Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alabama approves raise for CAG, extension to 2019

A $100,000 one. I've made my feelings known so I won't beat a dead horse.

Grant's raise

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Previewing the Schedule: January

January 5th: Oakland - These guys must like Tuscaloosa. They were in Coleman last season for a game that Bama won, 74-57. After back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, Oakland was expected to win the Summit League last season. Unfortunately, things never quite got rolling for the Grizzlies. While they did upset Tennessee, they played a very challenging non-conference schedule that saddled the team with plenty of losses coming into conference play where the struggles continued as the most talented team in the conference posted only an 11-7 record. Their strong strength of schedule did net them an invitation to the tournament where they won three games before losing to Utah State in the semifinals. The program loses a great player in Reggie Hamilton, but the other four starters return. It's going to be difficult for any Summit League team to unseat a South Dakota State squad returning a wealth of talent and experience, but Oakland should once again finish near the top of their conference.

January 8th: @Missouri - Mizzou may be a new member of the SEC, but they have a roster capable of winning the league title in year one. Phil Pressey might be the best point guard in the SEC. The Tigers also return Michael Dixon and Laurence Bowers. The key to Missouri's season will be the addition of a transfer class made up of Alex Oriakhi (Uconn), Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Frank Haith also signed a nice class of newcomers. There is still some question whether Haith will be the long-term answer at Missouri despite a 30-win season a year ago, but there's little question that this team, if it gels, is a championship contender.

January 12th: Tennessee - UT was one of the surprise teams in the conference a season ago. The Vols overcame a slow start in the non-conference to finish tied for second in the SEC. They appeared to be in line for an NCAA Tournament berth, but seemed to run out of gas near the finish line, having to settle for an NIT bid. Nevertheless, it was a good start for Cuonzo Martin who inherited a bit of mess in the wake of Bruce Pearl's departure. This season's team will return four starters and is expected to finish in the top half of the league again. They are also one of five schools that Alabama will play twice this season in conference play.

January 16th: @Mississippi State - After a monumental collapse in which State lost six of their final eight games and a first round loss in the NIT, Rick Stansbury decided to spend more time with his family and resigned. MSU responded by hiring Rick Ray, a Clemson assistant. The hire was a bit of a surprise as Ray has no head coaching experience and there did not appear to be an extensive coaching search prior to Ray's hire. Experience or not, Rick Ray faces a tough task this season. While his roster is not devoid of talent, it is a very young and inexperienced group that will be challenged to avoid the lower half of the league.

January 19th: Texas A&M - There isn't a lot of chatter about A&M so far. Their 14-18 record a year ago probably has a lot to do with that. To be fair, that team faced a lot of adversity, from injuries to key players to their head coach - Billy Kennedy - missing important time with the team shortly after he was hired due to being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Though A&M enters the SEC with some questions (only one starter returns), their roster does have the necessary talent that could result in a turnaround from last season's disappointing results.

January 22nd: Kentucky - UK's national championship team last season was one of the best teams I've seen in college basketball in the last decade. They were balanced on both ends of the floor and had a game changer in Anthony Davis. Now the top six scorers have moved on to the NBA so John Calipari starts over yet again with another top-ranked recruiting class and even some impact transfers in Ryan Harrow (N.C. State) and Julius Mays (Wright State). The centerpiece of the incoming recruiting class - Nerlens Noel - is currently being investigated by the NCAA in order to determine his eligibility. Assuming he's cleared, it all adds up to another Calipari team that will contend for an SEC and national championship.

January 26th: @Tennessee - The second match-up with the Vols. Alabama has won four of its last five visits to Knoxville.

January 31st: Arkansas - Mike Anderson's first season at Arkansas was going well until the team lost eight of its final ten games and missed the postseason for the fourth straight season. A few key injuries (Marshawn Powell) played a part, but so did Anderson's "40 Minutes of Hell" system, which puts as much pressure on his own players as on the opposing team. I believe his team ran out of gas down the stretch as a result of this. The experience of last year no doubt helped the players in their offseason conditioning and that should serve them well in year two under Anderson. Another benefit will be the return of Marshawn Powell from injury and B.J. Young who may have been a 1st round pick if he had entered the draft. The supporting cast surrounding them isn't too shabby either. The end result is that Arkansas should compete in the SEC and finally end their postseason drought.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ranking the current SEC BB coaches 1-14

1) John Calipari- Yes his team is a revolving door of super-hyped freshman that are one and done, but he's got Kentucky back in their rightful place on top.

