Tuesday, February 28, 2012

There's only one thing to day about api

Know your enemy- the AUburn Tigers. AUsome

Write up from their official site on the game tomorrow. I'm not sure who writes that, but our projected starting lineup doesn't seem close to what we'll have out there. Actually, as I read more of it (typing this up while reading their preview)... this is AUful. Who has the AUdacity to write that?

This is the 145th meeting between Auburn and Alabama with the Crimson Tide holding an 88-56 advantage.
However, Auburn has won six of the last 11 games in the series while Alabama holds a slim 15-13 lead in the last 28 meet- ings.

That is an actual copy from the link above.
Note- above link opens a new page so you won't lose track here.

The Barn come into Tuscaloosa at 14-14 (4-10). They are losers of 7 of their last 9 games... but most of those were relatively close games until late in the 2nd half.

Barn stats

Frankie Sullivan and Kenny Gabirel come in averaging 12.4 and 12.2 PPG. Verez Ward (who was suspended, then reinstated) leads the team in assists and FT attempts. He sucketh bigeth time from the field (.345 FG and .256 3pt FG). Our favorite Rob Chubb is 2nd on the team in boards and is 3rd in total shot attempts... yet still only pulls down 8.4 PPG. Allen Payne and Josh Wallace contribute a little... Payne grabs 4 boards per and Wallace when tempted is decent from the field (.480).

Instead of going through their stats, I'm changing it up and listing ours:
- 19-9 (8-6) and 5-2 at home in conference
- .457 FG and .287 3pt FG. Defensively .384 and .284 from 3.
- Charles Hankerson is statistically OUR BEST 3 POINT SHOOTER at 34.1%. Our 2nd best shooter with more than 30 attempts not suspended from the team is Rodney Cooper at 31.1%. PLAY HANKERSON MORE!
-  71% FT and +2.2 rebound margin
- Defensively we give up 58.1 PPG

Prediction: It's senior night and I figure JaMychal goes off on the Barn for 20/11. Our guard play continues to improve offensively with Cooper, Randolph, and Steele beating down the Barn defense. I don't think they have a chance. Bama by 21.

Game time is 8PM EST (7PM CST) on the SEC Network.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Men Of Integrity Expect To Be Belived

and when they are not, they wait for time to prove them right.

I appreciate that the season is not over and the proverbial jury is still out, but to all the the fans who said (quite justifiably) that Coach Grant was responsible for the poor offensive production during the middle of the season, I hope you are willing to credit him with the improved production we have been enjoying since the team began to gel and the freshmen began to feel more comfortable with their places on the team.  If not, then I am sure Coach Grant is willing to keep waiting for you to come around. 

Roll Tide, buckaroos!

Bama plays great, beats $tate. 67-50.

Perhaps the Tide is overcoming adversity to peak at the right time.  $tate is a very talented but struggling team, and we dominated them for the 2nd half.  

Notice the biggest loser candidate wears a different type of warm up suit from the rest of the team.  I guess they don't make the others in his size.  I think Sidney's fat ass hurt the dogs more than he helped them.  Sidney picked up a couple of quick fouls in the first half, and $tate switched to a zone, which he had all kinds of problems with.  

The starting lineup was Lacey, Steele, Randolph, Cooper, and Gueye.  Coach Grant said that Releford did not start because of a "time management" issue, meaning he was likely late for something.  Lacey was clearly struggling to play on his sprained ankle, which he re-aggravated in the first half and did not return to the game.  

JaMychal Green was back, but not in the starting lineup.  He gave us a solid 25 minutes and 9 points off the bench, knocking down a number of mid range jump shots.  Green and Releford helped the bench outscore $tansfield's bench 32-4. 

 The silver lining of the Green suspension is the development of our younger post players.  Engstrom and Gueye have come a long way.  They are no longer a huge liability when they come into the game.  Carl had a great game defensively with 4 blocked shots and was not at all intimidated by lard butt Sidney and Moultrie.  All of the post players deserve props for containing that front court.

Meanwhile, Levi Randolph was doing it all.  He played great defense both on and off the ball, knocked down some outside shots to stretch the $tate Defense, slashed to the basket, and pulled down rebounds.  

Randolph was the MVP, but it was a great team win.  We made our free throws and made 6 of 11 from the outside.  

After some consideration, the officials determined a Green foul on Moultrie was not intentional.  It actually should have been called a technical foul on Moultrie for leaving the court, as he walked halfway down the tunnel after the foul.  Coming from Moultrie, acting like a drama queen over a potential intentional foul is rich.  He should have been suspended for leg whipping a UK player from behind in the back court during their last game.  

I was concerned at halftime.  The score was tied at 25, but seemed to be playing more to their style of play. In the second half, we started pressing more which led to several steal and some over and back calls against $tate.  $tate did not even come close to matching our hustle and intensity in the 2nd half, we routinely beat them for every loose ball.  

$tansfield is a great "recruiter" as we all know, but he is not a very good coach.  He clearly has a difficult time keeping his team focused and motivated, not to mention some of the head scratching decisions he makes within the course of a game.  If they don't make the tournament, he may very well be on the hot seat, as well he should be.  There is no excuse for a team this talented to not make the NCAA tournament.  Let's hope they drop a couple more games, as a coaching change in $tarkville could greatly increase our chances of landing Devonta Pollard.  Speaking of which, I was very surprised that Pollard was not at the game.  

I am extremely disappointed in our students.  This game was a hard sellout.  There were people outside looking for tickets, yet the student section was barely half full.  This is a team that has suffered through some adversity and is playing great basketball right now, on a Saturday afternoon game against our biggest rivals, on a push to end a 6 year NCAA tournament drought, and we can't even pack the house.  If the student section is not filled by an hour before tipoff, they should sell those tickets to the general public.  That being said, those of us who were there...wow, what an atmosphere!  The fans in attendance knew how big of a game this was.  It was loud throughout  and fans spent a lot of time on their feet.  By the time we got to Rammer Jammer, I barely had any voice left.  $tate did not bring nearly the number of people they normally do.  Perhaps that is a sign they are starting to turn against their "recruiter."  I made sure to wish the very few $tate fans that I  encountered after the game a sarcastic "good luck in the NIT." 

Up next, the auburn Tigers come to Tuscaloosa for a 7pm tipoff Wednesday night.  I believe a win would pretty much guarantee us an NCAA tournament bid, but we are also still fighting for a top 4 seed in the SEC tournament.  Auburn will come in fired up, looking to avenge their earlier loss to us.  Hopefully we will have another good showing, and some of the football fans who will be in attendance will join our basketball bandwagon.  

Pachyderms Pound Puppies

or "Bama Beats Bulldogs" or "Tide Tames Terriers" or "$tan$field ...," well, never mind that last one.   I think you get the point.  The final score was 67-50. 

Led by Freshman swing man Levi Randolph's (yes, I know that's an old picture but I could not find any from tonight's game) 18 points, Alabama defeated its arch rival Mississippi State to avenge the earlier season loss on the Bulldogs' home court.  Although Randolph took what apparently was his turn to be the team's scoring leader, the points came from all points on the floor tonight.  Every Tide player made important contributions, including Engstrom who failed to score but provided an important defensive presence underneath the basket which included 5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, and quite a few shots altered.  Bama even hit 11 of its 12 free throws in the game.

