Sunday, February 01, 2015

Ruptured in Rematch at Rupp, UK 70 UA 55

This game was more or less a formality.  The outcome was predetermined long before tipoff, and everybody in that gym knew what the end result would be.  Nevertheless, our guys gave it a great effort and didn't embarrass themselves, which was really all we could realistically hope for.

With Ricky Tarrant on the sidelines on crutches, we went with a starting lineup of Retin, Levi, Shannon, Coop, and Taylor. I really wasn't crazy about this lineup because Retin has been less than reliable at point guard and Shannon has struggled all season, to say the least.  Both of those guys turned in very solid performances though.  Retin finished with 11 points and Shannon with 12, and both did a reasonably decent job of holding onto the basketball.

The first 10 minutes or so were pretty bad, as we looked a little intimidated and had several turnovers which led to easy UK points.  We took an early 2-0 lead, but that would be our last lead of the night.  Once again we struggled with turnovers early in the game.  I know it was literally impossible to win this game, but I did not like our game plan.  I thought we wasted too much time trying to work the ball inside or attack the basket, which is an exercise in futility against a team that is the second largest in ALL OF BASKETBALL (Only the Portland Trailblazers are longer).

As we stated before our first game with them, our only hope is to get hot and hope they have an off night.  UK shot 7 of 15 from downtown.  They built their lead, then did just enough to maintain a comfortable margin.

On the bright side, as mentioned above Hale had a good game, and maybe he will start to play more like the Shannon Hale of last season.  I thought Levi played extremely well, he was the aggressive Levi we need.  Retin actually played under control and did not turn the ball over.  Jimmie Taylor managed to stay on the court, and despite being severely over-matched, Justin Coleman managed to give us 20 solid minutes at pg with only a single turnover.  Rebounding has been a huge issue this year, but we somehow managed to win the battle on the boards against the Cats, who are probably the best rebounding team in the nation.

I thought the officials called too many touch fouls on both teams that negatively effected the flow of the game. Even the Kentucky fans were complaining about some of the foul calls that went against us.

It was a hard sell out and a packed house, but their fans really weren't as loud and into the game as I've heard them in some previous trips.  They all know they have a special team and it was obvious from the tip that we weren't much of a threat.  They did get loud in a couple of situations when it looked like we might be closing the gap.

I know I've said this before here, but if you've never been to a game at Rupp Arena, as a college basketball fan you need to go at least once if at all possible.  The atmosphere and passion they have for the game and their team is second to none, but even more impressive to me is how they support their team in a first class manner.  We were the only Alabama fans in our entire section, proudly wearing our Crimson knowing we were likely to be on the losing end of a blowout, but we couldn't have felt more welcome.  Everyone shared their experiences with the state of AL with us, complimented our football program, thanked us for visiting, etc.   At dinner before the game, a UK fan came up to our table to welcome us to Lexington and chat basketball, the people around us at the game allowed us to support our team and we never felt the slightest bit uneasy or intimidated for cheering for our team.  After the game, many of their fans complimented our team's effort.  They seemed to be particularly impressed with Levi Randolph.  I hate to kick open this ant hill, but given the number of times we heard it I think it bears noting, that Kentucky fans generally believe that we have a good coach in Anthony Grant.  Without offering an opinion, I note that I'm surprised at the great difference in perception on the subject outside of the state of Alabama versus here.  Many of their fans were disappointed and surprised to learn that he is on the hot seat.

Rupp Arena itself is not really that nice.  The scoreboards are in the corners and have a layout that takes some getting used to. The flat-screens hanging in front of the upper level help with replays, but the sound system consists of a conglomerate of  horn speakers hung above center court (where you would normally expect a scoreboard/video board).  The upper level seats are benches with no chair backs.  They had a $300 million renovation project planned, but that has been put on hold.  We were told the University president did not want to chip in because he wants to explore the possibility of building something on campus.  For those that don't know, Rupp Arena is in downtown Lexington but is in VERY close proximity to the campus (less than a mile).  I understand the desire to be on campus, but the proximity to hotels, bars, and restaurants makes for a great atmosphere, and I hope they retain that.  Most of the UK fans we talked to seemed to be in favor of staying in Rupp.

Up next, we return home to take on the Mizzou Tigers Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa. Finally, the brutal stretch of January is over and maybe we can still turn this thing around.  The game will tip off at 8 pm on SEC Network.


