Monday, January 20, 2014

State of the RPI - Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down Edition

I'm going to start this week's post with a view from a soapbox. As one of a rapidly diminishing number of Bama basketball fans who still support Coach Grant and his staff, I understand and accept that I'm going to be, shall we say, questioned for that support. Let's face it, the team stinks right now so obviously those of you who read this blog would be justified to question my logic.

Standing your ground, particularly when your opinion is unpopular, carries with it a certain price. As a leftie who grew up in a very strongly opinionated family of righties, I'm used to this. The internet, in its infinite wisdom, has provided a place, in the form of blogs and message boards, where every opinion, no matter how popular or unpopular, can find a home. And instead of clashing with picket signs or fists in the street, we now go at each other online from the comfort of our homes in the hopes the great moderators will allow us the luxury of verbally firebombing each other ('preciate that, Bobby). We humans love conflict in all of its guises, and the internet is the perfect battleground.

This battleground encourages heated debate. And for every "sunshine pumper" and "idiot" I've had tossed my way, I've tossed my own set of grenades as well. I am not immune from the white hot hate that the internet propagates from time to time. In fact, a part of me rather likes the chaos the internet provides. Would Finebammer and I really have much to say to each other outside of this dimension? Probably not. Would CT and I clash frequently about Grant over beers at the local pub? Probably not. I don't talk much basketball in the real world. Who's got time?

So we come here and we pinch and poke, scratch and claw, bite and pull, punch and kick, all in the name of debate. And that's fine. The majority of us who scream at each other about Bama basketball, Obamacare, right vs left, religion, etc. do so because most of us probably live staid lives and it's the passion we're searching for, not the respect or the satisfaction in being right. Instead of spending time blogging or on message boards, we should go hiking or climb a mountain, go on a trip to an exotic locale or simply have some type of torrid romance. Unfortunately, it's easier to be lazy and tell someone they're an old fool instead of doing those aforementioned things. And, dare I say, a little more fun.

However, there are some fans that are not content to merely go after each other. No, they have to tweet or use other forms of contact to go after 18-22 year olds who are simply playing a game. I dabble with the social networking scene and, in recent years, I've seen a surge in fans going after players online. It's disgusting. It came to a head following the Alabama/Auburn football game when adult human beings actually sent death threats to a kid for missing some field goals. Trevor Lacey was sent very toxic messages in the wake of his decision to transfer. And players this year have received the occasional message questioning their toughness and will to win. It's one thing to question a player as a fan, it's another to send that player a message telling them how much they suck. It's not easy going through a season like this for the players. The last thing they need is some anonymous dumbass giving them grief online.

Fans need to know their place. You can be upset with the coaching staff and the direction of a program. That's fine. If you must, write a letter or leave a voicemail for the AD expressing your disapproval. However, this gnashing of teeth towards players, calling the coach - who by all accounts is a class guy who does things the right way - names such as "clown" and "loser" is unproductive. Everyone wants to be there during winning time, nobody wants to stand strong during losing time. Things are tough right now for this team, but that's why Bama fans should be more supportive than ever right now. Posting your choices for the next coach is not productive. There will be time enough for that if Grant is ultimately let go. Now is not the time for it. Pull for the team to win, regardless of your feelings for the coaching staff, the basketball isn't entertaining enough or the win/loss record. Time will show the wiser.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Even though this season has been rough in terms of wins and losses, the team was at least competitive in those setbacks. That was not the case in the 2nd half on Saturday. Once it became clear Releford was not going to be a factor in that game, the rest of the team seemed to lose confidence. Shots stopped falling, the defense began to fail, and Bama had their worst loss under Grant in almost three years.

The story of the season has been the struggles of the three juniors, Levi, Nick and Coop. Coming into the season, I think most of us thought all three of those guys had the potential to be double digit scorers. Instead, all three have been wildly inconsistent. As a result, it's a crap shoot night after night as to who, if anybody, will step up to help Releford. Levi and Coop have been far too tentative this season. As DJC pointed out in his recap, Levi seems terrified to shoot. Coop continues to struggle with his jump shot, and he's never been particularly good off the dribble. Nick Jacobs has not been the same since re-injuring his shoulder, but even before that, he was inconsistent. At this point, it's tough to think anything will change. It comes down to hoping they have more good nights than bad the rest of the way.