Bama's offense looked sluggish again, particularly in the first half, with very little directed motion away from the ball.  The tempo seemed to lift when JaMychal Green walked onto the court for the first time in two weeks about 8 minutes into the first half along with Trevor Releford.  They built a 7 or 8 point lead on $tate, but then went back into their offensive shell.  Nick Jacobs did not start but still played only a few minutes of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. 

Even with the continuing offensive woes, this team is becoming fun to watch again as the remaining players seem to be gelling at just the right time.  Another bright spot was Bama's 6 for 11 shooting outside the three point arc with the points being spread among several players.  Randolph and Cooper tossed in two each and Releford and Hankerson each hit one.  All of them came at critical times in the game when $tate appeared to be gaining some momentum.

M$U looked unbeatable during the last 12 minutes of the first half.  Bost and Steele both had found their range and it seemed like every three they launched tickled the tassels on its way through the hoop, including a couple that looked like they'd been shot from the Coleman Coliseum parking lot.  Other than that stretch, $tate seemed a bit out of sorts, almost as if they were disinterested in the game.  That would be very unusual for a $tan$field squad, but I did not get the impression that Bama's defense was that much better than it has been all year.  $tate committed either 3 or 4 back court violations (all but one forced by the Tide's press), suffered several uncharacteristic defensive lapses, and their outside shot left them just as suddenly as it had arrived. 

It was good to see Green back on the court.  He had a solid game even if he scored only 9 points in 25 minutes of play.  He displayed only one mental lapse when he drew a whistle for an elbow thrown in retaliation.  (I still don't know why the officials spent 3 or 4 minutes looking at the replay video after that play, but I seldom understand anything SEC officials do.)  Even Ted Valentine's grandstanding could not dampen the spirits in Coleman Coliseum tonight, and Green responded much better than Renardo Sidney did when the zebras blew a questionable whistle on him.

Trevor Lacey started again and reinjured his ankle after 11 minutes of play.  He never returned to the court and could sometimes be seen grimacing on the sidelines, but Coach Grant suggested during his post-game interview that he did not want to push the ankle any more than he already had. 

The crowd arrived late and eventually grew to about nine or ten thousand.  Those who attended were treated to a rare lopsided victory in this heated rivalry and most of them did stay to sing Rammer Jammer.  Here's your obligatory Box Score to contemplate while waiting for one of our real reporters to post something about the game.  I'll probably think of something worth typing when I crawl in bed 5 minutes from now, but I've been up since 4:30 so I'm not coming back to add it.

Bama hosts api in Wednesday night's season home finale.  Please come and cheer on your favorite team.  The kids who have made it this far surely have earned your support.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Know your enemy- Mi$$i$$ippi $tate Bulldog$

The dollar signs crack me up... can't. let. go. of that.

Anyways, a struggling Bulldog$ squad comes in to Tuscaloosa... losers of 4 in a row... and watching their once secure NCAA Tournament invitation slip out the back door.Us, on the other hand, are winners of 2 in a row including a big win in Fayetteville on Thursday. The one thing that concerns me is $tate has been off since Tuesday night... we essentially had the day off yesterday.

Team stats
Writeup from hail$tate.com

$tate played the mighty Kentucky Wildcats tough... for a half. Then folded like a cheap suit (why does a cheap suit fold faster than say... a semi-expensive one) like they have been the last 4 games. Arnett Moultrie and Dee Bost lead the offense at 16.4 and 16.0 PPG. Rodney Hood and Renardo Sydney also average double digits. Moultrie and Sydney (when motivated or not hungry) are a force inside, so getting JaMychal back for the game tonight is huge for us as we can throw 4 big bodies at them. Bost, despite throwing down 16 PPG is really having a crappy year shooting... at under 40% from the field.I'm almost inclined to let him heave it up. Moultrie also leads the team in boards... and up until this $tate losing streak he was probably the frontrunner for SEC POY. Now, I think it's wide open.

From beyond the arc we need to watch Hood (if he plays which is doubtful), Jalen Steele, and keep an eye on Sydney as he's hitting at a 38% clip. In their last four games they're averaging 63.5 PPG. I suspect that's about what they'll put up today.

The numbers:
- .458 FG
- .363 3pt FG
- .698 FT
- +3.1 rebound margin
- 3.6 blocks per game (lower than I thought it would be)

Prediction: 2 teams playing for the NCAA Tournament... one team feels good about their standing and the other needs desperately to win to keep their spot. I'm going with the team that's comfortable as Releford, Hankerson, and Cooper lead the barrage outside with Green and Jacobs taking care of business in the post. Bama by 7.

Game time is 6PM EST (5PM CST) on ESPN. I had thoughts about driving down and buying a ticket, but it seems like it's going to be a hard sellout.

Friday, February 24, 2012

JaMychal Green will dress out and is available

for tomorrow's big game.  Trevor Lacey has a sprained ankle and is doubtful.  The game is a sellout, let's hope everybody shows up.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pachyderms Pound Pigs Take Rare Win In Bud Walton

Playing without former starter Tony Mitchell and suspended starter Jamychael Green, Bama lost recent starter Trevor Lacey after scoring 8 points in six minutes to what looked like a rather severe ankle injury.  Bama came out shooting cold and Arkansas, led by B.J. Young's four three point shots, took an early 12 point lead.  The Tide clawed its way back into the game with balanced scoring and frustrating defense.  Engstrom could not buy a basket but was a defensive presence underneath the basket.  Nick Jacobs added 14 points and took a valuable charge after the Hogs had roared back to cut the Tide's lead to five points.  Releford and Steele scored in double figures while Rodney Cooper lead all Bama scorers with 17 points. 

Alabama's defense stiffened after the first 8 or 10 minutes and held Arkasas scoreless outside the three point arc the entire second half.  Bama enjoyed a 30-6 run over the end of the first half and into the second half before the Hogs finally broke their scoring drought.  Bama also shot well from the free throw line until the outcome no longer was in question.

Levi Randolph missed way too many chip shots, but his defensive effort was smothering.  He also had one of the few hi-lites of the game when he took out the former Arkansas ESPN announcer while chasing a ball out of bounds at mid court.

What I liked most was the offensive energy the team showed tonight along with its shooting six out of eight from the three point line in the first half.  Arkansas admittedly is not a very good team, bu the Tide squad seems to be jelling at a very important time in their schedule.  Only time will tell whether Green's reinsertion into the lineup will disrupt the energy and chemistry that has developed recently.

Here is your standard box score.  I suppose DJC was at the game.  Hopefully he or MSimlie will give us a real report before too much longer.

Bama seeks revenge against M$U in Coleman Coliseum.  All public tickets have been sold.  Hopefully the students will show up to support their team.  Let's also hope Lacey will be well enough to play. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Know your enemy- @ Arkansas Razorbacks

We come off a thumping of the Viles while the Hogs come hobbling in after being destroyed by the Gators at home. This game is HUGE for both teams in regards to making the NCAA Tournament. It's even bigger for the Hogs, but I'd like to win this one to breathe easier. The Hogs have lost 4 of their last 5.