CTider said...

"Kentucky fans generally believe that we have a good coach in Anthony Grant." I'm sure they do. "Many of their fans were disappointed and surprised to learn that he is on the hot seat." I'm sure they were and I'm sure that sentiment is shared throughout the SEC. "I note that i'm surprised at the great difference in perception on the subject of the State of Alabama versus here." That's because nobody outside of the State of Alabama watches Alabama basketball. Grant's a nice guy and not a threat to programs like Kentucky, so i'd imagine he's pretty easy for most opposing fan bases to like him.

256Bradley said...

as 4 Grant knowing your on the hot seat iam surprised he hasn't changed his approach 2 the game. his coaching style is that of a nba coach where the players make up 4 your inability to coach. he's a C- coach with C+ players. as 4 Levi he has 2 show up in 1st half of games his passive mentality rubs off on everybody else. 4 years in he probably just doesn't get it

Msmilie said...

Actually, Kentucky fans are among the most knowledgeable fans in the sport. Crazy, but knowledgeable. I don't think they were blowing smoke. And yes, outside of a percentage of the Alabama fanbase, Anthony Grant is still held in high regard amongst college basketball media and the coaching circle. If this is his final season in Tuscaloosa, he won't be unemployed long.

CTider said...

Like I said, Grant's a nice guy. He's stoic, but still charming and humble, so national media guys like him. But, honestly how many Alabama games do you think those national media guys have watched during Grant's tenure? I'd bet very few. And I agree with you on Grant's future employment status. When Alabama (hopefully) fires him, he'll be back on Billy Donovan's bench in no time.

Drifter said...

I don't know what their motivation was, but those fans were flattering CAG so we'll keep him.
Knowledgeable fans outside the SEC have a different opinion. From another board, weeks ago: "Thank goodness I didn't leave my office holiday party early to watch
this (Wichita St.) game. Only caught the last 8 min. However, I did
attend the Xavier game since I happened to be on a business trip near
Cincy. The old XU fan I sat next to made some rather insightful
statements. He said we looked poorly coached team from a fundamentals
standpoint and Grant didn't seem to have a sense how to manage a game -
from subsitutions, to calling time outs, to making adjustments within
the game, to having set plays from time outs and in bound situations. He
was saying this after watching one game. He knew Grant was a defensive
coach and was surprised the game was turning into a shoot out with zero
defense. Told him the heat was high on Grant and the biggest criticism
from fans was the lack of offense. This year was showing signs of an
improvement but somehow we weren't as good defensively. He told me
(almost word for word), the Xavier game almost looked like Grant was
telling his team not to play defense. He said most coaches have their
philosophy and they don't radically change them for the fans. Almost
looked like Grant was purposely saying "see, even if we score 84 we
still lose if we don't focus on defense first." He predicted Grant would
return to his comfort zone, focus on defense and the team would likely
return to low scoring, close games and likely lose games we shouldn't.
After 6 yrs if he hasn't proven how to win the games he shouldn't, or
not get outcoached in the final minutes, it would be surprising if he
finally figured it out this year. What happened after that prediction?
Lethargic, offensively challenged game against a bad Tenn Tech team. A
great defensive game against a top team with an epic collapse that is
squarely on the shoulders of the head coach. Does anyone with any
basketball knowledge really believe that any of the other 13 SEC coaches
would have lost that game with an 11 pt lead with 6 min to go? There
wasn't one single coaching moment in the final 6 min that leads me to
believe Bama will ever have a top 20 team under CAG. And I truly believe
if we had Kevin Stallings or Frank Martin we would be undefeated. Iowa
St and Xavier were very winnable with the players we have.

The Xavier fan's comments were identical to ones I had heard by fans of
Villanova, Purdue, VCU, Okie St, Kansas St, etc. VCU fans said they
liked Grant but once they got Shaka Smart they realized Grant wasn't a
'game coach.'"

Grant find another job after he leaves Bama? As an assistant, yes. As a head man? Not so much.

Msmilie said...

No one mentioned keeping him. Just pointing out that UK fans are typically very informed and objective about all things college basketball when not dealing with their own team.

One Xavier fan is quoted in a comment made at this blog tucked neatly into the corner of the internet, and that encapsulates all knowledgeable basketball fans outside the SEC????? Really?
Guys, you no longer have to grasp at straws when it comes to making your case against Coach Grant. The rapidly increasing losses are doing that for you.

