Monday, December 30, 2013

Bruins Bruise Bama 75-67

I apologize if this post seems even more disjointed than normal.  I am throwing it together on my flight home, and dealing with Southwest Wifi connection issues plus trying to finish it up before my battery dies.

Another close game, another loss.  Releford didn't start, apparently due to missing his flight back from KC after the holiday break.  I have mixed feeling about Grant's handling of the situation.  I could see just making him run more in practice or something, but moreso it's disappointing that our senior leader would make such a mistake.  He's been suspended or otherwise subjected to discipline every year he's been here, but in fairness each infraction has been relatively minor in nature.  As a result of his suspension, Shannon Hale cracked the starting lineup.  We also started Carl again for whatever reason.  It's a little concerning that we are almost to conference play and still don't seem to have a settled starting lineup.

Releford made up for his transgressions by nearly winning the game for us single-handedly. He scored 34 points and made some incredible shots down the stretch to keep us in the game.  Unfortunately, it was the same story as every other game against a decent opponent this year.  We missed some key free throws and more importantly couldn't get a defensive rebound in crucial possessions late in the game, leading to another loss.

As great as Releford played, his stats are a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it was a remarkable performance and you have to appreciate his effort.  On the other hand, I felt like he tried to do too much late in the game.  While he made some circus shots and made couple of 3's with hands in his face, his decision making indicated that he lacked confidence in his teammates.  I have no problem with that, I lack confidence in his teammates too, and judging by their body language and own shot selection, Relly's teammates even lack confidence in themselves right now.  To some degree, Releford's great performance was a symptom of a larger team problem right now.

The substitution pattern, beyond the wacky starting lineup, I thought made more sense in this game. Shannon Hale scored 9 points and 9 rebounds, and despite starting, Carl only saw the court for 5 minutes, and Jimmie Taylor was allowed to play long enough to grab 6 boards in 22 minutes.  We only got 2 rebounds between Nick and Carl, that's not going to cut it.

For those who have been on Coach Grant about not being animated enough, he was more emotional in this game than I have ever seen him.  There were a couple of occasions where I thought he would pick up a technical foul arguing with the officials.  From my point of view, most of the calls he argued so adamantly appeared to be good calls.  While there were a couple of blown calls as with all basketball games, overall I thought it was a fairly well officiated game.

The last call that Coach Grant was extremely upset about was in the final minute after we called our last timeout.  UCLA was at the line, and when we got the ball, Rodney Cooper drove in against 3 bigger Bruins in the paint.  Whatever contact there was, it looked like it was mostly initiated by Coop.  The bigger issue in my opinion is why, out of a timeout, our "play" is seemingly to have Coop just drive to the basket come hell or high water, regardless of the circumstances?  Even if he somehow got a shot on the rim in that situation, we didn't even have anybody else down there to get the rebound.

It's frustrating that this team continues to show just enough to get your hopes up every game, when we tied it around the one minute mark I actually thought, "maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.  Maybe Relly can do it by himself."  Nope.

Pauley Pavilion seats about 15,000, and their crowd was not very good considering the history of that program.  I would estimate maybe 9,000 or so were there.  Similar to our games, there were more people in the 200 level, due to their ridiculous pricing structure.  I paid $50 for my ticket, and that got me a seat on the very top row, but I was able to sneak down into the top row of the 100 level at halftime.  The pics above were taken from my respective seats.  From the top row, the ceiling is very low and you can't see the boards that show the stats.   Lower level tickets had a face value of up to $250.  I was surprised that I didn't see a single person scalping tickets outside of the arena.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Bama fans there, I would guess we had close to 500, with at least a smattering of crimson in every section.

The atmosphere was eerily quiet for most of the game.  The Bruin fans really didn't get loud at all until the last minute, which was the only time in the game than anybody other than the student section stood up.  They don't seem as passionate as the fans of the other blue blood schools that I've encountered, but they were all very knowledgeable.  They were also very gracious hosts and there were no negative comments or trash talk whatsoever.

One thing I will miss when the inevitable happens and Anthony Grant is no longer our coach, he at least schedules away games and tournaments in desirable locales.   While I'm generally not a huge fan of LA as a whole, I had a good time in Santa Monica, drove up to Malibu, and enjoyed the pool at my hotel in Beverly Hills (the scenery there was exponentially better than the Buffalo convention in Tampa a couple of weeks ago).  The pic above is the best I could do with my cell phone, but if you look closely you can see a couple of whales off the coast of Malibu.

Up next, Robert Morris Colonials come to Tuscaloosa for a 4:30 pm tipoff next Saturday.  The game will be televised on CSS.  Happy New Year.


crimsontider said...

The company line that you will hear the AG apologists spew is that what we are seeing from him, and have seen from him is a vast improvement from the final years of the previous regime. While that is a nice narrative for the few remaining Grant apologists to push forward, a quick look at the facts will tell you otherwise.

