Anthony Brock, Chris Hines, and Jamychal Green. Our style of play is completely different from what we have become accustomed to over the last few years. The high post appears to be a thing of the past. We push the ball up the court on every rebound, and generally take the first open shot available. In the half court offense, we mostly run a drive and dish game, but we actually set off ball screens to get guys open on the wings and in the corners.

Defensively, intense pressure is the word. We put pressure on them in the backcourt for most of the game. We mostly ran a 2-2-1 press, and it was run much more effectively than the swiss cheese version of the 2-2-1 we saw last year. We were very aggressive and fundamentally sound when trapping in the corners. Coach Grant did a good job of making adjustments and switching to a full court man to man and a half court man to man at times to get the Falcons from getting into any sort of rhythm. I do not think you will see us run much zone at all, despite our lack of size inside. It just doesn't seem to fit the identity of this team. Even in the halfcourt defense, we played a tight man to man and picked them up at halfcourt. It's a very high risk/high reward defense. We forced a lot of turnovers for easy baskets, but if teams are able to break the press, they will have numbers that will give them some quick, open shot opportunities. While the game may look chaotic at time due to the fast pace and full court nature of our system, there is definitely a method to the madness. We are not playing street ball out there.

We actually ran a couple of inbounds plays! Even better, they did not consist of throwing the ball up for grabs in the back court for a jump ball tyle situation. We even ran a play from the baseline designed to get a quick shot off, and it worked! We ran at least 3 different inbounds plays last night, which is 3 more than we ran in an average game last year.

I can't say enough about the intensity and effort. I saw more players dive on the floor for loose balls last night than I have in the last 2 years combined.

We did look sloppy at times, particularly on offense. I have not seen a box score, but we had too many turnovers. A major contributing factor was some of the unusual lineups we used. Coach Grant wanted to get everyone significant playing time, so there were times when we had Greg Cage, 3 new players, and one experienced contributor on the court at the same time. A lot of the turnovers were from the post. On several occasions Hines or Mitchell would turn it over trying to pass back out to the perimeter to a guard who was covered. Learning to find the open man from the block should come with time. Otherwise, I thought both Hines and Mitchell played good games. Mitchell is not as tall as I expected, but he plays big. He can get up and down the floor and is solid on the boards. He can also step and defend the perimeter when necessary. I think he will be solid for us as a #3 type. Hines is still a little green, but he's going to be a major contributor in the post even if he doesn't continue starting. Justin Knox was solid as expected off the bench. Anthony Brock didn't light up the scoreboard, but he was nuisance to their guards on defense all night. He and Hillman combined on quite a few steals.

I criticized Senario Hillman quite a bit last year for ball hogging and taking plays off at times on defense. In fairness, Hillman hogging the ball was probably the best chance for us to score at times last year in that offense. He played very well within the system last night. I expect him to excel under Coach Grant. Our system will create a lot of opportunities for him in the open floor where he is dangerous. He shot the ball well last night, but as we all know he is streaky and that will come and go. His defense was top notch, and he caused a lot of problems for them in the backcourt.

One of my major concerns was lack of a consistent perimeter shooter. With our lack of size and depth issues down low, and the fast paced style of play, we will need to be able to knock down open shots from the perimeter when the opportunity presents itself. We know Hillman is streaky and Brock showed some promise last year, but I think we may have found a solution: Charvez Davis. The Juco transfer from Montgomery has a sweet shot. He knocked a couple of 3's, but what I was most impressed with was his flawless form. A quick release, smooth delivery, great rotation, and good follow through. He may not be as athletic as Hillman, but he's more than quick enough to hold his own on defense and he should get some good scoring opportunities in our offense.

Ben Eblen, a freshman from SC, came in and ran the point some. He is a good ball handler and a very serviceable point guard. He's doesn't have the size and athleticism of Torrance, Steele, or Brock, but he takes care of the basketball and makes good decisions.

Unfortunately, free throw shooting continues to be a problem. I stated last year that while we had plenty of legitimate complaints regarding Gottfried, this wasn't one of them. There is only so much a coach can do when it comes to free throw shooting. Prior to last year, we were consistently one of the best FT shooting teams in the SEC, but I do not know what has happened. It seemed like every time we went to the line we made 1 out of 2.

Both teams were in the double bonus with about 4 or 5 minutes to go in each half. That's well over 40 fouls called in this game. The game was called tighter than I would have liked, especially for an exhibition game against a Div.2 school that didn't start until after 8pm. Our aggressive, physical style is going to result in a lot of fouls on both us and the opposition. The way we attack the basket on offense, there will be a lot of block/charge situations. There were probably 7 or 8 block/charge calls that easily could have gone either way in the game. I fear we won't get those calls on the road in the SEC.

