Friday, July 31, 2015

Alabama/Clemson Date Confirmed

We knew that Alabama would be traveling to the enchanting land of South Carolina to play Clemson at some point this season, we just didn't know when. Now we do. Clemson released their non-conference schedule today. They will play Alabama on December 13th. That's a Sunday for those of you interested in making the trip. All of Clemson's home games this season will be played in Greenville, S.C. at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena because their home arena is undergoing renovations. The venue seats roughly 15,000.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rumor: Alabama will open 2015-16 season vs Kennesaw State

This rumor is courtesy of The Owl Howl, a Kennesaw State fan site. If this rumor is true the Avery Johnson era will begin in Coleman Coliseum against the Kennesaw State Owls from the Atlantic Sun conference.

Kennesaw State finished with a 10-22 record last season, prompting a coaching change and a great hire in former Rhode Island and Boston College coach, Al Skinner. For those of you unfamiliar with Skinner's career, he led Boston College to 7 NCAA tournaments in his 13 seasons with the school. A rate of success that the program hasn't come close to matching since they unfairly (my opinion) fired Skinner following the 2009-10 season, just a year removed from his final NCAA appearance.

From a coaching standpoint, this will be an interesting first test for Avery Johnson. On the court, I must admit limited knowledge of the Kennesaw State roster, but it does appear they return their top two scorers from last season, Yonel Brown (15.2 ppg, 2.8 apg, 1.2 spg) and Nigel Pruitt (12.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg). From a talent standpoint, it should be a successful beginning of the Avery Johnson era, but the presence of a proven coach like Skinner adds some intrigue to this game.

I will update this post once the game is confirmed.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Schedule News: Alabama will host Norfolk State on January 2nd

The official Norfolk State athletic website released the men's basketball schedule on Tuesday. Assuming the schedule is correct, Norfolk State will travel to Tuscaloosa for a game on January 2nd. This will presumably be Alabama's final non-conference game before SEC play begins.

Norfolk State is a member of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic) conference. They've also been a solid program. In the last four years, the program has averaged 21.5 wins, and have participated in the postseason each of those seasons (1 NCAA, 1 NIT, and 2 CIT appearances).

I like this game on the schedule. It's a game that Alabama should win on paper, but Norfolk is good enough that you can't overlook them either. Norfolk's success in recent years also suggests this won't be a total drag on the RPI. So far I'm really loving the schedule for next season.

Okay, so here is what we know about the schedule up to this point:

1. The Advocare Invitational (formerly the Orlando Classic) will take place Thanksgiving weekend. Alabama will play Xavier in the first round, with a match-up with USC/Wichita State the following day. Notre Dame, Monmouth, Iowa and Dayton are also possible opponents.

2. Alabama will play Oregon on December 21st in the first game of a home-and-home series. The game was previously thought to be part of a true home-and-home series, but the Oregon athletic website shows the game being played in Birmingham. Where the game will be played next season in Oregon is unknown.

3. Jon Rothstein tweeted that Alabama and Clemson will begin a home-and-home series this season, with the first game in South Carolina. Clemson's arena, Littlejohn Coliseum, is currently undergoing renovations so the site of this game is unknown.

4. It is assumed that Alabama will make the return trip to Hattiesburg to play Southern Miss as part of a home-and-home agreement that began last season.

Including the Norfolk State game, that's now seven games we know about. Non-conference schedules are typically 11-13 games so we should be very close to seeing a completed 15-16 non-conference schedule soon.

Update: Dayton released their 15-16 non-conference schedule this afternoon. I didn't think about it when I saw the release because Dayton and Bama will be in the Orlando event. It turns out Alabama will travel to play Dayton on November 17th. It's yet another tough non-conference game scheduled by Avery Johnson. We're going to find out real quick how good this Alabama team is. Lawdy.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Schedule News: Alabama and Clemson Agree to Home-and-Home Series

The Alabama non-conference schedule continues to take shape. Jon Rothstein (there's that man again) tweeted today that Alabama and Clemson have agreed to a home-and-home series. The first game will be played at Clemson, with the return game in Tuscaloosa the following season. Clemson returns four starters and four of their top six scorers from a team that finished 16-15 (8-10) a season ago.

This is another significant challenge for a young team with a new coaching staff. I am impressed by Avery Johnson's willingness to schedule aggressively in his first season, even if it possibly results in a less than attractive win/loss record. He's going to test this team. More impressively, he's going to test himself and his coaching staff. Bring. It. On.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Orlando Classic Matchups Are Set

Actually, I believe it's being billed as the "Advocare Invitational" this year. I can't keep up with all of the corporate sponsors of these events. Which reminds me, corporate sponsorship is evil....but I digress.

File this news under "maybe" as these match-ups have not been officially announced, but Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, whose life appears to revolve around eating at restaurants and college basketball (I'm envious), tweeted that the match-ups for this event have been set.

