Monday, December 31, 2012

Tulane puts Bama to Shame, 53-50.

I see this game has already been discussed, but wanted to add a couple of things.  In many ways, it was a lot like the Mercer game.  Ugly first half but a 5 point halftime lead, stagnant offense in the second half, failure to use timeouts until a big lead turned into a five point deficit, and unable to get key stops late.  We did improve in some areas from the Mercer game.

We seem to have finally figured out that with our lack of inside guys playing a man to man defense is not an option.  We primarily ran a 1-3-1 zone, and had some success trapping in the corners and double-teaming in the post.  Nick Jacobs was not very good in the first half, but played great in the second half, even on defense by our standards.  I question why he was sitting on the bench from the 8 minute to the two minute mark.  Moussa Gueye actually did an adequate job.

As has been stated, our guard play let us down.  Again, we pass up decent shots early in the shot clock.  I thought Cooper had a mismatch for much of the 2nd half and did not take advantage of it, trying to shoot over his man when he could have beaten him off the dribble.  Overall, the effort was decent,  but there were a couple of plays that stick out in my mind where a lack of hustle hurt us.  There were a couple of plays, especially one in the first half, where the ball was headed towards the sideline being last touched by Tulane, and instead of at least hustling over to be in position to hinder the Tulane player from getting to it, or be able to defend if they did get the save, we stood and watched the ball go out of bounds.  Problem is, Tulane actually hustled and made the saves and got easy baskets as a result.  There were also a couple of loose balls that I think we should have gotten to if we would have got on the floor.

Strategically, I thought our coaching decisions were better defensively this game.  I've already mentioned the 1-3-1 zone, but I thought we made better decisions regarding when to bring full court pressure.  I really liked the way Retin played in the press.  He did a good job of not letting their guards get to the middle and forcing them into long difficult passes.

Earlier in the season we were finding a way to win the close games.  Any confidence gained from the South Dakota State and Oregon State wins are long gone.  Give Tulane credit for making the plays in the final 2 minutes.  They made a couple of 3's, but I had no problem with us being in a zone defense on those possessions.  We are going to have to take some chances and pick our poison with this group, and sometimes we will get burned.  It was our inability to execute and answer on offense that bothered me.

One key play was a travel call on Moussa Gueye.  It was actually a bad call, Gueye did not catch the pass cleanly, he bobbled it, but the official behind the play was not in position to see the space between the ball and Moussa's hand, and saw him shuffle his feet and called a travel.  It happened right in front of me, and should have been a basket.  Instead, Tulane gets 3 at the other end for a 5 point swing.  I was so proud of Moussa for finally going up with the ball and not putting it on the floor in the paint, and he gets called for a travel.  Of course, if he would have caught the ball cleanly it probably would not have been an issue.

Another bad turnover was when Trevor Releford caught the ball in the corner with a wide open look for 3.  He hesitated for a second, allowing the Tulane defender to close out, and then he jumped to shoot and changed his mind in mid air and decided to double dribble instead.  This goes back to what I have been saying about our guards being hesitant to shoot.  If he catches and shoots without thinking about it he's got a good look.  At worst, he should have altered his shot and at least gave us a chance at a rebound.  I'm not certain he would not have been fouled if he went ahead and shot it.

My biggest complaint of this game, once again, is how we managed (or did not manage) the final 10 seconds.  As Tulane lined up for the free throws, I yelled over to Coach Grant, "We've got a timeout left if he misses!"  He missed, we got the rebound.  We frantically pushed the ball up the court as the players scrambled to the 3 point line.  I could see the confusion and panic in their eyes.  Nobody knew who was to be screening for who or where to go with the ball.  All the while I am screaming and jumping up and down yelling "TIMEOUT."  Unfortunately, NCAA rules dictate that only the head coach or players on the court have the authority to call a timeout.  The officials will not grant a timeout to some obnoxious jackass in the stands, and neither our head coach nor our players had the presence of mind to realize the necessity of calling one in that situation.  Who knows if we get and/or make a better shot anyway, but it is beyond frustrating.  We missed an off balance, contested shot and took our timeout with us, along with the loss, into the locker room.

It is going to be a long season.  I will continue to go to the games and support this team because I love the game of basketball and I love Alabama basketball.  I will enjoy the few victories as they come while trying not to get too upset about the losses, because I am expecting many more of them as this point anyway.  Big picture, Coach Grant is not going anywhere either before or immediately after this season's conclusion.  A lot of you may not like that, but it's a fact, so you might as well deal with it.  If you have read this blog you will know that I am not a Coach Grant apologist.  I have serious issues with the way he has managed the roster this year, his clock and timeout management decisions, and at times our offensive philosophy.  That said, I still think he's a good coach and these are all correctable problems.  My hope is that a lot of people calling for his head now are going to feel very silly when we are playing in the Sweet 16 next year.  I don't think that's an unrealistic possibility or expectation.  

The crowd was much better than I expected.  I would estimate probably 8,000 or so.  My gf has been a little under the weather, so I was flying solo for this one.  After the first media timeout some annoying kids came down and sat behind me, so I joined a friend of mine on the floor student section risers for the second half.  We were the only 2 "students" on the floor.  My friend, while technically a student has been at UA for 20 years and is in his late 40s.  I figured this was probably my last chance to be the youngest person sitting in the student section.  

Up next, the Oakland (Michigan, not Cali) Grizzlies come to Tusclaoosa for a 3pm tipoff next Saturday.  Their record is not good, but they've played a brutal schedule, including Pitt into overtime on the road.  I expect another close game.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Too Much Tulane For Tide

This was absolutely embarrassing!  A team loaded with guards, three of whom were supposed to have been high school three point machines, and we shoot 12% outside the arc at home!  (At least that's where it was with less than a minute left when I got disgusted and decided to leave the game.)  And we can't break 50 points?  Gimme a break!

I see where MSmilie already has chimed in and has not yet made any technical observations.  I looked for DJC at the game but did not see him in his seats.  Hopefully he can offer some technical explanations for what happened tonight.  What I think I saw was a team that did not care and was not fundamentally sound, hence a home loss to a mediocre team.  This game reminded me of Gottfried's next to last season, the one just before I burned my season tickets after having sat in front of that 12 year girl all season who eventually lamented toward our team, "At least ACT like you care!"  The end result, I may be be on the verge of giving up on Bama Basketball one more time.

I suppose I wouldn't really care about these games if I did not care about the program. But for a brief respite when my children were young, I have been driving between Mobile and Coleman Coliseum regularly since I graduated in 1979.  I've had season tickets for many of the past 10 or 12 years.  After tonight's debacle, I might stop emotionally investing myself in Bama Basketball and might keep my money in the bank.  I'm darn sure not going to drive seven hours round trip on a week night to watch that kind of junk. 

Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.  Otherwise I'm going to see if I can dump my tickets on  Send me a message if anybody out there wants to buy them.  I'll give you a good deal. 

Tulane Adds to Bama's Misery

Bama fell to Tulane tonight by a score of 53-50. It was Alabama's fifth loss in their last six games and their third straight home defeat.

Jesus H. Christ. It is hard to fathom what has happened to this team. This not the team that began the season 6-0, nor do I know what has happened to that team. The team probably doesn't even know what's happened to that team. Alabama will be hard pressed to post a winning record at the rate this season is going. And I can't and won't make any excuses for this coaching staff. Not any more. Bottom line: it's year four and this program is nowhere near being a consistent championship level program, conference or otherwise. I love ya Coach Grant, but it's true.

The game tonight. Well, Nick Jacobs finally shows up and plays a hell of a ball game......but......our guards decide to take the night off. Of course they did. I counted 4-5 (at least) missed wide open shots that could have changed the tone of the game. And our guys - our 4/5 star guys - could not knock one of them down. Not one. I'm a defensive guy. I love defensive basketball. But f*****g hell, is the team going through shooting drills at all? This has become too routine. This has to be addressed. I love defense, but at the end of the day you have to be able to put the ball in the fricken hoop if you want to win games.

To their credit, the team did show some heart in the second half when Tulane took their first five point lead. Unfortunately, the team could not build on that momentum and failed to finish a game yet again. And I'll also give Moussa Gueye some credit for playing his role well during the game. The team finally got some inside production and the perimeter guys failed to answer the call. It's so frustrating being a fan of this program right now.

A tip of the hat to Tulane's Josh Davis. He was the best player on the court and single-handedly kept Tulane in the game at points when it looked like Bama could take some measure of control. If Alabama had a guy that played with half the energy, heart and hustle of that guy, they would be in much better shape right now.

At this point, just cherish whatever victories this team can nab this season and repeat the mantra that has become near and dear to all of us: wait until next season. Cause folks, that's probably the best we can hope for.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Quick Tulane preview

They come in 10-3 with no real noteworthy wins and no bad losses. What should excite what's left of the 1284 fans that love Bama Hoops is Tulane hasn't won on the road this season (0-3).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bad News Bears, 66-59 loss to Mercer

After the VCU loss I posted here that we should rethink our philosophy because it clearly isn't working.  I think Coach Grant is doing that, but doesn't have any answers right now.