2) Billy Donovan- like Calipari, he brings in the talent. Truth be told I have him #2 for his back to back National Titles as most of his other years have been IMO underachieving.

3) Kevin Stallings- Vanderbilt hasn't been this good consistently since forever. They are supposed to suck this year, but I bet they end up in the top half of the SEC.

4) Mike Anderson- this is more due to his past success at Missouri and UAB, but I'm pretty sure the next couple of years will be the best Arkansas has had since the mid 90s.

5) Frank Martin- he hasn't ACTUALLY coached in the SEC, but what he did at Kansas State was pretty amazing. He built on Bob Huggins' one year and kept the ball rolling.

6) TIE: Anthony Grant and Mark Fox- Grant seems to be the better recruiter while Fox seems to be the better gameday coach. UGA and UA are potential goldmines if either can get the fanbase to care more.

8) Cuonzo Martin- I suspect he'll be higher next year as I was impressed with what he did last season with UTK going 10-6 i conference. That team wasn't very talented.

9) Frank Haith- Was he undervalued at Miami (a place that makes UGA look like UNC hoops) or overvalued last season inheriting a loaded team? We shall see this year.

10) Billy Kennedy- did good things at Murray State, but I'm not sure he can take A&M to the level Gillispie and Turgeon did before him.

11) Andy Kennedy- how the mighty have fallen... he's probably looking for a job RIGHT NOW.

12) Tony Barbee- his attrition rate makes Mark Gottfried seem like Jim Boeheim. It's a terrible job and his only hope is to make it to the NIT and get the hell out of Dodge.

13) TIE: Johnny Jones and Rick Ray- two unknowns that will probably suck and bring our RPI down every year until they are fired.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recruiting Update: Bad News

Most of you have probably already heard, but Cat Barber has committed to NC State.  I wish he would have consulted with Ron Steele before signing up to play point guard for Mark Gottfried.  Also, RaShawn Powell, another highly rated point guard committed to Memphis over Bama and Illinois.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Previewing the Schedule: December

December 1st: @Cincinnati - After his first four seasons, Mick Cronin was firmly on the hot seat. His best season up to that point had been a 19-win season that ended in the second round of the NIT. The Bearcat fans loved Bob Huggins, and as they watched his continued success at K-State and West Virginia, it was difficult for them to embrace Cronin. To a large extent, they still haven't embraced Cronin, but he's no longer on the hot seat following consecutive 26-win seasons that ended in the 2nd round and Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Cronin will have to replace some departed contributors from last season's team, but this will still be a challenging road contest for Alabama. Cincinnati plays a very physical brand of basketball (ask Xavier) and will have one of the better backcourts that Alabama will face in Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick.

December 5th: Dayton - Through mid-January last season it appeared as if Dayton would be a surprise NCAA Tournament team in Archie Miller's first season as head coach. On January 21st, Dayton pounded Xavier, resulting in a 14-5 overall mark and a 4-1 start in A-10 play. Their resume also included impressive wins @Temple, St. Louis, Ole Miss, Minnesota and Alabama. And then it all fell apart as Dayton finished the season with a 6-7 record before bowing out in the NIT first round against Iowa. The Flyers lost some key contributors from last season's roster, but return enough talent to be a serious pain in the neck on any given night.

December 15th: @VCU - The first weeks of December will serve as a barometer of how good Alabama can be this season. Over the first two and a half weeks of the month, Bama will play three out of four games on the road against quality competition as well as the home game with a tough Dayton team. In my opinion, this game will be the toughest of the bunch. Yes, Alabama will play power conference teams in Oregon State, Purdue/Villanova, Cincinnati and Texas Tech before SEC play begins. But neutral site games in MSG and even true road games at Cincinnati and Texas Tech will not match the environment that Bama will face in Richmond. The VCU students and fans have really embraced this program in recent years, resulting in a great home atmosphere that makes it very difficult for visiting teams to exit with a win. VCU has also been a model of consistency, be it under the guidance of Jeff Capel, Anthony Grant or now Shaka Smart. Smart led the VCU program on a historic run to the Final Four two seasons ago. That run in part has helped them inch closer to the Big Boys Club in the form of an invitation and acceptance to the A-10 conference. VCU joins the underrated league as a readymade contender, more than capable of winning the conference title in their first season. VCU gave Alabama a run for its money last season in Tuscaloosa and will provide a significant challenge again.