Season stats

Michael Sanchez was banged up and didn't play against the Gators... no word yet on if he's playing Thursday. Without him Arkansas won't be able to matchup size-wise with us... and I hope that means we feed Jacobs/Gueye/Engstrom instead of jacking up 3s.

Guys to watch from Arkansas:
- BJ Young... the only bright spot in a 30 point loss to the Gators. Can shoot the three and dribble/drive.
- Hunter Mickelson: the freshman has been getting better in the post. Look for him and Engstrom to have a monumental matchup.
- Julysses Nobles: good defender, one of the better PG in the league.
- Devonta Abron: physical presence inside. Raw, but has been showing signs of progress.

The numbers:
- 72.8 PPG
- .434 FG
- .348 3pt FG
- .689 FT
- +3.8 turnover margin

Prediction: I can't comment on what happened in the UTK game last Saturday as I did not see a minute of it, but I read that our 7 footers played well and Lacey has his best game to date. That was at home though. Our SEC road wins have been @ Auburn and UGA... two not so good teams. With no JaMychal Green I don't see how we get it done. Hogs by 8.

Game time is 7PM EST 2/23 on ESPN2 and on the internet at espn3.com.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tony Mitchell done for year, JaMychal Green reinstated

From CBS Not unexpected... Green's latest offense was probably being in the wrong place.

NCAA projections, SEC Power Poll, etc, week of 2/20/12

ESPN Bracketology has us in as a 10 seed right now.
CBS also has us as a 10.
Sporting News agrees with 10 seed... but I'm unsure if this has been updated as they say it has been being the writing about Alabama talks about a 2 game road trip to Auburn and LSU.
Collegehoopsnet has us as a 9, but trending down.

Note- all above links open in new window so don't be skeered!

SEC Power Poll.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vol-In-Tears, 62-50 Bama

The Coaches and staff all wore blue bow ties for prostate cancer awareness.  Coach Hipsher wore his in a somewhat unorthodox manner.

Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green remained suspended.  Nick Jacobs was unavailable due to injury.  Trevor Releford was banged up, and Tennessee was riding a 4 game winning streak, including a season sweep of Florida.  The general consensus before the game was that a loss was inevitable, and with it our hopes of receiving an NCAA bid this season was over.

Our starting lineup was Lacey, Steele, Randolph, Cooper, Gueye.  Notice the lack of a true point guard and legitimate post presence.  We have now started 11 different players this season, and no one player has started every game.    Thankfully, somebody forgot to tell Lacey, Moose, Releford, and Steele that our season was over.  These guys would not be denied, and they simply out hustled UT all day to get the win.

Gueye and Carl both had their best games of the season, if not career.  The Moose was a wall inside defensively with 6 blocked shots.  Carl was solid defensively despite being caught out of position a few times, but he also had 7 points and 7 rebounds, including 4 offensive rebounds.  They both fouled a lot, Carl fouled out late while Moose used 4 of his, but they were good fouls for the most part.

The fact that we were able to out rebound them with Carl and Moose as our only bigs should tell you how much these guys hustled.  We seemed to come up with every 50/50 type loose ball.

Lacey was our leading scorer with 18 points.   I really liked our offensive plan.  We had a lot of motion and ball screens, and got the ball to cutters moving toward the basket.  Once again, outside shooting was not great, but Lacey, Steele, and Releford had a lot of success driving the lane and getting to the free throw line.

Our defense was awesome.  We mixed up the man and zone and had UT off balance all day.  While the press did not force a lot of turnovers early in the game, it seemed to get the Vols out of their comfort zone.  Tennessee wanted to go inside to take advantage of our lack of front court players, but they found the Moose and Carl to be much tougher customers than expected.  Fortunately, their 3 point shots were not falling.  We began to stretch the lead in the 2nd half, and with the crowd into the game the Vols seemed to get rattled.  We forced a number of turnovers in the press that allowed some transition baskets, and we stretched the lead to 16.  The game was never again in doubt.
Fans were treated to my favorite halftime show.  This chick rides a tall unicycle while kicking bowls into the air and catching them on her head.  

I thought Coach Grant did a great job with his substitution patterns, especially considering what he had to work with.  He rotated the 7 footers in such a way that they were able to stay fresh.  He got the most out of a banged up Releford, and avoided putting some of the unusual lineups we've seen the last few weeks on the floor.

I was not impressed with Tennessee's coaching.  It was almost as if they didn't watch any of our film in preparation for this game.  Our struggles with the zone are well documented, but Tennessee stayed in a man to man defense throughout the entire game.  Also, with Releford banged up, they never bothered to press when he wasn't in the game.

The game was announced as a sellout, but the crowd was nowhere near capacity.  The student section was less than 1/3rd full, and a lot of the season ticket holders were no shows.  That ended up being a good thing though, as it allowed Hville to come sit with us.  I would estimate the crowd at maybe 11,000 or so, with a couple of hundred people wearing puke orange scattered throughout.  Those that were there, appreciated the players effort and were very loud and into the game.

In my opinion, it is very likely that the next home game, Saturday at 5pm against Mi$$ $tate, will determine whether or not we make the tournament.  We SHOULD beat auburn at home, and a win over $tate would mean we finish no worse than 19-11, 8-8.  With our strength of schedule and RPI, that is probably good enough, though I would feel much more comfortable with a win or two in New Orleans.

First things first, up next we go to Fayetteville, AR for a 6pm tipoff Thursday night.   The game will be televised on ESPN2.  Arkansas was undefeated at home this year until suffering their worse loss ever at Bud Walton arena to the Florida Gators this weekend.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

No preview for UTK... Sorry about that...

Day job and an early round of golf got in the way. I'm happy we won to keep of NCAA Tournament hopes alive. I'll try to plan better the next game. Bama 62-50 over the Viles. Nothing sucks like a big ORANGE.

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Bad News

Coach Grant said at his press conference today that Green and Mitchell remain suspended, and he will meet with them next week.  Nick Jacobs has a mouth infection and may or may not play tomorrow.  Andrew Steele and Releford are both banged up.  Steele has a sprained ankle, and Releford got knocked upside the head.

If anybody has any eligibility left, Coach Grant may need us tomorrow.

Random thoughts- LINsanity, Bama hoops fan support, more

As some of you long time readers know, I'm a New Yorker so this Jeremy Lin story is intriguing to me. He has taken a franchise that quite honestly has sucked for the better part of 12 years and in 2 weeks made them newsworthy. Heck, I ACTUALLY WATCHED A NBA GAME ON TV when they played the Lakers for the first time in about a decade.

So you know where I stand... I gave up on the NBA in 1999. Haven't watched more than a total of 48 minutes TOTAL on TV since then. I realize the product is sooooo much better than the college game, but I have no connection so it hasn't caught my interest... until now.

Lin probably wouldn't have been a story if he played for Charlotte, Washington, Sacramento, or some other non-major market. He probably wouldn't be as big of a deal if he wasn't of Asian persuasion (I hate even typing that since he's an American, but anyways), but his play has IMO been a boom for the NBA. He's the underdog we all (well most of us) like to root for. He doesn't fit the stereotype of a baller, but he is.