We used my favorite starting lineup of Releford, Lacey, Randolph, Cooper, and Pollard.  The only problem with this lineup is the lack of size.  Even a mediocre at best center can tear us apart, as we saw Saturday.  Pollard continues to play well, but he doesn't have the body to play the 4 and 5 positions as we are asking him to.  I really wish we would double team in the post out of our man to man defense, especially with this lineup on the floor.  Yes, we will leave some guys open, but we are short handed right now and will have to take some chances.

The offense actually played well at times.  We were inconsistent, but did not have any of the long scoring droughts.  We opened up a 12 point lead in the first half but allowed the Bears to cut it to 5 at halftime.  The second half started well as we were able to build the lead up to 11 with 10 minutes remaining in the game, thanks in large part to outstanding play by Trevor Releford.  We all know what happened next.

One of the most frustrating things about this team is that it can't seem to put together a complete 40 minute game.  We either fall hopelessly behind early and have to scrap and claw back, or we take a lead and coast just trying to hang on for dear life.  I think a big part of this is only having 8 scholarship players.

I said earlier that it would be difficult for us to execute the "94 feet both ways" style of play with our lack of depth.  Apparently, Coach Grant agreed, but he went to the other extreme.  We only applied pressure in the back court for a short period of time in the first half, and had some success with it.  We certainly can't press as much as we would like, but there were some key possessions late in the game where I think we should have tried it.

I know you people get tired of hearing me bitch about this, but once again, we had an 11 point lead.  That evaporated into a 3 point deficit in the matter of about 5 minutes and we DID NOT CALL A SINGLE TIMEOUT during the Mercer run.  Furthermore, we answered with a 4-0 run of our own and seemed to have regained momentum, THEN we called a timeout.  I do not understand our decision making with regards to timeouts at all.

I also question why we continued to try to pound the ball inside late with the game on the line.  Even though Lacey had an off day, we need to run more plays to get him involved, I would rather have the ball in his and Releford's hands down the stretch.  We went to Nick Jacobs 2 or 3 possessions in a row, and by this point Mercer had figured out that he can't go right.  The results were predictable, and Jacobs continues to be a disappointment in this awful season.  He did a little better job rebounding in this game, but it's hard to figure why Nick has not been able to live up to expectations.  I know he worked hard in the off season to lose some weight, and one would think his ankle should be healed by now.

I know this may sound odd given that we only have one somewhat consistent outside shooter on this team, but we need to shoot the ball.  We pass up too many good shots in a possession only to end up forcing something in the last 5 seconds of the shot clock.

In the past we have been able to rely on our defense to keep us in games, but that is not the case right now.  Giving up 40+ points in a half to Mercer is inexcusable.  As noted above, we have absolutely no defense in the post.  Our defense is very overrated.  Lacey is average at best on defense.  Releford is adequate but not great.  Jacobs is nearly as much of a defensively liability this year as Eblen was an offensive liability last year. Gueye is a stiff.  We are at our best when we have Levi, Cooper, and even Pollard in the game trapping and pressing the ball in the back court, but I said, we can only do so much of that with 8 players.

The bottom line is we are not a very good team right now.  We should have beat Mercer, but apparently we did not learn our lesson from the Dayton game, and that is that we aren't good enough to beat "inferior" teams by playing half of a game.  I think when we got the double digit lead in the 2nd half, the team had one foot out the door anticipating the Holiday break.

Looking at the big picture, Coach Grant's results have improved every year up till this year.  We got back to the post season in his second year and made it to the championship game of the NIT tournament.  Last year, we overcame some midseason discipline issues to break the NCAA tournament drought.  This year, as a result of bad roster management we started with only 10 scholarship players and little skill in the post, and are now down to 8 players due to injury.  We narrowly missed out on some recruits that could have made a huge difference, but we apparently did not have a "plan B."  While Coach Grant bears a good deal of responsibility for that, let's not forget that we should be in position to have a very good team next year.  I will continue to support this team and coach as they do the best they can this season while looking forward to next year.

The atmosphere for the Mercer game was as bad as I can remember it for a game at Coleman.  There were only 2 students sitting on the floor seats, and there was probably only about 3,000 or so total in attendance.  It being the start of the holiday weekend and the students being off campus, plus the team's lackluster performance of late, that is to be expected.  Up next, the Tulane Green Wave will roll in Sunday, December 30th for a 5pm tipoff.  I look forward to watching it live with a few dozen others.  If you can't make it to Tuscaloosa, and still want to watch for some reason, it will be on ESPNU.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bears Beat Bama

I had a bad feeling about this game, so I took a nap staring about 20 minutes before tip off.  When I woke up, there were about seven minutes left to play and Bama had a 5 point lead.  That was when I knew we were in trouble.  As was said a day or two ago, we should have curb stomped this team.

I watched my recording of the entire first half and the first 6 or 7 minutes of the second half.  That was all I could take.  Not being able to find a box score to confirm my gut reactions, I will trust others to correct my errors.

Once again, we do not have anything that looks like a half-court offense.  When the kids move, they don't look like they know where they are going and they are more likely to amble or lope than that are to sprint.  They do not seem to know what they are supposed to be doing when they are not executing a half-court trap or fast break.

We desperately need Nick Jacobs to heal or for Moussa Gueye to find some talent because we have no presence underneath the basket on either end of the court.  Jacobs' performance is excusable due to his nagging injury.  Gueye apparently is exactly what he appears to be right now.  To his credit, he appears to be playing to his potential.  With all due respect to the coach and the team, we need a talent upgrade at that position.  He cannot score nor can he defend on anything like a consistent basis.  Jacobs is not well and Pollard does not have the body for the job.

When the three point shots do not fall and the other team does not turn it over, this team struggles to score.  Even when the team defends well, it cannot rebound.  Are Lacey and Cooper our leading rebounders?   I would not be surprised to find out they were.  None of this is acceptable.  I am nowhere near ready to pull out the pitch forks and torches, but Coach Grant needs to put a more talented and better coached team on the court.  I'm sure he is aware of that too.  I hope he has a plan to accomplish both objectives. 


Friday, December 21, 2012

Mercer Bears preview

They finished dead last in the Paradise Jam (like we did 2 years ago), have a nice win @ FSU, but have some puzzling blowout losses @ Denver and vs UIC in said Paradise Jam. They did play New Mexico tough for about 30 minutes (which I saw in person).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tide Tackles Texas Tech 66-62

A win is a win, and the three game losing streak is now a thing of the past.  I watched this game on my blurry laptop screen, so take my analysis for what it's worth, which is even less than usual, if that's possible.

  Coming into this game, we were notorious for slow starts.  Tech zoned us early and Lacey made them pay by knocking down some early 3's.  We jumped out to an 8-0 lead and was able to cruise through most of the first half.  The starting lineup was Releford, Lacey, Randolph, Cooper, and Pollard.  It's a small lineup, but if you believe in putting your best 5 players on the floor regardless of size or position, this is probably the way to go.  We had great ball movement in the first half that led to a lot of open shots.  For those who complain "we do nothing but stand around the perimeter and pass the ball around against the zone," this is exactly what we are trying to accomplish.  It worked tonight for 2 reasons:  1) We executed much better.  We had good spacing and did not hold the ball for too long at a time.  The idea is to stretch the zone, and anticipate the next pass as you are receiving the current one.  The defense will have to rotate to the side of the ball, when you reverse it to the weak side, you should be able to get an open shot.  2) Tech was not very active in their zone.  They were slow to rotate and slow to close out on our shooters.

Defensively, we started out in a zone as well to compensate for our lack of size inside.  Texas tech cooperated by trying to get into a 3 point shooting contest with us.  As I mentioned above, Lacey was making his shots, Tech didn't have anybody who could shoot.  We cruised to a 43-27 halftime lead that we would stretch to 20 early in the second half.

I don't know if the team thought the game was over, if Coach Grant thought the game was over, or what happened, but we absolutely sucked the last 14 minutes or so of that game.  Texas Tech deserves some credit for making the necessary adjustments to get back into the game.  They switched to a man to man defense, playing our guards close and soft on everybody else.  We responded by taking the air out of the ball.  We may as well have been running the 4 corners the last 12 minutes of the game.  Every possession we ran the shot clock down to 5 or less, at times passing on decent shots.  Maybe Coach Grant felt that with the big lead and a limited roster it was best to limit possessions, but the forced shots as the shot clock expires, the shot clock violations, the turnovers, 5 and 10 second calls, are getting tiresome.  It was an 8 minute scoring drought that is becoming all too common these days.

At the other end, Tech finally stopped jacking up 3's and took advantage of our weakness in the post by attacking the basket.  Gueye did get some rebounds, but he also picked up a ton of fouls and is frankly, a huge liability at this point.  Nick Jacobs had a better game overall, but he doesn't play defense and one rebound out of a power forward in 21 minutes of playing time is not going to cut it.  Devonta Pollard had a very good game and seems to be progressing nicely.  It's not really fair to him, but we are going to need him to play more inside, even though he doesn't really have the necessary bulk, he can get some rebounds for us with his height and athleticism.