December 19th: Texas Tech - I always felt that Billy Clyde moved too fast, too soon in his head coaching ascension. While UTEP to Texas A&M may have seemed like a logical progression, he was out of his element at Kentucky. That's nothing to be ashamed of, there are many great coaches that would be out of their element in Lexington. It's just the nature of the beast in that town. Nevertheless, despite his ouster at UK after only two seasons and his highly publicized personal issues, there was never a consensus opinion that Gillespie didn't have the coaching chops to get back on his feet. It was merely a matter of finding a good fit after the Kentucky debacle. His hire as Texas Tech's basketball coach appeared to be a good hire for both the man and the Tech program. Unfortunately, Pat Knight and Co. didn't leave much in the cupboard and Tech struggled to a woeful 8-23 record (1-17 in conference!) in Gillespie's first season. After a season like that, one had to figure there was nowhere to go but up for the Red Raiders. That is until last week when a group of Tech players reported alleged mistreatment at the hands of Gillespie to the AD. At the same time, Gillespie checked himself into a Lubbock hospital as rumors began to swirl about his job future. Those rumors continue to swirl as Gillespie has checked himself into the Mayo Clinic to treat high blood pressure. His future as head coach appears to be very tenuous however with players declaring they won't return to the team if Gillespie is retained along with a whole heaping helping of negative media attention. Whether these player allegations are true or not, the school that infamously fired Mike Leach for allegedly locking a kid in a closet will no doubt feel pressure to make a quick decision about a coach whose own reported behavior towards players makes Leach's closet stunt look as innocuous as it actually was. Who is in uniform or on the bench for Tech when Alabama arrives in Lubbock is a mystery right now, but it appears whatever progress Tech basketball fans were hoping for in Gillespie's second year has been momentarily curtailed.

December 22nd: Mercer - One may be inclined to overlook Mercer. Don't. Last year the program had the best season in school history, winning 27 games en route to capturing the postseason tournament championship. Mercer's final three wins in the event all came on the road against quality programs, Old Dominion, Fairfield and Utah State, an especially tough venue to come out of with a win. With four starters returning, five of their top six scorers, and with Belmont moving to the Ohio Valley conference, Mercer will likely be the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Sun conference. With Alabama coming off of what could be four straight tough games, they could be primed for a trap game.

December 30th: Tulane - I remember Tulane enjoyed some sustained basketball success in the 90s; the program was selected to three NCAA tournaments during the decade. In recent years, it's been another story. Tulane has finished at or near the bottom of the C-USA standings the last three seasons. There isn't a lot of confidence that will change this season.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Recruiting Update- Cat Barber

Multiple sources are reporting that Louisville is no longer recruiting Cat Barber.  I viewed them as our strongest competition because it was the other destination where he and Troy Williams could likely play together.  It is now down to Bama, Kansas, and NC State.  Kansas is recruiting several other highly rated PGs, so I'm not sure how big of a priority Cat is for them.  We all know Gottfried is a pretty good recruiter, especially in the early years of his tenure, so they may be a bigger concern, even though they got involved later in the process.  I remain cautiously optimistic, and I like the fact that we will get the last visit with him.  Here, Kitty Kitty.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas A&M 2012-13 schedules

Texas A&M

Since all of their football seasons are over, might as well look forward to hoops.

Arkansas has a tough late Nov-early December stretch of Arizona St, Wisconsin/Creighton, Syracuse, Oklahoma, and @Michigan.

Missouri goes to the Bahamas where Stanford and maybe Louisville await...with Illinois and @ UCLA to boot.

Texas A&M might get Kansas if they can get past Saint Louis (who is without Rick Majerus for the year). Other than that, mostly cupcakes.

That should cover the SEC schedules... in a few weeks I'll go ahead and predict 1-14 final rankings.