Back in the early 90s a lightly regarded guard came out of nowhere to propel the Knicks to the 1994 NBA Finals. His name... John Starks. While he is blamed for losing Game 7 to the Rockets, the truth is without him (and Anthony Mason) the Knicks never would've sniffed the finals.

I've been to a few NBA games across this country in those 12 years (Orlando, Philly, Atlanta, Phoenix)... and have left most of them by the 3rd quarter. Now I might actually buy tickets to see the Knicks in Atlanta (got to check the schedule).

As I watched the Tuesday's contest with Florida I noticed quite a few empty seats. While I realize it was Valentine's Day the fact that a top 15 team was in town to play in a VERY IMPORTANT GAME for us left me a little bitter. I know someone is going to ask why I wasn't there... well if I lived say... only an hour out I would've, but I don't. I realize the start time played a part as well, but come on now... don't we have enough in the Tuscaloosa area to fill the place up for a marquee game?

Yes, winning brings in more fans, but up to last week we were doing so with the team making a run to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. Sadly, suspensions and some questionable play/coaching has put a dent into that, but man... it's kind of a bummer to see a less than capacity arena hosting a top 15 squad. We have 2 posters on here that travel great distances to see the hoops team play... wish we had about a couple thousand more like that. I do what I can, but I won't come close to putting that kind of effort in.

Where do the problems lie? Here is where I think they are:

- Students: student support for basketball IMO has been lackluster ever since Wimp Sanderson was relieved of his job in 1992. Even under Gottfried, we've had spotty attendance. I'd be all for moving the student section to seats where they can have a greater impact on the game if I knew they'd show up. Even the Barn gives their 34 student basketball fans decent seats.

- Tide Totals: The 'donation' program that encompasses all Crimson Tide sports. There are quite a few people that purchase season basketball tickets to improve their football 'spot.' That spot can be anything from better cfb seats, access to road games, SECCG tickets, and even a chance to buy BCSCG tickets. We need to separate football from basketball if we really want basketball to thrive. I know there are a lot of people that want to go to a basketball game, but can only get 'crappy' seats... only to enter and see plenty of good seats going unoccupied.

- Marketing: Let's face facts and understand that Tuscaloosa alone cannot support Tide Hoops so the University needs to do a better job of marketing the program to the mothership of Birmingham... and Huntsville. Play a game each year at both places. Start a instate tournament of sorts incorporating USA, UAH, UAB, UA, Barn, Bama St, etc.... get the people of the state interested in the game. Market more to young people... my marketing to my oldest has worked as he wants to watch us play anytime we're on TV... and as the other posters on this blog can attest to, attends games with me.

The next 5 games are critical. IMO we have to go 4-1 to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. Anything less and we'll probably need a nice run in the SEC tournament... depending on our conference record. 8-8... a run to the semis, worse than that... got to win the damn thing.

This season went from promise to a nightmare over the course of a week. Along the way it got lost (4 in a row), then found (beating Ole Miss and the Barn), and now lost again. Hopefully the rumors are true that Mitchell comes back Saturday and Green follows him the following game. Whether you like them or not they are essential to this team. We can somewhat survive w/o Mitchell, but as you saw Saturday and this past Tuesday... Green is crucial to this team. We are playing a suddenly enthused Viles squad tomorrow so we need to right the ship quick.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The New Rumor Of The Week

I did not notice, but several people have told me that the hi-lites video shown before last night's game had been purged of any Tony Mitchell images.  Did anyone else pay enough attention to notice whether that was the case?  And if it was, what does that say about Tony Mitchell's future at Alabama?  The rumors might all have turned out to be false, but I still can hear someone say "I buried Paul" when I listen to The Eggman on my Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club CD!

St. Valentine's Day Massacre, 71-62 Florida

When they told Nick Jacobs he was to replace JaMychal Green in the starting lineup, he took it too literally and immediately committed 2 fouls to start the game.   This meant more playing time for the Moose and the Swede.  You can't help but like those guy, and they made a few good plays, but at this point in their careers when they need to play extended minutes, the bad is going to outweigh the good.  Despite 60% shooting and going 3 of 5 from 3 point range in the first half, compared to Florida's 30% shooting, we were still only tied at 26.  I knew we were in trouble then, because we were not taking care of the basketball and it wasn't reasonable to expect those shooting numbers to continue.

Donovan made some great adjustments at halftime.  He switched to a zone; which, as has been the case most of the year, completely shut down our offense.  We had way too many turnovers, many of them unforced.  Releford was playing banged up, and the trainers were looking at him every time he came out of the game.  Apparently, he has been seen on crutches around campus today.  Florida finally started making some of their shots, and opened the half on a 16-0 run.  Ballgame.  It took us 9 minutes to make a FG.

Part of the problem is a lack of chemistry due to the unusual lineups we are having to play thanks to the suspensions.  Players aren't used to playing together, and it shows, especially on offense.  At times last night we were too unselfish with the ball.  We passed up a lot of open shots to make passes that really did not make any sense.  Both Cooper and Steele had some good, midrange looks that they pissed away by inexplicably trying to drop the ball off to Carl or Moussa on the low block.  Hankerson had a 2 on 1 with Eblen, and decided to try to pass the ball to Ben at the last second instead of taking it to the basket himself.  Anybody on our team taking a fairly decent, mid-range shot is a better option than expecting Carl, Gueye, or Eblen to actually catch a pass on the block and shoot a contested layup in traffic.

After falling way behind, Andrew Steele showed some leadership and tried to rally the troops.  We started playing more aggressively, driving the ball at the Florida defenders and getting to the line.  We got one of their post players in foul trouble, and made some small dents in the lead, but we had too many missed opportunities to ever seriously compete.

Getting to the line doesn't do much good if you can't make your free throws.  Florida cashed theirs in, 13 of 16.  Meanwhile, we shot a pathetic 50% from the stripe.

As expected, the crowd sucked.  It was an early 6pm tipoff on Valentine's Day, and as noted below, many fans are somewhat alienated by the suspensions.  For what it's worth, Coach Grant received a standing ovation when he took the court pregame and gave the fans a "thumbs up."

The bottom line, this team is going nowhere unless Green and Mitchell return AND buy in to the team concept.  For the first time this year, I am not optimistic about our NCAA tournament hopes.  

Up next, the Tennessee Vols come to Tuscaloosa for a 12:30pm tipoff Saturday.  Who knows what players we will have available, but UT is playing pretty good ball right now and they could all but put an end to any tournament hopes we are still clinging to.  The whole situation is depressing and frustrating, but I'll be there to support whoever Coach decides to put on the floor.  The players who are still with us, are giving it their all.  For that, they deserve our respect and support.

Alabama's Awful After Intermission

The Florida Gators came into Coleman Coliseum riding a two game losing streak and looked like they might run it to three when they were tied at 26 points per team at the end of the first half.  Billy Donovan evidently decided not to have any more mercy on his former protoge' Anthony Grant and elected to play a zone defense in the second half that brought the Tide's scoring to an abrupt halt and allowed Florida to score the first 16 points of the second half.  The Tide missed its first ten shots and did not score for the first 7 minutes.  When they did score, Donovan blessed out his team during the next time out.  Bama eventually clawed into the Gator lead only to fall short by a score of 61-52.