Rodney Cooper struggled and played most of the night in foul trouble.  Dakota Slaughter came in off the bench in the first half to relieve him, and did a decent job of at least giving us some minutes.  Releford did a nice job down the stretch of getting to the line and knocking down some free throws,  but his assist to turnover ratio is not what I would hope for.  The whole team turned the ball over too much on the dribble drive in the second half.

On the bright side, we were able to withstand the run with the momentum against us to hold on for the win.  Levi had a huge shot to put us back up by 2 scores in the final minute.  We made the plays when we had to and hopefully this will give the team some confidence.

Up next, the Mercer Bears come to Coleman Coliseum for a 1pm tipoff Saturday.  It seems like we play them almost every year, and they are usually one of the better teams in their conference.  They are 6-6 with a win on the road over Florida State, but also with some embarrassing blowout losses to Illinois-Chicago and Denver.  The game will be televised on CSS if you can't make it to Tuscaloosa.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Texas Tech preview

They are 5-2 coming off a heartbreaking loss at home to mighty McNeese St. Probably not good for us as I bet the players are in for extra work in the days leading up to Wednesday.

Season Stats

Jay Crockett, Josh Grey, and

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Damn Rams Slam Alabam, 73-54

I know it's already been discussed at length, but I just got back from Virginia and wanted to add my two cents concerning the debacle that we all witnessed.  Since I am generally known as the most optimistic homer here, I will start off by focusing on the positives.  Devonta Pollard continues to develop and was probably our best player in this game.  Dave Matthews Band put on the best concert I have ever seen in Charlottesville Friday night.  That's it, I'm out of positives.

The slow starts have been a problem all season.  I will not rehash it here, I've beaten that dead horse enough.  I expected the team to come out with a lot of energy, a sense of "we have to win this one for Coach" type of attitude.  Not to take anything away from VCU, they played outstanding man to man defense and we could not get anything going.  It took us over TEN MINUTES to finally score a FG.  At that point, I still felt okay about things, because our defense was playing outstanding to that point to keep it still within a single digit game.

VCU was able to maintain their high level of play defensively throughout, knock down some big 3's, and feed off their home crowd to blow us out.  As I said, we kept it respectable early on defensive effort, but they have a similar style of play to us and they wore us down with frequent substitutions.  We had to use Releford at point almost the entire game because it became evident very quickly that Retin could not handle the press.

The last key moment of the game came early in the 2nd half, when we had trimmed their 20 point lead down to 13, and Levi Randolph missed an open 3, the ball took a long bounce off the rim, and VCU got a 3 point play at the other end.  If we could have cut it to 10 there, I felt like we might have been able to make a game of it.  When VCU stretched it to 26, we were fortunate it did not end up being a 35-40 point loss.

For all of the talk I have seen about how this team "quit," I do not believe that to be the case.  I saw a team that was clueless as to what to do on offense, and a team that got tired and wore out on defense.  Our offensive strategy seemed to be to drive toward the basket and force up a shot whether it was open or not.  We tried to run the pick and roll seemingly every possession of the first half and made no adjustments when it was obvious that VCU was prepared for it.

For all the talk about how great of a defensive team we are, if you want to see a truly great defensive team, look at VCU.  When you stop and think about it, we are overrated in our defensive ability.  Releford and Lacey are not great on ball defenders.  They are very capable offensive players, but need to become more consistent at that end of the court as well.  Nick Jacobs is awful defensively  and while I like the guy and his effort, to say Moussa Gueye does ANYTHING adequately at this point is a stretch.  So, that's half of our roster that is average at best defensively.

Yes, we are dealing with some injuries right now, but Carl Engstrom and Andrew Steele should not make this much of a difference.  I know Carl was developing into a serviceable big man, and we badly miss his minutes right now given the shortcomings of Jacobs and Gueye, and Steele brings some solid defense and leadership qualities to the court, but let's not kid ourselves, neither one of those guys were going to make any all conference lists.

This game was not lost as a result of in game coaching or a lack of effort.  It was lost in the off season as a result of poor roster management, and I fear it's not going to be the last game we lose for this reason.  As I mentioned, we only started with 10 scholarship players, several of which have some known major limitations.  We are now down to 8.  For a team that's looking to play "94 feet both ways" that is a recipe for disaster.

We need to seriously re-think what we are trying to do right now.  As I said, VCU runs a similar system, and when you try to do basically the same thing with a team that is not as deep/good, you probably aren't going to win, especially on the road.  We don't have the horses to press most of the game right now.  Of course, it's easy to point out what we shouldn't be doing.  I don't have any answers either.    Our inside game isn't good enough to run a half court game and pound it into the post.  We aren't going to beat anybody with our perimeter shooting either.  It's hard to come up with a game plan that will allow us to compete with good teams right now.

I hate to pile on Coach Grant, because I still think he's done a good job overall and I still support him 100%, and I know he's starting to catch a fair amount of criticism now, but there was one thing that I saw Saturday that particularly bothered me.  Before the game, after the starting lineup introductions, VCU had one of those promotions where a fan tries to make a free throw, 3 pointer, and half court shot within 45 seconds or so to win free pizza or something.  Except, they allow a former player to come back and make the shots the fan missed, I don't recall who the player was, but he was one of Coach Grant's former players at VCU, and he made the half court shot to get the fans excited.  Anyway, during the 2-3 minutes all this is going on, Shaka Smart has his players in the huddle coaching them up.  Our players were watching the fan/former player shoot, then Coach Grant and staff comes out to hug the former VCU player as he's leaving the court.  I'm probably nitpicking, but 1) spend that time coaching your team, and 2) exchange pleasantries after the game, seconds before tip is not the time or place for that, just my opinion.

Speaking of the Coach Grant-VCU connection, we had a few fans tell us they wished Coach Grant well, appreciated what he did for them, and were pulling for him to be successful at Alabama.  While there was never one big moment for everyone to applaud or boo him, there were several more who were constantly yelling "don't cry Tony" or "Get off our court Tony" throughout the game, which is to be expected.  It was a great atmosphere for college basketball.  The arena only seats about 7,500 and it was packed with everyone very close to the court.  It was a loud and difficult place to play as expected.  It was a nice arena for it's size, but definitely not up to par with what you would find at most major conference schools.  The video screens are in bad need of an upgrade.    Their fans were very passionate, but strangely obsessed with officiating.  Kentucky fans would blush at the way these guys treated the refs, and we all know the Big Blue has never committed a foul.  There were at least 4 or 5 different people in every section who stood and cursed at the officials nearly the entire game, and they were not very knowledgeable of the rules.  EVERY time we pivoted, it was a "travel,"  every high dribble was a "double dribble," and the few good screens we managed to set were "moving picks."  If you walked into the arena when they had a 26 point lead in the second half and just listened to the fans, you would have thought they were losing the game.  If my team were beating the shit out of my former coach, I think I would try to at least enjoy it a little bit. In fairness, they did not really taunt us, although I wasn't a huge fan of the "show no mercy" and "run up the score" chants.  There were about 150 Alabama fans scattered throughout, although we seemed to be the only ones in our section.

I thought this was interesting.  I found this at the hotel bar.  Yes, we got our asses blown out by an outfit that takes its recruits to freakin' Chilli's on official visits.  

On another note, as I mentioned above we saw DMB play at UVA's arena Friday night.  The Cavalier's John  Paul Jones arena would be one of the top 3 nicest venues in the SEC.  It seats about 15,000 with an upper level and sort of a mini NBA feel to it.  It reminded me of a larger version of Xavier's Cintas center.  Anyway, the fact that one of the lower tier teams in the ACC has an arena that would be one of the best in the SEC, says something about where our conference is in regards to basketball.

Up next, we go to Lubbock, TX looking for our first true road win against a horrible Texas Tech team Wednesday night.  Tipoff is set for 7pm, and you will need broadband internet to watch it on ESPN3.  Let's end this losing streak.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

VCU Dominates Alabama

Actually, dominate may be too nice a word for what VCU did to Alabama today in a 73-54 defeat that wasn't as close as the final score. VCU physically abused Alabama from the start of the game to the finish. Even late in the game when the contest was well and truly decided, VCU continued to press Alabama and force them into turnovers and bad shots. The VCU defense was so stifling, Alabama couldn't even set up its less than stellar half court offense. It was as thorough an ass whipping as I've seen in a while.

While I thought Alabama came out with better energy on the defensive end than what we saw against Dayton, it didn't last very long as VCU overwhelmed them and, to quote another Alabama head coach, "made their ass quit". There's no way to tie a bow on this one, folks. Alabama was punched, kicked, trampled, spit on and the bullying was so effective that VCU didn't even feel the need to take Bama's wallet.

I have been a Grant supporter since day one and I still believe this team can turn it around, but he has to instill some toughness in these guys. They got pushed around today and did little to push back. Say what you want to about JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell's offcourt antics, but those guys played with a chip on their shoulders on the court, something this team sorely needs right now.

The only real bright spot today was the play of Devonta Pollard who played hard from start to finish, subsequently putting together one of his better games. He finished with 13 pts on 5-7 shooting (3-4 FT) and added 8 rebounds. With the continuing struggles inside, Pollard may find himself back in the starting line-up.

