Friday, April 30, 2010

Cycling World Prepares For The Giro

As the exciting season of spring classics and short tours winds down, the Pro Pelaton prepares to compete in the 2010 edition of the Giro d'Italia (The Tour Of  Italy), the traditional first of the three tours that each lasts three weeks.  The Giro is as close as many of us ever will come to visiting Italy.  This race not only provides exciting competition among most of the best riders in the world, but it also produces beautiful cinematography.  In addition to the rich vistas of the Italian countryside, ancient ruins and castles, beautiful manors and estates, and grand vistas, every day the race travels through beautiful Italian towns and villages like the one depicted above and copied from the website. 

The new American team Radio Shack, present home of Lance Armstrong, will not appear in this year's event.  The 2010 Tour of California has been moved to the month of May after all the inclement weather that race suffered last year.  California is effectively Radio Shack's home race and all of its best riders have been committed to compete there, so the Giro did not give them an invitation. 

Mark Cavendish, one of last season's most successful young riders, also will not appear in this year's Giro.  German Andre Greipel (shown at right) likely will be Team Columbia HTC's primary sprinter and Michael Albasini likely will be his team's best threat to compete as the over all winner. 

Last year's winner Dennis Menchov's name does not appear in his team Rabobank's most recently posted, proposed start list.  Likewise 2008's surprise winner Alberto Contador, who was called away from a beach vacation when his Team Astana was invited to compete at the last minute, will not ride in this year's event.  Astana will instead be lead by Alexandre Vinokourov, the Kazakh rider who was expelled from cycling when he was caught cheating during le Tour de France two years ago.  Vino apparently is in near mid-season form, fresh off his victory in last week's Liege-Bastogne-Liege. 

Liquigas will field a very strong team this year which includes Ivan Basso and Daniele Bennati.  After winning Flech-Wallone two weeks ago, Reigning World Champion Cadel Evans (left)  has said winning the Giro is his big goal for this season.  Cadel is riding very well since moving from the Lotto team to team BMC.  Team Sky, this year's new British team, will feature Kurt Arvesen and Stephen Cummings.  Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team) likes to save his best for his home tour la Vuelta a Espana, but he also has a very good chance to win May's Grand Tour. 

Many fans are waiting to see whether Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen of Team Katusha has regained his form since his early season injury last year.  With Cavendish sitting out the Giro, this might be Robbie's best chance to win a stage or two in a Grand Tour this season.  In addition to McEwen, I'll be pulling for American Tyler Farrar (Garmin Transistions) in the sprints, but the sprinters field is just as loaded as it is every year. 

Lampre, BBox and Quick Step all are fielding very strong teams.  So is Saxo Bank, even though neither of the Schleck brothers (Frank and Andy) nor perennial favorite Jens Voigt will ride for them. 

Not many Americans follow professional cycling and most of those who do know little more than the winner of the Tour de France each year.  Those of you who are sports starved really should try to follow the Giro this year.  It is my favorite of all the races.  The scenery is breath taking, the athletes are phenomenal, and the competition exciting.  This tour usually travels through weather and over terrain that makes it much more treacherous and unpredictable than the one they race in France each July.  Universal Sports will broadcast the Giro this year.  If Versus provides coverage, you can catch all the action in HD. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Division I college basketball coaching changes...

Until I read about Hoiberg going to Iowa State I didn't know Dana Altman took the job at Oregon.

Notable names
- Dan(ny) Hurley takes over at Wagner. He's the younger brother of Bobby Hurley and played at Seton Hall.
- Keith Richard(s) leaves the Rolling Stones to captain the ship at Louisiana Monroe. Monroe might rank in the bottom 30 of places I'd want to live in the US.
- Corliss Williamson gets his first major college HC (was HC at Arkansas Baptist last season) gig at Central Arkansas. You remember him from those powerhouse Hog teams of the mid 90s.


Recruiting Update: Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton will take an official visit to UA tomorrow. This would be a good a pickup for us with Knox leaving. Read more here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Justin Knox- GONE from the basketball team

... another big man leaves... inexplicably. Waiting for verification... will post link when I get one.

On his way to UAB it seems.

The link

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recruiting Update: Jason Carter in the house.

Jason Carter, the 6'8 Power Forward from Houston chose Alabama over Ole Miss. This likely concludes our recruiting class, as we will now have our full allotment of 13 scholarship players. Luke Cothran has been rumored to be favoring auburn, and with us signing Carter that leads me to believe that Cothron is likely an auburn lock at this point. Also Josh Langford, who I mentioned in an earlier post, went to auburn, but I do not expect him to qualify. Of course, should we be able to land Cothron, I would imagine Ben Eblen would be encouraged to transfer. On paper, this does not appear to be a stellar class, but it is a solid class that addresses our needs. It's somewhat disappointing to miss out on both Ratliffe and likely Cothron and have to "settle" for Durant and Carter, but hopefully under Grant's coaching these guys will prove to be the better ball players. Hopefully we can win more games next year and be in better position to land some of the ridiculous in state talent that will be up for grabs with next year's recruiting class.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Alonzo Gee named NBA D-League Rookie of the Year

This news is a few days old, but I figure Tide fans will be interested. After a spectacular rookie season in the D-League (not to mention a handful of games in the NBA), Alonzo Gee was awarded Rookie of the Year by D-League coaches last week. Although Gee's Toros team was eliminated in the playoff semifinals this past weekend, it didn't detract from a tremendous year in which Alonzo averaged 21 ppg, 6.6 rpg (In 11 NBA games with the Washington Wizards, Alonzo averaged 7.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg). Congratulations to Alonzo. Hopefully the Spurs will make a spot available for him next season or allow him to go to an NBA team in need of his talent.