About the only good thing I saw in this game was that the Tide held UF to 26 first half points.  I think Bama had more rebounds in the game, but I'm too tired to look that up right now.  During the second half they had no answer for Florida's penetrating guards and they could not keep the Gator post players from scoring almost at will. 

The shots that did fall for the home team in the first half would not go into the basket in the second.  Bama also committed 18 turnovers that lead to 20 Gator points.  The offense again was anemic against the visitors' zone.  They did seem to move the ball well at times, but they did were not able to anticipate their teammates moves and way too often threw the ball to a player who was either was not ready or was not where he was expected to be.  I also don't think the guards have any confidence that Engstrom can field a pass.  Carl set good picks on the give and go play all night and looked to me to have a clear path to the basket at least 6 or 8 times, but the others almost never fed him the ball. 

Jacobs picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game and never was a factor on either end of the court.  Guyae had a couple of good rebounds, but Coach Grant pulled him after the second one because he looked like he was going to throw his elbows again like he did against Ole Miss.

I was hoping MSmilie would have posted a recap before I could finish my drive home.  Hopefully he or DJC will have some legitimate insights into the game.  About all I can say at this point is "Thanks alot" to the players who took themselves out of contention by doing stuff they were not supposed to do and I sure hope the ones who are left can start playing better.  My early season optimism has disappeared.  Let's hope the remaining players learn from these difficult experiences and that Coach Grant can teach them to keep throwing the ball around a zone instead of dribbling in place.  One action forces the other team to expend energy and gives them a chance to make a mistake.  The other helps you go 0 for 10 to start the second half.

Roll Tide!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Know your enemy- Florida Gators

As reported below, Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford are back for tonight's must win game against the struggling jorts of Gainesville so I have more hope than I did 2 days ago. Still, we're short on size which could pose some issues.

Pregame notes and a preview from gatorzone. I did not realize we have lost 5 straight regular season games to the Gators

Season stats

Florida is coming in shorthanded as well...Will Yeguete is doubtful for the game (last I read) after taking a nasty fall into the goal vs Tennessee. He's one of their leading rebounders. Mike Rosario has a hip pointer and at last check is out for tonight's game as well.

Obviously the Gators are coming in less shorthanded than we do... they can replace the points and boards... we're going to have a hard time doing the same with Green and Mitchell out so I suspect the guards are going to dictate the pace of this game.

The Gators bring a balanced attack into Coleman Coliseum... with 5 players averaging double digits led by Kenny Boynton. Him and Erik Murphy are shooting better than 40% from 3 so we'll really need our guard to step out and get a hand in their face. Erving Walker and Trevor Releford should be a great match up at the point... I'm curious to see what the pace of this game turns out to be. Bradley Beal and Patric Walker round out the double digit scorers. I worry about who's going to take Walker on the defensive side... Gueye is a step slow, Jacobs doesn't seem to fight for position good enough and Engstrom... well he tries hard and probably does the best with positioning, but outside of keeping his hands up he's overmatched against an interior player with a dropstep/spin.

The numbers:
- 78.8 PPG
- .394 3pt FG
- 10.3 3pt FG/game
- 65.9 PPG defensively

Prediction: Since I've been wrong on the last 2 I'm going to hope I'm wrong again... I just don't see how we can contain Walker inside AND keep Boynton and Murphy from making us pay from downtown. Yes, the Gators come in on a 2 game slide and yes we get some players back, but when you look at the talent it's advantage UF. If we were a good perimeter shooting team I'd discount the previous sentence, but that's not the case. Gators by 11.

Game time is 7PM EST (6PM CST) on ESPN.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Steele and Releford are Back

Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford will be back for the Florida game tomorrow night.  Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green remain suspended.

The worst 10 basketball teams this year

Just to distract us from 1/3 of the team being suspended....

Binghamton is 0-24 in the ultra competitive America East
Kennesaw St is 3-23 (0-14) in the Atlantic Sun
UC Davis is 2-22 (1-11) in the Big West
Towson is 1-26 (1-14) in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)
Chicago St is 3-22 (1-6) in Great West. I was not aware of a Great West conference until today.
Dartmouth is 4-20 (0-8) in the Ivy League
Fairleigh Dickinson and Bryant University are battling it out for last in the Northeast at 1-13 each (2-23 and 2-24 respectively)
Tennessee Martin is 3-24 (0-14) in the Ohio Valley.
Louisiana Monroe is  2-23 (1-11) in the Sun Belt.

There are more bad teams... some worse than what I listed, but I'll keep it at 10 for now. Actually, the original title was worst 5, but upon looking there is no way to limit that.

See... we don't have it so bad.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Talent is a Gift, Character is a Choice. 58-67 loss to LSU

I was 5 miles from Baton Rouge when my phone rang.  My friend informed me, "Releford, Green, and Steele are suspended indefinitely and got sent home."  I started laughing, and said he should have used somebody other than Andrew Steele if he wanted me to believe it.  Of course, it turned out to be true.  If we would have got this information a couple of hours earlier, we probably would have skipped the game and went straight to New Orleans instead.

Since then, I have been asked numerous times for my opinion on the suspensions.  I do not have an opinion, because I have insufficient information to form one.  I can only trust Coach Grant and hope that he is doing this for the betterment of the program.

I do not know what the 3 players did, other than "violation of team rules."  Coach Grant has stated that it was something that happened in Tuscaloosa, not Baton Rouge.  The decision was made Friday night and a graduate assistant drove the 3 home Saturday morning.  (Sucks for that GA.  I wonder how that conversation went?  I wonder if they watched the game?)  Coach Grant also said it was unrelated to Tony Mitchell, who remains suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

There are several possible ways to interpret this turn of events.  One is that Coach Grant has lost or is losing control of the program.  That these issues should not be necessary in year three.  Another is that perhaps he is being too strict and has unrealistic expectations relative to the behavior of 18-22 year-olds.  It is also possible that he is setting an example, star players will not receive special treatment and we will not let anybody be bigger than the team.

Again, I do not know what these guys did, but I do have friends who know the Steele family fairly well and by all accounts Andrew is a great guy.  Everybody was shocked that he was involved.  JaMychal Green is a good player, and we sorely missed him in the post against LSU.  This team certainly needs him, but one must wonder how many times a player can get suspended and keep coming back.  JaMychal must have set some sort of record for number of suspensions in a career at this point.

So with only 8 players and 4 of our starting 5 suspended, we started 4 freshmen and Ben Eblen.  I knew this  would be an almost impossible task, to win on the road with what's left of this team, especially considering the lack of time to prepare.  In the first half, we looked like a team that knew it had no chance.  The players looked down and were just sort of going through the motions.  We couldn't make a shot and LSU's zone defense shut us down.  The score was 31-15 at halftime.

When we came out of the locker room to start the 2nd half, the body language was not encouraging.  Guys were hanging their head and not showing any energy while shooting around.  Tony Pujol huddled the team around the free throw line, and I don't know what he said but there was an immediate, noticeable change.

