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.


crimsontider said...

Everybody said "wait 'till next year" last year, and the year before that, im not sure "next year" will ever come with Grant at the helm, he just looks completely clueless out there, also I have no idea how we use are timeouts, none.

DJC said...

Nobody with any intelligence was saying "wait till next year" after last season. I've been pointing to the 2013-14 season for the last two years now. If it's a dud, then I will re-evaluate things, but most reasonable people expected this year to be a matter of trying to not lose ground.

crimsontider said...

DJC, I understand what you are saying, but did you ever expect to write the team off in december in Grant's 4th year? I understand that we have a couple of good big men coming in next year, but you can't honestly say that Grant is doing a good job coaching you just can't. There are plenty of other coaches that we could pay 2 million dollars a year to give us a better product than what is currently being put out on the floor.

39 Steps said...

Grant makes Gottfried look like Adolph Rupp.

MSmilie said...

I think it's too early to refer to Grant as an incompetent coach. The man ran VCU, a program with much more fan expectation than what we see at Alabama, at a pretty high level for three seasons. While this season has been disappointing to this point, Grant has done enough in his first three years to provide him one more year if in fact this season does continue on its present course.

And call me naive, but I still think there is time to turn this thing around this season. The NCAA Tournament may not be there at the end of the season, but there are, what, 20 games left this season? There's plenty of time to salvage something from this season. It's going to be an uphill battle based on what we've seen but I implore everyone to try and stay positive. I hate the losing as much as you guys, but unless Grant decides to jump ship by season's end, he's going to be here for at least two more years so you may as well just suck it up and pull for this team to improve.

Something to consider: this is not the first time Grant's teams have faced adversity. The team two years ago got off to a dreadful start but rebounded to go 12-4 in conference play. Last year, everyone thought the season was over in the wake of the suspensions, but Grant was able to rally the team and make the tournament. Let's not call the season over just yet.

If this team can somehow figure it out, the SEC looks wide open. Florida and Missouri have looked good, and I believe Kentucky will be there at the end, but the rest of the conference has been hard to figure so far. Still plenty of winnable games if the guys can just figure it out.

crimsontider said...

Depending on how far Alabama gets in the NIT, Im not sure Grant has earned another year. Would you not agree that Mark Gottfried, Got too much time, and ended up running the program into the ground? That is why Mal Moore needs to have a quick trigger here. There are some staggering similarities between the end of Gottfrieds tenure, and what is going on with Grant right now. The Administration cannot afford to make the same mistake again!

crimsontider said...

And like I said, there are plenty of other coaches we can pay 2 mil a year to, that can produce better results than what Grant has produced.

DJC said...

To say, "we are here in his 4th year" is simply over simplistic. In basketball, you will have some down years from time to time. Roy Williams and Billy Donovan had years where they missed the tournament at UNC and Florida respectively beyond their 4th year. You have to look at all the circumstances and the complete body of work. I admit, I have very little hope that we can turn this around this season.

When I think back to where we were when Coach Grant took over, regularly getting blown out on the road...the blowout losses have been few and far between under Coach Grant (although I expect more this year just given the weaknesses on the roster), we generally give good effort and while our defense is overrated and not as good as it was in the last 3 years, it's still better than what we saw the last couple of years under CMG. Admittedly, the offense isn't much better than the stagnant, bastardized version of the high post we were running.

Coach Grant is a relatively young coach himself. He does a lot of things I like, and a few things I don't. I hope he learns some lessons from this season about roster management and not entering a season with only 10 scholarship players, having a plan B for when we miss out on the five star recruits (which is going to happen). He may not be doing a great job, but I don't think it's fair to say he's doing a poor job either.

crimsontider said...

Yes but Donovan, and Williams were already established coaches with national championship's, and everybody knew it was just a matter of time before UF and UNC got it going again. Grant has one NCAA tournament appearance in 4 years!, and im not sure that he is going to ever get it going here at Alabama, and I know were not UNC or Kentucky or Duke, but we have been a proud program, and cannot continue to accept mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

to date, the post of the season:

Bamalib said...
"We lose 2 players representing a MAJOR BULK of Alabama's Offense, and we gain one freshman player.

