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.

Kentucky Selected As SEC Preseason Favorite

No surprises here as the Kentucky Wildcats were picked by the SEC and national media to win the conference title, despite having to replace their top six scorers from a year ago. Alabama is picked to finish 6th.

Final voting in the preseason poll looks like this:

1. Kentucky (17) - 328
2. Florida (5) - 310
3. Missouri (1) - 286
4. Tennessee (1) -269
5. Arkansas -226
6. Alabama - 222
7. Ole Miss - 186
8. Georgia - 149
9. Texas A&M - 122
10. Vanderbilt - 120
11. LSU - 116
12. Auburn - 95
13. South Carolina - 54
14. Mississippi State - 37
Missouri's Phil Pressey is the preseason pick for SEC Player of the Year. 
The preseason 1st team All-SEC:
Phil Pressey - Missouri
Nerlens Noel - Kentucky
BJ Young - Arkansas
Kenny Boynton - Florida
Jarnell Stokes - Tennessee
The 2nd team All-SEC:

Marshawn Powell -Arkansas
Patric Young - Florida
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - Georgia
Alex Poythress - Kentucky
Michael Dixon - Missouri
Jeronne Maymon - Tennessee

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Previewing the Schedule: March

March 2nd: @Florida - The Gators were back-to-back national champions in 2006 and 2007, but then missed the tournament the following two seasons. They returned to the tournament in 2010 and have made Elite Eight runs in their past two seasons. Though John Calipari has upped the stakes in the conference, Donovan remains one of the great coaches and recruiters in the league as well as the country. With players like Kenny Boynton, Patric Young and Erik Murphy returning, Florida is expected to once again challenge for the SEC title. For all of the good things that Anthony Grant has done in his three seasons at Alabama, one negative stands out - his record against his former employer. Grant is currently 0-4 against Donovan (In fact, Grant's record against the recent power trio of Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt is a disappointing 1-11. By comparison: his record against the remainder of the conference is 29-13) and a couple of the games haven't been close. The last time Bama traveled to Gainesville, it wasn't pretty as the Gators pummeled our guys by 27.

March 5th: @Ole Miss - I wrote earlier about Alabama's abysmal record at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym. Bama's record at the "Tad Pad" isn't much better. Alabama is 3-8 in their last eleven visits. Frankly, I was surprised Bama had three victories, because I don't recall much success there during that time span. Andy Kennedy is entering his seventh season in Oxford. While the program has been steady, Kennedy has yet to take the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament despite having some rosters that were certainly capable. Is this finally the year they get over the hump? They do have another capable roster, but they're far from a lock. The key for the Rebels is improvement on the defensive end and a better road performance. If they can do that, they could be in the discussion come March.

March 9th: Georgia - The second meeting with the Dawgs ends the regular season. This game will also mark the final game in Coleman for Andrew Steele, the lone senior on the team.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Previewing the Schedule: February

February 2nd: @Vanderbilt - Alabama has not won a basketball game at Vanderbilt since 1990. Think about that. Alabama has not won a basketball game at Vanderbilt since 1990. I was in junior high the last time Alabama beat the Commodores in Nashville! Could this finally be the year that Alabama ends its Memorial Gym losing streak? If it's going to happen, it better be this season because it's been a long time since a Vanderbilt team looked this vulnerable heading into the season. Vanderbilt has been incredibly successful under Kevin Stallings, but after winning an SEC Tournament title a year ago, and advancing to the program's third straight NCAA Tournament, Stallings said goodbye to his top six scorers. There are a handful of programs that can lose that kind of production with only minimum repercussions, but Vandy isn't considered one of them. All evidence points towards a tough rebuilding job in Nashville this season, which means if Alabama is ever going to win in that accursed gym, it must be this year.

February 6th: @Auburn - The first of two match-ups with Auburn. The two seasons for Auburn under Tony Barbee have not been much to write home about. While Barbee's second team was improved over his first, the team still struggled to compete night in and night out. On top of that, Barbee has struggled to lay a foundation due to losing players to injury, academics, discipline issues, and the occasional FBI investigation. Barbee was very vocal this summer about how much better this team would be this season. The team does return a handful of experienced guys and Barbee brings in another good recruiting class on paper. Nevertheless, this is still a team lacking proven scorers and size in the paint. Despite Barbee's confidence, the preseason expectations for Auburn are low.

February 9th: LSU - The first of two match-ups with LSU, one of three conference teams with new coaches this season. Former player and assistant, Johnny Jones, takes over for Trent Johnson who, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, decided to leave for the TCU head coaching position. Jones, who was an assistant at Alabama for one season in 2000-2001, was previously the head coach at North Texas where he had a solid run. In eleven seasons, he won a Sun Belt title and took North Texas to two NCAA Tournaments. He had arguably his strongest team of his tenure returning, but he couldn't say no when his alma mater came calling. LSU does have some skill returning in guys like Anthony Hickey and Johnny O'Bryant, but there could be some transition under the new staff.

February 12th: @Georgia - The first of two meetings with the Bulldogs. This team intrigues me. Last season was not an easy one for this program. The team had to replace a lot of talent from the year prior. With all of the youth and inexperience, Georgia struggled to a 15-17 (5-11) record. The silver lining was that Mark Fox and his staff kept the team fighting through the tough times, resulting in a much better team by season's end. Even though the program once again lost some key guys, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope does return. He could finish the season as one of the top players in the league. Georgia probably doesn't have quite enough overall to finish in the top half of the conference, but they should be good enough to surprise a few teams along the way.

February 16th: South Carolina - The Gamecocks may not be very good this season, but I guarantee people will still tune in. Carolina made one of the better hires of the offseason, luring Frank Martin away from Kansas State. Martin was rumored to be unhappy with the K-State brass, while the South Carolina brass was tired of hearing a pin drop at home basketball games. Quite frankly, Carolina had no choice but to show Darrin Horn the door after a disastrous 10-21 (2-14) season, his third straight losing campaign. The addition of Martin automatically makes South Carolina a better team next season, but this is still a program that is going to need a couple of good recruiting classes before they can make a significant jump.

February 20th: Mississippi State - The second meeting with the Bulldogs. Bama owns a 9-1 record against MSU in the last ten games played at Coleman.

February 23rd: @LSU - The second meeting with LSU. Alabama has had its share of troubles as a road team over the years, but they are actually .500 (5-5) in their last ten trips to Baton Rouge. Even Gottfried's teams could win in Baton Rouge!

February 26th: Auburn - The second meeting with Auburn. Alabama is 5-1 against the Tigers under Anthony Grant. The last two games in Tuscaloosa have been U-G-L-Y with an average score of 53-49.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Ranking the SEC teams 1-14 and their conference record(2012-13)

Posted intentionally without comment as to why :)

1) Florida (15-3)
2) Kentucky (14-4)
3) Missouri (12-6)
4) Tennessee (11-7)
5) Arkansas (11-7)
6) Alabama (10-8)
7) Georgia (9-9)
8) Vanderbilt (8-10)
9) Texas A&M (7-11)
10) South Carolina (7-11)
11)Ole Miss (7-11)
12) Mississippi State (6-12)
13) Auburn (5-13)
14) LSU (4-14)