The schedule continues to be unkind to Alabama. Coming off their worst loss of the season, they now have to play the top team in the league, Florida. The Gators have owned Bama since Billy Donovan was hired. Bama has lost 7 straight and 18 of the last 21 games to Florida. And the Gators will no doubt be heavily favored for Thursday night's game.

Bama will have their hands full on Thursday, but I think they have a fair chance in this game. For one thing, Alabama has been pretty good at home during conference play. They currently have the longest home winning streak in conference. Also, while this Florida team is a tough as any Donovan has had, they're not quite as explosive offensively as some of his past teams. That bodes well for an Alabama team that struggles to score. That said, Bama will have to play their best game or hope for Florida's worst to get over the hump against the Gators.

Alabama will have to turn around two days later to play an LSU team loaded with size. For a team that struggles to rebound, this will be an extremely tough match-up for Bama.  With Florida, LSU and Tennessee on tap in the next four games, that conference home winning streak will be put to the test.

As of this morning, Alabama's RPI sits at 96 (Per ESPN's rankings). It's a testament to the strength of Bama's schedule that they've lost 9 games before February 1st and their RPI still sits in the top 100. The game on Thursday presents Alabama with a golden opportunity from an RPI standpoint. Florida is currently in the top 10. A win doesn't necessarily revive the season, but it will be one for Bama to keep in their back pocket should they find a way to finish strong. LSU currently sits at 65 so there are two opportunities for good wins this week. 

Looking at the rest of the conference: Florida (8) and Kentucky (13) seem locks for the field at this point, barring a major collapse. The number of bids for the conference after those two will most likely come down to the bubble. Missouri (52) is in the best spot, though they've looked far from dominant so far in conference. The same could be said for Tennessee (59), Arkansas (61), Ole Miss (62) and LSU (65). Arkansas in particular has to figure out how to win on the road. Assuming some combination of those four teams can post double digit win totals in conference, the league should be good for at least four bids.

The rest of the conference: Vanderbilt (106), Texas A&M (111), Georgia (129), South Carolina (138), Mississippi State (139) and Auburn (184).


finebammer said...

happy, tell the truth: are you really Tim Brando??

Msmilie said...

Finebammer: I thought I told your dumb ass to stop calling me happy. Keep it up and I'm going to contact the warden and have your internet time cut.

DJC said...

I can relate to a lot of that. I'm not a huge Bruce Pearl fan, but every Bama basketball fan needs to read this quote from his recent SI article:

"During my last year, my job and the jobs of my coaches and their families were debated nationally, and I wouldn't wish that on anybody," he told me on the phone last week. "Coaches read it, coaches' wives read it, players read it, recruits read it. So my message to the fans is, stop it. Take that passion you have and go to the games. Put it into the program and help your program come back and finish strong."

Read More:

There will be a time to discuss whether or not we should retain Coach Grant, and if not, who the replacement should be. Now is not that time. We have a Coach and a team that is doing everything they can to try to win some games. I'm on their side.

Msmilie said...

Like you, I am also not a big fan of Pearl. I have to give it to him though, that quote is spot on. He said in one sentence what it took me 15 minutes to write.

crimsontider said...

Obviously if fans are tweeting negatively at players that is wrong. Tweeting your honest, objective thoughts on the state of the program in a forum like this is not. When CAG arrived here the fans got behind him, and gave him the necessary support. We sold out almost all of our conference home games in his second and third years. The fan base backed him during the suspensions two years ago. However the program is regressing, and fans that are calling for his job, are more than justified. Grant had his chance to win with the full support of the fan base behind him, and he squandered it. Now he will have to get the program turned around (and do it quickly), with his back against the wall. Grant made his own bed, and is now sleeping in it. While I understand, and admire unrelenting support of your team, and program, I don't think the fans should be guilted into going easy on a multi millionaire.`
What we say here, or in any other forum should be the least of Grant's worries right now. Avoiding his 20th straight loss to top 50 opponents on Thursday night should be. Speaking of Pearl, I would bet that he is coaching in the SEC next year.