I was sitting on the floor directly across from our bench, so watching the game I was not able to observe Coach Grant as much during the game as I would with my normal seats 2 rows behind the bench. From what I was able to tell, he was very active coaching throughout the game, but with a very calm demeanor. Everytime I looked over, he was giving instructions but was never animated or yelling. I'm not sure if he sat down at all during the game, everytime I saw him he was standing and coaching.

In conclusion, great effort, very physical on both ends, good, aggressive defense, and a lot of fun to watch. I don't think you can tell a whole lot in a game like this. The results may or may not improve much this year, but I think we will certainly enjoy watching this team and will be proud of their effort.

Finally, a few non-basketball observations from the game:

First of all, the crowd was great for a late exhibition game being played at the same time as the World Series. I would estimate a crowd of 6,000 or so, although most left at halftime.

The new TV screens and scoreboards look great. However, I do have one complaint. The stats board that showed turnovers/assists/rebounds/steals is gone. I wish they would replace one of the pictures of the fans/women's team/gymnastics team etc with a stats board. I missed being able to look up and check the turnover to assist ratio at any point during the game. Of course, the thing didn't work half of the time anyway, so oh well. Also, the fire alarm went off with about 6 minutes left in the game and continued nearly till the end, that was slightly annoying. On the wall just inside the back entrance, they have placed pictures of all of our All American and All SEC players throughout the year. It's worth the walk around there to check it out, pretty cool.

The women's team lost to UNA. That's the University of North Alabama for those of you who may not have heard of them. Embarassing. I like Coach Hudson, but I have my doubts if Mal really went out and hired the best candidate for that job.

The student section is now known as Crimson Chaos. A horrible name, in my opinion. Of the 4 finalist, The Tidal Wave was the best option. I suggested Grant's Army, but as usual, nobody listened.

Congratulations to Bobbyjack's Yankees on their 27th World Championship. I was glad to see one of my favorite Cubbies (Joe Girardi) lead them back to the top.

I promise all of my recaps will not be so long winded. It was the first game of a new era, so I tried to do this in a way to answer as many questions as possible. Up next, our final preseason game against Augusta State next Tuesday at Coleman Coliseum.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Link to watch Bama-Montevallo tonight

Here. Click on watch live on the right.

Normally I'd watch it, but there's that World Series game that'll get all of my attention. I hope DJC or one of the other contributors can give a wrapup of it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tip Off Club

Coach Grant is the scheduled speaker for Thursday night's Tip Off Club. This will be my first meeting so I'm not sure what to expect. (If there has been a Tip Off Club in Mobile before now, I've not been aware of it.)

I do not know whether there will be a Q&A segment, but if there is I would be more than happy to try to ask a question or two for the readers of the blog. Please post your questions in response to this entry and I will try to get them to the coach.

I apologize for not making a contribution to this year's season predictions. I must have missed the email from Bobby Jack asking for the information. While reviewing the blog a few minutes ago I became aware for the first time just how disengaged I had become from our program during last season. I will try to be a better contributor this year.

P.S. Anyone who steals my alliteration shtick this year will be shot on sight!

Cornell tip off set for 1pm

The Cornell game will tip off at 1 p.m. The football team plays mississippi $tate in $tarkville at 6pm that night. I was hoping for a noon tipoff, but 1pm should give me just enough time to get over there. Hopefully we can build a big enough lead that I will feel comfortable leaving early.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Know your enemy- Montevallo Falcons

I know nothing about them. Heck I didn't know there was a Peach Belt Conference. Anyways, you'll know what I know at the end of this post.

- Leading returning scorer, rebounder, and best FT shooter- Freddy Little (Senior G)
- 3 point threats- Little and Jordan Hutchinson.
- Location- Montevallo, AL
- 3 players taller than 6'6"

Here's their stats from last year.

What I expect: Us to run them out of the gym. Our small guys are better than their small guys and I doubt they have anyone that can handle Green inside. Bama by 27.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alabama media and boosters allowed to view practice.

For the first time this preseason, Alabama media and boosters were allowed inside Coleman Coliseum to witness the team practice. Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press-Register has provided his observations in an article he wrote, which can be found here.