Carl Engstrom may not have been the second coming of Patrick Ewing, but he was the most productive big man we had up to this point. His injury looms large now because Moussa and Nick are simply bringing nothing to the table. Nick Jacobs in particular has been a train wreck so far this season after putting together a solid freshman season. I'm not sure if he's just not healthy or just not involved, but he has to find himself quickly or risk losing minutes as Pollard develops and the new guys come in next season.

And I think Dakota Slaughter deserves more minutes. As a walk-on he values his minutes and plays hard when he's in the game. As bad as Bama has been in the paint this season, it can't hurt to give the guy more minutes. Not to mention, it's the best name on the team.

It's hard to know what to expect of this Alabama team moving forward, but it's officially gut check time for these guys Another bad loss or two prior to conference play could officially put a cap on the season before it even really gets rolling. People love to say that the college basketball regular season is largely meaningless, but what you do in November and December determines where you play in March. If Alabama can't figure things out quickly, it could turn out to be a very long season.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick VCU preview

They come in 6-3 with losses to #23 Wichita St, #2 Duke and #11 Missouri. Yes, they are pretty damn good...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Andrew Steele to have sports hernia surgery

Out up to six weeks.  I question why we didn't go ahead and do this three weeks ago.  In any event, and then there were 8.

Around the SEC 12/13/2012

Looking at the league right now, outside of Florida and Missouri it pretty much sucks. Kentucky has been struggling, LSU is undefeated, but hasn't played anyone... ditto for Texas A&M, and the rest are about what we thought they'd be or even worse (Auburn, Vandy, Arkansas, UGA, etc)

I could easily see this being a 4 bid league with Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky (they'll get their act together at some point) as sure things, but who gets the 4th slot? We might get 5, but right now I'm not too confident about that. What that means for Alabama fans is we should easily (despite our injury woes/lack of inside game) win 11 games in conference just by showing up... but IMO we might need to get closer to 13 to have a shot at the tournament.

The league needs to step it up the final 3 weeks of December.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carl Engstrom out for the year

Torn ACL and MCL.  He had surgery at St. Vincent's in Birmingham Tuesday morning.  I wish him the best in his rehab and recovery.  This leaves us with 9 scholarship players, and a very thin front line.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Dayton still hatin', 81-76

This loss was my fault.  I take full responsibility, and I apologize for letting down the team, the University, and my fellow fans.  I normally wear a hat to the games, but I forgot to grab one when I left for work yesterday morning, and decided it was not worth the extra time to stop back by my crib before departing for Tuscaloosa.  It won't happen again.

Slow starts have been a major problem this year.  It seems we fall behind in the early goings of every game, and it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of our struggles.  Part of it may be the myriad of different starting lineups we have put on the court due to injuries and other reasons.  Moussa Gueye got the start in place of the injured Carl Engstrom, and he pretty much had as bad of a first 2 or 3 minutes of the game as humanly possible.  As for the injured guys, Carl was not there, and Andrew was present but did not dress out.

Dayton jumped out to an early 11-2 lead which set the tone for the game.  Releford and Lacey did not play as good defensively as we would have liked, and Dayton got numerous open 3 pointers which they were able to knock down.  Pollard came in and gave us a spark, and we went on a run in the first half to fight back and take the lead around the five minute mark, but Dayton was able to take control and take a 5 point lead into the half, which they stretched to 15 at one point in the second half.  Bama never quit, and a frantic comeback cut the lead to 5 in the final minute, but we could not make the plays to give us a chance to win.  The last best hope was when Cooper had an open 3 at the top of the key down 6 around 35 seconds left that would have cut the lead in half, but came up short with an air ball.

I was hoping for a better effort coming off the Cincinnati loss, and given the fact that the Flyers absolutely destroyed us in Dayton last year.  Dayton, to their credit, while not being a great team does seem to really get up for the big games.  Their record against the SEC and ACC over the last couple of years is very impressive.

Living and dying with the press, as we do, with only 8 scholarship players is a recipe for disaster.  A lot of the missed perimeter shots down the stretch were likely the result of fatigued legs.  Furthermore, Dayton had enough quickness and enough ball handlers, that when they beat our press they were able to get to the basket for easy layups.

This one was of our worst defensive performances of the Coach Grant era.  As I mentioned earlier, our guards did a poor job of closing out on their shooters out of the 2-3 zone.  Our transition defense was horrible all night.  We got beat down the court on numerous occasions, many times following made baskets, which is completely inexcusable.  It seemed every time we made a big shot, they would answer just seconds later.  Our big men are incapable of playing man to man defense.  We did not run much man, because when we did they would either throw into the post, where we had no choice but to double team leaving someone open, or they would move our bigs away from the basket and beat us off the dribble.  Coach Grant rarely gets emotional in the huddle, but we could hear him yelling at the guys during a timeout early in the 2nd half after Dayton extended the lead.

Offensively, we were stagnant against their man to man pressure.  We did not set screens or move well without the ball.  I thought Releford tried to do too much himself at times and forced some bad shots.  At times, it seemed our offensive strategy was for the Trevors to dribble into traffic, initiate contact, and hope for a foul call against Dayton.  One positive is that we were able to get to the line, and with the exception of Nick "Brick" Jacobs, we made our free throws.

Another key to the game was Releford picking up some dumb fouls, including his 4th with over 10 minutes left to play.  Retin did the best he could running the point in Releford's absence, but we missed his scoring and driving ability when we needed it the most.

With around 7 minutes, we had cut the lead to 9 and appeared to have forced a turnover, but the officials ruled that Dayton called a timeout first.  Moussa Gueye was then called for a foul on a 3 point attempt, giving Dayton 3 free throws.  Gueye injured his knee in the process and did not return.  It was that kind of night.  Coach Grant said after the game that his impression was that Gueye could have returned "if needed."

While I have been critical of the team's overall effort last night, I do want to point out that Levi Randolph played a solid game.  He got after it at both ends and was a big reason why we were able to come back from 15 down to at least be within shouting distance at the end.

While I understand that it is difficult to execute at a high level every night in college basketball, good teams have to find a way to win these types of games at home.  Dayton is a decent team, and as I said, they seem to play well against "bigger name" opponents, but they also lost to Weber St.  They aren't world beaters, and at the end of the year will probably be an NIT team at best.  Any encouragement I had from playing Cincinnati close is now gone.  Now with a very difficult game in what will probably be the most hostile environment we will face all year against a very solid VCU team looming, we are facing a very real possibility of taking a 3 game losing streak into Lubbock, TX for our game against the Red Raiders in a couple of weeks.

It was probably the best crowd of the season so far, and I would estimate around 9,000 were in attendance.  It was a subdued atmosphere most of the night with Dayton being in control for all but a couple of minutes in the first half.  There were only a thousand or so people left when we made our frantic run in the final 2 minutes.

Up next, 10 days off for finals that will hopefully give us a chance to get healthy and work on some obvious issues before we head to Richmond, VA for a 4pm EST (3 Central) tipoff against the VCU Rams on Saturday, December 15.  We will desperately need a quality road win to off set this loss to Dayton, and looking at our schedule, there are not many realistic chances of such.  VCU may be our best opportunity, although I am sure it will be a very hostile environment in the small, sold out arena where Coach Grant is not a very popular figure.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Bama's Season Takes a Step Back in Loss to Flyers

I once tried to explain to a friend of mine just how difficult it is to be an Alabama basketball fan. The best I could do was compare the Alabama basketball program to the girl you meet who appears to be great on the surface. You go out a few times, things get off to a great start, but then, without warning, things go awry and you simply want it to end as quickly and painlessly as possible.

I have no desire to attempt an insightful recap of the game tonight. It was a horrible performance by Alabama, end of story. Yet another poor offensive performance punctuated by a defensive performance that allowed Dayton to shoot just under 50% (42% from 3-pt), sent the Flyers to the charity stripe 27 times, where they made 21. Dayton also out-rebounded our guys and routinely beat them up and down the floor. Horrible effort by the team.

And to add injury to insult, Moussa Gueye left the game in the second half with a leg injury. No word on the severity of the injury yet, but it looked like a knee injury. If Moussa and now Carl miss time, Alabama suddenly becomes much smaller. 

This loss may come back to haunt Alabama in March. The non-conference schedule was already light on heavyweights, and in case you haven't noticed, the SEC, outside of Florida, has been stinking it up. Alabama can not count on the SEC for many quality wins, at least not in the conference's present state. Bottom line: the December 15th game at VCU is suddenly looking like a must-win. And this team, for the love of James Brown, must avoid any further "bad" losses.

And I would count this loss as bad. Dayton has been far from a great team so far this season. At best, they may only prove to be a middle-of-the-pack A-10 team when all is said and done. This is one that I'm sure Alabama would like to have back when March rolls around.

If depth becomes a concern, Grant's decision to sign only one player in the offseason suddenly becomes a questionable one. The team has ten days to rest up and get its mind right for what should be a difficult affair at VCU. Hopefully they can get back on track.

Dayton Flyers preview

Here is their official write-up of the game tonight. Note that Dayton has won 6 straight against SEC opponents (beat the Barn earlier this year by 10 at home). Dayton is 6-2 with losses to Colorado in Orlando and at home to Weber St....