You're allowing your personal feelings about Grant to obscure the reality of Grant's situation when/if he leaves Alabama, either voluntarily or involuntarily. There are coaches with less accolades or respect in the business than Anthony Grant that have had multiple head coaching gigs after being fired at a previous job. Tommy Amaker is one that comes to mind. His Seton Hall teams were mediocre, and he was fired from Michigan. Yet, Harvard hired him. And it's been a great fit for both parties.
Mike Davis has worn out his welcome at multiple schools (for some reason, there are Bama fans that think he should be considered for the job simply because he's an alum) yet continues to draw a paycheck coaching basketball.
What about Frank Haith? Bumpy tenures at both Miami and Missouri, yet snags a pretty good gig at Tulsa. You're nuts if you think an AD somewhere won't give Anthony Grant another opportunity when/if his tenure ends in Tuscaloosa.

For all of the dissatisfaction from us with the program as it currently stands, an AD at another school is going to look at solid years at both VCU and Bama (5, possibly 6, postseason trips in nine years of coaching will be considered "solid"), along with the reputation of running a clean program with kids who do well in class, and that AD is going to give Anthony Grant another shot. Believe it or not, the views shared at this blog by writer and reader alike are not the consensus opinion found in athletic departments across the nation. We represent the lunatic fringe, my friend. Nothing more, nothing less.

Which brings up another interesting question: who does UA replace Anthony Grant with? I've heard very few ideas on this matter, despite the fact that if a coaching change is made the decision of whom to turn to next will be of the utmost importance in the hopes of not falling too far down the rebuilding rabbit hole.

So, drifter, who should UA hire to replace Anthony Grant?

jords9599 said...

Very glad to hear you enjoyed your time at Rupp, even if the final results weren't what you'd hoped for. I am part of the crowd that thinks Grant is a good coach - his main troubles lay in pulling in those one or two amazing recruits on a consistent basis.

Best of luck on the rest of the season.

CTider said...

I never said Grant was never getting another head coaching job. You said, "He won't be unemployed for long," giving off the notion that other programs we're going to be chomping at the bit to hire Grant. Sure, he could be one of those guys who fails up like Frank Haith. Sure, he could get a job like Harvard or Tulsa, but I have a hard time believing that he will get another power 5 coaching job anytime time soon, because in nearly a decade of coaching, Grant has won one fluke NCAAT game over the worst Duke team in the past 15 years, with Jeff Capel's players in his first year at VCU and that is it. He's not been a good in game coach, he's generally underachieved with the teams that he has had, he's decent as a recruiter, but nothing special, he has no personality to market and promote a program, and constantly loses key players to transfer for reasons that have nothing to do with playing time.

As for my "personal" feelings towards Grant, I'm not sure what you mean by that. I think he's a fine person, I just don't think he's a very good coach. I've felt that way for about three years now. And, as for replacements, there are a few names that come to mind (Michael White, Ben Howland, Archie Miller, Steve Prohm) but that's not the point. You don't keep a coach who's leading a program that is going nowhere, just because you aren't sure who you can get. That's not a good reason to keep Grant.

CTider said...

Pretty much everybody in our rotation was a four star recruit coming out of high school, or a highly anticipated transfer from another program. We've had two five stars leave the program over the past two years, one of which is now the best player on Mark Gottfried's NC State team, which is likely an NCAA tournament team in the ACC. 4 years ago we had a top 5 recruiting class that will finish their careers with just one NCAAT appearance and zero top 25 wins. For the most part, Grant has gotten the best players in his state during his tenure. Recruiting is not the problem. BTW, y'all have one of the best teams I have ever seen, and I believe you guys will go 40-0 and win the national championship. I really enjoy watching the way you guys play. Best of luck the rest of the season.

Msmilie said...

Again, not saying UA should retain Grant if things continue on their present course. But they need to have a plan in place if they do make that move. And it needs to be a move that makes sense, not treads water. Michael White and Steve Prohm have done well at their respective jobs, but I think I speak for many that if Anthony Grant is fired, the replacement has to be a proven high-major guy. The program can't afford another gamble and 3-5 additional years in the wilderness.

RichTide said...