We scrapped and fought like hell in the 2nd half, but couldn't get over the hump.  The first 5 minutes went about as well as one could possibly hope for.   We made some great adjustments.  We started pressing more, which was very effective in creating turnovers and giving us opportunities in transition.  Unfortunately, we couldn't do it more because of our lack of numbers.  We went with a smaller lineup that allowed Rodney Cooper to get matched up with the LSU PF.  The LSU bigs could not hang with Mr. Cooper.  When they came out on him, he was able to drive by them.  He made a lot of mid-range runner shots in the lane.  When they tried to take that away, he simply shot over them.  Rodney's career high 28 was the most by a UA player this season.

Unfortunately, we had nobody to defend the LSU post players.  Cooper simply wasn't big enough.  Jacobs got going offensively in the 2nd half, but his defense is just not very good right now.  Engstrom couldn't slow down Josh Hamilton, and the Moose only played for 4 minutes.  We were able to make runs and cut the lead to 3 on a few occasions, but it seemed like #41 for the Tigers always had the answer.

I was encouraged that the team played as well as they did under the circumstances.  As I said, Cooper and Nick Jacobs really stepped up.  Ben Eblen did an adequate job running the point, but we are essentially playing  4 on 5 offensively when he is on the floor.

So, where does this leave us?  As far as this season goes, we obviously will not make the tournament without getting some of these guys back.  We really need ALL of them back.  This loss did not really hurt us.  LSU is somehow a top 100 team and it was on the road.  Further, all of the teams ahead of us in the SEC also lost, so we are still only 1 game out of that crucial 4 seed for the SEC tournament.

Assuming all 4 are still suspended for the Florida game, I am actually a little more optimistic about our chances than I was against LSU.  I know that sounds crazy, but they are not as bad of a matchup for what's left of our team.  They rely more heavily on their back court, and we still have plenty of guards who can play good defense.

This was my first trip back to the Pete Maravich Center since they've done some renovations.  The seating area is actually pretty nice.  It is a good setup with most fans close to the court.  For some reason they still have large wood doors on the portals to the concourse, which do not serve any purpose other than cause an inconvenience if you are trying to get to your seat with hands full of food.  The concourse still needs a lot of work; it's small and lacking in amenities.  Their attendance was pathetic, I would estimate only about 6,000 or so fans there, including only about 50 Bama fans scattered throughout.  LSU fans have a reputation of not being very accommodating, but I think they get a bad rap.  The Tiger fans who actually showed up were extremely nice and respectful to us.  They were knowledgeable and cheered for their team, and allowed us to do the same.  We even had a couple come up to us and congratulate us on the football championship.  I've made several trips to Baton Rouge for basketball and football, and never had a bad time.

Up next, Billy Donovan brings his nationally ranked Gators to Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Tuesday night.  I know it's Valentine's night, but bring your date, and your gym shorts.  If you have any eligibility left, you could get some playing time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Know your enemy- @ LSU Tigers

After what I believe to be our best game of the year on the plains, we get a few days off to savor it before heading to Red Stick to take on the Bengal Tigers. LSU comes in at 13-10 and 3-6 in the conference. They are 3-1 at home in conference play... with that loss coming to Kentucky by 24.

Link to LSU write up. Here's a link to a preview of our first game with them. Notice they have won 2 games since that last meeting.

Year to date stats

LSU has got a lot of size, but like us can't throw the ball in the ocean from the beach. Justin Hamilton leads the team with 13.4 PPG and 7.8 boards. Ralston Turner is the only decent 3 point shooter they have (at a mediocre 36.6%). They have no identity on offense, but play pretty sound defense (sounds familiar?).

The numbers:
- .406 FG
- .323 3pt FG
- .703 FT
- +.5 rebound margin (surprised it's that low)
- 66.3 PPG

Prediction: The real question is will we see the Alabama team that spanked Auburn, UGA, and scared Kentucky or the one that laid an egg at SC lite and Dayton? Like DJC said, our last game could be a 'energy bump' from the Mitchell suspension so I worry a bit about this one. Let's hope LSU is playing out the season and we recognize that this game is huge (as are all of them the rest of the year). I'm going to be positive and say we get another great effort from the bench and Green dominates inside. Alabama by 9.

Game time is 7PM EST (6PM CST) on the Deuce (ESPN2)

Side note- If Hankerson and Cooper become our zone busters this team goes to an entirely different level... and I'm not just talking about just making the NCAAT.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Bama is nifty, beats auburn 68-50.

My view for the game

Tony Mitchell was suspended.  Alabama had not been playing well as of late.  Auburn had only lost one home game this year, and that was to a very good Kentucky team that they played surprisingly close.  Their tiny arena was actually packed for a change, and they came in very emotional, thirsty for blood, anticipating their first win over their hated but superior rival in their new arena.  That was the scene.  It was loud, and actually a great atmosphere for college basketball.

Not surprisingly, auburn rode the early emotional high to a 7 point lead.  Chubb scored 8 early points, in large part due to Nick Jacobs ineffective defense.  In a night full of positives, Jacobs struggled.  That's going to happen from time to time, especially to the freshmen.  Thankfully his teammates really picked him up.

As MSmilie correctly pointed out below, it was a great move to have Steele in the starting lineup.  We kept our composure despite the early deficit.  We matched their intensity but stayed under control, and took advantage of some stupid auburn mistakes.  I think auburn's overly emotional approach came back to bite them, as evidenced by 3 technicals in the first half.    Admittedly, I thought the first one was questionable.  The second one, the guy did a chin up on the rim, which is inexcusable after knowing they are going to call it after the first one.  I don't know what their bench did to get the 3rd technical, but it followed a pretty obvious and correct foul call against auburn's Chubb.

As I said, we made them pay for those mistakes.  Hankerson and Carl Engstrom, of all people, played a huge role in first half comeback.  Hankerson, once again, was able to knock down some outside shots which opened things up for Carl and Green in the post.  

We actually did a great job of managing the clock at the end of the first half, utilizing the 2 for 1 I've been begging for all year, and we cashed in on our opportunities to turn a 7 point defecit into an 11 point lead at the half.  

The big story of the night was that we actually made some 3 point shots.  I've already mentioned Hankerson's contributions, but Cooper went 2 for 2 and Green even added one.  I thought a couple of key moments were when we answered auburn's 3s with treys of our own, it really took their crowd out of the game.  This was the first game all year that I can recall us being able to shoot our opponent out of the zone.

Releford struggled a bit at times in the first half, but when we were able to extend the auburn defense he had more room to work with when driving to the basket, and more often than not was able to either get to the line, where he made 9 of 10, or put us in position to school.  His 6 turnovers were too many, but some of those were not his fault.  Our players must learn to always expect the ball.  One play that sticks out in my mind, Releford made a great steal, then saved the ball, then drove in and around some aubie defenders, and made a great pass to Levi who was wide open on the low block.  Unfortunately, Levi was looking up at the rim anticipating a shot rather than a pass.

Despite his offensive struggles, Levi had another great game defensively, as did the whole team.  We forced 20 turnovers.  The press was effective when we used it, and we had great on ball pressure in our man to man defense.

I said earlier that we need Tony Mitchell to buy in and be a part of this team to reach our potential.  I stand by that statement.  In years of watching basketball, I have noticed that often times a team who loses a star player to suspension or injury will sometimes play better in the short term, as other guys play "over their heads" to pick up the slack, but that usually doesn't last and in the long term the star's production is missed.  I would like to think Coop, Hank, Carl, and Green can bring this game every night, but I suspect at some point we will need Tony back.  The challenge now is to continue to play at the level we did last night.

