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.


Alex said...

We realistically can win every one of these games. I think anything less than 7-1 in Feb has to be a letdown.

MSmilie said...

Alex: I love your enthusiasm. Unfortunately, until I see Alabama travel to Nashville and actually win at Vanderbilt, it's hard to expect a victory there.

I also think LSU and Georgia will be solid (not great) teams so those road games are by no means locks. I could live with 6-2 depending on how everything shakes out.