Alabama will meet Xavier in the first game of the event. Xavier won 23 games a year ago, advancing to the Sweet 16. They've also beaten Alabama the last two seasons as part of a home-and-home series. The early projections have them returning to the NCAA tournament. Even though Xavier has beaten Alabama the last two seasons, and will probably be the favorite here, I think our guys have a chance to compete in this game. Regardless, Alabama will face stiff competition all three days. It should give us some indication of what this team is capable of. 

The other game on Alabama's side of the bracket will feature Gregg Marshall and Wichita State against USC. Obviously, the failed courtship of Gregg Marshall by Alabama would add some intrigue, should Alabama and Wichita State meet. USC is hoping to make some moves in Andy Enfield's third season at the school, while Wichita State could be a preseason top 10 team when the season tips off.

The match-ups on the other side of the bracket are Notre Dame/Monmouth and Dayton/Iowa. Notre Dame was the ACC tournament champion last season and played its way to the Elite Eight before narrowly losing to Kentucky. They lost some star power from last season, but are expected to remain a capable team in the ACC. Monmouth won 18 games last season, and hope to be a contender in the MAAC conference.  Dayton has thrived under current head coach Archie Miller, playing in two straight NCAA tournaments. They are expected to be one of the favorites for the A-10 title. Fran McCaffery enters his sixth season at Iowa. In five seasons he has taken Iowa to two NIT's and back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. They should be no worse than middle-of-the-pack in a strong Big 10 conference.

Any thoughts or predictions on the games? Please share them.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Alabama Completes 2015-16 Roster with Graduate Transfer

At least, I think Avery Johnson has completed the roster. With the way he's continued to add players over the summer, you can't be too sure.

CAJ had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the team was looking to add a graduate transfer for the upcoming season. That transfer turned out to be Arthur Edwards, a 6'6 Guard/Forward who previously played at New Mexico. Being a graduate transfer, Edwards will be eligible to play immediately upon enrolling in Tuscaloosa.

Edwards didn't light it up at New Mexico in his two seasons there. He averaged 0.9 ppg and only 8 minutes per game his first season, but his numbers improved to 3.9 ppg, 2 rpg, while playing 12 minutes per game (not terrible numbers when you consider his limited minutes) last season. Before New Mexico he played a season at Northwest Florida State College where he started 26 games, averaging 6.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg.

Those numbers suggest Edwards isn't likely to be an impact transfer in his one season at Alabama (though a need at his position will give him an opportunity to compete for minutes), but his addition does bring the scholarship limit to 13. I don't think Coach Grant ever had a full 13-man roster in his six seasons (someone correct me if I'm wrong). A full roster will help with depth in games and in practice. Depth is something that recent Alabama teams have sorely lacked. I wrote in a recent post and I'll write again that I am impressed by CAJ's apparent unwillingness to write his first season off. He's put together a full roster and he's going to give these guys a shot. I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for basketball season.

Roll Tide! 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Schedule Update: Alabama/Oregon will take place in Birmingham

Oregon released their non-conference schedule today. The game with Alabama is confirmed, but it doesn't appear the series will be a true home-and-home. The Oregon website mentions the game will be played in Birmingham on December 21st. This could be a geographical error on the part of Oregon (I've met plenty of people who think THE University of Alabama is in Birmingham), or it could be a sign that the Alabama basketball program, in an attempt to market itself better to the entire state, is looking to play a home game or two outside the confines of Coleman.

Assuming the location is accurate, a part of me is bummed that this game isn't taking place at Coleman simply because I'm not expecting the home non-conference schedule to be littered with power teams this season, and it would be nice to have a Pac-12 team coming to Tuscaloosa as UCLA did last season. It doesn't affect fans like me who live outside the state, but for those of you in Coleman for each game, it may be frustrating if the schedule only consists of low and mid-major conference teams. On the other hand, I think it's good for Alabama to play a game or two at other venues in the state as a way of trying to generate interest in the program for those who live outside of Tuscaloosa who may not initially be interested in making the drive to T-Town for a basketball game.

There's a better way to do this of course, and still retain quality home games in Tuscaloosa. As I've mentioned before, following the model of the Indiana schools, a rotating double header matching Alabama/Auburn against UAB/South Alabama at a rotating venue (Birmingham, Mobile, maybe Montgomery or Huntsville) would be a great way to generate some interest in basketball within the state. Unfortunately, there's also a brick wall of politics and bitterness between Alabama and UAB that will likely prevent that from happening. It should happen. I think making the trip out to the local arena for a double header between the four state schools would generate a lot of interest, school and recruiting politics be damned. I know many of you do not share this opinion, but I think you've got a better chance of selling tickets to UAB/Bama in Birmingham than you do Bama/Oregon (at least where basketball is concerned).

The Oregon schedule page can be found here