Predictably, auburn made a run and cut the 20 point lead down to 11 at one point, but our guys answered and almost immediately stretched it back out to a comfortable margin.  My only complaint is we committed too many fouls down the stretch that could have let them back into the game if they were capable of shooting a free throw.

 It was great to see Coach Grant and the team having fun at the end of the game.  There were close to 1,000 Alabama fans in attendance, many of which were behind the basket where I was sitting.  The players acknowledged the Tide fans as the clock ran out.  JaMychal Green even pointed directly at me, and I gave him a "Roll Tide!"

Up next, we stay on a strict diet of Tiger Meat as we travel to Baton Rouge, LA for a 6pm tipoff Saturday night against LSU.  The game will be televised on ESPN2.  I anticipate an environment similar to what we had to deal with last night.  I am making the trip, and will try to post something Sunday when I return.

Bench Beats Boogs (or Alabama Autlasts Auful Auburn)

Photo From Birmingham News
Bama's basketball team overcame the suspension of Tony Mitchell, one of its offensive leaders, and 27% shooting by point guard Trevor Releford to beat arch (football) rival api on their home court.  (I view M$U and Arkansas as our arch basketball rivals.)  JaMychal Green led Bama from the field, shooting 8 for 13 from the field (including one out of two outside the arc) and Releford made up his points by hitting 9 out of his ten shots from the free throw line.  Charles Hankerson continued to prove his value to the team by scoring 14 points in 23 minutes of play.  Hankerson hit three of his five three point attempts, two coming during a crucial stretch in the first half when Alabama was overcoming api's early emotional lead.  Rodney Cooper added two more three-pointers and one deuce, and Carl Engstrom added four points, a rebound and a block, taking up the slack created by Nick Jacobs' and Trevor Lacey's sudden disappearance from the offensive scoring column. 

Any SEC road win is huge, but Bama fans should not read too much into this one.  api has experienced wild on-court mood swings, playing very well at home against teams like Vandy and Kentucky and then laying eggs like last night's game.  The jury is still out on api's coach Barbee.  He may prove to be an excellent coach who simply has not had much to work with yet.  His team looked a bit over emotional last night, picking up a couple of unnecessary technical fouls on crowd pleasing dunks.  Then again, that might have simply been more evidence of some determination by SEC officials in general that "home cooking" will be a thing of the past in our arenas.

Like MSmilie, I'm looking forward to DJC's recap of the game.  I was a married man with children the last time I attended a game at api's home gym and still almost had a couple of their jerk fans try to start a fight with me after we'd lost our game there, so I don't intend to go back without an apite escort.  I hope DJC did not have to break any noses on his way out and that his lovely lady was willing to suffer that place to provide us some pictures.  Until then, here's a link to a box score and a game recap.   

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Know your enemy- @ Auburn Tigers

An abbreviated one at that... write up from Auburn's website
Season stats

Auburn is 12-1 at home with that loss coming to Kentucky. They played the Wildcats tough for 35 minutes before succumbing to a clearly superior squad. They gave M$U all they could handle in their last game... going down 91-88. Still they are 3-6 in conference and are losers of 3 of their last 4.

Kenny Gabriel and Frankie Sullivan lead them in scoring at 12.3 and 12.1. Gabriel also leads the team in rebounds at 8 per game. Varez Ward leads the team in assists despite coming off the bench. He's also led the team in scoring the last 2 games. No one particularly shoots the 3 well for them so that's good news.

The numbers:
- .419 FG
- .311 3pt FG
- -.7 rebound margin
- .665 FT

Prediction: I don't have a good feeling about this one. While everything stat-wise and talent level says we should win, I'm not sure how the team reacts to no Tony Mitchell on the court. Can Jacobs cover rebounding and Steele/Hankerson/Eblen/Gueye cover the scoring void? My guess is no... and the barn escapes by 4.

Game time is 9PM EST (8PM CST) on ESPNU and espn3.com.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Buh bye Tony Mitchell- indefinetly suspended from team

The rumors turned out to be true. Can't say that this comes as a shock. Oh well, more PT for Charles Hankerson.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Crimson Tide is fine in Double Overtime, 69-67 over Ole Miss

Ole Miss has a lot of size and a very strong front court, and we knew that could give us some problems.  We did a decent job with them defensively despite JaMychal Green getting into early foul trouble again and eventually fouling out early in the 2nd overtime.

Once again, the offense got off to a slow start.  Predictably, Ole Miss sat in a zone and dared us to shoot.  There are 344 teams in Division 1 Men's basketball.  We rank number 343, ahead of only Grambling State, in 3 point FG%.  Another pitiful 3 of 17 performance did not help matters.  Trevor Lacey only played 14 minutes, missing all 3 of his outside attempts.

Despite the poor shooting, I actually thought our execution on offense was a little bit better.  Releford was able to drive in and get near the basket but his shots just were not falling.  We got a lot of open and high percentage shots near the basket, but it seemed like the ball would not bounce our way.  A big part of the problem is that our big guys never use the glass.  We make 3-4 foot shots a lot more difficult than they have to be by refusing to use the backboard.

Although Releford did not have a great day offensively, his defense was stellar.  Both he and Randolph were able to force several turnovers in the press that lead to scores.  Releford was also very disruptive in the half court defense, deflecting passes and pestering the Ole Miss guards.

The Rebel black bears built a 10 point lead in the first half.  Charles Hankerson came off the bench and busted the Rebel zone to get us back into the game.  He had 10 points in 13 minutes, including some desperately needed outside shots which opened up the inside game.  His play at the end of the first half and midway through the 2nd got us back into the game and put us in position to win.  It was a remarkable performance, and I thought he should have played more down the stretch, but he was coming off of a knee surgery Monday.  

I think one overlooked aspect of this game is our rebounding.  We actually out rebounded a much larger Ole Miss team.  Nick Jacobs has had problems getting off the floor at times this year, but he continues to improve and he snagged 9 boards.  I thought he did a great job of blocking out most of the night.

There were a lot of rumors surrounding a possible Tony Mitchell suspension coming into this game.  As noted, he was not in the starting lineup, but he did come off the bench to play for over 30 minutes.  I thought he played well and hard for the most part.  He had a huge block of an Ole Miss 3 point attempt at the end of the game, although with a 4 point lead in that situation I would generally rather not go for the block in that situation.   His 14 points and 4 offensive rebounds were huge down the stretch.  His put back actually gave us the lead for good in the final overtime period.  He got hit in the head at one point late in the first half and had to be taken back to the locker room.  It was a strange situation in that he came back out and was sent back to the locker room 2 or 3 times before coming back into the game.  He looked visibly upset about having to go back and not being able to get back into the game.  

The foul trouble and injury to Tony Mitchell resulted in some strange lineups at times, which I think hurt our chemistry a little bit.  I still do not understand our substitution patterns.  The way Hankerson was playing, he should have played much more down the stretch.  

Once again, Andrew Steele stepped up in the clutch and made the jump shot to put us ahead by 3 with only 30 seconds left in the final overtime.  Andrew is a great leader in these pressure packed situations.  He will be a key factor if we are going to win these next two tough games on the road.

