Monday, December 31, 2012

Tulane puts Bama to Shame, 53-50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to everyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Too Much Tulane For Tide

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

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

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

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

Tulane Adds to Bama's Misery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to everyone.

Quick Tulane preview

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bad News Bears, 66-59 loss to Mercer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bears Beat Bama

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 21, 2012

Mercer Bears preview

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tide Tackles Texas Tech 66-62

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Texas Tech preview

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

Season Stats

Jay Crockett, Josh Grey, and

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Damn Rams Slam Alabam, 73-54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

VCU Dominates Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick VCU preview

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Andrew Steele to have sports hernia surgery

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

Around the SEC 12/13/2012

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carl Engstrom out for the year

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

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Dayton still hatin', 81-76

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dayton Flyers preview

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

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

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

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

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Bearcats Best Bama Blowing BCSCG Buoyancy Bubble

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

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

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