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

From the innernets- Engstrom waiting on MRI/Steele w/ sports hernia

Puts us down to 8 scholarship players... maybe we can reach the Elite 8 like we did the last time this happened (if I'm remembering correctly from 2004).

Otherwise, we might be in a world of hurt coming up.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Bearcats Best Bama Blowing BCSCG Buoyancy Bubble

I had a couple of other ideas for the title last night while trying to fall asleep.  We couldn't hear the game because of the football radio coverage and some junky football game kept us from seeing the first 20 minutes of our hoops game.  I kept flipping back to basketball from football until the game was over and will try to finish watching my recording tonight.  If you want to know what happened, see the REAL report below on this same page.  :-)

Winning for losing... Bearcats sink jumper at buzzer to win 58-56

Like every other Bama fan without multiple TVs in a room... I was flipping back and forth between the basketball and football game up until the 2 minute mark in Cincy. IMO we played a near perfect game, dictating the pace of the game, forcing bad shots, but like the LMU game in 1990 we fell just a little bit short.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cincinnati Bearcats preview

It's a big day tomorrow for Alabama athletics as our FB team looks to beat down the Dawgs on the way to Miami (I think we win by 20+ points) AND the hoops team get their toughest test so far (and possibly the entire season) in Cincinnati (WKRP).

The Bearcats are undefeated and ranked #17 in AP poll. Only one of their games have been decided by less than double digits.

Season stats

I haven't watched them this year except for highlights, but from what I gathered they score a lot (86.8 PPG) and don't give up a lot (60.7). Granted that 60.7 is somewhat padded by their destruction of NC A&T.

Players to watch are Sean Kilpatrick (21 PPG) and  Cashmere Wright (16.5). Wright is hitting 3s at a 47.5% clip. The numbers they've accumulated so far kinda scares me. They have 3 big guys over 6'9" but none of them play more than 10 MPG. The Bearcats are sloppy with the ball (15 turnovers a game) so I suspect we will press them quite a bit.

Key #s
- 47.5 FG
- 40.3% 3pt FG
- +13.4 rebound margin
- 95 offensive boards

Tip off is 3PM EST (2PM CST). Obviously this is 1hr before the SECCG so I expect all of you not attending to be tuned into ESPN2 for the 1st half. Me... I'll be split screening the 2nd half.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cardinals, Knight, go down with little fight. 75-47

We were short handed with Andrew Steele sitting out with a groin injury and Trevor Releford on the bench with a stomach bug. Thus, we started a somewhat unorthodox lineup with Retin running point, Lacey, Levi, Pollard, and Engrstram. This group has not played a lot together, and it showed as the Tide got off to a sloppy start against a horrible Lamar team.  Ten minutes into the game, Lamar actually had the lead on us, thanks to the Cardinals making some improbable shots and Tide giving them a number of unforced turnovers.

After the initial slow start, Retin settled down and played a very solid game.  He knocked down a couple of 3's, played great on ball defense, and most importantly took care of the basketball.  We were able to take a 9 point lead into halftime.

Alabama dominated the second half, setting the tone early by playing smothering defense and forcing turnovers in the full court press, and getting stops in the half court zone, including a couple of shot clock violations.  Rodney Cooper came in off the bench and provided a spark offensively.  He doesn't have the smoothest or flashiest game, but he finds a way to get it done.  Despite chucking up 7 bricks from the 3 point range, he still managed to finish with 17 points.

Pat Knight is a pathetic joke, and if it were not for his last name he would be lucky to have a job coaching middle school basketball.  He clearly wants to be his dad, or maybe he just got all of his bad  genes and none of his good coaching ones.  Bob Knight was an old school disciplinarian, who's teams were very solid fundamentally.  They knew how to set screens, move without the ball, play defense with their feet, and basically wear you down over the course of a game.  He also had a ridiculous temper, which is well documented.  Pat Knight inherited his temper, and his disdain for wearing suits, but not much of his basketball knowledge.

Early in the second half, Pat Knight picked up two technical fouls and was ejected after arguing a no-call on Carl Engstrom.  In fairness, Carl fouled the guy, but Lamar recovered the ball and scored anyway, and given their lack of ability to shoot free throws or do anything else basketball related in a remotely competent fashion, that was not the time to pick that battle.  He came WAY out of the coach's box while we were bringing the ball up the court, screaming at the official on the opposite side of the court, to earn his first T.  At that point, as the official was trying to report the foul to the scorer's table, Pat literally came charging, in nearly a full sprint toward him.  One of his assistants stepped in front of him to try to restrain him, so Knight shoved the assistant in the chest and got into his face.  Other assistants stepped in to help diffuse the situation.  If this game would have been on TV or on a bigger stage, his shoving an assistant coach would likely be national news today.

All of this might be somewhat excusable if his teams exhibited any of the traits I mentioned about his father's Indiana teams above.  They do not.  Last year, he openly called out his senior class in a press conference for their "attitude problems."  To their credit, they went on a run and squeaked into the NCAA play-in game, and now all those guys are gone and they suck.  If their attitudes were that bad at that point in the season, I blame the coaching staff for allowing them to continue to play.  Things like those types of press conferences may work once in a blue moon in the short term, but now we are seeing the long term effects.   That Lamar team was one of the worst fundamental teams I have ever seen.  Their guards can't handle the ball and they dribble with their heads down.  They make lazy passes.  They completely lose their man on defense and make bad decisions.  I will be shocked if that clown is still coaching Division 1 basketball in three years.

Anyway, those technicals should have been the time to put the game away.  Instead, Trevor Lacey missed 3 of the 4 free throws.  I was a little disappointed in Lacey this game.  With Releford out, I thought it would be a chance for him to pick up and carry the slack, especially when playing the point.  There were a couple of loose ball situations early in the game where I thought Lacey should have got on the floor to get after.  He finished with only 7 points and 2 of 6 from the line.  The team was 10 of 18 from the line and only 5 of 20 from 3 point range.  We must improve in those two areas if we are going to win any big games.

With the injuries and the hapless opponent, everybody was able to get some playing time.  Keon Blackledge and Dakota Slaughter got about 10 minutes each, with Dakota coming off the bench in the first half and contributing nicely with 10 points.

Pollard continues to improve and had a really good game defensively with some blocked shots and forcing a couple of turnovers.  There was one play in particular that sums up where Devonta is right now that sticks out in my mind.  Lamar had a guy catch a pass on the low block, seemingly open, and hesitated for just the slightest half second before going up with the ball.  Pollard recognized it, left his man and came from the other side of the lane to block the shot, getting to it before it hit the backboard avoiding the goal tending call.  It was remarkable how quickly he reacted and was physically able to get off the floor. However, after the block, he stood where he was and watched the ball instead of where it was going, so he did not anticipate that Lamar would recover it, and when they did, his original man was open for the layup.  Offensively, I think he's getting better at slashing to the basket and getting some second chance points, but he still makes me nervous when he has the ball and is guarded in traffic.

It was not a great crowd, probably about 5,000 or so, which I suppose is to be expected for a midweek game against this type of opponent.  Again, I wish they would go back to making the announcements inviting the fans in the nosebleeds to move down into unused seats at the first media timeout.  There are more fans sitting above the portals than near the court these days.  Up next, we travel to Cincinnati for a 2pm CST tipoff against the BearCats Saturday.  I had considered making the trip, but I got hooked up with the SEC Championship football tickets so I will be in Atlanta and watching on ESPN2.  We will have to play our best game of the season thus far if we expect to return home undefeated.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lamar Cardinals preview

A really bad Lamar team shows up in Tuscaloosa in what should be a beating of epic proportions. This team is 1-5 with an average margin of defeat being 27.8 points. Horrible doesn't begin to describe how bad they are.

As DJC noted below, this is Pat Knight's team (in his 2nd year). They made the NCAAT last season and lost in the First Four matchup with Vermont.

This season, they have yet to play a home game and won't do so until 12/29. I can't remember a team playing almost 2 months of hoops and not playing at home at least a couple times before conference play. Wow!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bama Stops the Bucs, 59-46.

Alabama forced some early turnovers with the press and jumped out quickly to a 9-0 lead.  However, the offense then went stagnant and Charleston Southern was able to come all the way back and take the lead before the Tide regained control to take a 36-27 lead into the half.

Rodney Cooper sat out with shoulder tendinitis, and was replaced by Devonta Pollard in the starting lineup.  Carl Engstrom also got the start ahead of Moussa Gueye.  Both Pollard and Carl responded with solid performances.  Trevor Lacey was all over the court at the beginning of the game making defensive plays, but he did not have one of his better games offensive.  On the other hand, Releford had a great day and was very comfortable shooting the ball from his point guard position, going 5 of 8 from downtown.

The team looked flat overall for much of the game, and they especially got lazy on offense against the zone in the second half.  Charleston Southern is not a bad basketball team.  Their bad record is somewhat deceiving, as they are picked to win their conference and they played a good Arizona team within single digits on the road.  I was concerned we might have a bit of a let down, with the Bucs not being a big name opponent and coming off the wins in New York.