Highlights of the article include:

  • This team will play fast: True to his word, Grant is using an up-tempo style, full-court pressing and trapping. The pace was much faster and less scripted than anything Alabama has been accustomed to recently. There is an offensive system at work, but Grant also appears to be giving players freedom to operate in the open floor.
  • There is an obvious lack of size: A glaring weakness for Grant's first Alabama team will
  • be in the post. Other than JaMychal Green and Justin Knox, there doesn't appear to be a natural big man on the team. Two competing scrimmage teams geuinely looked to have four guards out there. A pivotal player here could be bulky junior college transfer Chris Hines (6-foot-8), who has some size and was effective around the basket.
  • Tony Mitchell will make an impact: To my relatively untrained eye: The true freshman looks like a player, is settling into the team nicely on both ends of the floor and seems a likely replacement for Alonzo Gee.
  • Looking for a range: Alabama is athletic enough to play to Grant's new style, but perimeter shooting could be an issue in a fast-paced offense. Junior college transfer Charvez Davis may be the best 3-point shooter on the team.
  • UA will be better defending the inbounds pass: As strange as it sounds to mention, Alabama seemed to have a good idea was it was doing on inbounds plays. That goes for the offensive end, too.
  • Big role for Mikhail Torrance: Much of this team's success will rely on Torrance, the senior point guard who now gets a chance to take over on his own in the post-Ronald Steele era. Torrance averaged 10 points a game last year despite starting about half of them.
Interesting observations, though nothing incredibly surprising. We're well aware of Alabama's size issues coming into the system. I've been of the opinion that Mikhail's senior year would be one to watch, and Estes' article only serves to bolster that feeling.

One thing that did stand out is the issue of perimeter shooting. As small as Alabama will be this season, they had better knock down perimeter shots.

So far so good, I say. Grant appears to have brought a toughness to Tuscaloosa that has been lacking far too long. Something tells me that if a player doesn't get after it this year, he will find himself on the bench. The need for discipline has been great the last several years. It looks like Grant is bringing the fire. This team won't lose this year for lack of effort. And that's all you can really ask for as a fan.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nolan Richardson returns to basketball (WNBA)

He's going to be the Tulsa HC when the team relocates from Detroit. A couple things:

1) While I joke about the WNBA still being around, I'm surprised they're trying out Tulsa.

2) Nolan is like 174 years old now. I kid... I think.

OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s official: The three-time WNBA champion Detroit Shock are moving to Tulsa.

League president Donna Orender and other officials made the announcement Tuesday that the Shock was being sold and relocated to Tulsa, a day after The Associated Press reported the move.

The announcement came five days after a Tulsa ownership group said it would formally apply to the WNBA to purchase a franchise, although it wasn’t known at the time if it would be an expansion club or a relocated team.

The sale and move need WNBA Board of Governors approval.

Former Tulsa and Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson already has been selected as the Tulsa team’s coach and general manager. The team will play at the downtown BOK Center, which holds about 18,000 and opened last year.

The rest can be read here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

UK Wall and M$U Sidney under eligibility scrutiny

Shocking that 2 of the dirtiest coaches in all of college basketball have their fingerprints on this...

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Kentucky's John Calipari raved about the development of highly touted freshman guard John Wall Thursday morning during media day for the Southeastern Conference. Hours later, a report surfaced that his prized recruit might not be eligible to play.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive told that he believes the NCAA's agents and amateurism group -- not enforcement officials -- are looking into the eligibility of both Wall and Mississippi State freshman Renardo Sidney.

"Those are amateur issues that arose prior to their coming to our schools," Slive said. "Those are strictly amateurism issues. As we told our people, somebody needs to determine if they are eligible. It's not relative to you, it's relative to them."

An SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said he could not confirm the eligibility issues to The Associated Press, and Slive was not available for comment.

From SI

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Video of Coach Grant and Mikhail Torrance at SEC Media Days has posted video of Coach Grant and Mikhail Torrance speaking at SEC Media Days.

Two other items from Don Kausler of the Birmingham News posted an article after speaking with Mikhail Torrance about the team's initial practices.

Also, everyone's favorite loudmouth, Bruce Pearl, has picked the Tennessee football team to upset Alabama on Saturday. I hope Bruce keeps a plate of crow handy.

Coach Grant at Media Days

From Cecil Hurt

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mark Gottfried joins ESPNU/SEC Network Broadcast Team

Though his contract probably won't call for him to revisit the cold halls of Coleman Coliseum, ESPN announced today that former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried has been added to the ESPNU broadcast team to call SEC games.

Obviously it's too soon for him to feel comfortable returning to call an Alabama game, but I think he will do a good job. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Uniforms and a New Style of play

A good article from Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press on

Also, check out Brock and Green sporting the new unis:

I like them, although it's difficult to tell in that lighting if they got the color of crimson correct.