Edit- forgot South Carolina... but they still haven't released a full schedule. They'll probably suck though, so they're almost a non-factor.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Previewing the Schedule: November

With the release of the 2K Sports Classic field, Alabama's basketball schedule is finally complete. To celebrate this joyous occasion, I have decided to preview each team that will face off against our beloved Crimson Tide. Obviously things are subject to change so these teams could look very different by the time the season tips off, but we'll give it a shot and see how things work out. Okay, let's get down to business. This first preview will cover the games for November. 
 11/06/12: Stillman – The season kicks off with an exhibition game against Stillman College. While the recent trend of “secret scrimmages” held between D-I schools prior to the season may eventually cancel the need for games like this, I hope they continue. I know it’s only so much that Alabama’s players, coaches and fans can learn from a game like this, but I prefer to look at it from the other side. How exciting it must be for Stillman or UAH players and their fans to come to Coleman for a game against Alabama. The same goes for hundreds of other D2 and NAIA schools across the country taking part in similar exhibition contests. And sometimes the little guys even win the games! Stillman had a solid year last season, finishing 17-11, but missing the Division II tournament. 
11/09/12: South Dakota State – The first game for Bama in the regional round of the 2K Sports Classic is a tough one. South Dakota State returns four starters and nine of their top ten scorers from an NCAA tournament team a year ago. They are skilled, they are experienced, and they will be a nightmare game to play right out of the gate. For a team like S.D. State, coming from a one-bid league, this game represents a great opportunity to notch a quality win early in the season that will aid them in March. They will bring their A-game to Tuscaloosa. Alabama would be wise not to overlook this team. 
11/11/12: West Alabama – From what I’ve read, the Gazelle Group really struggles to fill these tournaments so they are forced to reach out to D2 schools in order to complete the event. While this is a great opportunity for a program like West Alabama, it doesn’t do much for Bama’s strength of schedule. West Alabama struggled last season, finishing 8-20. 
11/15/12: Oregon State – Craig Robinson has had a few bright spots during his tenure at Oregon State (for example: winning the 2009 CBI postseason tournament), but he has yet to get the program over the hump. In his four seasons the Beavers have yet to post a winning record in PAC 10/12 play despite the league being arguably the worst power conference during that time span. The Beavers finished 9th in the conference last season, but did post its first 20+ win season under Robinson (21) before bowing out in the CBI semifinals. The star of the team, Jared Cunningham, decided to forego his senior season and was the 24th pick in the 1st round of the NBA Draft. Despite losing Cunningham, OSU does return four starters and six of their top seven scorers from last season.  They could be a sleeper team in an improved PAC 12. 
11/16/12: Purdue/Villanova – Purdue has enjoyed a successful run so far under Matt Painter. After a rocky first season in which the Boilermakers only won nine games, Painter has led Purdue to an average of 25 wins a season in the six years since. However, Purdue will enter the 2012-13 year with a relatively young team. Painter has recruited well so the rebuilding is expected to be minimal, but some rebuilding is expected nonetheless. If Bama meets Purdue, it will be the fourth straight year the teams have played.
Though Villanova struggled through a 13-win season in 2011-12, the program has been a consistent national brand under Jay Wright. In eleven seasons, Wright has taken the program to seven NCAA tournaments, including two Sweet Sixteen’s, an Elite Eight and a Final Four appearance in 2009. After losing their top two scorers from a year ago Nova is by no means a lock to return to the NCAA tournament, but Wright’s overall success means they’re not a team to be overlooked either. 
11/23/12: Charleston Southern – The Tide will enjoy a week off before welcoming Charleston Southern. Hailing from the Big South Conference, the Buccaneers won 19 games a year ago, but were not invited to a postseason tournament. Returning four starters, they are expected to contend for the conference title this year. 
11/27/12: Lamar - Pat Knight seemed overwhelmed in trying to follow his father at Texas Tech. It was in his best interest as a coach to make a fresh start and build his own history. Lamar gave him that chance, and it paid dividends in his first season in Beaumont. The Cardinals won 23 games, won the Southland Conference Tournament, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in twelve years. Despite losing in the opening round in Dayton, the season was a success. Even more impressive was that this success happened in the wake of some turbulence within the locker room that led Pat Knight to publicly call out his team. While his handling of the situation was questioned by some (including yours truly), his team responded in a positive manner and finished the season strong. That team was senior-laden however, so it would appear that Knight and Lamar will be in rebuilding mode this season. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

2k Sports Matchups announced

We play South Dakota State at 8pm on Friday, November 9, and West Alabama on Sunday November 11.  I think we definitely got the easiest schedule of the host teams.

Full schedule