Charleston Southern was able to stay within shouting distance thanks to some sloppy play, missed open shots, and missed free throws.  Coach Grant picked up a technical foul after what appeared to be phantom offensive foul call on Moussa Gueye, allowing Charleston Southern to cut the lead to 4.  I am not sure that Grant intended to get the technical, but the team seemed re-energized from that point forward.  A CSU player committed a technical foul of his own a couple of minutes later, and the Tide never looked back.

It was a solid crowd considering the opponent and the other things going on Friday night..  I would say there was about 7,000 people there, but it was a late arriving crowd.  Up next, Pat Knight brings his Lamar Cardinals in from Beaumont, TX for a 7 pm tipoff at Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Charleston Southern preview/stats

The game is the night before the Iron Bowl Alabama-Auburn game so I'm hoping there is a decent crowd for it. The last time we had a game the day before a football game didn't draw so well (South Dakota State). The University needs to get the word out to the football only fans that we do in fact have a game Friday evening. Saying that, I will not be attending as I'll be driving to T-town the following morning (I made opening night).

(Still testing page breaks- click title to read the rest)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bama wins 2k Sports Championship, 77-55 over Villanova

Trevor Releford replaced Devonta Pollard in the starting lineup, and responded by going 5 for 5 from downtown and leading us to a championship victory with 25 points.

I read a lot of comments following the Purdue-Villanova game about how we needed a tightly officiated game given how physical the wildcats were in the first round.  As it turned out, the quick whistles were to our detriment, as we got into a ton of foul trouble in the first half.  This is something we will have to deal with from time to time given our style of play and level of aggressiveness on defense.

We played the final 6 or 7 minutes of the first half without Lacey or Releford on the floor.  With six minutes left i told a UA fan sitting near me that I feel really good about things if we can keep it within 5 or so at halftime.  The lineup of Retin, Levi, Coop, Devonta, and Moose did a great job, especially defensively, to get us into the half with a 3 point lead.

Nova scored the first 2 baskets of the 2nd half to retake the lead, but the Tide dominated from there, cruising to a 20 point win.  They had all sorts of problems with our press and give Coach Grant credit for being willing to play more zone than he would probably like to slow down their post players.  Rodney Cooper had another good game with 17 points.  To win this easily when Lacey didn't even score his first points until 7 minutes remaining in the game was impressive.  Retin did a great job at backup point guard and is finally starting to show some of his potential in that role.  As I mentioned earlier, his play late in the first half while Releford was on the bench was a huge factor in the win.

Despite my reputation of being one of the biggest homers around here, I am going to caution our readers to curb your enthusiasm a little bit over this hot start.  Sure, it's great to be undefeated and bringing home the hardware from a neutral site tournament, but I fear this may be a "good names bad teams" situation.  Frankly, Purdue and Villanova just do not look like good basketball teams to me at this point, and Oregon State is decent but far from great.  It will be interesting to see how many, if any, or these teams make the NCAA tournament.  That being said, the team is playing with good chemistry and having a lot of fun right now.  You could see in their smiles how much they enjoyed getting their pictures taken with the trophy while Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played in the Garden after the game.  A group of fans, myself included, stuck around after the game to congratulate the team as they left the court to go into the tunnel.  Moussa Gueye went out of his way to shake hands and give high fives to all the fans.  Coach Grant also thanked us for being there.

I have heard a lot of people express concerns over Devonta Pollard.  People expect a 5 star recruit to come in and produce at a high level immediately, but those are not always realistic expectations.  Pollard is going to be fine, he's a great athlete with a great attitude and he is working hard.  It's a long way from Kemper County, Mississippi to playing major D1 basketball.  This is the first time, probably in his life, when he has had to play the game without being, by far, the best player on the court.  As a result, it's the first time he has had to actually think about what he is doing on the court.  That is not a statement regarding his intelligence, but pointing out that he is having to take a completely different approach to playing the game.  I still expect him to be a solid contributor for us by the end of this season, and a star player next year.

We had more fans there for the championship game than we did Thursday night.  I would estimate 250 or so.  Villanova did not have as many as I expected them to, I would say maybe 4,000 or so.  They were not very vocal and it was never a road game type atmosphere like I feared.  Most of the 'Nova fans I encountered were pleasant and nice.  I met one Nova fan Thursday night who claimed that his brother, Ray Abruzzese, played for Coach Bryant and was Joe Namath's roommate.  He said he had some stories, as I'm sure you could imagine.  The Nova fans sitting behind us had some unkind words upon their departure late in the game, but they were probably as annoyed as I was with listening to a couple of ignorant Alabama fans that were sitting nearby in our section.  These people embodied every negative stereotype about the south, including criticizing the selection of Anna Swanson as honorary captain, because the wounded war veteran who happens to be an African American female Tide fan originally from Georgia, was "not Alabama enough."  I cringe at the thought of those nimrods walking around NYC all week purporting to represent our University.

Chris Stewart was on my flight back to Birmingham Saturday morning, and I had the pleasure of chatting with him at Laguardia and DTW airports.  He's a very nice guy and in my opinion does a great job on the radio broadcasts.   He is very high on Coach Grant and excited about Jimmy Taylor and Shannon Hale coming in next year.  He said he thinks we are going to be a very dangerous team in the near future under Coach Grant when everything comes together.

Up next, Charleston Southern comes to Coleman Coliseum for a 7pm tipoff on Black Friday.  Hopefully a lot of fans in town for the Bama-auburn football game will come out and support this basketball team.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bama Beats Beavers 65-62

A solid early season win on a neutral court over a decent team.  It started off somewhat sloppy again, with us playing from behind much of the first half.  Once again, Releford did not start, but he came in and had a huge game off the bench.  When he finally finds his way out of the doghouse and into the starting lineup, allowing Lacey to move over and start at the 2, I think we will see a big improvement with our early game struggles.

As expected, we had trouble with their inside game, but they also made some big 3s early in the game to put us in a 5 point hole.  We fought back to take a slim lead into the half, and then came out with more energy in the second half to take a 15 point lead.  While we were overmatched in the post, they had no answers for Releford and Lacey.  Releford had some great moves getting to the hole, and it was hilarious watching him smile at Starks while playing defense every possession after schooling him on offense.  As a side note, after all these years it is still fun seeing guards with the last name Starks lose in Madison Square Garden (Sorry Bobby).

Unfortunately, once we got the 15 point lead we seemed to take the pedal off the gas on offense.  Some of the credit belongs to Oregon State for making some defensive adjustments.    They prefer to play a man to man, and did most of the game, but they switched it up to a zone and a half court trapping zone for a few possessions after our run which seemed to throw us out of rhythm.   We also missed some key free throws that helped aid the Beavers come back.  Thankfully, we continued to play scrappy defense so despite going on a 7 minute scoring drought, it took Oregon State the remainder of the half to come back and tie the game.

Engstrom and Gueye did a serviceable job defensively despite being overmatched, and Carl even contributed with a couple of baskets before fouling out of the game.  Nick Jacobs was as we have come to expect, pretty good with the rock but disappointing defensively.  Pollard had a rough night, and Retin barely saw the court.  Oddly enough, Dakota Slaughter even got into the game for a brief moment before halftime. As the season goes on and Pollard gets more experience and adjusts to the game, our depth will improve.  I still think Retin will play a meaningful role on this team too before all is said and done.

Coach Grant did a nice job of managing the last minute or so of the game, and give the team credit for not panicking.  Rodney Cooper came up huge with the game winning 3 with 12 seconds remaining.

I said this a couple of years ago when we were here for the NIT, but Madison Square Garden is a great place to watch a basketball game.  I had awesome seats right behind the basket, I was pro.  bably 12 feet from the baseline.  I am in the same row tonight but closer to the goal.  You can really appreciate how great of a shooting background it is, and it's no wonder some of the greatest to ever play the game consider it their favorite venue.  The concourses and concessions, etc are all very nice and first class.  My only complaints are that it's not very well labeled at all, you have to go up to the middle level before coming in to go back down to the floor seats, and I don't like how the teams come in and out of the same tunnel, as that seems like a recipe for disaster.  I am hoping we will be the home team tonight so I will be closer to our bench and band, I was right next to the OSU bench last night.  

The crowd was very sparse, but was starting to fill up towards the end for the Villanova-Purdue game.  I would say our crowd was split close to 50-50 with the Oregon State fans.  In a city the size of New York, most D1 schools will have a solid local alumni base.  From the people I talked to before and after the game, I got the impression most did not travel here.  The OSU fans were decidedly more vocal than ours,  I would imagine it sounded like they had us badly outnumbered on TV.  I've always liked the Beavers due to the Mike Riley football connections, but I'm sorry to report their fans were generally obnoxious.  A group sitting behind us was unnecessarily disrespectful to our players for most of the game, and after we made the game winning shot another group of them started a "Johnny Football" chant.  

Up next, we take on the Villanova Wildcats for the championship in about 3 hours.  They came from behind to beat Purdue in overtime last night.  It will feel like a road game tonight.  When I left after the conclusion of our game the Villanova fans were filing in.  Both Nova and Purdue each already had more than 4 times the number of UA and OSU fans combined at that point.  Purdue travels well and Villanova plays here a good bit, being just a short train ride away in Philly.  I'm off to the UA NYC alumni pregame party then on to the game.  Due to travel and other obligations, I probably won't be able to post a recap until sometime Sunday.  