"Hey Ref, you're blowing the..."

The crowd was all over the officials for most of the night.  I actually didn't think they called that bad of a game.  They missed a few of what looked like obvious fouls against Ole Miss, and then when they made actual good calls that went against us they really heard about it.  Both teams got away with a number of travels.  Coach Grant got a technical after one such missed call.  As Ole Miss was bringing the ball back up, Coach Grant questioned the call, and I could see the official tell Coach, "That's enough," and when Coach said something else he was hit with the T.  I don't think Coach did it intentionally, but it did seem to get the crowd into the game and energize the team.

Hopefully getting the come from behind win against a solid team in a close game like this will give the team some confidence.  We are back to .500 in league play now, and Ole Miss is another team that is fighting for a potential NCAA bid.  On the positive side, we finally found a way to win one of these games.  It was good to see the team having fun.  On the negative side, we blew a 5 point lead with 2 minutes to play in the first overtime.  Hankerson nearly stole the in bounds pass, and it seemed like the whole team was smiling and having fun, while Ole Miss answered with a 5-0 run.

Coach Grant did a good job of managing the game.  At the end of regulation in a tie game, I thought we should have went for the 2 for 1 with 50 seconds left.  Thankfully, Ole Miss committed a dumb foul with 30 seconds left giving us an opportunity to get the last shot.  I liked the play Coach Grant drew up, we had several options and Levi Randolph had an open mid range look, but it wouldn't fall.  Green probably should have started the 2nd overtime on the bench, it was obvious he was winded and playing with 4 fouls.  He fouled out immediately, but Coach Grant wisely took the air out of the ball on offense and limited the number of possessions in the final overtime.

Ole Miss made a meaningless 3 at the buzzer to make the final 69-67.

Up next, we travel to the ugliest village on the plains to take on a much improved auburn team.  You know they will be fired up for us.  Tip off is at 8pm Central.  I will be there, and hopefully a lot of Southeast Alabama area Tide fans will join me.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Know your enemy- Ole Miss Black Bear Rebels

They really should've gone with the Mr Clean logo.

Here's the writeup from their official site on the game tonight.

Season stats

Ole Miss comes in tied for 4th with a 4-3 SEC mark. They should be 6-1 if it wasn't for the momentous choke job vs Florida and another choke-fest at Auburn. Like us, they won at UGA and got pwned at Dayton.Like us, they have issues scoring, but play hellacious defense so I'd be surprised if this game gets out of the 60s. Unlike us, they really go only 7 deep on most nights.

Terrence Henry (in what seems like his 9th yr there) leads the Black Bears in scoring with 12.1 PPG. Him and JaMychal should see plenty of each other in the post although Henry seems to be more content this year facing the basket. Jarvis Summers is a nice PG that also puts in 10PPG with a team best .385 from the 3pt line. Murphy Holloway leads the team in boards and is 2nd in scoring... he's going to cause problems inside. Nick Williams also averages double digit scoring... he is a Indiana transfer that played his HS ball in Mobile.

Projected Ole Miss starting lineup (based on last 2 games):

The numbers:
- 66.1 PPG
- .429 FG
- .287 3pt FG
- .600 FT
- +5.4 rebound margin

Prediction: 2 teams in similar positions regarding the NCAA Tournament... both need this game, but we need it more. With rumors of Tony Mitchell being suspended (hasn't practiced all week read from what I've read) we are really going to need the freshman to step up. At this point I call them sophomores as they have 20+ games under their belt so they should be ready for this. I suspect Lacey brings it with a stellar game. Bama by 5.

Game time is 8PM EST (7PM CST) on ESPN2.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Random thoughts during the off week.

First of all, Congratulations to Coach Nick Saban and the football staff for signing yet another top ranked class on National Signing Day Wednesday.  That being said, I really hope that was not the reason for the lack of SEC games Wednesday night.  For those of us who believe Alabama can be as much of a basketball school as it is football, and fans of other SEC basketball teams for that matter, it hurts the perception of these basketball programs when they are essentially told to take a back seat to a bunch of 17 year old football players.

On to more substantive matters.  We are nearly halfway through the SEC season with a record of 3-4, with 9 games remaining.  We were clearly overrated to start the season.  The biggest concern coming into the season was our perimeter shooting.  I stated then, that we did not have that one consistent guy, but was hoping because we have multiple guys who, in theory, can make a jump shot, we would be okay.  Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way.

On the positive side, we had a great non-conference schedule.  Depending on what source you use, we have played one of the top 20 toughest schedules in the nation.  Our RPI is in the top 50, and all of the prominent bracketologist have us projected as easily in the tournament with an 8 or 9 seed.  After a 6 year absence and the issues facing this team, I think we can all agree that making the tournament would be a welcome accomplishment.  If we could catch a favorable draw and make a run, even better.

So, where do we go from here?  Releford has been awesome at times but inconsistent.  We need the good Releford that can drive to the basket and take care of the basketball to show up for the 2nd half of the season. We are young, but guys like Levi, Lacey, and Nick Jacobs have really helped us out and will only continue to improve.  Getting Andrew Steele back was a very pleasant surprise, and he has been able to provide some leadership that was sorely lacking.  Green must be the MVP we know he is capable of being.

The key may be Tony Mitchell.  He had some great games early in the season, but has regressed and been a bit of a head case in SEC play.  He appears disinterested  and lazy at times, and has shown no maturity in adverse situations.  There are rumors circulating that he is being suspended indefinitely.  I have no idea if those rumors are true or not, but I trust Coach Grant to handle things the right way regardless.  I've said in the past you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Tony Mitchell.  For the past two weeks or so, the bad has outweighed the good.  He is a hell of a basketball player and a great athlete.  I don't know him, but I still believe him to be a good person too.  He's just too hot headed and immature at times.  It's Coach Grant's job to correct that, as best he can.  I do believe we can win games without Tony Mitchell.  We could possibly even still make the tournament, but we will be one and done at best.  If this team is going to reach its full potential, Coach Grant must get Tony to buy in.

Switching gears, let's take a look at the 9 remaining games.  Games we SHOULD win include Ole Miss, auburn, and Tennessee at home.  Games we will likely be underdogs in are @ Arkansas and Florida at home.  I'm still not overly impressed with Florida and think we could upset them in Tuscaloosa, but they do present some matchup problems for us and they are a top 15 team, so logic dictates that is a game you can't count on.  So, if we win the 3 we "should" win at home, that gives us 6 wins with 50/50 games remaining @LSU, @auburn, v. $tate, and @Ole Miss.  If we 2 of those 4, that would put us at 8-8 and with one win in the SEC tournament I believe we would be in good shape for an NCAA bid.  As you can see, this puts a premium on beating less than stellar teams on the road.  We can't have another South Carolina debacle.  We always struggle at the tad pad, so you've got to hope for at least a split at LSU and auburn next week, then protect the home court against $tate.

First things first.  Of the "should" win games, Ole Miss is certainly the toughest.  They have a strong front court and Andy Kennedy has them in position to make a run at an NCAA bid themselves.  Let's pack the house Saturday night and get back .500 going into the second half of SEC play.