finebammer said...

and 45 minutes to wade through.

finebammer said...

and to reply to Pearl, if you were so worried about the livelihoods of your assistants and the feeling of their wives and kids, your cheating, lying fucking ass should have thought about that before you cheated, then lied through your teeth to the NCAA about it. that is such horse shit. excuse my language but throwing your shit storm off on the fans in the form of a guilt trip is flat out bull shit.

at this point, going to those games is saying to the world i'm good with what's happening here. and if you're going and your not good with it, well, you and Bruce have something in common.

fans have a voice and a pocketbook. some are honest, some not. i like honest people. if you're honestly behind grant, good for you. if you're not, i'm good with that too.

but those like Pearl knowingly throwing their crap on honest fans after what he did???

fuck him and them.

finebammer said...

the real Bruce Pearl:

crimsontider said...

Woah, calm down, he might be our coach in a year or two.

Msmilie said...

If it took you 45 minutes to read the post, I suggest going back to school, buddy.

Msmilie said...

Sharing your thoughts at this blog is not wrong. We love the discussions. Being in a dark corner of the internet, it's great we have the readers we do. I was commenting specifically on fans who go after players and coaches on networking sites like Twitter. I agree with you that Grant has put himself in a tough spot, but I maintain that a basketball coach should have a little more time at a place like Alabama than he would at other places.

Consider Leonard Hamilton. I think most people agree that Hamilton is a pretty damn good coach. He won Florida State's only ACC title at a place that probably values basketball less than any other school in the league with the possible exception of Miami. However, he did not take FSU to an NCAA tournament until his 7th season. There were six full seasons of NITs and no postseason appearances before they finally broke through. And the reason he got that much time is because the administration was smart enough to realize that building a consistent program at a place like FSU can take some time with many ups and downs along the way. If his bosses had overreacted after his fifth season, who knows if they have four NCAA tournament appearances (1 sweet 16) in the last five years (and looks like another one coming this season) and an ACC Championship banner. Their patience was rewarded.

Grant is in his fifth season and so far his tenure has been very similar to what Hamilton did at FSU. This season has been frustrating, no doubt about it, but I think jumping the gun after this season could be a mistake. It's not as if the program has been horrible under Grant. Alabama has been competitive, they've gone to the postseason under Grant (yes, I know 20-win seasons and NIT's are not the final objective), they've been good in conference, etc. It hasn't been a total nightmare. I think Grant has been the victim of the expectations he had coming out of VCU. He was considered one of the top young coaches in the country. I also think the 2nd season went so well that people thought 25 win seasons were going to become the norm without realizing that the program still had a lot of miles to cover. I also think he came to Alabama at a time when the athletic department as a whole is going through a golden age with football, golf, softball, etc. so the standards for everything have been raised regardless of the realities of each program.

Next season will be his sixth. He will have arguably the best OVERALL collection of talent he's had (depending if there's any attrition in the summer and hopefully we can have one summer at Bama without incident) during his tenure. There isn't one guy that's going to stand out, but the team as a whole will cover most of the bases that have been lacking (shooters, defenders, better size and depth). If he can't win with that group, then I will have to concede he can't win with anybody. But he deserves the chance to coach that team.

Msmilie said...

To be fair to you, I do have the tendency to be verbose. I had teachers telling me that as far back as high school.

crimsontider said...

Florida State's basketball program is garbage historically,like you said they did not win an ACC title pre Hamilton. Only Kentucky has more wins and championships than Alabama historically. At a time when Alabama is having more success as an athletic department than ever, and parody in college basketball is higher than ever, Grant has not beaten a top 50 team in two years, has not beaten a top 25 team in three, and is 20 games under 500 against an RPI top 100 opponents, His teams are regularly in the 2-300s in offense,and tempo, when he promised to run a fast paced offense from day one. Against RPI top 200 teams he is a 500 coach. So take out the extreme trash on the schedule, and what you have is a 500 coach that has not won an NCAAT game in 5 years. Stuff like that really shows just how awful the Grant era has been. Maybe the worst five year period in Alabama history.