SEC Conference predictions

Conference records

SEC East
1) Kentucky- 14-2
2) Tennessee 10-6
3) Florida- 8-8
4) Vanderbilt 7-9
5) South Carolina- 7-9
6) Georgia- 3-13

SEC West
1) Mississippi State- 11-5
2) Ole Miss- 9-7
3) Arkansas- 8-8
4) Auburn- 8-8
5) Alabama- 6-10
6) LSU- 5-11

NCAA Tournament teams- Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, M$U, Ole Miss.

- SEC Coach of the Year- Rick Stansbury (only because Cal is expected to win big)
- SEC Player of the Year- Patrick Patterson

I also predict that every head coaching job in the SEC is safe through the 2010-2011 season. :)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Predictions for the 2009-2010 Alabama basketball season

I'm going with 17-13 and 6-10 in conference play. I see our lack of big men posing a huge issue. With Jemison out for the season, Coleman at Troy, and Kemp not qualified (and reopening his recruitment) we have 2 proven big men (Green and Knox) with Hines hopefully picking up some of the slack.

I don't see us winning on the road in conference... and I can see 2 home losses. I think this will be a learning year. Too bad as I'd really like to see Green and Torrance experience the postseason.

Montevallo W
Augusta St W
Cornell- W, but this will be a challenge.
Jackson St W
Providence L (We should be very evenly matched, but Keno has a year head start on Coach Grant, and they have more solid, experience PG coming back in Curry.)
Baylor W (They lose a lot from the team that made it to the NIT championship game. Some good young talent coming in though…another game that could go either way)
FSU/Iona W
11/29/09 TBA L (I’m thinking a loss to Xavier, Marquette or Michigan here)
North Florida W
La-Monroe W
Purdue L (I’d really like to pick this as a W, but I think we have problems with their size)
Samford W
Kansas St W (Another toss up game)
Mercer W
Tennessee St W
at Toledo W (I really don’t know much about them, but if it were CMG, I would consider this a loss just because it’s an away game. I’m hoping that situation has improved.)

So, now we are 11-3 going into SEC play.

at LSU W
Vanderbilt W
at Arkansas L
Tennessee W (This will be a notable upset, but I think we match up with them pretty good, especially at home)
Miss St L (They’ve bought themselves a good team and should win the west this year)
at Auburn L
Florida L
at Ole Miss L
at Kentucky L
Arkansas W
at Georgia W
at Miss St L
Ole Miss W
at South Carolina W
Auburn 12:30 W

9-7 in SEC play, but unfortunately I’m a lot more confident in the “L” predictions than the W’s. I tend to be a little optimistic when looking at the schedule on a game by game basis. That being said, I’ve got us at 20-10. I would be very happy with that…a win or two in Nashville would get us into the big dance.

Using voodoo and an offering of sacrifice, I have come up with 16-14, and going 7-9 in the SEC losing all 8 on the road and 1 at home. I have concerns about our size, and I have to stay reserved on our ability to play well in our conference road games. Until that changes, I will keep this stance.

MSmilie (he broke it down game by game)
Forgive me for breaking down each game; I'm a nerd. My overall prediction is 17-13 as well. There's too much uncertainty in the paint and the league as a whole promises to be much better.

Cornell - 1-0 - Not an easy opener. In fact, this could be a nailbiter for an Alabama team with a new coaching staff and system. This game worries me. Look out for Cornell players, Ryan Wittman and Birmingham's own, Louis Dale (I assume he's the reason this game was scheduled).

Jackson State - 2-0 - A SWAC team, even one projected to win the league, is still a SWAC team.

Providence - 3-0 - This could be a tough one. I've read several basketball publications that have Providence finishing near the bottom of the Big East, but I think they could surprise. Their backcourt is really good with Sharaud Curry and Marshon Brooks. Their frontcourt is a question mark coming into the season so both teams could be playing small ball. Green could prove to be the difference.

Baylor - 3-1 - I think Alabama will give Baylor a tough game (particularly if Baylor plays defense the way they have the last two years) but ultimately I think Baylor has too much talent for Alabama to overcome.

Iona - 4-1 - This is a projection based on what I think will happen in the other games. Iona isn't completely horrible and might hang around for a while, but Alabama should win.

Creighton - 4-2 - I respect the job Dana Altman has done with the Creighton program. That program is one of the top mid-majors on an annual basis. I think they will be the slightly better team if that's the way the bracket works out.