Villanova Wildcats preview- 2K Sports Classic

Thankfully we are not playing Purdue which seemed to be our Southern Miss of football lately. :)

Nova came back from 7 down in the final minute to take it to OT where they beat Purdue 89-81. Actually, they tied the game at 75 at the :43 mark (7 unanswered in 17 seconds?). They were ice cold in the 2nd half otherwise.

I think they are going to give us fits inside with with some of their giants (Ochelu, Yarou, and Sutton) as well as potential match-up problems with Pinkston. They will have to figure out how to guard Lacey and Releford.

Season stats

James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono didn't play well yesterday, but those are the two we should key in on. Arcidiacono and Releford matching up should be fun to watch. Darrun Hilliard was their star last night and also one to watch offensively. Nova is a fairly young team with 9 FR/SO.

Keys to the game:
- Continue shooting the ball well from outside
- Limit offensive rebounds
- Establish something inside
- Keep the game in the low 70s

The win last night showed the good and the bad... the good was we held Oregon St off, but the bad was going over 7 minutes without a FG to let the Beavers back in the game. We can't do that tonight and win.

Gametime is 7:30PM EST (6:30PM CST) on ESPN2.

Sorry for any typos... 

Alias Asks

I apologize for not having pulled my weight on here the past few months.  Hopefully things will calm down in the near future. 

I got home in time to watch the last 5 minutes of the game - the time during which we blew a 15 point lead. After my wife went to bed, I watched the first 10-12 minutes of the first half.  I would like to ask the rest of you some questions about the team.  Please understand these are just questions and are based on only a few minutes of one game watched while I was very tired.  Nothing here should not be construed to demean any players or coaches in any way. 

I have heard that Pollard is the second coming of Antonio McDyess.  I trust and hope that is true but did not see much last night to reinforce the reputation.  Is Pollard adjusting to the speed of the game? Is he being tentative because he is trying to learn Grant’s way of playing?   He must be doing a lot of things right because he starts and plays significant minutes.

I saw Engstrom do a couple of decent things that encouraged me about his continued improvement. He grabbed a couple of rebounds and hit open spots underneath the basket where he cleanly fielded a passes and scored a bucket or two. He still gets beat  too much on defense, but I think I see improvement.

Releford appears to have bulked up and does not seem to be upset by not starting the games. I cannot tell whether the bulk has impacted his quickness.  One reason I like to watch him play is that he always seems to be having fun. 

I hope Gueye can get and stay healthy this season because we really need him.  Wasn’t he supposed to be the No. 1 JuCo center his freshman year?  I am hoping to see that on the court.

Who is Obasohan? I’d never heard of him until I saw his name on the roster.  I know we needed a guard to replace Hankerson and Eblin, but do any of you know anything about him?  How has he played so far this year? 

I love college basketball season and I hope I can get some of this other junk out of the way because this could be a fun one.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No preview for Oregon St

I'm stuck watching curling. Thankfully I can watch on the innernets.

I'll be honest it's going to be tough for me to put these up regularly, but I'll try to get as many previews up as I can throughout the season.

Oregon St is predicted 8th in the Pac-12. I suspect they'll finish in the middle. They crushed Niagra and took care of New Mexico State in their 'warm-up' games.

Should be a close game... I think we'll have to score 70 to win this one.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Alabama Tames Tigers, 80-49

Alabama did what it should have done on Sunday, decisively beat a D-2 opponent. Trevor Lacey led the team in scoring with 23 points. Rodney Cooper and Trevor Releford also finished in double digits with 16 and 14 points. Releford once again did not start. Anthony Grant became annoyed when he was asked about Releford's status in the postgame press conference, claiming there is no issue behind his decision to not start him. To Releford's credit, he hasn't shown any signs of being affected by the change and has played well in the first two games.

It's tough to take too much away from a game like this. Due to the fact that these early season tournaments have trouble at times in filling their tournament field with D-1 schools, Alabama was essentially forced to play a team that they would never have scheduled outside of an exhibition type of affair. Due in part perhaps to the opponent, a small fan turnout (the attendance was listed as 10,443, but Alex Scarborough twitted there were only "dozens of fans"), and the general funk Tuscaloosa must have been in following the football loss, the team once again got off to a slow start before turning up the heat in the second half and pulling away.

The positives: Alabama shot 9-19 (47.4%) from the 3-pt line. Lacey himself went 5-5. Alabama's defense improved over the course of the game. They held West Alabama to 32% shooting for the game (19% from the 3-pt line), while also forcing a total of 24 turnovers.

Retin Obasohan played in his first game of the season after missing the first two games with an injured finger. It was a bit of a mixed bag as he logged 11 minutes in which time he had 2 rebounds and 2 assists, but also missed his only two shot attempts and had two turnovers before fouling out of the game.

The negatives: Alabama should not be out-rebounded by West Alabama....ever. In fact, the inside game as a whole was severely lacking in this game. Pollard had a solid game with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks, but Jacobs, Gueye and Engstrom only combined for 6 points and 5 rebounds. As Anthony Grant said in his postgame comments, that is unacceptable. No one is asking these guys to be double double machines, but they have to rebound the ball better and Jacobs has to provide some offensive presence in the paint. In Jacobs defense, he has been battling an ankle injury. Nevertheless, as the games get tougher, the guys in the middle are going to have play, ahem, bigger. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

West Alabama info/link and thoughts on SD St and A&M football game

West Alabama
This is West Alabama's (formerly Livingston St for hose keeping score at home) 1st game of the season so there's not a lot out there about the team. They are preseason 4th in the Gulf South Conference with 1 first place vote in a conference of 8 teams. Steven Samuels is preseason 1st team.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bama beats bunnies at buzzer

I neglected to bring my computer ttown this weekend, and am posting this from my phone so I apologize in advance for any typos.

Early in the game we were awful against the zone.  Lacey started at the pont again, leading me to believe Releford must be in the dog house.  We were down 13 late in the first half, but was able to turn the game around by forcing turnovers in the back court and attacking the  asket against the zone.  At the end of the game we finally went 2 for 1 and it paix off with Lacey hitting the game winner.

Up next, West Alabama tomorrow at 4pm.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Alabama 76 Stillman 68 in Exhibition

First of all, I apologize for the delay in posting the recap.  Other obligations have been keeping me busy.  Hopefully Bobbyjack won't fire me, as I don't know how I would handle the loss of income.

It's hard to tell anything by these exhibition games, as we generally use them to experiment while our opponents play very determined basketball.  UAH has taken us down to the wire the last couple of years, and frankly, even though they may have beaten us, I wish we would have played them this year instead of Stillman.  Their style would have better prepared us for the Jackrabbits coming in tomorrow night.

Game 1- South Dakota St Jackrabbits

You'd think we'd ease into the regular season with a pansy... OH NO WE DIDN'T! The Jackrabbits made the NCAA Tournament last year and feel momentum. So much momentum that they unveiled new uniforms! It's obviously the reason they are picked to win the Summit (close to unanimous).

A poll of Summit League coaches, sports information directors and media selected South Dakota State as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2012-13 Summit League Championship according to the preseason poll released on Tuesday.

The Jackrabbits received 30-of-31 first-place votes (coaches may not vote for their own team) after claiming the 2012 Summit League Tournament title and representing the league in the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Scott Nagy returns four starters and 8-of-10 letterwinners from last season's squad that finished 27-8 overall and 15-3 in Summit League play. 

Rest of the article from their official website. 

Click title link to read the rest.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tide Overcomes Stillman in Exhibition

I did not have a way to watch this game tonight so I'm going off of the Gametracker numbers. I'm sure one of our esteemed writers attended the game and will provide a full recap.

First and foremost: Alabama wins the game, 76-68. By all accounts, Alabama played very poorly in the first half, had a solid second half run, but then stunk it up again towards the end. Nick Jacobs was the leading scorer with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Devonta Pollard had a solid first outing, stats wise, finishing with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Obviously the competition will step up in the coming days, but nonetheless a nice first game for the freshman. Lacey and Moussa Gueye also posted double digits with 13 and 14 points.

Engstrom, Steele, and, surprisingly, Obasohan did not play tonight. Engstrom and Steele was expected as Grant announced they were dealing with injuries in his last press conference. Grant mentioned in the postgame that Obasohan did not play due to a finger injury that required stitches. The time table for his return is unknown.

Trevor Releford had a very poor start to his junior season. He finished with 8 points on 2-9 shooting. It also appears he did not start the game. Instead, Lacey started the game at point. Rodney Cooper also struggled a bit, finishing with 6 points on 3-7 shooting.

They say stats don't lie. If that's the case, shooting remains a problem. It's only one game, but it's difficult to feel confident when you look at a stat line of 1-8 3-pt shooting and 15-23 FT shooting. Stillman only posted a 60% FT number or this game could have been closer in the last minute. Alabama also turned the ball over 17 times! (say that in your Ed Rooney voice) Again, it's early and there is plenty of time to improve, but Bama must make some major improvements on offense before South Dakota State visits on Friday or they're looking at an 0-1 start.