I'm nervous about this season, guys.

I'm so hopeful for a triumphant season, of course, but I don't know. I don't know if this upcoming year can really be an improvement. I hope, I hope, I hope, it will be."

par chance a trip to vegas anytime in the near future, lib?

bobbyjack said...

I disagree with the progress we've made in year 4. What I see is a team that is all Grant's recruits struggling.

Sure, we made the NCAAT last season, but there isn't a sane person that would tell you that last season's team was better than the one that ended up in the NIT 2yrs ago. And I would argue that we were a preseason #15 or so team that muddled its way to a 9 seed in what I consider one of the worst groups of 7 seeds and lower I've seen in over 2 decades.

While you are right in saying we don't judge coaches on year 7 and up the same way, for a new coach the timeline for action usually comes in his 4th and/or 5th yr. That is supposedly when he establishes his footprint on the program.

Grant isn't going anywhere soon due to finances, but if he wants to succeed here he's gonna have to shake up his staff. We've joked before about how we have a 1:1 asst to player ratio, but I'm having a hard time figuring out EXACTLY what they do. If he fails to make changes there next season, I truly believe this is what Bamahoops will look like for a long time... at the peak... mediocrity.

crimsontider said...

What is Grant's Buyout? Also happy holidays to all of you.

finebammer said...

well, i think what this really boils down to is devonta pollard NOT being the impact player he was either sold to be or we all wanted him to be.

we need the drive-and-dish option on offense and there's nobody to dish to.

gueye has been a disappointment. i didn't think engstrom would be the one we would miss the most of the two. but neither were going to be offensive threats. personally, i wanted to see the shot blocking threat down low.

i still believe pollard will develop but right now, it just isn't there.

and if grant's right, if motivation is a problem, that's what the bench is for.

and discipline HAS to be consistent.

finebammer said...


"Nobody with any intelligence was saying "wait till next year" after last season."

i think, if we go back, the least optimistic prediction was 20 wins and a tourney bid. so i think it's fair to say there were some expectations for this season based on the last.

again, the bare minimum marker for a good coach and program is make the tournament.

unless something miraculous happens, it ain't gonna happen.

"He may not be doing a great job, but I don't think it's fair to say he's doing a poor job either."

well, signing ONE player the last recruiting cycle was piss-poor recruiting. grant has made mistakes since he's been here but that was a bigger one than anyone here wants to admit.

i'm sure that's not the reason for the dilemma now but, dammit, you've got to have players.

there are plenty of teams out there who will go deep into the tournament with less-than-blue post players.

but regardless, there WERE expectations for this season after the last.

and they included winning twenty games at a minimum and making the dance.

bamalib said...

As we are whining about the production of our Freshman player, keep in mind that he is the 5th leading scorer on the whole team.

Pollard is coming along.


bamalib said...

All of the SEC schools have lost games, but you think everyone has better coaches than us? Texas A&M lost to Southern. LSU lost to Boise State. USoCar lost to Elon. KY lost to Baylor and Notre Dame. Vandy lost to Marist and MTSU.

We're not alone. LOL.

We could have a 10-2 record like Ole Miss, but Alabama's resume is still more impressive. (6 SEC teams haven't even faced a ranked opponent yet in their pre-conference.) The number of SEC teams with winning records against the Top 25 so far? ZERO.

The number of SEC teams with a Winning Road Record so far? TWO (Only Ole Miss at 2-1, and Texas A&M at 1-0 in their single road game.) Let me put my Kelly Mulroney face on!

Alabama leads the SEC Conference (actually a tie with 4 other teams) in the number of Road Games so far this season.

Come on, Crimson Tiders, lift your head and keep some hope and enthusiasm.


bamalib said...

Blackledge, Goode, Gueye, Jacobs, Johnson, Obasohan, Slaughter, and Wilson. Is there anyone else???

Is there a lot of certain offense there and sufficient defense and leadership ? ? ?

I am eager to see it, but have never seen consistency from those young players. When declaring that more bench-players need to play, perhaps you point at Jacobs and Obasohan and Gueye, you can't say those 3 get insignificant minutes from the bench already.

So, what bench is being spoken of?