North Florida - 5-2 - Bama should roll.

Louisiana-Monroe - 6-2 - This isn't football.

Purdue - 6-3 - Purdue is light years ahead of Alabama right now in terms of experience and mental toughness. While I expect a sellout for this game and a good effort on Bama's part, Purdue is a certain top 10-20 team (I don't buy the Final Four talk for this team) that should have enough to get out of Tuscaloosa with the win.

Samford - 7-3 - Samford's style of play could be a problem, but I think Alabama will be okay.

Kansas State - 8-3 - This should be a great game as both teams have great athleticism and match up rather well, with K-State having the slight advantage. However, Grant is too good a coach and Alabama has enough talent to win one or two games they shouldn't.

Mercer - 9-3 - Mercer won in Tuscaloosa last year and could do it again. They should be one of the top teams in the Atlantic Sun, if not the top team. James Florence lit Alabama up the last two years and will probably do so again. However, I think Alabama pulls it out.

Tennessee State - 10-3 - Alabama should win easily.

@Toledo - 11-3 - The first true road game of the season. If Gottfried was still coaching this team, I wouldn't be sure about Alabama's chances. However, with Grant in charge, I hope to see Alabama become a better road team over time. Plus, from what I've read, Toledo could be downright horrible this year.

@LSU - 11-4 - 0-1 - I see LSU finishing last in the conference. However, at home, they probably squeeze by Bama. I don't think Bama's conference schedule this season is conducive to a good start.

Vanderbilt - 11-5 - 0-2 - Bama should hang tough, but Vandy is a much better team this season.

@Arkansas - 11-6 - 0-3 - I don't think Arkansas is going to be that improved this season. In fact, the heat may be turned up on Pelphrey by the end of the season. There seem to be some internal troubles there that need to be sorted out before Arkansas can improve. With that in mind, they probably beat Bama in Fayetteville.

Tennessee - 11-7 - 0-4 - Even with Negedu's medical condition, Tennessee is still the 2nd most talented team in the SEC (assuming that Renardo Sidney is not cleared to play at Mississippi State). This one could be ugly.

Mississippi State - 11-8 - 0-5 - Even if Sidney doesn't play for State, they are still the best team in the West by far.

LSU - 12-8 - 1-5 - If Alabama could win at home against last year's LSU squad, they should be able to produce a home victory this year.

@Auburn - 12-9 - 1-6 - I don't think Auburn will be NCAA-good, but I think they will be respectable (whether or not this saves Lebo's job is anyone's guess) and good enough to win a close one over Bama at home.

Florida - 13-9 - 2-6 - Big game. Grant vs Donovan. Florida will be vastly improved with Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin providing the toughness inside that Florida has missed the last two years. And freshman Kenny Boynton may be the second best freshman in the league after John Wall. Coleman better be sold out. I wrote above that Bama would beat one or two teams they shouldn't, and I think this is one of them.

@Ole Miss - 13-10 - 2-7 - I think Ole Miss is an NCAA team if they can find some decent interior play. Their backcourt is sick. Terrico White, Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice are among the best guard tandems in the country . Could be a long night at the Pad.

@Kentucky - 13-11 - 2-8 - Ouch. Kentucky is a top five team this season. Alabama isn't.

Arkansas - 14-11 - 3-8 - Bama should win this one at home.

@Georgia - 15-11 - 4-8 - No way Alabama goes winless on the road with Grant in charge. I do think Georgia will be slightly better than that mess of a team from a year ago.

@Mississippi State - 15-12 - 4-9 - Might be one to forget.

Ole Miss - 16-12 - 5-9 - Bama wins a close one at home.

@South Carolina - 16-13 - 5-10 - I think Carolina is being overrated by the preseason publications. The East is too strong for this team to break through and reach the NCAA Tournament. However, at home, I'll give them the slight nod over Alabama.

Auburn - 17-13 - 6-10 - Alabama finishes the season by taking care of Auburn.

I think Alabama will finish no worse than fourth in the West and should be good for at least one win in the conference tournament. Hopefully their RPI (which should be strong based on their non-conference schedule and an improved SEC) is enough to net an NIT bid.

All I'm really looking for this year is how this team plays. Does it play with discipline, focus and toughness? Does it look like a program with a future? That is ultimately more important to me as a fan this season. If that translates into enough wins for a postseason bid, then all the better.

So... 2 of us have it at 17-13, 1 at 16-14, and the ever optimistic DJC has us at 20-10. I'm hoping DJC is closer to being right as it's been way too long since we sniffed the NCAA tournament.

I appreciate the input...