Msmilie said...

Not talking about the history. Talking about the state of both programs in the last 5-10 years from the standpoint of fan and administration interest, facilities, access to players, etc. I love Alabama, but the basketball program, regardless of its history, wasn't a top 100 program when Grant took over. Maybe you can argue it was just within the top 100 if you want, but I don't think you could look me in the eye and tell me the program was a top tier program in 09-10 when he came in. I admire your passion, I just don't think you understand how tough it is to build a great basketball program at a place that hasn't been there in 20 years. Yes, 20 years. One can argue in favor of Gottfried (I once did, I admit it), but, in hindsight, it was all smoke and mirrors (every accomplishment was followed by two steps back), and by the time his tenure was done, the program was in piss poor shape. There wasn't much to work with when he came in. When you're trying to build a program from nothing, good luck winning a lot of top 100 games. It's easy to bag on Grant, but short of doing some shady shit, any coach would struggle to get things off the ground in Tuscaloosa, even five years in.

My point about Hamilton is he was allowed six shaky years, and the patience paid off. He didn't win a ton of top 100 games either those first six years. He now has that FSU program in a pretty consistent place. Whether Grant can do that remains to be seen, but I believe he deserves the chance at a sixth season based on what he's done to date at a pretty tough spot. All I'm asking for is one more year so I can see what Grant can do with a full scholarship roster. As I said, if he can't do it with the team he is slated to have next season, he's not going to ever be able to do it. For someone who is a good guy, who has handled his business at Bama the right way, what's the big deal with giving him one more year?

Msmilie said...

That was calm and sober, Finebammer. Count your blessings. And, for once, I agree with him. Fuck Bruce Pearl.

crimsontider said...

Wait, a second ago Pearl was the most popular man on the blog? What happened?

crimsontider said...

Because we say this every year. You told me the exact same thing last year after the SECT loss to Florida.

Msmilie said...

I never said I like the man. I agreed with the quote, that's all.

Msmilie said...

Yeah, so? It still applies. I also didn't foresee the issues with Lacey and Pollard. Different team this year with those guys.

crimsontider said...

1 or two games different.

crimsontider said...

20 years ago

DJC said...

The most important part of that quote that I happen to agree with, even though like you I'm not a Bruce Pearl fan is the..."recruits read it" portion. The current shitstorm of negativity, particularly on twitter and other social media, is detrimental to the program. That's all I'm saying.

I will continue going to the games because I think the players deserve my support, and I enjoy watching college basketball. I'm one of the few who will be there even if we were 0-30 though, bad basketball is better than no basketball.

That being said, I've stated here before that I certainly don't blame anyone who chooses to stay home or do something else during our games right now.

finebammer said...

yep, and judging by what he did in knoxville, 20 years wasn't enough time for this lying, cheating snitch to learn his lesson.

thomas' grandmother was right.

my granddad used to tell me a story about a leopard and his spots.

some things (people) never change

finebammer said...

what do you think is more detrimental, what the recruits "read" from us or opposing recruiters??

and don't kid yourself DJ. they're out there asking the top talent why in the hell they would want to come and play in the crap we're watching.

Coach Saban sells his program as a stepping stone to the pros. it's those players he needs to be on top. those who aspire to greater things. if you want to hone your talent to the next level in b'ball, Alabama is the last place you want to be right now.

"bad basketball is better than no basketball" couldn't disagree more.

bad basketball IS the detriment.

crimsontider said...

Regardless, he is getting a major conference head coaching job in the next year or 2, and that program is winning a lot of games.

DJC said...

Both are detrimental. It's not a question of which is "more" detrimental, but which one I have some form of control over. I have no control over what opposing coaches say, or whether or not we make a coaching change. I do have control over what I say here and whether or not I support the basketball program. I tend to focus on things I can control.