Mark Gottfried's last year: 14 losses
Anthony Grant's first year: 15 losses
Anthony Grant's second year: 12 losses
Anthony Grant's third year: 12 losses
Anthony Grant's fourth year: 13 losses
Anthony Grant's fifth year: 7 losses in his first 12 games, will finish with at least 15-16 losses.
CMG's record when he was fired midseason was 12-7. Grants record right now is 5-7. Alabama will enter SEC play with a losing record for the first time since the 1969-1970 season (CM Newton's second year). Alabama will also enter the SEC with the leagues worst record. Yet, another thing that Grant has managed to do that has not been done since the 1960s. Yet, the few remaining apologists for the abomination that has become Alabama basketball will try and spin this as progress, when it is anything but. Alabama's RPI at the end of Gottfried's final season was 106. Grant's RPI currently sits at 128. Bill Battle, are you listening?
On Releford's attempt to play hero ball: I have absolutely no problem with it. Right now that is our only chance to beat good teams. The rest of the players simply lack the confidence, and the toughness to make big time plays. Say what you want about Tony Mitchell, and JaMychal Green, but at least they had some toughness. This would not be happening if either of those two guys were here. Right now it's Releford, and a bunch of players who are afraid to make a play. Also right before the last(?) media timeout, a UCLA player came right over Nick Jacobs, and got a rebound, and a putback. Right before the commercial break, it looked like Releford was getting after Jacobs, and Grant had to seperate the two. I have not seen that talked about much, but it was just something I noticed.

Msmilie said...

CT: Once again, your powers of observation astound me.

No one is spinning a 5-7 start (stop being stupid). I will say this yet again though. A coach's job is to put his players in the position to win, but it's up to the players to make winning plays. Grant and his staff have put this team in the position to win every game they have lost this season, and the players have simply not made the simple plays a team must make to win these games (grab a rebound, make a free throw, get to a loose ball, come up with a defensive stop, etc.)

That said, Grant's future will be determined by wins and losses. There's more to being a head coach than that, but that's what the fans care about and, to a lesser extent, Grant's bosses at the university. Whether his team can win enough this season to justify another year remains to be seen (I still think this team has what it takes to turn this thing around). And to call his tenure an abomination is so F'ing stupid it doesn't even warrant a further response. Look up the definition of abomination and get back to me.

Grant's biggest problem has not been on the court, it's been off. He just hasn't been able to recruit enough quality players to build sustainable depth. Also, the inability for him to get some guys to buy in and play a role (Tony Mitchell, Hankerson, Lacy, etc.) has hurt him in terms of building depth.

I did not see the confrontation between Jacobs and Releford so I'll have to take your word that it happened. I hope he did get after Nick. I think Nick Jacobs could be a really good basketball player if Nick Jacobs WANTED to be a good basketball player. I had hoped the weight loss would result in a greater effort on the floor for Nick, but he continues to only play defense and rebound when it suits him. A guy with that kind of body and he only grabs 1 rebound in 20 minutes in the last game!? Grant has no choice but to play him due to the lack of big men on the roster, but I have no problem if Grant starts cutting some of his minutes in favor of more minutes for Hale. Hale is undersized at the 4, makes a handful of freshman mistakes, has a long way to go as a defender, but damn if he didn't scrap for 9 rebounds in the last game. Coop's offense hasn't been there consistently, but at least he rebounds well despite being undersized himself when he has to play the 4. I'd love to see the light go on for Nick at some point, but I'm not sure it ever will.

crimsontider said...

"Grant and his staff have put his players in position to win" Like the Xavier game, where Shannon Hale scored 13 first half points, and then did not play the entire second half? What about the UCLA game where AG gave Retin the ball at the end of the game instead of the guy who scored 51% of the teams points, and the only player who truly wanted that game? Regardless, Grant's biggest challenge,(as we have discussed before), and what will define him (at least this year) is his ability to break this team out of it's mental rut. So far he is failing miserably. Nobody can dispute that. I never said Grants entire tenure was an abomination. I said it has become an abomination. We are 5-7. That is an abomination, and completely unacceptable for a major revenue sport at Alabama. To expect the fans, or/and the administration to put up with that is absolutely ridiculous.

Msmilie said...

5-7 against a top 10 ranked schedule. Not saying there haven't been some disappointing losses (South Florida and Drexel come to mind), but it's not like they've been playing scrubs.

I'll concede the absence of Hale in the Xavier game. Not sure the intent was to put the ball in Retin's hands at UCLA (he was fouled going to the basket and it wasn't called, but whatever). With 31 seconds left, down two, Releford had the ball and couldn't make his shot attempt. Bottom line: the game was lost when the it was tied, Bama forces UCLA into a tough shot and our guys couldn't come up with a rebound.

The man has had three solid years prior to this tough start (and again, I'm not ready to give up on this season). I think he deserves the right to finish out this season and one more with the class and transfers he has next season. I admit he's running out of time, but the darkest hour is always just before the dawn.

DJC said...

The fact that we have been in every game cuts both ways. One could argue that coaching often makes the difference in close games, if you win by 20+ or lose by 20+, it's usually more a matter of vastly superior or inferior talent, and coaching decisions aren't likely to have a direct impact on the outcome.
My biggest problem with this team is that we seem to lack the mental toughness, intestinal fortitude, confidence, whatever you want to call it to win a game. They play hard, and the X's and O's from a coaching standpoint for the most part has not been too bad, but we get tight and don't make the plays with the game on the line. Part of Coach Grant's job is to mentally prepare these 18-22 year olds to have the right mindset to make the plays to win the game when they are in position to do so. That's not an easy task, but that is where he is failing right now.

finebammer said...

"but the darkest hour is always just before the dawn."

the happy we all know and love.