NCAA tournament expands to 68 teams

Every game will be televised live. I can live with that, it's much better than going to 96 as was discussed. link

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Recruiting Update: Jalen $teele

$igns with Mi$$i$$ippi $tate. He wa$ the $hooting guard from Tenne$$ee who wa$ previou$ly $igned with auburn before being granted his relea$e. I guess it make$ $ense that if a per$on like$ auburn in the fir$t place, they would al$o like $tarkville. $crew him.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tide signs JUCO Point Guard Kendall Durant

Welcome to UA, Kendall Durant. He is a 6'3 185 lb point guard from Weatherford C.C. in Weatherford, TX. He originally signed with Virginia Tech in 2007 but did not qualify. He chose us over Penn State, Colorado, Virginia Tech, and South Carolina. He's originally from New Hampton, NH. His cousin is Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. From what I have read, he can play the 1 or the 2, has a decent shot, and is strong and aggressive. I suspect this was an insurance signing just in case Releford does not qualify.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Alabama will play Seton Hall in Paradise Jam first round

Here at the Alabama Basketball Blog we believe in 24 hour coverage of our beloved Crimson Tide. That, or we're just insomniacs. Okay, maybe I'm the only insomniac on the staff. Long story short: I was up, saw this story, and decided to post it before settling in for my usual 4-5 hour nightly doze.

The Paradise Jam released their bracket for next season's event. Alabama will open against Seton Hall of the Big East at 7 PM (Atlantic Standard Time) on November 19th. The winner will play the winner of Xavier/Iowa.

Seton Hall is a team currently in a state of flux. Three players from the team (Jeremy Hazell, Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson - this season's top three scorers) are currently in the NBA draft, though Pope is the only one currently being projected as a draft pick (most projections have him as a late 2nd round pick). All three could return to school next season, but with coach Bobby Gonzalez being fired recently they may decide to cut their losses. Without at least one of these guys returning, next season could be a serious rebuilding job for new coach, Kevin Willard (formerly of Iona). If things stay as they are, you have to like Bama's chances in this match-up.

Quite honestly, this is a tournament that Bama may ultimately be the favorite in. Besides Seton Hall possibly losing players to the draft, Xavier is also dealing with the possibility of losing their star player, Jordan Crawford, to the NBA draft as well. However, Xavier has positioned itself as one of the top basketball programs in the country so they won't fall very far if Crawford were to leave.

Clemson could also be without some players in the wake of Oliver Purnell's decision to accept the Depaul job. Star recruit, Marcus Thornton, has decommitted from the Tigers and is now being actively pursued by a number of schools, including Alabama. Several returning players could also opt to transfer leaving Clemson in a bit of a bind next season. I still don't understand the logic in Purnell's departure.

Other teams in the field include a very dangerous Old Dominion team, an Iowa program that is on hard times, a solid mid-major in Long Beach and a St. Peter's team that is expected to contend in the MAAC next season. While Alabama will still have some questions about its overall talent level, and a lack of experience and depth at the point guard position, they should be able to match-up with any team in this field next season.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What, no recruiting news?

You guys better give me some recruiting news soon or I'm going to do a cycling update post. I've been holding back on you for three weeks now!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Alabama wins basketball National Championship!

We primarily focus on men's basketball here, but as someone who loves the sport and loves the University I want to see all of our teams do well. Congratulations to our Women's Wheelchair Basketball team for dominating Illinois to win another National Championship. They have obviously worked very hard and represented the University well. Roll Tide!

Recruiting Update: Jason Carter

With Ricardo Ratliffe now gone to Missouri, it looks like we will continue to focus on Luke Cothron and Jason Carter. Carter is a 6'8, 230 lb Power Forward from Houston, TX. He averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, and reportedly has offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Colorado, and Ole Miss. Ole Miss and Alabama are considered the clear leaders. He had a great visit to Oxford last weekend and really liked the small town atmosphere. He will be visiting Tuscaloosa this weekend, and I would think seeing the crowd support for A-Day should only help our cause.

Former Tide guard, Rico Pickett, enters NBA draft

In what is further proof of the joke that the NBA and its draft have been becoming for some time, former Alabama and current Manhattan guard, Rico Pickett, entered his name in the NBA draft today. He has wisely decided not to hire an agent at this time, thereby affording him an opportunity to return to Manhattan for his senior year if he chooses. The early consensus is that he will go undrafted. While Pickett did lead the MAAC conference in scoring this season at 17 ppg, his team finished a woeful 11-20.
However, in a league like the NBA, where fundamental basketball is little more than a punch line at this point, who knows, maybe Pickett will be drafted on potential and cash a few checks before making way for the next raw athlete. It makes you appreciate all the more the stunt this guy pulled a year ago.