The defensive numbers look good, as expected. Stillman only shot a little over 37% (25% 3-pt), but did hold their own with Bama on the boards, only losing the rebounding battle by 7. Bama did force 17 turnovers, but their own 17 turnovers washes that out.

Final thoughts: We say it every year, but Bama has to improve their three-point shooting. Period. Moussa Gueye dropping 14 points is encouraging, but can he do it against legitimate competition? If he does, the front court play should be fine along with Jacobs and Pollard. Dakota Slaughter played eight minutes and shot the ball five times, making one. Keon Blackledge also logged one minute of game time, but did not score.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Preseason game- vs Stillman 11/6

Game is 8PM EST (7PM CST). You can watch it on (subscription), listen to it on the radio (in AL), or find an internet feed to listen to.

Quick notes on Stillman:
- ended last season 17-11
- one player taller than 6'7"
- 3 of their top 4 scorers return this year
- Damian Ford is the only outside threat (.387 from 3)

Prediction: we should beat them by 24. unless their incoming freshman bring something new to the table, they can't take advantage of any of our weaknesses. I hope we use this 'scrimmage' to work inside with Jacobs/Gueye/Engstrom/Pollard, get a few good open 3 looks for Lacey and Cooper, and have Releford get back to driving the lane (which disappeared towards the end of last season).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10 days away- what are your expectations for Bama this season?

The 2012-13 basketball season that is... as years down the road someone will stumble upon this confused :)

Here are mine. Quit reading NOW if you're looking for sunshine. Click on title to read more (testing jump breaks).

Practice!? We talkin about Practice!

The team held it's annual open practice and BBQ for Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa Tip Off club members last night.  I'm going to keep this relative short because a)I simply don't have a lot of time right now and b) you really could not hell a whole lot due to the set up.

Most of what I said in the previous report from the scrimmage Saturday also applies to this practice.  The format was a lot different, as it was not a true scrimmage.  They did a lot of half court 5 on 5 with man to man defense to start, and some full court drills later, with frequent stops for coaching, etc.  They did a lot of a "Circle the wagons" type drill, where the 10 players would run in a circle and a coach would call out "red" or "white" and the corresponding team would in-bound the ball while the other team would quickly set up their defense.

Generally speaking, the team's shot selection was much better than Saturday, as the guys on the wings were looking to attack the basket more.  I thought Pollard made better decisions.  I am really concerned about our inside game.  Nick Jacobs is much improved, but I still don't see him putting up 20 ppg in the post.  Coach Grant spent a lot of time instructing and correcting Moussa Gueye.  While he made a few nice plays, and has a lot of raw physical skills, he just does not have the instincts to make the proper, quick decisions and reactions.  Frankly, I fear Coach Grant may be expecting a little more out of Gueye than he is capable of giving us at this point.

Andrew Steele is out with a groin injury but Coach Grant said it's more precautionary measures.  Carl Engstrom also did not participate due to a minor injury.

The practice was very well attended with several people walking up to buy tickets that day.  The set up was different from prior years.  Rather than people getting their bbq and eating during practice, they had tables set up in the lobby area and everyone ate after practice while Coach Grant addressed the crowd.  Also, the players spread out and sat among the crowd during dinner.  Keon Blackledge sat with our group and he was very courteous and personable.  Coach Grant introduced the players by class before dismissing them.  He spoke highly of Pollard and how he comes to practice every day looking to learn and get better.  He mentioned Andrew Steele as a great senior leader who fits in with his system even though he was already there when Coach Grant arrived.  He spoke highly of Jacobs for his work in the offseason.

In the Q&A session Coach Grant said that despite having only 10 scholarship players, we may have to play more to the style of play that he prefers because we don't have someone like JaMychal Green from last year who can be a physical presence down low in half court sets.  He said we are young in that we only have one senior, but we are fortunate in that our sophomores got a lot of good experience to build on from last year.

My understanding is the team will have a closed scrimmage Saturday against Memphis before the Exhibition game at home next Tuesday night against Stillman.  The season starts next Friday against a very good South Dakota State team.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saturday Scrimmage Stuff

Being a creature of habit, I went to my usual seats for the scrimmage Saturday afternoon.  Overall, it looked a lot like last year's team.  Great effort and intensity, a lot of defense, not much in the way of offense or shooting.

They played two 20 minute halves, with some of the players switching from one team to the other according to how the coaches wanted the matchups.  Coaches Hipsher and Brannen coached the individual teams, while Coach Grant would come over and address individual players or teams during breaks or timeouts.

The score was 20-20 at halftime and I believe it ended up 42-38 if I recall correctly.  Granted, they did not stop the clock on all dead balls like they would in a real game, but those scores are fairly indicative of how it went.

First the positives, for the entire scrimmage we ran 2-2-1 and full court man to man defenses.  As a result, it was a fast paced, full court scrimmage.  The problem with these intersquad games is by definition if one aspect of the game looks good, another is going to look bad.  Without the band and PA there, I could sometimes hear what the coaches were saying in the huddle.  Every time that I was able to hear Coach Grant, he was addressing a defensive issue.  It's clear that Coach Grant puts a heavy emphasis on defense, and it shows.  You can't ask for any more than what we get out of our defense.  Unfortunately, it also shows in our inability to score.

Nick Jacobs looks much improved to me.  He appears to have slimmed down some and this should help him get off the floor and improve his rebounding.  Moussa Gueye looks stronger and quicker, and he had a couple of blocked shots, but he is still not as instinctive or aggressive as I was hoping.  Carl Engstrom did not have a very good day.  It seemed like he was called for about 8 fouls.  The sophomores are all playing with a lot of confidence, especially Levi Randolph.  Trevor Lacey will be able to help us some at the point and he looked a little quicker in driving the lane.  Retin is a huge upgrade over Eblen at backup pg.  He is quick, plays solid on the ball defense, and can actually make a mid range jumper or layup.  Obviously, he doesn't have Releford's skill set, but he should be an adequate backup PG.

One can tell Devonta Pollard is very athletic, but he's still obviously a true freshman.  I expected him to be a little more bulky than he is.   As far as size goes, from my perspective he seems to be one of those "in-between" position type guys.  A little too lanky for the wing, but not quite big and strong enough to hold his own in the low post.  He took several bad shots and was out of position a few times which led to turnovers.  I've read a lot of people comparing Pollard's athleticism to Tony Mitchell.  At this point, I do not see him having that same explosiveness.  All of that being said, he definitely showed some flashes.  He has some moves in the post and some quickness, and did a good job of rebounding.  He is able to get to the free throw line, but needs to work on his free throw shooting.

During the 40 minute scrimmage I think we were 2 for 12 from three point range.  After the 40 minute scrimmage, however, we held another 20 minute scrimmage where Coach Grant would stop play ever 4 or 5 plays to draw up the next set and set the defense.  This was more of a half court style of scrimmage against a 2-3 zone or a man to man.  We actually shot the ball A LOT better in this part of the scrimmage.  Lacey has a smooth shot, and when he shoots it in rhythm he can be almost automatic.  I can tell as soon as he lets the ball go whether or not it is going in.  When he misses, it's either because he doesn't get his feet or set or he has a little hitch in his release.  Randolph  still has that unique looking shot, but he's shooting it with confidence and he was able to knock a couple of them down in the half court sets.

Keep in mind, they are only about a week or two into practice at this point.

I know you cannot tell from the picture, but it was actually fairly well attended considering the lack of publicity and other homecoming activities going on at the same time.  I would say there were around 1,000 or so there, but they were all on one side.  As an example of the lack of publicity, when I left the scrimmage I met up with my Dad to go in to the football game.  He asked, "have you been watching Florida-Georgia?"  I said no, I've been at Coleman watching the bball scrimmage.  He said, "Oh, I wish I would have known they were scrimmaging, I would have went."  I would imagine a lot of people were the same way.  It takes more to promote a basketball program than a website and a twitter account, but I digress.

Tomorrow evening they will have another practice/scrimmage for Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa tip off club members.  I will try to attend and post a report at some point this week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Open Scrimmage Saturday

For anybody who will be in Tuscaloosa for the Bama vs. Mississippi State football game Saturday, the basketball team is having an open scrimmage at 3 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum.  I will check it out and try to post a report here sometime Sunday.

Also, basketball starved as I am, I went to UAB's "Hoops on the Hassephault" last week.  It was more entertainment than basketball, they had a 3 point shooting contest, a dunk contest, and briefly ran some 3 man fast break drills, which featured a lot of missed dunks.  My point is, they know how to market a basketball program.  Sure, it was gimmicky, with a green and gold outdoor court surrounded by bleachers, huge inflatable dragons, fraternity and sorority dance skits,  players coming out to fireworks and the coach riding in with the mascot in a convertible mustang.     I am not saying we need to go that over the top, but we should have some sort of event like this, as lots of teams out there do, that appeals to the more casual fans.  It was very well attended, and I will add a pic to this if I can ever get it to upload without my browser crashing.

I like that we are having a scrimmage before a home football game, but we should publicize it more and maybe have some other forms of entertainment there to bring in the more casual fans.  The die-hard basketball fans like myself are going to be there regardless, but there simply is not enough of us to fill up a 15,000 seat arena on a consistent basis.