Tommy Amaker was a well regarded coach by the media and coaching cabal but he was eventually fired at Michigan and is now having a solid career in the Ivy League. Grant would be great at his alma mater (Dayton) or somewhere like Richmond where the opposing talent is not Power 5 caliber. Grant's not a terrible coach, just not the one to coach what used to be the SEC's 2nd best roundball program.

RichTide said...

That was actually my post on this board a while ago. Having moved outside the south so only get to road games. Xavier is the only game I've gone to this year but been to several in the past few years. Most of the fans from "basketball schools" generally agree with our fan base. Grant is a classy guy, will have the team compete every game, plays relentless defense but suffers from some glaring trends. Poor offense, lazy passing, inexplicable rotation moves, seemingly no inbounds plays and poor game managment at the end of most games. (Same could be said of xCMG just replace offense with defense) OVERWHELMNGLY, their fans say "hey you dominate everyone in football, just be happy if basketball finishes over .500" No we're not going to get Izzo or Coach K, but as a Bama bball fan, I want something better. Don't disagree Grant is a good coach. But as the historically #2 program in the SEC, I want a great coach.

RichTide said...

Grant will get snapped up the day he leaves well he should be. Even Gottfried had multiple offers from mid-majors after he resigned but wanted to coach in the ACC or Big East and chose the ESPN route for a couple years. Grant could land at a Penn State, Wake Forest, or Northwestern and likely do well.

Sorry, but wanting Bama to be the 2nd or 3rd best team in the SEC doesn't make us lunatics. Big time collegiate sports is about Ws and Ls. Grant is a good coach and class act but can't produce the Ws here for whatever reason. Doesn't make him a bad guy. Doesn't make us delusional or fringe psychopaths. Some unproven hires work out splendidly (Kevin Ollie at UConn) and some like Grant don't. Back when I went to every home game, I used to have to plead with my old college buds to go to a game with me when Hobss and Gottfried were there. After Grant's 2nd year I couldn't even get them to watch Bama bball on tv. I've stopped traveling for games. When someone like me stops watching games on tv, it's time for a change. There is absolutely no life in the program right now. I get the handwringing "but who could we get" but we can do better. Grant is the 22nd highest paid coach out of 350 D1 programs.

Our program has so many unique challenges, it will be hard to find "the" guy. Grant has many good qualities but what he needs most is not something he was willing to sacrifice family for to achieve. I don't fault him. I'm jealous. I've worked 60-hr weeks for years to get where I'm at, with great sacrifice to family time. And I don't make $2M. Breaking down game film for 2 opponents a week is exhausting. Excelling at recuiting is exhausting. Building ties to the AAU mafia is sickening. Trying to bolster and revamp HS bball in a state is insurmountable. You can make up much of that with masterful X's and O's. You can be a terrible game coach but get saved by talent and a raucous crowd. Grant fits neither. I'm not sure who we COULD get, but I think there are several coaches out there who could deliver an exciting product on the court most nights, get a few home run recuits, or outfox Donovan every now and then.

Grant's legacy will be building fine men who become good husbands, fathers and leaders. I'll take that over what Pearl is again peddling. But I'll also take someone who doesn't embarrass himself or the school and can still produce enough quality Ws to get us in the Big Dance 3 out of 5 yrs.

RichTide said...

I remember all my Big 10 buds telling me how we'd be stupid to fire Shula and how he would be a great coach once the sanctions weren't a factor anymore. Regardless of sanctions, can't make up for lack of relentless recruiting/player research, breaking down game film, and promoting the program (the latter of which Shula didn't have to do for football).

RichTide said...

Agree. If they're going to go after a mid-major or top Asst stick with Grant. The only mid major coaches that make sense are Mark Few, Shaka Smart or Gregg Marshall and all three are in great situations. Would take $$ we would never give to bball.

RichTide said...

Except for Gordon Hayward, Grant's had more talent than Butler and they went to 2 NCs.

RichTide said...

Stats for the day. Forget opinions. At $2M in the SEC it's all about winning.

Gottfried at Bama: 62% ("resigned" after 10 yrs when his team and his personal life went off the tracks)
Grant at Bama: 59% (in year 6 with no significant accomplishment)
Pelphrey at Arkansas: 54% (fired after 4)

Pelphrey was generally considered a good coach by everyone except Razorback fans.

disqus_lLg81JC3CF said...

Tip Jar Wonder: How many head coaches in college basketball should have aspirations of being an assistant coach again? Again, since most coaches were once, hard working, tip jar wonder, assistants.