The number of odd names being thrown into the NBA draft this season is on the rise, primarily due to fears that the NBA may not have a season in 2011 as the result of a possible lockout. In order to confront this possibility, any player who had anything approaching a solid season is or will be throwing their name into the ring to try and gain at least a year of professional experience. It's a smart move, depending on the player. On the other hand, by drawing just as many non-draftable players, it continues to shed light on the fact that the process whereby college players enter the draft needs to be seriously modified. Even with the NCAA's new rule that underclassmen have to remove their name by May 8th (as opposed to the previous date of June 25th), coaches and returning players are still left waiting over a month after the NCAA tournament ends to learn whether or not the player(s) will return. From a recruiting perspective, it's a tough spot to be put in, particularly if the staff does not have a player-in-waiting for the position being vacated. .

I say if a kid enters the draft they're not interested in playing college basketball. The kid should have to make up their mind before the late signing period begins. If you want to be in the pros, go for it. The worst case scenario for most of these guys is they'll continue to play basketball in a development league or overseas. Meanwhile, the kids who want to be in school will come back and college basketball will be the better for it. Most kids who are forced to return to school don't always come back with the right attitude. They're only interested in improving themselves and not their team. As a result the team chemistry is disrupted, and the player may even see his stock decline (see Warren, Willie).

The general consensus among common basketball fans is that the "One-And-Done" rule is a joke, which I agree with. That should be done away with along with the long waiting period for draft entry and removal. College basketball will not suffer without these players. If you need proof, just look at this season's NCAA tournament. The teams that enjoyed the greatest success generally counted on guys working within a team system as opposed to counting on one or two players to carry the team. I've heard and read several comments from those who consider Duke the weakest national champion crowned in years merely because there were no superstars on that team. That may be so, but by playing together and understanding the roles laid out for them by the coaching staff, that fundamentally sound, but boring, team took home the ultimate prize. Ultimately, that's all that matters. Hopefully, more coaches will understand that signing guys who will be around for 2-4 years is more beneficial than the quick fix. The end result, I hope, will be changes by the NBA and NCAA to the one-and-done and draft entry period rules that will be beneficial to both bodies.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recruiting Update, Ratliffe and Steele

Nothing official yet, but according to this, it sounds like Ricardo Ratliffe committed to Mike Anderson and Missouri after visiting this weekend. Also, I read somewhere last week that Jalen Steele, the 2 guard who was previously signed with auburn, was granted a full release after meeting with coach Barbee. Coach $tansbury was the first coach to fly to Knoxville to meet with him after he got his release from auburn.

Mikhail Torrance creates some buzz at Portsmouth Invitational

From Draft Express:

Possibly the most intriguing single-game performance seen thus far from an NBA draft perspective was that of Alabama combo guard Mikhail Torrance.

Standing out from the opening tip due to the sheer size (6-5) he brings to the table at the point guard position, Torrance showed terrific physical tools and potential and likely established himself as a legitimate draft prospect in the process.

With his excellent first step and aggressive slashing mentality, Torrance got into the lane all game long against the much smaller Devan Downey, both in transition and off the pick and roll. Wisely looking more concerned with showing off his playmaking ability in order to prove his mettle as a point guard prospect (for which he’s far more interesting for the NBA than at the 2) than scoring, Torrance made some extremely creative passes all game long, both with flashy bounce passes off the pick and roll and with drive and dish plays finding open teammates right underneath the rim.

While Torrance’s conversion to the point guard position is clearly not a finished process—as evidenced by the 7 turnovers he committed—he showed enough potential in this area to show that he’s more than just another 2-guard masquerading at the 1. He’s a willing distributor with solid court vision and nice creativity, even if he needs to do a better job of cutting down on unforced errors and possibly taking as many risks.

While Torrance played an excellent first game, there are still a couple of areas we want to continue to study over the course of the next two games. One would be his defense, an area that he clearly has potential in thanks to his size and athleticism, but seems to struggle in at times to his seemingly average fundamentals. Another is his shooting stroke, which looked a bit streaky in this game.

While obviously not a finished product, Torrance is exactly the type of prospect an NBA team might be willing to spend time and energy developing because of the benefits they could reap down the road. Torrance’s ability to defend either guard position could give a coach a lot more versatility to play alongside a smaller combo guard without great playmaking skills. Torrance’s SEC counterpart Garrett Temple could be a good example to look at. Even if Torrance doesn’t make the NBA on the first go-around, he’s someone teams might want to continue to keep tabs on to see how he progresses down the road.

It would be a hell of a story if Torrance goes from the tumultuous three years under Gottfried to having a chance to compete in the NBA. Best of luck to him.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Alabama leads for Cothron

It appears that Kentucky has decided not to offer since they have a committment from a 5 star center from CA. This leaves us in pretty good shape, but he is still considering auburn and Marquette. You should read his quotes in Gentry Estes' article here.